Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Reading for January 18, May 19 September 18

January 18, May 19, September 18
Chapter 4: What Are the Instruments of Good Works

1. In the first place, to love the Lord God with the whole heart, the whole soul, the whole strength.
2. Then, one's neighbor as oneself.
3. Then not to murder.
4. Not to commit adultery.
5. Not to steal.
6. Not to covet.
7. Not to bear false witness.
8. To honor all (1 Peter 2:17).
9. And not to do to another what one would not have done to oneself.
10. To deny oneself in order to follow Christ.
11. To chastise the body.
12. Not to become attached to pleasures.
13. To love fasting.
14. To relieve the poor.
15. To clothe the naked.
16. To visit the sick.
17. To bury the dead.
18. To help in trouble.
19. To console the sorrowing.
20. To become a stranger to the world's ways.
21. To prefer nothing to the love of Christ.

Some thoughts:

Benedict sure gets to brass tacks, doesn't? Do these verses sound familiar? Where have you heard or read them before?

Love of God/love of neighbor: Benedict constantly emphasizes these 2. It seem to me that by opening this chapter with love of God it's like consecrating every moment, action, thought to God. We do these things for the love of God and know other consideration. Theoretically.

Are you as struck as I by the plain common sense of the list of good works? At first I was bemused at the idea that burying the dead is a good work because it is just common sense and that opened by eyes to the common sense of the good works. When it comes right down to it, what could be more commonsense than for creature to love Creator. Preferring nothing to Christ puts everything into perspective? And then Benedict goes on to list these good works which are how we love God and neighbor and prefer nothing to Christ.

The Christian life is not one of dos and don't but a relationship of love. In any loving relationship there are those things which detract from the love and that which increase it and nurture it. The Rule of St Benedict is the guide to increasing and nuturing our liove for God and our neighbor.

Commentary by Sr Joan Chiittister

At first glance, of course, this opening paragraph on the instruments of the spiritual art seems to be a relatively standard and basic reference to a biblical description of the holy life. And that seems sound. The trouble is that it also seems strange.

The surprise is that Benedict does not call us first to prayer or sacrifice or devotions or asceticisms. This is, after all, a contemplative lifestyle. It is at the same time, however, a communal lifestyle for "that most valiant kind of monastic heart," who sets out to find the holy in the human. The call to contemplation here is the call not simply to see Christ in the other but to treat the other as Christ. Benedict calls us first to justice: love God, love the other, do no harm to anyone.

First, Benedict instructs the monastic to keep the commandments. Then, in this next paragraph, the Rule requires the keeping of the corporal works of mercy. Benedictine monasticism is, apparently, not an escape from life. This spirituality is life lived with an eye on those for whom life is a terrible burden. "Do not pamper yourself," the Rule insists. "Relieve the lot of the poor."

The monastic heart is not just to be a good heart. The monastic heart is to be good for something. It is to be engaged in the great Christian enterprise of acting for others in the place of God.

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