Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Reading for Dec 5, 2007

Today's reading from the Rule of St. Benedict

April 5, August 5, December 5
Chapter 53: On the Reception of Guests

Let there be a separate kitchen for the Abbot and guests,
that the brethren may not be disturbed when guests,
who are never lacking in a monastery,
arrive at irregular hours.
Let two brethren capable of filling the office well
be appointed for a year to have charge of this kitchen.
Let them be given such help as they need,
that they may serve without murmuring.
And on the other hand,
when they have less to occupy them,
let them go out to whatever work is assigned them.

And not only in their case
but in all the offices of the monastery
let this arrangement be observed,
that when help is needed it be supplied,
and again when the workers are unoccupied
they do whatever they are bidden.

The guest house also shall be assigned to a brother
whose soul is possessed by the fear of God.
Let there be a sufficient number of beds made up in it;
and let the house of God be managed by prudent men
and in a prudent manner.

On no account shall anyone who is not so ordered
associate or converse with guests.
But if he should meet them or see them,
let him greet them humbly, as we have said,
ask their blessing and pass on,
saying that he is not allowed to converse with a guest.

Some thoughts:

Guests are very well provided for, are they not? Even a separate kitchen so that they may be sure of a meal no matter what time they arrive. It is in these chapters on receiving guests that we find the origin of the hotel industry. Somewhere someone decided to cash in on what Benedictine monasteries had offered for free. But I digress.

In yesterday's reading, the emphasis was upon the guest. In today's reading the emphasis is on the monks and the monastery. The silence of the monastery is protected. Monks, while greeting any guests they meet courteously, also graciously excuse themselves from conversation in order to continue in silence.

There are 2 things Benedict stresses: one is that the guest master be one whose sights are fixed on the Lord and that this person also be prudent. At a guess, I'd say the former requirement defines one who understands boundaries and will not get sucked up into the lives of the guests or distracted by their requests (or demands!) but who will remained focused on God. As for prudence... well, that person is being entrusted with the use of the monastery's stuff and so needs to know how to use it appropriately.

Seems to me I can well use constant reminders of the appropriate use of my time and goods. All too easy to be sucked into something good only to find out later that as good a good as it might be, it is not a good where the Lord would have me participate. have you hjad this experience?

The other thing that is stressed here is the necessity of asking for help. Benedict mentions it twice. We are not supposed to wait for someone to notice we need help or to wait so long that we have harsh feelings in our hearts that no one has volunteered. We are to ask right up front at the beginning. Benedict wants us to know, recognize and **honor** our limits. There is no shame in this because we are a Body, a community and we are all here for the health of the Body and to serve the Lord.

I must admit, I fall into the heresy of self-sufficiency frequently. Self-sufficiency of the individual Christian was outed as a wrong over 1600 years ago when Pelagius postulated it. ( )

Have you also been sucked into the notion that you must do it all yourself, that it won't get done if you don't do it? Do you continue to say "yes" when you are exhausted? Do you have trouble asking for help?

Insight for the Ages: A Commentary by Sr Joan Chittister

With the fall of the Roman Empire, travel through Europe on unguarded and unkept roads through hostile territory and at the prey of marauding bands became both difficult and dangerous. Benedictine monasteries became the hospice system of Europe. There, anyone was received at any time. Rich and poor alike were accepted as equals and given the same service: food, bedding, immediate attention day or night. Yet, so that the monastery could remain a monastery in the midst of a steadily growing need for this monastic service, a special kitchen and special workers were assigned to provide the necessary care. It's an important addition to a chapter that could otherwise be read to mean that the monastic life itself was at the mercy of meandering peasants. The fact is that we all have to learn to provide for others while maintaining the values and structures, the balance and depth, of our own lives. The community that is to greet the guest is not to barter its own identity in the name of the guest. On the contrary, if we become less than we must be then we will be no gift for the guest at all. Parents must parent and all the good work in the world will not substitute for that. Wives and husbands must be present to the other and all the needs in the world will not forgive that. Balance and order and prayer in the life of those who practice Benedictine spirituality is key to being a genuine support in the lives of others. Somehow we must take on the needs of the world with a humble heart. As Hale said, "I cannot do everything but I can do something and what I can do I will do, so help me God."

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