April 18, August 18, December 18
Chapter 63: On the Order of the Community
Let all keep their places in the monastery
established by the time of their entrance,
the merit of their lives and the decision of the Abbot.
Yet the Abbot must not disturb the flock committed to him,
nor by an arbitrary use of his power ordain anything unjustly;
but let him always think
of the account he will have to render to God
for all his decisions and his deeds.
Therefore in that order which he has established
or which they already had,
let the brethren approach to receive the kiss of peace and Communion,
intone the Psalms and stand in choir.
And in no place whatever should age decide the order
or be prejudicial to it;
for Samuel and Daniel as mere boys judged priests.
Except for those already mentioned, therefore,
whom the Abbot has promoted by a special decision
or demoted for definite reasons,
all the rest shall take their order
according to the time of their entrance.
Thus, for example,
he who came to the monastery at the second hour of the day,
whatever be his age or his dignity,
must know that he is junior
to one who came at the first hour of the day.
Boys, however, are to be kept under discipline
in all matters and by everyone.
Gotta have order when there is a group of people. Father Benedict picked the simplest way possible to establish order and precedence: length of time in the monastery.
The order in which people enter the monastic community is the order in which they do everything: exchange the peace, receive Communion, where they stand during prayer, and probably enter the refectory for meals.
So for the rest of one’s life, one knows exactly who is in front of one, whose back of the head one will get to know very well. There is a certain peace to that, isn’t there? No striving to get ahead. No competition. There is also a certain humility in knowing this is one’s place, this is the only place one will ever have.
Unless the monastic superior changes something and only if that is done in after prayerful consideration because God will make note.
The reference to the boys makes me chuckle. They are under everyone’s supervision, subject to discipline by anyone.
How can we who do not live in a monastery use this? One thought comes to mind is the workplace. People who have worked or a company for years are more familiar with the customs, policies etc of their employer than someone who has only been there six months.
Many of us live in apartment complexes and there is a certain culture to which one must adjust. Groups of friends have their own customs and when one joins such a group, there’s a learning curve.
What other examples can you think of?