St Benedict came up in Zoom conversation last Wednesday evening after our weekly live-streamed Compline. Our discussion was to do with the importance of looking for Christ in every person we meet, and remembering that we are all made in God’s image, both central principles of St Benedict when he established his monastic rule in Northern Italy, way back in the first half of the 6th century. He lived in a time of great uncertainty and upheaval in society shortly after the disintegration of the Roman Empire. Our Zoom discussion reminded me of my particular interest in St Benedict in my last year at theological college, so I went and dug out my essay from the depths of my computer and re-read it in order to recall what had interested me so much about the Benedictine way of life.
St Benedict offered a combination of practical and spiritual advice for daily life (some of which related specifically to monastic living), including the assertion that everything which we have is on loan from God, and that we should live a life of moderation without excess. He advocated some unfashionable ideas by 21st century standards, in particular the notion of humility, which is actually about removing ourselves from the centre of our universe, and showing obedience to authority, both of which he saw as a means of bringing us closer to God. The importance which St Benedict placed on the value of silence was closely connected to this, as was the emphasis on regularly reading the Bible, and gaining a deep familiarity with the Psalms. St Benedict stressed the virtues of hospitality and stability, and not creating sacred (holy) and secular (earthly) divisions in life. A monk’s daily routine was divided between prayer, reading spiritual books and performing functional tasks in the community. This is summed up in the phrase ‘ora et labora’ (pray & work) because God is present at all times, in our daily task of washing up as much as in our time spent in prayer. In fact, years ago a friend of mine suggested praying for godchildren and family members whenever we do the washing up.
Prayer of St Benedict (AD 480 -547)
Gracious and Holy Father,
Give us wisdom to perceive you
Intelligence to understand you
Diligence to see you
Patience to wait for you
Eyes to behold you
A heart to meditate on you
And a life to proclaim you
Through the power of the
Spirit of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
If you haven’t read The Rule of St Benedict, I can recommend it. It consists of 73 short chapters of practical lifestyle advice and spiritual guidance – although I have to admit that we break Rule 42 (which states that no one should talk after Compline) every Wednesday evening with our on-line discussion group!
[Join us here for Compline https://www.facebook.com/stmar... at 8 pm on Wednesdays – there’s no need to be a Facebook member to watch, although you will need to contact me in advance if you would like to stay on for the group discussion afterwards.]
Sarah Bourne – 6th May 2020 email@example.com