Rule of St. Benedict: Chapter 49: On the Observance of Lent, March 31, 2017

March 31, July 31, November 30
Chapter 49: On the Observance of Lent

Although the life of a monk
ought to have about it at all times
the character of a Lenten observance,
yet since few have the virtue for that,
we therefore urge that during the actual days of Lent
the brethren keep their lives most pure
and at the same time wash away during these holy days
all the negligences of other times.
And this will be worthily done
if we restrain ourselves from all vices
and give ourselves up to prayer with tears,
to reading, to compunction of heart and to abstinence.

During these days, therefore,
let us increase somewhat the usual burden of our service,
as by private prayers and by abstinence in food and drink.
Thus everyone of his own will may offer God
“with joy of the Holy Spirit” (1 Thess. 1:6)
something above the measure required of him.

From his body, that is he may withhold some food, drink, sleep, talking and jesting;
and with the joy of spiritual desire
he may look forward to holy Easter.

Let each one, however, suggest to his Abbot
what it is that he wants to offer,
and let it be done with his blessing and approval.
For anything done without the permission of the spiritual father
will be imputed to presumption and vainglory
and will merit no reward.
Therefore let everything be done with the Abbot’s approval.


Some thoughts
Daily Readings in the RB rotate so that we read the entire rule within a four-month cycle so sometimes what we read may or may not be during the Church season or season of the year mentioned in the reading. Today we happen to be smack dab in the middle of Lent and here we are provided with an opportunity to review our current Lenten experience according to Benedict’s standard.
Benedict would like his monastics to be of a Lenten mind all the time but he realizes that for most of us, this is an unrealistic expectation, so instead he asks us to concentrate on making Lent more Lenten by fighting our pet vices harder, praying more, maybe with tears of repentance, to reading something noteworthy, and the practice of abstinence as much as our health will permit. For example, now that we understand about diabetes we know that diabetics must not fast as that endangers their health. We are also to add to our good works. If we increase our service, it has to benefit others.
A reminder that when Benedict talks about refraining from jesting, he does not mean refraining from humor. He means refraining from the nasty sort of humor that is at the expense of another person.
And all of these things, our increase in prayer, reading, abstinence must be approved by the monastic superior in order to avoid pride.

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