Monday, December 31, 2007

Reading for Dec 31, 2007

Today's reading from the Rule of St. Benedict

May 1, August 31, December 31
Chapter 73: On the Fact That the Full Observance of Justice Is Not Established in This Rule

Now we have written this Rule
in order that by its observance in monasteries
we may show that we have attained some degree of virtue
and the rudiments of the religious life.

But for those who would hasten to the perfection of that life
there are the teaching of the holy Fathers,
the observance of which leads to the height of perfection.
For what page or what utterance
of the divinely inspired books of the Old and New Testaments
is not a most unerring rule for human life?
Or what book of the holy Catholic Fathers
does not loudly proclaim
how we may come by a straight course to our Creator?
Then the Conferences and the Institutes
and the Lives of the Fathers,
as also the Rule of our holy Father Basil --
what else are they but tools of virtue
for right-living and obedient monks?
But for us who are lazy and ill-living and negligent
they are a source of shame and confusion.

Whoever you are, therefore,
who are hastening to the heavenly homeland,
fulfill with the help of Christ
this minimum Rule which we have written for beginners;
and then at length under God's protection
you will attain to the loftier heights of doctrine and virtue
which we have mentioned above.

Some Thoughts:

With today's reading, we conclude this pass through the Rule of St. Benedict. Are you made as hopeful as I by such phrases as " attained some degree of virtue" and "rudiments"? At the end we find "minimum Rule which we have written for beginners". Does it comfort you as it does me to read on New Year's Eve that it is ok not to have it altogether? This is not to be understood as an excuse for sinning. But I so appreciate it that Benedict appreciates our humanness and our limitations as creatures.

Perhaps some of us are making our New Year's Resolutions. Could we do better than to take Father Benedict's suggestion and perhaps plan daily time to read our Bibles and plan a course of reading in the Fathers and Mothers of the Church? I don't mean anything so strenuous that it is a burden. A psalm and bits from the Testaments, a paragraph or two from one of the sources Benedict mentions above. He tells us this would "hasten the perfection of that life". "Unerring rule for human life", would that we trusted it to be so.

In fact and I really did not set out to turn this into a plug for the Daily Meditation LOL but it does in fact offer daily Scripture and various paragraphs from some great Christian writers. The Daily Meditation is offered as a Chinese menu, a buffet, for folk to pick and choose. Feel free to share any thoughts that come up on either of the following lists:

Benedict does recommend that we read and mediate. For those of us unfamiliar with the practice of Lectio Divina, there is an excellent article about it in our links:

As for me, I intend, and feel free to hold me accountable, to prayerfully read a book on a subject with which I need a LOT of divine intervention: _Humility Matters: The Practice of the Spiritual Life_ by Sister Mary Margaret Funk . Personally I feel I could well profit from a yearly re-read of her other 2 books: _Thoughts Matter: The Practice of the Spiritual Life_ and _ Tools Matter For Practicing The Spiritual Life.

Insight for the Ages: A Commentary by Sr Joan Chittister

This last chapter of the rule leaves us with a reading list for future spiritual development: the Bible, the Mothers and Fathers of the Church and their commentaries on scripture, and the classic contributions of other writers on the monastic life. But Benedict does not believe that the simple reading or study of spiritual literature is sufficient. He tells us to keep this rule, its values, its concepts, its insights. It is not what we read, he implies, it is what we become that counts. Every major religious tradition, in fact, has called for a change of heart, a change of life rather than for simply an analysis of its literature. The Hasidim, for instance, tell the story of the disciple who said to the teacher, "Teacher, I have gone completely through the Torah? What must I do now?"

And the teacher said, "Oh, my friend, the question is not, have you gone through the Torah. The question is, has the Torah gone through you?"

Even at the end of his rule, Benedict does not promise that we will be perfect for having lived it. What Benedict does promise is that we will be disposed to the will of God, attuned to the presence of God, committed to the search for God and just beginning to understand the power of God in our lives. Why? Because Benedictine simplicity gentles us into the arms of God. Benedictine community supports us on the way to God. Benedictine balance makes a wholesome journey possible. Monastic prayer, rooted in scripture lights the way. It is a way of life, a spirituality that makes the humdrum holy and the daily the stuff of high happiness. It is a way of life that lives life to the fullest offering, as this final chapter promises, that even more of the meaning of life is there for our taking if we will only follow this simple but profoundly life-altering way.

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