November 20, 2014

Commentary on the Rule of Benedict

 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict by Mother Rebecca

Vs 33-34:Prologue  That is why the Lord says in the Gospel:  whoever hears these words of mine and does them is like a wise man who built his house upon rock;  the floods came and the winds blew and beat against the house, but it did not fall: it was founded on rock.”

                There are many different ways in which we use the word foundation.  There is a foundation for buildings which is necessary for stability and long-term support.  There is a foundation on which organizations or institutes are created and these are necessary for its direction and meaning.  Then we also talk about a foundation of knowledge which is necessary for greater learning and growth.  Different kinds of foundations give different things:  stability and support; direction and meaning; or teaching and the capacity for expansion.  Without a foundation a house cannot stand, an organization cannot meet its goals, and an intellect cannot grow.  Yet when we speak of Christ as our foundation we encompass all these aspects.  Through Christ we have stability, support, direction, meaning, teaching, and growth. 

            Christ is our foundation and Rock – that is, Christ gives us steady and unchanging support.  We often hear about poorly constructed houses or bridges which result in unnecessary high death tolls in natural disasters.  When Charlene was in China there was a relatively small earthquake yet thousands died because the apartments were built cheaply.   Yet in San Francisco a substantial earthquake can cause only slight damage.   This is because they build in stress factors so buildings and bridges can sway w/o breaking.   So laying a foundation is no time for shortcuts or loopholes.   We can also say how essential our initial formation is to create a good, solid foundation and practices that will help us stay constant in times of stress, upheaval, or crisis. 

            Christ is our foundation and Rock - that is Christ gives us direction and purpose.  Michael Casey said there are two things that are needed for a steady life.  Steadiness needs purpose (or meaning) and it needs direction.   In other words, the why and how of monastic life should be continually asked.  Why have I come?...asks meaning and purpose.  But we also need to ask ‘How do I get there?’  We need to stay steady to our prayer, manual work, charity, our vows, and our personal relationship with Christ.  If we build on this rock of stability and fidelity, then we will stand firm, otherwise we will collapse in the smallest of storms.   The only foundation that will work in this life is a deep personal relationship with Jesus Christ - and that grows thru the years…a relationship that must be steady, never static.  Willpower will not change us, but following our Rule’s observances - prayer, work, and study…obedience, stability, and conversion…lectio, liturgy, and love – these will open us to transformation.   It is a call to single-mindedness or single-heartedness.  Like a camera that has a macro lens:  When it zooms in and focuses on one thing, everything else becomes blurred.  The focal point becomes intensified…all other things are no longer distractions.  {Whether we are at candy, St Ben’s, infirmary, or kitchen our purpose is the same:  to magnify the Lord.  We magnify Christ by being a joyful, gently, loving, and peaceful presence wherever we are or whatever we are doing.}

            Christ is our foundation and Rock – that is Christ is our teacher and helps us to grow.  So besides initial formation as an extremely important foundation for our monastic life, there is also a need for on-going formation – we must continue to be docile and open to the Spirit so we can learn and expand our minds and our hearts in knowledge and love.

            I would like to take this opportunity to talk a little about what St Bernard says about study He says we study not so we can teach or produce something but in order to bring us closer to God.  Everything we do in monastic life is to this purpose.  Monastic study, one of our 3 components, is not academic it is personal growth in knowing Christ and what He desires.  This is the reason why what we chose to read is important.  Bernard speaks about 5 different motives for why we seek knowledge and why we study:

1  To seek knowledge for its own sake he calls shameful curiosity,

2  To seek knowledge for one's reputation he calls vanity,

3  To seek knowledge for honor or ambition he calls profiteering,

4  To seek knowledge for one's spiritual benefit he calls prudence, and

5  To seek knowledge in order to serve he calls love.

So our gaining of knowledge, and our studies, can be evaluated by asking “how has this helped me to love God more deeply?”  Notice that we are speaking about a knowledge that leads to love.  Bernard says “to learn in order to build is charity; to learn in order to be built is humility”.  He adds, study “aims at loving God and molding one's life in wisdom.”

So let us be like that wise person who built on rock.  In doing so we may want to ask if there is anything in my life that makes my foundation shaky…are there any areas I need to let grow or to let go?   When the stress or storms come do I stay steady in my prayer and monastic routine?  If so, we can truly say we are building our house on that solid rock, which is Christ.

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