Rule of St. Benedict: Chapter 57: On the Artisans of the Monastery, April 10, 2017

April 10, August 10, December 10
Chapter 57: On the Artisans of the Monastery
If there are artisans in the monastery,
let them practice their crafts with all humility,
provided the Abbot has given permission.
But if any one of them becomes conceited
over his skill in his craft,
because he seems to be conferring a benefit on the monastery,
let him be taken from his craft
and no longer exercise it unless,
after he has humbled himself,
the Abbot again gives him permission.

If any of the work of the craftsmen is to be sold,
those responsible for the sale
must not dare to practice any fraud.
Let them always remember Ananias and Saphira,
who incurred bodily death (Acts 5:1-11),
lest they and all who perpetrate fraud
in monastery affairs
suffer spiritual death.

And in the prices let not the sin of avarice creep in,
but let the goods always be sold a little cheaper
than they can be sold by people in the world,
“that in all things God may be glorified” (1 Peter 4:11).

Some thoughts
 
 
For those of us who practice crafts of any kind, this passage might ring some alarm bells. Humility in one’s skill is important because our skill comes to us as God’s gift. If we are proud or vain about what we produce, we are refusing to give the glory that’s due to the Lord in all that we do.
 
Yet God is the Creator and we are made in his image; creativity is natural to human beings. It takes many forms, not just the most desired or praised like being a Mozart, a Monet or a Milton, which most of us can’t aspire to.
 
What sorts of things would the monks and nuns have used their gifts to create and then sell?
 
Perhaps the scribes illuminated beautiful parchments; perhaps the gardeners grew excellent vegetables; perhaps the cellarers made delicious wine; perhaps the herbalists made medicines and the kitchen monks made soup? Perhaps the sisters made cloth or did fine needlework?
 
The monastic community was supposed to be self-supporting and would make their own soap, clothing, shoes, baskets, spun wool, wove it, and if they had extra, they could sell it.
 
The communities were glad, no doubt, of the extra income, even though they charged less than the ‘going price’ in the world. Perhaps conceit was a very real temptation – to think one was contributing more than the others to the community’s well-being when one’s creations sold well…
 
It is kind of comforting to feel one is ‘paying one’s way’, ‘doing one’s bit’, and ‘not being a burden’… but community life is inter-dependent life, neither independent nor dependent life. Quite a sobering thought really.

Rule of St. Benedict: Chapter 56: On the Abbess’s Table, April 9, 2017

April 9, August 9, December 9

Chapter 56: On the Abbess’s Table

Let the Abbess’s table always be with the guests

and the pilgrims. But when there are no guests,

let it be in her power to invite whom she will of the sisters.

Yet one or two seniors must always be left with the others

for the sake of discipline.

Some Thoughts:

Hospitality first!

And I wonder how it felt to be a monastic who was invited to the superior’s table? And how it felt to be a monastic who was not invited, who felt overlooked?

Would the superior have invited them rotationally so as to treat all equally? I think so. I think each would have a turn.

Rule of St. Benedict: Chapter 55: On the Clothes and Shoes of the Brethren, April 7, 2017

April 7, August 7, December 7
Chapter 55: On the Clothes and Shoes of the Brethren

Let clothing be given to the brethren
according to the nature of the place in which they dwell
and its climate;
for in cold regions more will be needed,
and in warm regions less.
This is to be taken into consideration, therefore, by the Abbot.

We believe, however, that in ordinary places
the following dress is sufficient for each monk:
a tunic,
a cowl (thick and woolly for winter, thin or worn for summer),
a scapular for work,
stockings and shoes to cover the feet.

The monks should not complain
about the color or the coarseness of any of these things,
but be content with what can be found
in the district where they live and
can be purchased cheaply.

The Abbot shall see to the size of the garments,
that they be not too short for those who wear them,
but of the proper fit.

Let those who receive new clothes
always give back the old ones at once,
to be put away in the wardrobe for the poor.
For it is sufficient if a monk has two tunics and two cowls,
to allow for night wear and for the washing of these garments;
more than that is superfluity and should be taken away.
Let them return their stockings also and anything else that is old
when they receive new ones.

Those who are sent on a journey
shall receive drawers from the wardrobe,
which they shall wash and restore on their return.
And let their cowls and tunics be somewhat better
than what they usually wear.
These they shall receive from the wardrobe
when they set out on a journey,
and restore when they return.

Some thoughts:
 
As it happens, I was looking through some stuff I’d written a few years ago and discovered this piece I had written about today’s reading. At the time the big news was that we were going to be given “stimulus checks” that we could spend and stimulate the economy the Bush adminstration had destroyed. I also thught it a strange sense of prioritites that poor people were give half of what rich people were given. Nine years later, I still thank that was strange.
 
Anyway, here’s what I wrote that day.
 
Ok. I get it. Each monk has exactly what they need, no more, no less with a decent fit. What a concept. What changes would you make to your wardrobe were you to apply what our good father Benedict says here?
 
I find the timing interesting as the federal government gets ready to send out the economic stimulus checks. So I just had to share this because this is what I thought about as I read today’s selection from the RB:
 
Take your “stimulus check” and Give It 4 Good! Giveit4goodIt’s time for an intervention. Our economy is based on unsustainable overconsumption. And now, we’re being sent checks and told the answer is to spend even more. Meanwhile, more than a billion people live on less than $1 a day. http://www.e4gr.org/mdgs/1.html
 
It’s insanity. And it’s time to make a stand. Time to put our treasure where our heart is. Time to choose compassion over consumption. It’s time to Give It 4 Good. http://www.e4gr.org/giveit4good.html
 
Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation invites you to become part of a movement for economic sanity and moral accountability. http://www.e4gr.org/giveit4good.html
 
Join others across the nation and give 100%, 10% or even 0.7% of next month’s so-called “economic stimulus” check to an organization of your choice working to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.
 
Just visit http://www.giveit4good.org to find out how.
 
At http://www.giveit4good.org, you’ll also find resources for deciding where to give, advocacy actions, how to spread the word, resources for starting conversations about consumerism in your congregation and family … and much more.
 
Once you’ve taken the pledge, spread the word. Email your friends and family and tell them you have taken this important step. Let the people at the nonprofit you have designated know so they can encourage others to Give It 4 Good. Put a button on your website and a flier in your congregation.
 
Go to the site. Take the pledge. Then keep checking back to see who has Given it 4 Good, how much has been given and where the money is going to Make Poverty History.
 
Christ’s peace,
The Rev. Mike Kinman
Executive Director
 
Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation
 
Giving It 4 Good is as easy as:
 
1) Take the pledge — Click here http://tinyurl.com/6fly7e and take the Give It 4 Good pledge (see below) and give 100%, 10%, 0.7% or
another % of your choosing of your “economic stimulus check” to an organization working toward the MDGs.
 
Want more information and ideas on where to give first? Go to
 
 
2) Tell your elected officials – Click here
http://www.e4gr.org/giveit4good.html#Advocacy to learn about advocacy actions you can take.
 
get resources — buttons for your website, fliers, bulletin inserts and more — to spread the word about this movement.
 
4) Continue the conversation — Click here http://www.e4gr.org/giveit4good.html#Conversation for resources for prayer and study on the issues of overconsumption and consumerism.
 
The “Give It 4 Good” Pledge
 
“Because I take seriously Christ’s admonition that ‘where your treasure is, there will your heart be also’ (Matt. 6:31), and
 
“Because I believe reaching out in compassion to the extreme poor around the world is more important than propping up an economy based on unsustainable consumption.
 
“I am donating all or part of my 2008 tax rebate/economic stimulus check (or all or part of the amount I would be receiving if I qualified for a check) to not-for-profit organizations that support the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.
 
“Instead of spending it, I am Giving It For Good.”

Rule of St. Benedict: Chapter 51: On Brethren Who Go Not Very Far Away, April 2, 2017

April 2, August 2, December 2
Chapter 51: On Brethren Who Go Not Very Far Away

A Brother who is sent out on some business
and is expected to return to the monastery that same day
shall not presume to eat while he is out,
even if he is urgently requested to do so
by any person whomsoever,
unless he has permission from his Abbot.
And if he acts otherwise, let him be excommunicated.

 

Some thoughts
 
I am thinking the reason Benedict forbade this may have been because he wanted to avoid the appearance of showing favoritism by accepting a meal with this family instead of that.
 
The other idea that occurs to me is that B didn;t want any of his monks to become dissatisfied with the simple fare of the monastery by remembering the sumptuous meals had elsewhere.
 
But I really have no idea. These are just my guesses.

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.

Reflection on a Saying of a Desert Christian: anonymous

The man who succeeds in having death continually before his eyes conquers faint-heartedness,” an elder said to the younger brothers, who asked him for some beneficial advice. And another time, as he was spinning, he assured them: “I have brought death to mind as many times as this spindle has turned, up to the present.”

Death is inevitable.  Although it seems as if we spend our lives as if it were not. Somethin I have been known to say is that I am not afraid of being dead, it’s just that the manner of getting there can be just hideous.

The Desert Christians and Benedictine monks share the belief that it is good for us to reflect on our deaths for a few minutes every day. Not only does this make us appreciate life more, it also brings our attention to what we really want to achieve before we die, helps set goals, and get our priorities in order.

Rule of St. Benedict: Chapter 47: On Giving the Signal for the Time of the Work of God, March 27, 2017

March 27, July 27, November 26
Chapter 47: On Giving the Signal for the Time of the Work of God

The indicating of the hour for the Work of God
by day and by night
shall devolve upon the Abbot
either to give the signal himself
or to assign this duty to such a careful brother
that everything will take place at the proper hours.

Let the Psalms and the antiphons be intoned
by those who are appointed for it,
in their order after the Abbot.
And no one shall presume to sing or read
unless he can fulfill that office
in such a way as to edify the hearers.
Let this function be performed
with humility, gravity and reverence,
and by him whom the Abbot has appointed.

 

Some thoughts

One thing I notice over and over again in the Rule is Benedict’s attention to detail. Here is one important to him: that the monastics be called to prayer in a timely manner and on time. Either the monastic superior or someone who is careful enough has this responsibility. And we know it is a weighty one because no monastic is to fail at the most serious of occupations: prayer.

But during Benedict’s time, how was a person to know what time it was? Mechanical clocks as we know them did not exist. During the Middle Ages, people used a combination of water clocks, sundials, and candle clocks to tell time though none of those could tell time to the minute. If one lived anywhere near a monastery, one would have heard the bells ringing eight times a day, calling monks to prayer. These sort of devices could only tell someone the approximate hour because none of the devices available to them could have told time to the minute.

One’s time belonged to God and thus even outside the monastery, laypeople told time by the hour of monastic prayer. And of course, telling time by a sundial and a water clock meant that the length of an hour would be different in different parts of Europe. Probably the origin of the modern-day time zones.

It also seems clear that in Europe, Benedictine monks ar responsible for the invention of the first mechanical clocks, so concerned were they to keep the hours of prayer.

It is really fascinating to me how much of modern life we owe to the Rule of St. Benedict and Benedict’s foresight into the needs of his communities.