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Monday, 24 September 2012

Regula Sancti Benedicti - The Rule of St Benedict

The Rule of St Benedict
Prologue - Source

Listen carefully, my child, to your master's precepts, and incline the ear of your heart (Prov. 4:20). Receive willingly and carry out effectively your loving father's advice, that by the labor of obedience you may return to Him from whom you had departed by the sloth of disobedience. To you, therefore, my words are now addressed, whoever you may be, who are renouncing your own will to do battle under the Lord Christ, the true King, and are taking up the strong, bright weapons of obedience. And first of all, whatever good work you begin to do, beg of Him with most earnest prayer to perfect it, that He who has now deigned to count us among His children may not at any time be grieved by our evil deeds. For we must always so serve Him with the good things He has given us, that He will never as an angry Father disinherit His children, nor ever as a dread Lord, provoked by our evil actions, deliver us to everlasting punishment as wicked servants who would not follow Him to glory.

Let us arise, then, at last, for the Scripture stirs us up, saying, "Now is the hour for us to rise from sleep" (Rom. 13:11). Let us open our eyes to the deifying light, let us hear with attentive ears the warning which the divine voice cries daily to us, "Today if you hear His voice,
harden not your hearts" (Ps. 94[95]:8). And again, "Whoever has ears to hear, hear what the Spirit says to the churches" (Matt. 11-15; Apoc. 2:7). And what does He say? "Come, My children, listen to Me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord" (Ps. 33[34]:12). "Run while you have the light of life, lest the darkness of death overtake you" (John 12:35).
And the Lord, seeking his labourer in the multitude to whom He thus cries out, says again,
"Who is the one who will have life, and desires to see good days" (Ps. 33[34]:13)? And if, hearing Him, you answer, "I am the one," God says to you, "If you will have true and everlasting life, keep your tongue from evil and your lips that they speak no guile. Turn away from evil and do good; seek after peace and pursue it" (Ps. 33[34]:14-15). And when you have done these things, My eyes shall be upon you and My ears open to your prayers; and before you call upon Me, I will say to you, 'Behold, here I am'" (Ps. 33[34]:16; Is. 65:24; 58:9). What can be sweeter to us, dear ones, than this voice of the Lord inviting us? Behold, in His loving kindness the Lord shows us the way of life.

Having our loins girded, therefore, with faith and the performance of good works (Eph. 6:14),
let us walk in His paths by the guidance of the Gospel, that we may deserve to see Him who has called us to His kingdom (1 Thess. 2:12). For if we wish to dwell in the tent of that kingdom, we must run to it by good deeds or we shall never reach it. But let us ask the Lord, with the Prophet, "Lord, who shall dwell in Your tent, or who shall rest upon Your holy mountain" (Ps. 14[15]:1)? After this question, brothers and sisters, let us listen to the Lord as He answers and shows us the way to that tent, saying, "The one Who walks without stain and practices justice; who speaks truth from his heart; who has not used his tongue for deceit; who has done no evil to his neighbor; who has given no place to slander against his neighbor." This is the one who, under any temptation from the malicious devil, has brought him to naught (Ps. 14[15]:4) by casting him and his temptation from the sight of his heart;
and who has laid hold of his thoughts while they were still young and dashed them against Christ (Ps. 14[15]:4; 136[137]:9). It is they who, fearing the Lord (Ps. 14[15]:4), do not pride themselves on their good observance; but, convinced that the good which is in them cannot come from themselves and must be from the Lord, glorify the Lord's work in them (Ps. 14[15]:4), using the words of the Prophet, "Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to Your name give the glory" (Ps. 113[115:1]:9). Thus also the Apostle Paul attributed nothing of the success of his preaching to himself, but said, "By the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10).
And again he says, "He who glories, let him glory in the Lord" (2 Cor. 10:17).

Hence the Lord says in the Gospel, "Whoever listens to these words of Mine and acts upon them, I will liken to a wise person who built a house on rock. The floods came, the winds blew and beat against that house, and it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock" (Matt. 7:24-25). Having given us these assurances, the Lord is waiting every day for us to respond by our deeds to His holy admonitions. And the days of this life are lengthened
and a truce granted us for this very reason, that we may amend our evil ways. As the Apostle says, "Do you not know that God's patience is inviting you to repent" (Rom. 2:4)? For the merciful Lord tells us, "I desire not the death of the sinner, but that the sinner should be converted and live" (Ezech. 33:11).

So, brothers and sisters, we have asked the Lord who is to dwell in His tent, and we have heard His commands to anyone who would dwell there; it remains for us to fulfill those duties. Therefore we must prepare our hearts and our bodies to do battle under the holy obedience of His commands; and let us ask God that He be pleased to give us the help of His grace for anything which our nature finds hardly possible. And if we want to escape the pains of hell and attain life everlasting, then, while there is still time, while we are still in the body and are able to fulfill all these things by the light of this life, we must hasten to do now what will profit us for eternity.

And so we are going to establish a school for the service of the Lord. In founding it we hope to introduce nothing harsh or burdensome. But if a certain strictness results from the dictates of equity for the amendment of vices or the preservation of charity, do not be at once dismayed and fly from the way of salvation, whose entrance cannot but be narrow (Matt. 7:14). For as we advance in the religious life and in faith, our hearts expand and we run the way of God's commandments with unspeakable sweetness of love. Thus, never departing from His school, but persevering in the monastery according to His teaching until death, we may by patience share in the sufferings of Christ (1 Peter 4:13) and deserve to have a share also in His kingdom. 

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