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The Rule of Saint Benedict

benedictine-studies-collectionThe Benedictine Studies Collection is 33% off on Pre-Pub for just for a little while longer, so make sure you get it before the price goes up. In light of this great collection, I wanted to take some time to simply examine and meditate on a bit of Saint Benedict’s Rule. Here’s an excerpt from the prologue:

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 . . . 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 . . .

There’s so much here to unpack, but there are two central themes here I’d like to focus on: Benedict’s focus on warfare and his focus on perfection. There are biblical precedents for both. For the first—warfare—we might look to Ephesians 6:10–17:

Warfare:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the comic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.

Benedict understands life as a spiritual battleground on which we are called to fight. But he precedes this call with the call to “renounce our own will.” This implies that being a soldier for Christ requires a deep self-sacrifice. Our “enlistment” requirement, as it were, is a rejection of our worldly desire. This is at the foundation of all Benedictine thought.

Perfection:

In Matthew 5:48, Jesus says,

Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly father is perfect.

Saint Benedict’s Rule declares not only that we are in the midst of spiritual warfare, but that God has called us to be skilled warriors. It asserts that we always have something to give, something to strive toward, no matter the burdens we bear.

Benedict is also forward about the consequences of laxity; we risk not using our gifts (like the man who hid his talent, cf. Matthew 25:14–30) at the threat of being cut off from God himself. The Christian life is one of continual striving, and Benedict’s Rule makes this striving explicit.

These are only a few lines from Saint Benedict, already revealing deep truths about the Christian faith. This collection, including original texts and commentary, has much more to offer.

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