Reflection on a Saying of a Desert Christian: Abba Iperechios

Abba Iperechios gives the following counsel to those who are abstinent and practice fasting: “Eat meat and drink wine and do not devour your brother’s flesh with slander.”

And further: “By slandering God, the serpent was able to cast the first-created out of Paradise. He who slanders his neighbor does the same thing; he burdens his own soul and leads the one who listens to him to evil.”

Jesus says “Don’t judge others because you open yourself to judgment.”  Same could be said of slander.  But both concepts share the same basic principle.  Both are examples of a failure to mind one’s own business. If one is going to abstinent and fast and yet say nasty things about a neighbor, then one might as well give up abstinence and fasting because those practices will be outweighed by the slander one speaks.

Abba Iperechios’ example is that of the serpent in the Garden, telling lies about God and we all know what that lead to. Would any of us want to be responsible for a neighbor’s perdition?

Rule of St. Benedict: Chapter 34: Whether All Should Receive in Equal Measure What Is Necessary, March 12, 2017

March 12, July 12, November 11
Chapter 34: Whether All Should Receive in Equal Measure What Is
Necessary

Let us follow the Scripture,
“Distribution was made to each
according as anyone had need” (Acts 4:35).
By this we do not mean that there should be respecting of persons
(which God forbid),
but consideration for infirmities.
She who needs less should thank God and not be discontented;
but she who needs more
should be humbled by the thought of her infirmity
rather than feeling important
on account of the kindness shown her.
Thus all the members will be at peace.

Above all, let not the evil of murmuring appear
for any reason whatsoever
in the least word or sign.
If anyone is caught at it,
let her be placed under very severe discipline.

 

Some thoughts
 
The criterion is need. That’s the sole consideration. Who needs what? That’s all Benedict cares about that needs are met. Those who need more receive it. They need to understand that they receive it only because of need and not due to their former station in life or because of any merit. They receive solely because they are in need which is a humbling thing to be.
 
Those who need less are to be glad that they are not in need.After all, one day in the future they may be in need.
 
Benedict counsels to simply meet needs without argument, proof of merit, and it is not at another’s expense because the one who is not in need is not missing out on anything. I really wish that all who read these words grasp this concept. Meet needs and don’t shilly-shally about it, making up excuses or justifications for greed. Meet needs.
 
Once again we see the saint admonishing those who would murmur, i.e. complain or gossip or make sarcastic, snarky, snide comments. There are harsh penalties in the Rule for this sort of behavior. While not a fan of harsh anything, I believe life would be far more enjoyable without complaints, gossip, sarcastic, snarky, snide comments. Don’t you?

Rule of St. Benedict: Chapter 33: Whether Monks Ought to Have Anything of Their Own, March 11, 2017

March 11, July 11, November 10

Chapter 33: Whether Monks Ought to Have Anything of Their Own

This vice especially

is to be cut out of the monastery by the roots.

Let no one presume to give or receive anything

without the Abbot’s leave,

or to have anything as his own —

anything whatever,

whether book or tablets or pen or whatever it may be —

since they are not permitted to have even their bodies or wills

at their own disposal;

but for all their necessities

let them look to the Father of the monastery.

And let it be unlawful to have anything

which the Abbot has not given or allowed.

Let all things be common to all,

as it is written (Acts 4:32),

and let no one say or assume that anything is his own.

But if anyone is caught indulging in this most wicked vice,

let him be admonished once and a second time.

If he fails to amend,

let him undergo punishment.

 
Some thoughts

Such strong language to start off today’s reading. Why would it be a vice for a monk to have possessions? We human beings tend to be greedy and jealous of those who have more than others. I think Benedict wanted to prevent that.

It is up to the monastic superior to determine what is or is not beneficial to each monk. Because it is that person’s decision, then the monastics simply have to accept it, because in the monastery, they own nothing, not even themselves.

For those of us who do not live in a monastic community maybe what we could take from this is this question. What do we own that we do not need? What could we sell and then give those proceeds to the poor?

Reflection on a Saying of a Desert Christian: an anonymous, dying monk

“It is true, Abba,” murmured the dying monk, “that I was not a good monk. I have, however, observed one thing with exactness in my life: I never judged anyone. Because of this, I intend to say to the Master Christ, when I present myself before him, ‘You said, Lord, not to judge, in order not to be judged,’ and I hope that He will not judge me strictly.”

“Go in peace on your eternal journey, my child,” the abbot told him with wonderment. “You have succeeded, without toil, in saving yourself.”

It takes a goodish degree of humility to refrain from judging others, does it not?  We can be so certain our perceptions are based on facts that we categorize, demonize, label, and stereotype our fellow human beings and be one hundred percent certain our judgment is merited.

However, our perception is very often our interpretation which is based on our internal issues and our interpretation is not necessarily based on evidence, facts, and simple truth.

Reflection on a Saying of a Desert Christian: Anonymous

“Humility, with no extended labors, has saved many,” another elder says. “This is verified by the tax collector and the prodigal son, who were received by God because of the few humble words that they said.”

 

Humility, it has been said, was the virtue most prized by the Desert Christians. Indeed it seems to be the hallmark of all who have been canonized or otherwise remembered and honored by several denominations.
 
By “extended labor” the abba means prayers, fasting, acts of contritions and other ascetical practices.
 
In addition to the tax collector and the prodigal son, I would add the publican whose prayer found more favor with Jesus than that of the Pharisees.
 
These were all people who knew themselves for what they were. They didn’t pretend to be better or worse than they were, they were merely themselves and God loves them for it.

Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 32: On the Tools and Property of the Monastery, March 10, 2017

March 10, July 10, November 9
Chapter 32: On the Tools and Property of the Monastery

For the care of the monastery’s property
in tools, clothing and other articles
let the Abbess appoint sisters
on whose manner of life and character she can rely;
and let her, as she shall judge to be expedient,
consign the various articles to them,
to be looked after and to be collected again.
The Abbess shall keep a list of these articles,
so that
as the sisters succeed one another in their assignments
she may know what she gives and what she receives back.

If anyone treats the monastery’s property
in a slovenly or careless way,
let her be corrected.
If she fails to amend,
let her undergo the discipline of the Rule.

 

Some thoughts
 
Taking care of something so that it lasts a long time is somewhat of a foreign concept in a society that flaunts consumerism, isn’t it? I remember on of those Bush presidents saying something like it was the patriotic duty of US citizens to spend money and buy stuff. He said that in the middle of the worst depression since the Great Depression. So I guess it was the second Bush that said it.
 
When I was in high school, we female students had to take Home Ec. It was required. In Home Ec we were taught about frugality and thrift, This included not only cooking lessons, but how to shop wisely, how to mend, how to sew, how to darn. We were taught to take so much care and to take pride in what we made so it would be durable and last.
 
Later on in US History II, we were taught about “planned obsolescence,” the idea that goods are manufactured in such a way that they will fail and need to be replaced. My reaction was horror because what about taking pride in craftsmanship? The teacher explained that if things didn’t need to be replaced, the economy would die.
 
To this day, I am still horrified that the US economy is based upon planned obsolescence. I think Benedict would be too.

Rule of St. Benedict: Chapter 31: What Kind of Man the Cellarer of the Monastery Should Be, March 9, 2016

March 9, July 9, November 8
Chapter 31: What Kind of Man the Cellarer of the Monastery Should Be

Above all things let him have humility;
and if he has nothing else to give
let him give a good word in answer
for it is written,
“A good word is above the best gift” (Eccles. 18:17).

Let him have under his care
all that the Abbot has assigned to him,
but not presume to deal with what he has forbidden him.

Let him give the brethren their appointed allowance of food
without any arrogance or delay,
that they may not be scandalized,
mindful of the Word of God as to what he deserves
“who shall scandalize one of the little ones” (Matt 18:6).

If the community is a large one,
let helpers be given him,
that by their assistance
he may fulfill with a quiet mind the office committed to him.
The proper times should be observed
in giving the things that have to be given
and asking for the things that have to be asked for,
that no one may be troubled or vexed in the house of God.

Some Thoughts:
 
Maybe my wits are still befuddled, but I had to remind myself what a cellarer was. If you do too:
 
Making sure that people are properly nourished is a very important job. As in all of his job descriptions, Benedict lists the first qualification: humility. I wish the second qualification would be on all job descriptions: if you have nothing good to say, then say nothing. How much stress would that relieve in the workplace? And apparently, in Benedict’s kitchen also.
 
People get testy when you mess around with two things: their wallets and their meals. By making sure meals are attended to properly, good will is maintained in the community. And once again we see the tender care Benedict lavishes on his monks. The cellarer in a demanding and stressful position is to have all the help needed so that he can have a quiet mind, a stress-free mind and thus be free to do his job. The end result: peace and tranquility.
 
I could think of many American workplaces that would benefit from following Benedict’s lead, but I guess that is off topic.