Living the Zeal of Benedict

a blog by Sister Marilyn Schauble, OSB

The ladder erected is our life on earth, and if we humble our hearts God will raise it to heaven. (7:8)

While it is true that God is the principal actor in spiritual growth, Benedict never underestimates the importance of our contribution. Spirituality and the Way of Benedict are a means of entering into the fullness of life. External behavior often points to our inner life and hopefully our inner life shapes our external behavior. Virtue occurs when the inner life and outer life meet to form an authentic expression of our spiritual existence.


Sing Scholastica's fair story sing a strong and holy life.
As a young and true disciple she took up the noble strife
joining other holy women against the evils which were rife.

Honoring in her heart all nature, earth and water, fire and air.
She as God's own faithful daughter told the story of God's care
to her sisters as they gathered joined in listening, song and prayer.

Knowing God to be the author of the soul's desire to pray,
Benedict's twin sister ever with her brother shared the way
of the Holy Rule each striving to reflect the Spirit's ray.

Taught by God, she grew in wisdom, gave strong counsel to the weak,
holding work and prayer in balance time for silence, time to speak.
May we follow her example and with her God's presence seek.

Poem/Text by Elizabeth Morris Downie
Oblate of Mount Saint Benedict Monastery

Every exaltation is a kind of pride. RB 7:2

Benedict is giving us a life principle: any form of self-exaltation is a barrier between us and God.

When everything is going smoothly, when we are feeling self-sufficient, God can be far from our consciousness, even distant. We usually discover God in hard times. Our own limitations push us to look beyond human resources for a solution to our discomfort. Benedict is reminding us that we do not usually find God when the going is good. Seeking for certainty elsewhere can limit our awareness of the ever-present love, compassion and faithfulness of God.

One of my favorite Christmas songs is "O Holy Night." I find the text inspiring and at the same time challenging. Consider spending a little Lectio / reflection time on each of the verses. From this night "breaks a new and glorious morn." "Christ is born to be our friend." "Truly he taught us to love one another." May this holy season remind us that Christ's "law is love ... and in his name all oppression shall cease."

O holy night, the stars are brightly shining.
It is the night of the dear Savior's birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
till he appeared, and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Fall on your knees!
O hear the angel voices!
O night divine!

Led by the light of faith serenely beaming,
with glowing hearts, by the cradle we stand.
So, led by light of a star sweetly gleaming,
here came the wise men from the Orient land.
The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger,
in all our trials born to be our friend.

Fall on your knees!
O hear the angel voices!
O night divine!

Truly he taught us to love one another.
His law is love and his Gospel is peace.
Chains shall he break,
for the slave is our brother,
and in his name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we.
Let all within us praise his holy name.

Fall on your knees!
O hear the angel voices!
O night divine!

(O Holy Night - 1847 by Adolphe Adam)

Sisters / brothers, divine scripture calls to us saying: "Whoever exalts themselves shall be humbled, and whoever humbles themselves shall be exalted (Lk. 14:11; 18:14)." RB 7:1

This call sounds through Chapter 7 as well as the entire Rule of Benedict. In the community scripture can be experienced as an encounter with the divine. The Word of God rests in the center of the community. "Clothed then with faith and the performance of good works, let us set out on this way, with the gospel as our guide, that we may deserve to see the Holy One 'who has called us the eternal presence (I Thes. 2:12)." RB Prologue 21

It is Christ whom we follow, the presenter of the gospel message in word and deed.