St Benedict

St Benedict

Today is the feast of St Benedict (480 – 547) famous for his Rule for a Christian community of monks. The Rule is followed by “Benedictines”, Cistercians, and many others. It is followed by many in adaptation in ordinary daily life beyond cloister walls. I am an Associate of Kopua monastery, the Cistercian monastery in New Zealand.

Benedict describes a “middle way”, via media, bringing together positive ends – not either/or, but both/and. Community and solitude. Prayer and work. And so forth. He has a stress on the daily office, and on reading the scriptures in such a way as to hear what the Spirit is saying to us through them (lectio divina).

Anglicanism/Episcopalianism is a denomination that can be seen as strongly “Benedictine” – probably because England had such a strong Benedictine presence. It regularly is seen as a via media – not a half-way-between, but a both/and denomination (a platypus which some struggle to understand – just as many did not believe the platypus when discovered was a real animal). Every Book of Common Prayer and its many contemporary revisions give significance to the daily office – a tradition not just understood as being the preserve of clergy, monks, and nuns, but of the whole people of God. Anglican church buildings regularly are laid out in Benedictine fashion, with choir stalls as in a monastery. [Compare that, for example, to Roman Catholics whose buildings and spirituality are regularly Ignatian – Jesuits being (one of) the first order(s) to abandon praying the office in community – so Jesuit/contemporary Roman Catholic church buildings do not have choir stalls].

Pray today for all Benedictines, Cistercians, oblates, associates, and all who try to follow the Rule of St Benedict.

Almighty and everlasting God,
whose precepts are the wisdom of a loving Father:
Give us grace, following the teaching and example of your servant Benedict,
to walk with loving and willing hearts in the school of the Lord’s service;
let your ears be open to our prayers;
and prosper with your blessing the work of our hands;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

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