This time through, I found the Liturgical Press’ introductions, footnotes, and appendices very helpful for understanding the context of Benedict’s writing better.
I was struck by how practical Benedict’s advice is for everyday living—for example, welcome strangers as Christ, seek nothing above God alone, be humble, practice stability and fidelity, forgive and seek reconciliation, bear others patiently, lead lovingly, obey willingly, have regular prayer times daily, keep free of idle thoughts, keep immersed in labor, and so forth.
I was most struck by the repeated warnings against grumbling; I’ve caught myself grumbling a lot since I starting reading the Rule and will try to nip it in the bud. One of the editor’s footnotes struck me especially: “St. Benedict sees grumbling as a grave danger to order in the community, and as a special threat to obedience and the ideal of mutual service” (189n5.14). Obedience and the ideal of mutual service. It seems to me that in such light, grumbling is especially toxic for families.
I am also struck by Benedict’s use of ladder imagery—and the climbing thereof—as a metaphor for the life of humility. The steps, beginning with the bottom “rung,” are
- Awe—i.e., having God always in one’s thoughts (similar to TPOTPOG)
- Not loving one’s own will
- Subjecting oneself to one’s superior
- Having patience in obedience
- Confessing evil thoughts
- Being content with the lowest
- Believing oneself lower than another—and there is much in Scripture about this; one thinks of St. Paul especially
- Following a common Rule and the example of a superior
- Learning silence
- Rejecting mean-spirited frivolities
- Speaking humbly
- Being humble in heart and displaying it
To me, this is such a one-step-after-the-next sort of thing, and it makes since as such. Though I fear if it is a step-by-step sort of thing, I’m on step 1.
Pray for me.
Feeling inspired to write more about Benedict in a formal way. We shall see…