Liturgical Prayer

All these paths at once

I took a sneak peak at the Office of Readings for next week and was quickly distracted by something there. It was the kind of distraction when you have the time and space to indulge, to go off on a tangent and read something else, only to return and pick up where you left off. The tangent I took considered how the writer, Saint John Chrysostom, might have influenced Saint Benedict when he was writing his Rule.

Saint John Chrysostom died about seventy years before Saint Benedict was born, so it's conceivable that Saint John's writings were at his disposal. I imagined a young Benedict studying Saint John’s words by candlelight,

"So now I have shown you the five paths of repentance: condemnation of sins, forgiving the sins of those near us, prayer, almsgiving, and humility.

So do not be idle, but every day advance along all these paths at once. They are not hard paths to follow.

Poverty is no excuse for not setting out on the journey. Even if you are destitute you can do all these things: put aside anger, carry humility in front of you, pray hard, condemn your sins.

Poverty is no obstacle – not even to that path of penitence that demands money; that is, almsgiving. Remember the story of the widow’s mite.

Let us apply these remedies. Let us regain true health. May we come, filled with glory, to the glory of Christ’s kingdom, and receive its eternal joys through the grace, mercy, and kindness of our Lord Jesus Christ."

I can see connections between the two:

  • John's “Do not be idle” and Benedict's “Run while you have the light of life” (RB Prologue 13)
  • Both encourage us to work on the spiritual life daily: John says "every day advance" and Benedict "God waits for us daily to translate into action ... these holy teachings" (Prologue 35)
  • John describes the paths to God as “not hard”; however, Benedict tells us the road to salvation is "narrow” (RB Prologue 48)
  • Both speak of the glorification of God: John describes how we come "filled with glory, to the glory of Christ's kingdom" and Benedict states that "In all things God may be glorified" (RB 57:9)
  • Both prioritize prayer and humility (they are two of John's paths and Benedict's RB 8-20 / RB 7 respectively)

The anonymous Rule of the Master is a document which greatly influenced Saint Benedict as he wrote his own Rule. Other writers, and the Scriptures, are mentioned in the Rule of Benedict's last chapter (73) as resources for "anyone hastening on to the perfection of monastic life" ... and to eternal joy as described by Saint John Chrysostom.

Let nothing be preferred to the Work of God – Rule of Benedict 43:3

Excerpts from The Five Paths of Repentance by Saint John Chrysostom, 349 – 407 A.D., part of the Office of Readings for Tuesday of the 21st Week in Ordinary Time