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

February 19, 2019
Chapter 16
The Celebration of the Divine Office During the Day

The prophet says: "Seven times a day have I praised you (Ps 119: 164)." We will fulfill this sacred number of seven if we satisfy our obligations of service at Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers and Compline, for it was of these hours during the day that it was said: "Seven times a day have I praised you (Ps 119:164)." Concerning Vigils, the same prophet says: "At midnight I arose to give you praise (Ps 119:62)." Therefore, we should "praise our Creator for just judgments" at these times: Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers and Compline; and "Let us arise at night to give praise (Ps 119:164, 62)."

"Prayer is the service of the heart," the Talmud says. Benedict clearly thought the same. In forming his communities in prayer, Benedict had two realities with which to deal. The first was the biblical injunction "to pray always" around which the monastics of the desert had centered their lives. The second was the reality of community life itself: "We earn our bread by the toil of our hands," the Rule says.

The problem was that Benedict's monks were not hermits who scratched their daily fare out of a dry desert, living on locusts and honey. They were not gyrovagues, wandering monks, who, to demonstrate their dependence on God, begged their way through life. Benedict's monks were cenobites, community people with a family to support. They were each as responsible for their inexperienced young and worn out elderly as they were for themselves. They were, in other words, just like us.

To sanctify both situations Benedict instructs his communities to rise early in the night, as his culture allowed, to study and to pray and then, during the day, to recite brief, simple, scriptural prayers at regular intervals, easy enough to be recited and prayed even in the workplace, to wrench their minds from the mundane to the mystical, away from concentration on life's petty particulars to attention on its transcendent meaning.

Benedict scheduled prayer times during the day to coincide with the times of the changing of the Roman imperial guard. When the world was revering its secular rulers Benedict taught us to give our homage to God, the divine ruler of heaven and earth. There was to be no stopping at the obvious, at the lesser, for a Benedictine.

The point is clear: there is to be no time, no thing, that absorbs us so much that we lose contact with the God of life; no stress so tension-producing, no burden so complex, no work so exhausting that God is not our greatest agenda, our constant companion, our rest and our refuge. More, whatever other people worship, we are to keep our minds and hearts on God.

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.