Prologue of the Rule of St. Benedict, September 1, 2016

Prologue (January 1, May 1, September 1)

L I S T E N  carefully, my child,

to your master’s precepts,

and incline the ear of your heart (Prov. 4:20).

Receive willingly and carry out effectively

your loving father’s advice,

that by the labor of obedience

you may return to Him

from whom you had departed by the sloth of disobedience.

To you, therefore, my words are now addressed,

whoever you may be,

who are renouncing your own will

to do battle under the Lord Christ, the true King,

and are taking up the strong, bright weapons of obedience.

And first of all,

whatever good work you begin to do,

beg of Him with most earnest prayer to perfect it,

that He who has now deigned to count us among His children

may not at any time be grieved by our evil deeds.

For we must always so serve Him

with the good things He has given us,

that He will never as an angry Father disinherit His children,

nor ever as a dread Lord, provoked by our evil actions,

deliver us to everlasting punishment

as wicked servants who would not follow Him to glory.

Yes, I certainly realize that the language is masculine. Please don’t

let this stop you, alternate readings will be voiced in the feminine.

I cut and paste the daily readings from the Order of St. Benedict

website, so the gender language swaps from day to day.

The Rule of St. Benedict is universal. Let’s look at the intimacy of

the language: “my son”; “loving father”. We can as easily read “my

daughter” or “loving mother”. Tomorrow’s reading will be in the

feminine, I promise. There are versions out there that are strictly

gender inclusive and you are welcome to look for them. I don’t use

them because to me those versions sacrifice the intimacy for

inclusion. I’m fine with the language swapping out.

As you read the Prologue, does it sound inviting? The son or daughter  addressed is the monastic and the loving father/mother is the Abbot or Abbess but it could just as easily be you or me being told these words.

Do you feel a pull to action? Do phrases such as “listen”, “willingly

receive”, “faithfully fulfill” strike you as personal involvement,

personal application?

The first word, “listen”, is a strong imperative, is it not? The Latin

is “ob-sculta” and has the same root and almost same meaning as

another Latin word “ob-oedire” from which we get the English word

“obedience”. I am reminded immediately of the phrase “to hear is to

obey” and the sense I come away with is this: there is some sort of

connection between truly listening and deep obedience. These 2 words turn in on each other.

Indeed, the RB presupposes “turning”. There is the turning of baptism

and the daily turning to God. Benedict always seems concerned with the question of how we live out our commitment to God in daily life?

Benedict is positive that God calls every day to all of us, wanting us

to respond more fully to Him. What environment, what behavior will

daily return us to God?

Note the practical questions, the screening out questions:

1) Are you willing to renounce your own will?

2) Are you willing to do battle with yourself so that you may more

closely obey God?

3) Are you willing to pray for help, admitting you need help and can’t

do it on your own?

4) Do you want to please God?

It is those for whom the answers are yes, that Father Benedict wrote.

Later on, he tells us that since even if we do say yes, we are

ill-equipped to follow through, so we need a school to teach us. Which is what the Rule of St. Benedict is: A school for beginners


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