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,
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