Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Prologue of the Rule of St. Benedict

Several sets of signposts mark out the progress of the year in liturgical time. First, there is the temporal cycle of the church year carrying us from Advent to Advent through the great feasts of our redemption, varying each year based on the date of Easter. Next comes the sanctoral cycle with all of the saints’ days fixed on their specific calendar dates. Then there is the great division of the year between liturgical summer and winter—it is only a two season year—when some rites change hymns and canticles in the Divine Office and prelates exchange silk for fur, not that we see too much of that these days.

Another constant running along with these others, but on its own course, is the reading of the Rule of St. Benedict in monasteries and among their oblates. The Rule, which is read through three times each year in daily sections, is one of the most theologically, politically, and psychologically brilliant pieces in all of Western literature.   In its pages, we are given a guide not only for the soul’s quest for God, but also for living with others and with ourselves.  On January 1, May 2, and today, the reading begins with the opening section of the prologue and its famous metaphors of the ear of the heart and the warrior armed with obedience.  It is also a sign that fall is almost here. Deo gratias.

Listen, O my son, to the precepts of thy master, and incline the ear of thy heart, and cheerfully receive and faithfully execute the admonitions of thy loving Father, that by the toil of obedience thou mayest return to Him from whom by the sloth of disobedience thou hast gone away.

To thee, therefore, my speech is now directed, who, giving up thine own will, takest up the strong and most excellent arms of obedience, to do battle for Christ the Lord, the true King.

 In the first place, beg of Him by most earnest prayer, that He perfect whatever good thou dost begin, in order that He who hath been pleased to count us in the number of His children, need never be grieved at our evil deeds. For we ought at all times so to serve Him with the good things which He hath given us, that He may not, like an angry father, disinherit his children, nor, like a dread lord, enraged at our evil deeds, hand us over to everlasting punishment as most wicked servants, who would not follow Him to glory.