Living the Zeal of Benedict

a blog by Sister Marilyn Schauble, OSB

Place your hope in God alone ... RB 4:41

Hope it at the center of monastic profession for those who follow the way of Benedict. The profession ritual culminates in the singing of the Suscipe three times: Uphold me, O God, according to your word, and I shall live. And do not fail me in my hope. Placing hope in God alone implies having eternal life as the principle goal. This is the life-theme on Benedict's path, a theme that will be repeated over and over.

In this season of Advent may we move, even if only a little, away from placing our hope in our own abilities toward placing more of our hope in God alone.

Do not grumble. RB 4:39

In case you haven't noticed - Benedict speaks often of the perils of grumbling, murmuring, fault-finding, etc.

Basically he rejects a negative attitude that makes the "environment" unhealthy for the person who is grumbling, the one who hears the grumbling, and the one being grumbled about. Surely this is a toxic situation!

Benedict's frequent reminders give us a clear message that there is no room for this type of attitude.
So - we each have an obligation to work hard to provide a healthy "environment" for our world, our neighbors, and ourselves.

Do not repay one bad turn with another. RB 4:29

With this verse of Chapter 4 Benedict looks back to scripture:
I Thessalonians 5:15: See that none of you repays evil for evil,
but always seek to do good to one another and to all.
I Peter 3:9: Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse;
but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing.

The seven words from verse 29 could be
- a lifelong goal
- a creed for every person
- a guide for action or non-action
- a way for non-violence living
- a path for peacemaking and peacekeeping

Why not make it so?

...speak the truth with heart and tongue. RB 4:28

Benedict is suggesting that we allow the truth of the heart to come to the surface and make it accessible to others. The work of asceticism is designed to produce over time a transparency by which our inner truth becomes perceptible. The truth that we ARE and SPEAK is meant to bring the glory of God more visible to everyone we meet.

A quote I found from Marianne Williamson gives food for thought about this line in the Rule of Benedict.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a creation of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine. We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. (A Return to Love - Harper Collins, 1992, p. 190)

Happy pondering!

Bind yourself to no oath lest it prove false ... (RB 4:27)

This recommendation could be seen as advice to avoid strong statements that have the potential to intimidate others. Being participatory in life calls for a certain sensitivity in mutual relationships, leaving room for others to be different, to hold different opinions, and to do things differently. This often involves softening the focus of personal views and learning to be tactful and respectful.