February 2, 2012

The Benedictine Way

Fra Angelico, St. Benedict - Museo S.Marco, Firenze
Their contribution to the history of Western civilization and spirituality is immense. But the success of such a titanic work wouldn’t be made possible without … a small book of precepts for monastic living, written for the monastery at Monte Cassino, in Italy, by St. Benedict of Norcia, The Rule of St. Benedict: “An epitome of Christianity, a learned and mysterious abridgement of all the doctrines of the Gospel, all the institutions of the Fathers, and all the counsels of perfection” (Bishop Jacques-Benigne Bossuet). The book exhibits the deepest knowledge of human nature and, at the same time, a miraculous sense of balance and wholeness. The first two sentences of the Prologue are simply sublime:

Hearken, my son, to the precepts of thy Master, and incline the ear of thy heart willingly to hear, and effectually to accomplish, the admonition of thy living Father, that by the labour of obedience thou mayest return to Him, from Whom thou didst depart by the sloth of disobedience. To thee therefore is my speech now directed, who, renouncing thy own will, dost take upon thee the strong and bright armour of obedience, to fight under the Lord Christ our true King.

A masterpiece of spiritual wisdom, as well as of the art of government, the reading of which never fails to move me.

Basing his life on the principles and precepts stated in the Rule, the Benedictine monk takes three vows: Stability, Obedience and Conversion of Life. The three vows are braided together “like three strands of a strong rope,” writes Fr. Dwight Longenecker, a Benedictine monk himself, who has had the excellent idea of writing some posts on “The Benedictine Way.” So far there have been four of them (very clear and concise!), the first two are about Stability, the other two are about Obedience.

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