The Rule of Saint Benedict
During his time at Monte Cassino, Saint Benedict wrote his monastic Rule, a practical book for those wishing to live the community or cenobitic life. He calls it "a little rule for beginners", setting down "nothing harsh, nothing burdensome". Saint Benedict's aim is to establish "a school of the Lord's service" where monks can devote themselves to their search for God.
The Latin word 'regula', normally translated 'rule' comes originally from the word for 'trellis', a framework to enable ordered growth. These are not arbitrary 'rules and regulations' but a tried and tested framework upon which a willing soul can grow and flourish by God's good grace.
The approach offered by Saint Benedict is both sensible and humane, focussing on finding God in the ordinary circumstances of daily life, and particularly in the brethren. He advocates a balanced life of prayer and work, with all things done in moderation.
The text assumes that the Abbot should have the liberty to apply the Rule in any situation or circumstance. There is in it both a firmness of principle and a flexibility of application. Its enduring wisdom has meant that it has continued to guide and inspire monks, nuns and lay people for over 1500 years.
An online text of the Rule of St Benedict can be found here. A short reading from the Rule is read to the community each night at Compline. If you want to see that part of the Rule that is being read today, click here. You can find reflections of some of our monks on chapters of the Rule here.
Some quotations from the Rule:
Listen carefully, my son, to the master’s instructions, and attend to them with the ear of your heart. This is advice from a father who loves you; welcome it, and faithfully put it into practice. The labour of obedience will bring you back to him from whom you had drifted through the sloth of disobedience. (Prologue)
Seeking his workman in a multitude of people, the Lord calls out to him and lifts his voice again: ‘Is there anyone here who yearns for life and desires to see good days?’ If you hear this and your answer is ‘I do,’ God then directs these words to you: ‘If you desire true and eternal life, keep your tongue free from vicious talk and your lips from all deceit; turn away from evil and do good; let peace be your quest and aim.’ (Prologue)
What, dear brothers, is more delightful than this voice of the Lord calling to us? (Prologue)
Let us stand to sing the psalms in such a way that our minds are in harmony with our voices.
Care of the sick must rank above and before all else, so that they may truly be served as Christ, for he said: ‘I was sick and you visited,’ and, ‘What you did for one of these least brothers you did for me.’ (Ch. 36)
Obedience is a blessing to be shown by all, not only to the abbot but also to one another as brothers, since we know that it is by this way of obedience that we go to God. (Ch. 71)
Are you hastening toward your heavenly home? Then with Christ’s help, keep this little rule that we have written for beginners. After that, you can set out for the loftier summits of the teaching and virtues we mentioned above, and under God’s protection you will reach them. Amen. (Ch. 73)