Thursday, December 06, 2007

Reading for Dec 6, 2007

Today's reading from the Rule of St. Benedict

April 6, August 6, December 6
Chapter 54: Whether a Monastic Should Receive Letters or Anything Else

On no account shall a monastic be allowed
to receive letters, blessed tokens or any little gift whatsoever
from parents or anyone else,
or from her sisters,
or to give the same,
without the Abbess's permission.
But if anything is sent her even by her parents,
let her not presume to take it
before it has been shown to the Abbess.
And it shall be in the Abbess's power to decide
to whom it shall be given,
if she allows it to be received;
and the sister to whom it was sent should not be grieved,
lest occasion be given to the devil.

Should anyone presume to act otherwise,
let her undergo the discipline of the Rule.

Some Thoughts:

Much has been written over the years of the Franciscan view of poverty. Francis held Lady Poverty in very high esteem. Benedict, not so much. I've spent some time off and on over the last few years, more off than on due to circumstances, attempting to research Benedict's view of poverty without very much success. People I have consulted have been quick to tell me that Benedict's is more of spiritual poverty than material. Reading today's passage, I am not so sure they are right. Poverty, of course, is part of conversatio morum, conversion of life. Today's selection makes me wonder about the role of material poverty in the RB.

Why wouldn't Benedict allow his monks to receive letters from home, blessed tokens and little gifts? I think it is because it was quite egalitarian ion the monastery: no one was too have more than another. Let's remember that in Benedict's time every where else rank hath its privileges. But not in his monastery. All were equal and the only ranking that existed was that of seniority within the monastery.

What would this world be like if we practised this idea of none of us having more than another? I especially find myself thinking this way at Christmas when I am daily revolted by the commercials that teach American wives that the only way they know their husbands love them is if they give them diamonds for Christmas.

Insight for the Ages: A Commentary by Sr Joan Chittister

Rabbi Mordecai said: "If a single coin is left over in my house at bedtime, I cannot fall asleep. But if totally penniless, I sleep soundly, knowing that when the moment comes to awaken, I must immediately look to the Lord for aid." And the rabbi of Porissover taught: "If a person is poor and meek, it is easy for that one to be joyful, inasmuch as there is nothing to guard against losing." In a community based on equality in the midst of a highly stratified society, Benedict had no desire to create a subset of the independently wealthy whose parents or friends could provide for them beyond the means of the monastery. The purpose of monastic life was to discover that the possession of God was far more satisfying than anything we could receive from family or friends, that it was freeing, that it was enriching far beyond what we could collect for ourselves.

We live in a culture that sees having things as the measure of our success. We strive for a life that sees eliminating things as the measure of internal wealth. Enoughness is a value long dead in Western society. Dependence on God is a value long lost. Yet, enoughness and dependence on God may be what is lacking in a society where consumerism and accumulation have become the root diseases of a world in which everything is not enough and nothing satisfies.

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