We are studying the model of St. Benedict for Christian living. The Anglican ethos is derived from the monasticism which dominates English Christian history. A brief survey of the most significant figures in evangelizing this land reveals a large number of monks. The role of the monastery continued to shape and form the English (and later Episcopal) manner of worship and fellowship.
(for more info copy go to this website)
Benedict was born during the time of Rome's decline (c483) which is why his rule is especially significant to us today. This association (i.e. "The Benedictines") emerged from the chaotic period of the pagan 'reformation' (de-formation) of the Roman Empire. Much of the learning and greatness of that society were lost (hence, the term "Dark Ages") and the monks were the link between modern and ancient time. As we watch with trepidation the problems facing us today (parallels to Rome) it is worthwhile to embrace a model which has proven to be "successful and sustainable" over time and space. Benedict has a tested approach.
With that in mind we are studying the book St. Benedict's Toolbox by Jane Tomaine. It is a helpful approach to implementing the Benedictine way. There are numerous other great books on Benedict (including The Rule and various commentaries upon it). [The Benedictine was is broad so be aware that a wide range of folks are drawn to it. Like Bible commentaries, people tend to "find" what they "bring" to the text.] It is meant as a guide book, with the advantages and disadvantages of such an approach.
The way of Benedict can be summarized as seeking Jesus, always and everywhere, in community, through a disciplined life of prayer, work and study. Obviously, such a model is adaptable to all manner of circumstances and Benedictine monks have thrived in various places and conditions. The rule is aimed at laymen and does not have a clerical focus. It is a rule of life which can be helpful in ordering a local parish/church. Obviously, our Christian communities are made up of 'nuclear families' which gather for prayer. We do not all live in one monastery together. Yet, we can still find some operating principles in the guidance of this holy man.
The Benedictine model is God-seeking, Christ-seeking, brother/sister loving and ordinary. The last component is most significant. The Jewish Bible is replete with stories of people just trying to live on the earth in relationship with God. The Lord's command to be fruitful and multiply is mundane. Most of us will never have a remarkable mystical experience, hear voices or have a robust spiritual life with all manner of amazing connections with God. Most of us will eat and sleep, laugh and cry, say our prayers and trust God's mercy. We will live ordinary lives (which find hope in our belief in God, even if He is 'quieter' than we like).
The Way of Benedict is to understand the ordinary is God's preferred mode of interaction. He comes in and through concrete reality. (I have written about this often). Our task, if you will, is to remember God throughout the day. It is an awareness/gift and also a discipline/work. One can be overwhelmed by a sudden inflow of awareness or one can sit in silence and focus. Sometimes it is both! In the days ahead I want to share some insights from the learned master from the 6th Century. It is a journey worth taking together.