Rule of St. Benedict: Chapter 42: That No One Speak After Compline, March 21, 2017

March 21, July 21, November 20
Chapter 42: That No One Speak After Compline

Monastics ought to be zealous for silence at all times,
but especially during the hours of the night.
For every season, therefore,
whether there be fasting or two meals,
let the program be as follows:

If it be a season when there are two meals,
then as soon as they have risen from supper
they shall all sit together,
and one of them shall read the Conferences
or the Lives of the Fathers
or something else that may edify the hearers;
not the Heptateuch or the Books of Kings, however,
because it will not be expedient for weak minds
to hear those parts of Scripture at that hour;
but they shall be read at other times.

If it be a day of fast,
then having allowed a short interval after Vespers
they shall proceed at once to the reading of the Conferences,
as prescribed above;
four or five pages being read, or as much as time permits,
so that during the delay provided by this reading
all may come together,
including those who may have been occupied
in some work assigned them.

When all, therefore, are gathered together,
let them say Compline;
and when they come out from Compline,
no one shall be allowed to say anything from that time on.
And if anyone should be found evading this rule of silence,
let her undergo severe punishment.
An exception shall be made
if the need of speaking to guests should arise
or if the Abbess should give someone an order.
But even this should be done with the utmost gravity
and the most becoming restraint.

 

Some Thoughts:
 
One might be forgiven for thinking this section really ought to be called “What to read in the evenings” as more attention seems to be given to that than silence, as the chapter says. Seems to me, though, the importance of the selection of reading materials is very much linked to what is or is not conducive to silence.
 
The Hepateuch, the 1st 7 books of the Bible, Genesis through Judges, is fraught, at least for me, with some of the most challenging passages in all of Scripture. Ditto Kings. For that matter, 1st and 2nd Samuel also, which Benedict did not specify.
 
Perhaps Benedict knew far earlier than most that what we put into our minds just before bedtime will have repercussions on our sleep, our ability to find repose in God and therefore affect us the next day.
 
I find myself wondering how many people would have fewer nightmares, anxieties, insomnia etc if they did not use the 11 PM news as their bedtime story.

Refletion on a Saying of a Desert Christian: Abba Agathon

“If a Christian,” Abba Agathon said, “kept the judgment which follows death in mind every moment, he would not sin with such ease.”

Earlier today I read something I would like to contrast with this Saying.  Someone wrote that Christians must repent continually and all I could think was “How self-centered an approach to Christian life.”  If a person is repenting continually, that that person’s eyes will be directed solely at that person.

Abba Agathon, in advising us to keep the day of judgment in mind is telling us to keep an eye out for the results of what we do, which forces our attention away from ourselves and onto others.

Jesus tells us to love our neighbors as ourselves as God first loved us.  I think Jesus appreciates what the Abba says more than the anonymous, modern day person I quoted above.

Rule of St. Benedict: Chapter 37: On the Old and Children, March 16, 2017

March 16, July 16, November 15
Chapter 37: On the Old and Children

Although human nature itself is drawn to special kindness towards
these times of life, that is towards the old and children, still
the authority of the Rule should also provide for them.

Let their weakness be always taken into account, and let them by
no means be held to the rigor of the Rule with regard to food. On
the contrary, let a kind consideration be shown to them, and let
them eat before the regular hours.

Some thoughts
 
It is like Benedict’s kindness that he makes provision in the Rule for children and the elderly. They were a vulnerable population in his day, as were widows. While I have seen kindliness to children, I have not seen so much of that for the elderly. We need it.
 
Children and the elderly both need certain types of food, Benedict tells us, so that they may flourish. Benedict talks a lot about food in the RB. He expects his monastics to abstain from meat except for certain holy days, but this does not apply to children and the elderly. Of course, once a child reached the age of thirteen, that child was pretty much considered an adult and at that time would join the monastics in the fast from meat.
 
Loving the phrase “kind consideration.” Wherever we are, with whomsoever we might be with, let us always show a kind consideration.

Rule of St. Benedict: Chapter 36: On the Sick, March 15, 2017

March 15, July 15, November 14
Chapter 36: On the Sick

Before all things and above all things, care must be taken of the
sick, so that they will be served as if they were Christ in person;
for He Himself said, “I was sick, and you visited Me” (Matt 25:36),
and, “What you did for one of these least ones, you did for Me”
(Matt.25:40).

But let the sick on their part consider that they are being served
for the honor of God, and let them not annoy their sisters who are
serving them by their unnecessary demands. Yet they should be
patiently borne with, because from such as these is gained a more
abundant reward. Therefore the Abbess shall take the greatest care
that they suffer no neglect.

For these sick let there be assigned a special room and an
attendant who is God-fearing, diligent and solicitous. Let the use
of baths be afforded the sick as often as may be expedient; but to
the healthy, and especially to the young, let them be granted more
rarely.
Moreover, let the use of meat be granted to the sick who are very
weak, for the restoration of their strength; but when they are
convalescent, let all abstain from meat as usual.

The Abbess shall take the greatest care that the sick be not
neglected by the cellarers or the attendants; for she also is
responsible for what is done wrongly by her disciples.

Some thoughts
The sick are to be cared for as if they were Jesus. Would that all who claim to be Christian treated the sick this way. Too many people begrudge the sick the care they need for all sorts of folderol excuses. Jesus is very clear: care for the sick.
 
The sick also have a responsibility to be thankful for the care they receive. The sick are to remember that they are not getting care because of any merit of theirs, but because it is being done as an act of worship of God. As a result, the ill are to be considerate when asking for their needs to be met and not drain the resources of those caring for them or demanding more than is a reasonable accommodation
 
Of course, back in Benedict’s day, they did not know about bacteria, germs or viri. Benedict counsels the monastics the best ways he knows: a separate room both for their peace and ability to rest but also to protect the rest of the community from disease; baths (apparently they did not bathe every day ordinarily); and meat to restore their strength while ill.
 
The monastic superior, in this case, and in every other situation in the community, is the final authority and is where the buck stops.
 
The Rule of St. Benedict and the kind of care they gave the sick is the foundation for our modern medical care and hospitals. A gigantic industry grew out of the monastics simple obedience to Jesus and the Rule. How well that industry meets needs is often manipulated. Care is often denied because the needy are considered unworthy in some way even if the lack of care might threaten the rest fo the population.
 
Benedict’s example tells Christians what our relationship to the sick must be: treat them as if they were Jesus. Pure and simple. Treat them as if they were Jesus.

Reflection on a Saying of a Desert Christian: Saint Ephraim the Syrian

“If you are ever slandered,” Saint Ephraim the Syrian writes, “and your innocence is (subsequently) revealed, do not be arrogant. Serve your Lord with humility and thank him for freeing you from the calumnies of men, observing his commandments faithfully and from the heart.”

How many of us have been slandered? How many of us have had lies told about us?  How many of us have had our words distorted and twisted to mean something we have never said? 

All too many of us, especially we participate in social media or follow and comment on blogs.  It hurts, doesn’t it? We want repudiation and vindication, don’t we?  That’s human nature, isn’t it?

However, Jesus has words for us that He wants us to take seriously.  Don’t return evil for evil.  Turn the other cheek. Don’t do the tit for tat thing. Pray for those who are rotten to us.

God knows the truth about us.  People open to the Holy Spirit know the truth about us.  We don’t have to worry about it.

Reflection on a Saying of a Desert Christian: anonymous

A holy elder, seeing with his own eyes a certain brother fall into deep sin, not only did not judge him, but wept and said: “He fell today; without doubt I will fall tomorrow. But he certainly will repent, whereas for myself, I am not so sure of this.”

How wonderful it would be if all of us had the same reaction as this anonymous monk.  Jesus tells us, as have many great saints and teachers, that we have to pay more attention to the log in our own eyes than to the splinter in the eye of someone else.

This monk reminds us that we are all sinners, we all fall, we all err. When we do we need to repent but as with this holy elder, are we confident that we will ask forgiveness?

Rule of St. Benedict: Chapter 35: On the Weekly Servers in the Kitchen, March 13, 2017

March 13, July 13, November 12
Chapter 35: On the Weekly Servers in the Kitchen

Let the brethren serve one another, and let no one be excused from
the kitchen service
except by reason of sickness or occupation in some important work.
For this service brings increase of reward and of charity. But let
helpers be provided for the weak ones, that they may not be
distressed by this work; and indeed let everyone have help, as
required by the size of the community or the circumstances of the
locality. If the community is a large one,
the cellarer shall be excused from the kitchen service; and so also
those whose occupations are of greater utility, as we said above.
Let the rest serve one another in charity.

The one who is ending his week of service shall do the cleaning on
Saturday. He shall wash the towels with which the brethren wipe
their hands and feet; and this server who is ending his week, aided
by the one who is about to begin, shall wash the feet of all the
brethren. He shall return the utensils of his office to the
cellarer clean and in good condition,
and the cellarer in turn shall consign them to the incoming server,
in order that he may know what he gives out and what he receives
back.

Some thoughts
 
Whenever I read this chapter, I am always struck by the homiism, if that is a word and according to the spellcheck it isn’t but it should be. Housework and meal preparation go in every home, and with his famed attention to detail, Benedict tells us how to make it work not only in the community but also out here in the world.
 
Seems to me that if a group of people take turns doing the housework and the cooking, instead of expecting one person to do it all, there will be a great deal of peace and harminy in communal living situations.