Living the Zeal of Benedict

a blog by Sister Marilyn Schauble, OSB

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.

The image of a ladder shows us steps along the way in which humility can manifests itself over many years of living. There will be variations from the general plan, but the process remains similar for most people. Benedict's presentation of humility is primarily descriptive and not prescriptive. Benedict do not name humility as a virtue. For him humility is an interior quality. The steps of humility are like milestones on the road toward God. Benedict reminds us that we are not "to be be called holy before you really are, but first be holy that you may more truly be called so" (RB 4:62). Keep the goals of purity of heart and perfect love always before you and just keep walking.

The root of the Latin word humilitas is humus: earth, soil, being connected with the earth, down to earth, grounded.

There are two obvious precursors to the Rule of Benedict: the writings of John Cassian, The Institutes and The Rule of the Master. For Cassian once vices have been expelled the virtues bear fruit and grow. When virtues abounds purity of heart is acquired. With purity of heart the perfection of love is possessed. The Rule of the Master, inspired by Cassian, used the visual concept of a ladder to mark the progress toward the possession of love.

Benedict copied most of The Rule of the Master for his chapter on Humility, adding and subtracting to coincide with his own belief system. In The Rule of the Master the ascent via a ladder of humility lands one in heaven and in God's love after death. Benedict's ascent via a ladder of humility lands one on earth and in God's love here and now. Benedict is more focused on the earthly reality of being influenced by the Gospel teaching on the primacy of love. For him the experience of receiving and giving unconditional love is possible during this earthly life.

Might this be a clue as to why Benedict regards his teachings as a "way of life" (Prologue 20)?

Blessings on this Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.

Enjoy this brief recording of the sisters singing
HAIL MARY by Mary David Callahan, OSB.

Miss no single opportunity of making some small sacrifice,
here by a smiling look,
there by a kindly word;
always doing the smallest right
and doing it all for love.

For me, prayer is a surge of the heart;
it is a simple look turned toward heaven,
it is a cry of recognition and of love,
embracing both trial and joy.