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.
Everyone has to wash the dishes! Everyone has to be involved in the million and a half things that go on in a kitchen in order to serve a meal to others. In other words, here is another way in which Benedict states that all are equal in the community. Although I admit, I wonder what work would be important enough to excuse one from KP? My first thought is some work of hospitality, but what do I know.
This is another one of those passages which speak to me of the balance and moderation that the Saint is known for. It also speaks to me of the care he takes for others. I love that he specifies Saturday. I lived with a group of women back in the day and we each had our assigned chores for the week. I remember we had arguments over when the chores would get done. For instance, if I were assigned to clean the bathroom, I would wait until the end of my assigned week to scrub it down because the person who had scrubbed it down the previous week had waited until the end of her assigned week. But the woman who followed me in rotation wanted to get her share of cleaning done at the beginning of the week. And there would be arguments. How much better if we had had the foresight to do as Benedict did and assign a specific day for the household maintenance chores.
There is also a circular pattern here: the one who serves becomes in turn one who is served. This is a principle which i think need re-introduction or a new emphasis or something. People in my parish, as an example, excuse themselves from certain work because “it’s not my thing”. Not because they lack skills or time, but because they don’t care to and see no benefit to themselves, no matter how much it might benefit others.
In contrast to this, we have the RB which teaches us to serve others. Which also gives us the opportunity to experience for ourselves the mystery and paradox learned by so many who came to give and serve and went away saying “They gave me so much more than I ever gave them.”