Monday, September 17, 2007

Reading for January 17, May 18, September 17

January 17, May 18, September 17
Chapter 3: On Calling the Brethren for Counsel

In all things, therefore, let all follow the Rule as guide,
and let no one be so rash as to deviate from it.
Let no one in the monastery follow his own heart's fancy;
and let no one presume to contend with his Abbot
in an insolent way or even outside of the monastery.
But if anyone should presume to do so,
let him undergo the discipline of the Rule.
At the same time,
the Abbot himself should do all things in the fear of God
and in observance of the Rule,
knowing that beyond a doubt
he will have to render an account of all his decisions
to God, the most just Judge.

But if the business to be done in the interests of the monastery
be of lesser importance,
let him take counsel with the seniors only.
It is written,
"Do everything with counsel,
and you will not repent when you have done it" (Eccles. 32:24).

Some thoughts:

By all means, let's follow the Rule as a guide. What does that mean to you?

I love the bit about no one following his own heart's fancy. While no doubt a reference to stability maybe it is also one to relationships. Each monastic (and this includes the abbess/abbot) has a relationship with God intermingled with relationships with each other in the community as a whole as well as with the Rule and the abbess/abbot.

What might this mean for us today?

Commentary by Sr. Joan Chittister

Benedictine monasticism is life lived within the circuit of four guy wires: the Gospel, the teachings of its abbots and prioress, the experience of the community and the Rule of Benedict itself.

The Gospel gives meaning and purpose to the community. The teaching of its abbots and prioresses gives depth and direction to the community. The experience of the community, spoken by its members in community Chapter meetings, gives truth to the community. But it is the Rule of Benedict that gives the long arm of essential definition and character to the community.

Each of us, monastic or not, deals with the same elements in life. We are all bound to the Gospel, under leadership of some kind, faced with the dictates of tradition or the cautions of experience and in need of a direction. Monastic spirituality offers enduring principles and attitudes far beyond whatever culture embodies them. Once embraced, they guide our way through whatever the psychological fads or religious practices or social philosophies of the time that offer comfort but lack staying power. "All are to follow the teaching of the Rule," Benedict, the great abbot teaches, "and no one shall rashly deviate from it." Adapt the Rule, yes. Abandon the Rule, no.

The fact is that it is in the Rule itself that the principles and values of Benedictine spirituality are stored and maintained. No matter how far a group goes in its attempts to be relevant to the modern world, it keeps one foot in an ancient one at all times. It is this world that pulls it back, time and time again, to the tried and true, to the really real, to a Beyond beyond ourselves. It is to these enduring principles that every age looks, not to the customs or practices that intend to embody them from one age to another.

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