Steve Macchia Blog

Benedict’s Rule of Life – Part 8

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After Benedict’s seventh chapter on “Humility” the rest of his Rule of Life is filled with many practical items, some which occupy a paragraph or two, and others with a bit more explanation. What’s fascinating about the remainder of the Rule is how specific he becomes about areas of community life and their shared life of prayer.

 

For example, the eighth, ninth, tenth and eleventh chapter deal with the time for the night office (which is known as Vigils), how many psalms are to be read in the night office, the arrangement of the night office in summer, and how to handle Vigils on Sundays.  His care for the particularities of their life together is a sign of his love for his brothers and his desire for unity and oneness in every aspect of communal living.

 

From the twelfth chapter all the way to the seventy-third (which is the end of the Rule), Benedict spends time articulating even more specifics about how the Rule should remain central to the brothers life with God and each other. Here’s a brief listing of the kinds of things he makes note of in the remainder of the Rule:

 

·         The celebration of Lauds on ordinary days and on the anniversaries of saints

·         The times for saying “Alleluia” and the divine office during the day

·         The number of psalms to be sung and the order in which they are to be sung

·         Reverence in prayer

·         Sleeping arrangements

·         Handling serious faults and excommunication

·         The tools and goods of the monastery

·         Kitchen servers of the week

·         How best to handle sickness of a brother

·         The proper amount of food and drink

·         Tardiness and handling mistakes made by a brother

·         Daily manual labor

·         Observance of Lent

·         Clothing and footwear of the brothers

·         The election of an Abbot

·         The “good zeal” of monks

 

Benedict ends the Rule with a final chapter describing how the Rule was written only as a starting point for those who would live together under such mandates. “So we can show that we have some degree of virtue and the beginnings of monastic life. With Christ’s help, keep this little rule that we have written for beginners. After that, you can set out for the loftier summits of the teaching and virtues we mentioned above, and under God’s protection you will reach them. Amen.”

 

Benedict’s Rule of Life has been sustained since the early 500’s AD.  I’m amazed at the agility of the Rule to survive multiple generations of Christians who have sought to follow these very specific items in their communal life.  It’s by no means a “perfect” Rule, in fact as Benedict has described it in these final words, it’s written for “beginners” and is kept simple and straight forward in wisdom and godliness.

 

The life God invites us to fulfill is also pretty straight forward, presented to us in his Word. We often stray for the simplicity of his instructions and take matters into our own hands. That’s why it’s important that we too consider our own personal Rule of Life, writing down that which we believe to be true about living our lives fully for God.  Join those who are seeking to do exactly that at www.RuleOfLife.org and consider today how best to articulate your Rule of Life under the loving and guiding hand of Almighty God. Let me know how it goes, ok?

 

 

 

 



Benedict’s Rule of Life – Part 7

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Chapter 7 of Benedict’s Rule of Life is about “Humility” as introduced in the previous entry. Here we will consider each of the 12 steps of the Ladder of Humility.

 

  1. The first step of humility is that a man keeps the fear of God always before his eyes and never forgets it.
  2. The second step of humility is that a man loves not his own will nor takes pleasure in the satisfaction of his desires; rather he shall imitate by his actions that saying of the Lord, “I have come not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me.”
  3. The third step of humility is that a man submits to his superior in all obedience for the love of God, imitating the Lord, of whom the Apostle says, “He became obedient even to death.”
  4. The fourth step of humility is that in this obedience under difficult, unfavorable, or even unjust conditions, his heart quietly embraces suffering and endures it without weakening or seeking escape.
  5. The fifth step of humility is that a man does not conceal from his abbot any sinful thoughts entering his heart, or any wrongs committed in secret, but rather confesses them humbly.
  6. The sixth step of humility is that a monk is content with the lowest and most menial treatment, and regards himself as a poor and worthless workman in whatever task he is given.
  7. The seventh step of humility is that a man only admits with his tongue but is also convinced in his heart that he is inferior to all and of less value, humbling himself in order to learn God’s commandments.
  8. The eighth step of humility is that a monk does only what is endorsed by the common rule of the monastery and the example set by his superiors.
  9. The ninth step of humility is that a monk controls his tongue and remains silent, not speaking unless asked a question, for ‘in a flood of words you will not avoid sinning.’
  10. The tenth step of humility is that he is not given to ready laughter, for it is written, ‘only a fool raises his voice in laughter.’
  11. The eleventh step of humility is that a monk speaks gently and without laughter, seriously and with becoming modesty, briefly and reasonably, but without raising his voice, as it is written, ‘A wise man is known by his few words.’
  12. The twelfth step of humility is that a monk always manifests humility in his bearing no less than in his heart, so that it is evident at the Work of God, in the oratory, the monastery or the garden, on a journey or in the field, or anywhere else.

 

For Benedict, ascending all these steps of humility is how the person arrives at the doorstep of perfect love of God, which casts out all fear. What may start out being lives of love performed out of dread, will now become more naturally lives filled with the expressions of good habit and delight in virtue – all out of love for Christ. “All this the Lord will by the Holy Spirit graciously manifest in his workman now cleansed of vices and sins.”

 

Imagine for a moment if each of your words, attitudes, actions, and interactions were a reflection of the humility of Christ, expressed through you and for God’s glory. What would be your most dramatic impressions of loving humility shared possibly for the very first time?

 

Consider crafting your own rule of life and join the community of other like hearts and minds at www.RuleOfLife.com

 

 



Benedict’s Rule of Life – Part 6

 

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Of the 73 chapters in Benedict’s Rule of Life, by far the one that’s most important to consider is chapter 7 on “Humility.” His focus of humility is really the apex of the Rule, for to know Benedict is to realize he’s all about this one major theme: humility.

 

He describes humility based on Jesus’ teaching, “Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled, and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted” (Luke 14:11; 18:14).  He writes that every exaltation is a kind of pride, which must always be shunned. In contrast, if we want to “reach the highest summit of humility, if we desire to attain speedily that exaltation in heaven to which we climb by the humility of this present life, then by our ascending actions we must set up that ladder on which Jacob in a dream saw angels descending and ascending” (Gen. 28:12). And then, “Without doubt, this descent and ascent can signify only that we descend by exaltation and ascend by humility.”

 

Benedict’s Ladder of humility is one that is erected as our life on earth, and if we “humble our hearts the Lord will raise it to heaven. We may call our body and soul the sides of this ladder, into which our divine vocation has fitted the various steps of humility and discipline as we ascend.”  Therefore, as we hold onto our body and soul with our right and left hands, and discipline them to be our stable front and rear guard in life and vocation, we step up and ascend to heaven one foot at a time.

 

It’s a fascinating concept. The ladder of humility is considered a metaphor for life. Rather than seeing humility as one of descent, which makes more sense to others like Bernard of Clairvaux would write and encourage the downward plunge toward the humus/dirt of humility, Benedict paints the picture of ascent toward heaven. This ascent is only possible through the lens and life of humility. The highest summit is what we’re to live toward, prayerfully, obediently and faithfully…one step and one maturing season of life at a time.

 

Humility is best described in the person of Jesus Christ. He was born humbly in a manger. He lived humbly within the context of his carpentry family. He served humbly after his baptism and temptation in the wilderness. He loved humbly, first with his immediate disciples and then with all who crossed his path. He was arrested humbly as he submitted himself to his betrayers and earthly authorities. He suffered and died humbly on the cross he carried to Golgotha, with whip lashes on his back and a thorn-filled crown on his head. He even rose from the dead humbly, without any fanfare, and then appeared to his disciples humbly after his resurrection.

 

Everything Jesus said and lived was out of a humble context of love. He invites us to live the same way…humbly, gently, lovingly. Will you say yes to his invitation and take one step at a time up the ladder of humble ascent toward your eternal home in heaven?

 

Consider crafting your own rule of life and join the community of other like hearts and minds at www.RuleOfLife.com

 



Benedict’s Rule of Life – Part 5

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Chapter 5 of Benedict’s Rule speaks to the topic of “Obedience” – as a step toward humility and best expressed unhesitatingly. Not the most popular of themes for today. We may speak of the obedience of dogs while being trained by their owner, but among people this gets scant coverage. We live in a world where we’re encouraged to do our own thing and obey what our instincts call us to fulfill, not necessarily obey what others may request of us. This happens in politics, business, education, and even the church and the family.

 

Benedict is pretty straight forward about his convictions about obedience. And, they are based in several Scriptures, such as “No sooner did he hear than he obeyed me” (Psalm 17:45); “Whoever listens to you, listens to me” (Luke 10:16 ); and “I have come not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me” (John 6:38). Very specifically, his belief about the priority of obedience comes from the need to listen carefully to the voice and teachings of Christ. Listening is the core discipline that underlies the obedient response. Good listening to God evokes faithful living for God. This translates to the obedience of the voice of authority in disciplined attitudes and actions.

 

And, it is love that impels one to pursue everlasting life. That’s how Benedict promoted obedience and one’s eagerness to take the narrow road that leads to the abundant life.  Here he contrasts a life that “gives in to the whims and appetites” rather than walking according to the judgment of another’s decisions and directions. To choose to obey the leadership of another with a glad heart and without grudge or grumble is what pleases the Lord. To do so in any other way would be to live out of favor with God.  When “grumbling is in his heart” there will be no reward for service of any kind. Benedict promotes the priority of the heart in all matters great and small.

 

It’s interesting to observe that the following chapter in Benedict’s Rule, chapter 6, deals with “Restraint of Speech” and here he reminds his followers to consider the psalmist’s counsel “I have resolved to keep watch over my ways that I may never sin with my tongue. I have put a guard on my mouth. I was silent and was humbled, and I refrained even from good works” (Psalm 38: 2,3).  The strong message here: evil speech must be always be curbed and left unsaid silence is often more powerful than even the best of words. Humility and submission trumps any form of vulgarity and gossip, for the former promotes a life of obedience and the latter is all about an independent spirit.

 

Benedict’s Rule is all about a heart of loving obedience first and foremost to God and then faithfully lived out in community. I wonder what life and ministry would look like if we dealt more specifically with the subject of “obedience” especially in our homes and churches. Would we agree on what obedience means both theoretically and practically?

 

Consider crafting your own rule of life and join the community of other like hearts and minds at www.RuleOfLife.com