Monday, December 24, 2007

Reading for Dec 24, 2007

Today's reading from the Rule of St. Benedict

April 24, August 24, December 24
Chapter 66: On the Porters of the Monastery

At the gate of the monastery
let there be placed a wise old woman,
who knows how to receive and to give a message,
and whose maturity will prevent her from straying about.
This porter should have a room near the gate,
so that those who come may always find someone at hand
to attend to their business.
And as soon as anyone knocks or a poor person hails her,
let her answer "Thanks be to God" or "A blessing!"
Then let her attend to them promptly,
with all the meekness inspired by the fear of God
and with the warmth of charity.

Should the porter need help,
let her have one of the younger sisters.

If it can be done,
the monastery should be so established
that all the necessary things,
such as water, mill, garden and various workshops,
may be within the enclosure,
so that there is no necessity
for the sisters to go about outside of it,
since that is not at all profitable for their souls.

We desire that this Rule be read often in the community,
so that none of the sisters may excuse herself
on the ground of ignorance.

Some Thoughts:

I dunno if I could think of a more perfect reading from the RB for Christmas Eve than this. Could you? We know from the chapter ion Receiving Guests, that all are to be received as if they were Jesus. Who is it who first extends such a welcome but the porter?

When I answer the door to an unexpected knock, i confess my first thought is not "Thanks be to God" or "a Blessing." Is yours? Mine is more apt to be "Is this another solicitor?" Or "who the heck is this interrupting me?" Not exactly receiving this visitor as if they were Christ, now is it?

Come Thou long expected Jesus and may the room you find in our hearts allow us to make room for all cross our path

Insight for the Ages: A Commentary by Sr Joan Chittister

Of all the questions to be asked about the nearly 1500 year old Rule of Benedict, and there are many in the twentieth century, one of the most pointed must surely be why one of the great spiritual documents of the Western World would have in it a chapter on how to answer the door. And one of the answers might be that answering the door is one of the arch activities of Benedictine life. The way we answer doors is the way we deal with the world. Benedict wants the porter to be available, "not roaming around" so that the caller is not left waiting; responsible and "able to take a message," so that the community is properly informed; full of welcome; prompt in responding to people "with the warmth of love"; and actually grateful for the presence of the guest. When the person knocks--whenever the person knocks--the porter is to say, "Thanks be to God" or "Your blessing, please," to indicate the gift the guest is to the community. The porter is to be warmth and welcome at all times, not just when it feels convenient. In the Rule of Benedict, there is no such thing as coming out of time to the monastery. Come in the middle of lunch; come in the middle of prayer; come and bother us with your blessings at any time. There is always someone waiting for you.

The chapter on the porter of the monastery is the chapter on how to receive the Christ in the other always. It is Benedict's theology of surprise.

If there is any chapter in the rule that demonstrates Benedictine openness to life and, at the same time, models a manner of living in the midst of society without being consumed by it, this is surely the one. Guests are welcomed enthusiastically in Benedictine spirituality but, at the same time, life is not to be frittered away on work, on social life, on the public bustle of the day. The community is to stay as self-contained as possible so that centered in the monastery they stay centered in their hearts. More, this balance between public and private, between openness and centeredness, between consciousness of the outside world and concentration on interior growth is to be remembered and rehearsed over and over again: "We wish this rule to be read often," the rule says plaintively so that the monastic never forgets that the role of the committed Christian is always to grow richer themselves so that they can give richly to others. Abba Cassian, a desert monastic, told the following story: "Once upon a time, we two monks visited an elder. Because he offered us hospitality we asked him, "Why do you not keep the rule of fasting when you receive visiting brothers?" And the old monastic answered, "Fasting is always at hand but you I cannot have with me always. Furthermore, fasting is certainly a useful and necessary thing, but it depends on our choice while the law of God lays it upon us to do the works of charity. Thus, receiving Christ in you, I ought to serve you with all diligence, but when I have taken leave of you, I can resume the rule of fasting again."

The person with a monastic heart knows that the Christ and their salvation are not in religious gyrations of our design alone; they are in the other, our response to whom is infinitely more important than our religious exercises.

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