Daily Reading from the Rule of Benedict

Yesterday's Reading

About the Rule of Benedict

Benedict of Nursia was born in the year 480. As a student in Rome, he tired of the decadent culture around him and left to live a simple spiritual life as a hermit in the countryside of Subiaco about thirty miles outside of the city. It wasn't long, however, before he was discovered both by the people of the area and disciples who were themselves looking for a more meaningful way of life. Out of these associations sprang the monastic life that would eventually cover Europe.

The Rule of Benedict is not a treatise in systematic theology. Its logic is the logic of daily life lived in Christ and lived well. This early monastic rule is part of the Wisdom tradition of Christianity and is rooted in the Bible for its inspiration and its end. It deals with the meaning and purpose of life. The positions taken in the Rule in the light of themes in the wisdom literature of other culture find Benedict of Nursia in the stream of thinkers who lived out of a single tradition but from the perspective of universal and fundamental insights into life.

Excerpted from The Rule of Benedict: Insights for the Ages by Joan Chittister, OSB

January 23, 2020
Chapter 5

This very obedience, however, will be acceptable to God and agreeable to people only if compliance with what is commanded is not cringing or sluggish or half-hearted, but free from any grumbling or any reaction of unwillingness. For the obedience shown to an abbot or prioress is given to God, who has said: "Whoever listens to you, listens to me (Lk 10:16)." Furthermore, the disciples'obedience must be given gladly, for "God loves a cheerful giver (2 Cor 9:7)." If disciples obey grudgingly and grumble, not only aloud but also in their hearts, then, even though the order is carried out, their actions will not be accepted with favor by God, who sees that they are grumbling in their hearts. These disciples will have no reward for service of this kind; on the contrary, they will incur punishment for grumbling, unless they change for the better and make amends.

If there is one determinant of monastic spirituality, this is surely it: You must want it. You must give yourself to it wholeheartedly. You must enter into it with hope and surety. You must not kick and kick and kick against the goad.

It is so easy to begin the spiritual life with a light heart and then, one day, drowning in the sea that is ourselves, refuse to go another step without having to be dragged. We ignore the teachings or demean the teachings. We ignore the prioress or criticize the abbot. We defy the teachers to teach.

We do what we are told, of course. We come to the meetings or keep the schedule or go through the motions of being part of the community or part of the family or part of the staff but there is no truth in us and we weigh the group down with our complainings. We become a living lamentation. We become a lump of spiritual cement around the neck of the group.

This, Benedict says, is not obedience. This is only compliance and compliance kills, both us and the community whose one heart is fractured by those who hold theirs back. Real obedience depends on wanting to listen to the voice of God in the human community, not wanting to be forced to do what we refuse to grow from.

The Rule of Benedict Insights for the Ages

Is there a great spiritual tradition that deals with the contemporary issues facing the human community? In her new introduction to the Rule, Joan Chittister boldly claims that Benedict’s sixth-century text is the only one of the great traditions that directly touches today’s issues: stewardship, conversion, communication, reflection, contemplation, humility and equality. Tracing Benedict’s original Rule paragraph by paragraph, the new book expands the principles of the Rule into the larger context of spiritual living in a secular world and makes the seemingly archaic instructions relevant for a contemporary audience. A new foreword, updated content, an appendix, a Gregorian Chant download and a recommended calendar for reading the entries and commentaries make this an invaluable resource for solitary or communal contemplation. (Crossroad; Paperback) Order here.