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The Order of Saint Benedict

The Rule of Benedict. English.

 

Readings for January 21-31, May 22-June 1, and September 21-October 1
(Chapter 4:63 - 7:34)

 

Chapter 4: What Are the Instruments of Good Works

Jan. 21 - May 22 - Sept. 21

62. To fulfill God's commandments daily in one's deeds.
63. To love chastity.
64. To hate no one.
65. Not to be jealous, not to harbor envy.
66. Not to love contention.
67. To beware of haughtiness.
68. And to respect the seniors.
69. To love the juniors.
70. To pray for one's enemies in the love of Christ.
71. To make peace with one's adversary before the sun sets.
72. And never to despair of God's mercy.

These, then, are the tools of the spiritual craft.
If we employ them unceasingly day and night,
and return them on the Day of Judgment,
our compensation from the Lord
will be that wage He has promised:
"Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
what God has prepared for those who love Him" (1 Cor. 2:9).

Now the workshop
in which we shall diligently execute all these tasks
is the enclosure of the monastery
and stability in the community.

Chapter 5: On Obedience

Jan. 22 - May 23 - Sept. 22

The first degree of humility is obedience without delay.
This is the virtue of those
who hold nothing dearer to them than Christ;
who, because of the holy service they have professed,
and the fear of hell,
and the glory of life everlasting,
as soon as anything has been ordered by the Superior,
receive it as a divine command
and cannot suffer any delay in executing it.
Of these the Lord says,
"As soon as he heard, he obeyed Me" (Ps. 17[18]:45).
And again to teachers He says,
"He who hears you, hears Me" (Luke 10:16).

Such as these, therefore,
immediately leaving their own affairs
and forsaking their own will,
dropping the work they were engaged on
and leaving it unfinished,
with the ready step of obedience
follow up with their deeds the voice of him who commands.
And so as it were at the same moment
the master's command is given
and the disciple's work is completed,
the two things being speedily accomplished together
in the swiftness of the fear of God
by those who are moved
with the desire of attaining life everlasting.
That desire is their motive for choosing the narrow way,
of which the Lord says,
"Narrow is the way that leads to life" (Matt. 7:14),
so that,
not living according to their own choice
nor obeying their own desires and pleasures
but walking by another's judgment and command,
they dwell in monasteries and desire to have an Abbot over them.
Assuredly such as these are living up to that maxim of the Lord
in which He says,
"I have come not to do My own will,
but the will of Him who sent Me" (John 6:38).
 

Jan. 23 - May 24 - Sept. 23

But this very obedience
will be acceptable to God and pleasing to all
only if what is commanded is done
without hesitation, delay, lukewarmness, grumbling, or objection.
For the obedience given to Superiors is given to God,
since He Himself has said,
"He who hears you, hears Me" (Luke 10:16).
And the disciples should offer their obedience with a good will,
for "God loves a cheerful giver" (2 Cor. 9:7).
For if the disciple obeys with an ill will
and murmurs,
not necessarily with his lips but simply in his heart,
then even though he fulfill the command
yet his work will not be acceptable to God,
who sees that his heart is murmuring.
And, far from gaining a reward for such work as this,
he will incur the punishment due to murmurers,
unless he amend and make satisfaction.
 

Chapter 6: On the Spirit of Silence

Jan. 24 - May 25 - Sept. 24

Let us do what the Prophet says:
"I said, 'I will guard my ways,
that I may not sin with my tongue.
I have set a guard to my mouth.'
I was mute and was humbled,
and kept silence even from good things" (Ps. 38[39]:2-3).
Here the Prophet shows
that if the spirit of silence ought to lead us at times
to refrain even from good speech,
so much the more ought the punishment for sin
make us avoid evil words.

Therefore, since the spirit of silence is so important,
permission to speak should rarely be granted
even to perfect disciples,
even though it be for good, holy edifying conversation;
for it is written,
"In much speaking you will not escape sin" (Prov. 10:19),
and in another place,
"Death and life are in the power of the tongue" (Prov. 18:21).

For speaking and teaching belong to the mistress;
the disciple's part is to be silent and to listen.
And for that reason
if anything has to be asked of the Superior,
it should be asked
with all the humility and submission inspired by reverence.

But as for coarse jests and idle words
or words that move to laughter,
these we condemn everywhere with a perpetual ban,
and for such conversation
we do not permit a disciple to open her mouth.
 

Chapter 7: On Humility

Jan. 25 - May 26 - Sept. 25

Holy Scripture, brethren, cries out to us, saying,
"Everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled,
and he who humbles himself shall be exalted" (Luke 14:11).
In saying this it shows us
that all exaltation is a kind of pride,
against which the Prophet proves himself to be on guard
when he says,
"Lord, my heart is not exalted,
nor are mine eyes lifted up;
neither have I walked in great matters,
nor in wonders above me" (Ps. 130[131]:1)
But how has he acted?
"Rather have I been of humble mind
than exalting myself;
as a weaned child on its mother's breast,
so You solace my soul" (Ps. 130[131]:2).

Hence, brethren,
if we wish to reach the very highest point of humility
and to arrive speedily at that heavenly exaltation
to which ascent is made through the humility of this present life,
we must
by our ascending actions
erect the ladder Jacob saw in his dream,
on which Angels appeared to him descending and ascending.
By that descent and ascent
we must surely understand nothing else than this,
that we descend by self-exaltation and ascend by humility.
And the ladder thus set up is our life in the world,
which the Lord raises up to heaven if our heart is humbled.
For we call our body and soul the sides of the ladder,
and into these sides our divine vocation has inserted
the different steps of humility and discipline we must climb.

Jan. 26 - May 27 - Sept. 26

The first degree of humility, then,
is that a person keep the fear of God before his eyes
and beware of ever forgetting it.
Let him be ever mindful of all that God has commanded;
let his thoughts constantly recur
to the hell-fire which will burn for their sins
those who despise God,
and to the life everlasting which is prepared
for those who fear Him.
Let him keep himself at every moment from sins and vices,
whether of the mind, the tongue, the hands, the feet,
or the self-will,
and check also the desires of the flesh.
 

Jan. 27 - May 28 - Sept. 27

Let a man consider
that God is always looking at him from heaven,
that his actions are everywhere visible to the divine eyes
and are constantly being reported to God by the Angels.
This is what the Prophet shows us
when he represents God as ever present within our thoughts,
in the words "Searcher of minds and hearts is God" (Ps. 7:10)
and again in the words "The Lord knows the thoughts of men" (Ps. 93[94]:11).
Again he says,
"You have read my thoughts from afar" (Ps. 13[14]9:3)
and "The thoughts of people will confess to You" (Ps. 75[76]:11).

In order that he may be careful
about his wrongful thoughts, therefore,
let the faithful brother say constantly in his heart,
"Then shall I be spotless before Him,
if I have kept myself from my iniquity" (Ps. 17[18]:24).
 

Jan. 28 - May 29 - Sept. 28

As for self-will,
we are forbidden to do our own will
by the Scripture, which says to us,
"Turn away from your own will" (Eccles. 18:30),
and likewise by the prayer in which we ask God
that His will be done in us.
And rightly are we taught not to do our own will
when we take heed to the warning of Scripture:
"There are ways which seem right,
but the ends of them plunge into the depths of hell" (Prov. 16:25);
and also when we tremble at what is said of the careless:
"They are corrupt and have become abominable in their will."

And as for the desires of the flesh,
let us believe with the Prophet that God is ever present to us,
when he says to the Lord,
"Every desire of mine is before You" (Ps. 37[38]:10).
 

Jan. 29 - May 30 - Sept. 29

We must be on our guard, therefore, against evil desires,
for death lies close by the gate of pleasure.
Hence the Scripture gives this command:
"Go not after your concupiscences" (Eccles. 18:30).

So therefore,
since the eyes of the Lord observe the good and the evil (Prov. 15:3)
and the Lord is always looking down from heaven
on the children of earth
"to see if there be anyone who understands and seeks God" (Ps. 13[14]:2),
and since our deeds are daily,
day and night,
reported to the Lord by the Angels assigned to us,
we must constantly beware, brethren,
as the Prophet says in the Psalm,
lest at any time God see us falling into evil ways
and becoming unprofitable (Ps. 13[14]:3);
and lest, having spared us for the present
because in His kindness He awaits our reformation,
He say to us in the future,
"These things you did, and I held My peace" (Ps. 49[50]:21).
 

Jan. 30 - May 31 - Sept. 30

The second degree of humility
is that a person love not his own will
nor take pleasure in satisfying his desires,
but model his actions on the saying of the Lord,
"I have come not to do My own will,
but the will of Him who sent Me" (John 6:38).
It is written also,
"Self-will has its punishment,
but constraint wins a crown."
 

Jan. 31 - June 1 - Oct. 1

The third degree of humility is that a person
for love of God
submit himself to his Superior in all obedience,
imitating the Lord, of whom the Apostle says,
"He became obedient even unto death."

 

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Selections above from Saint Benedict's Rule for Monasteries, translated from the Latin by Leonard J. Doyle OblSB, of Saint John's Abbey, (© Copyright 1948, 2001, by the Order of Saint Benedict, Collegeville, MN 56321). Adapted for use here with the division into sense lines of the first edition that was republished in 2001 to mark the 75th anniversary of Liturgical Press. Doyle's translation is available in both hardcover and paperback editions.

Benedict's Rule: A Translation and Commentary by Terrence G. Kardong, O.S.B. is the first line-by-line exegesis of the entire Rule of Benedict written originally in English. This full commentary -- predominately literary and historical criticism -- is based on and includes a Latin text of Regula Benedicti (Liturgical Press). Hardcover, 664 pp., 6 x 9, ISBN 0-8146-2325-5, $59.95.

RB 1980 in Latin and English with Notes is a modern, scholarly translation ed. by Timothy Fry, OSB (Liturgical Press, 1981), 672 p., $39.95. The translation by itself is also available in paperback, $2.95.
 


 
 

Rev. 6 May 2006 / © Copyright 1995-2009 by OSB, MN 56321-2015 / www.osb.org/rb/text/rbejms3.html