Rule of St. Benedict

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Rule of St. Benedict lecture series

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May the outpouring of your Holy Spirit, O Lord, cleanse our hearts and make them fruitful by the innermost drinking of this dew, through Christ our Lord, Holy Father Benedict. In reflecting on our last talk on the life-respecting and life-sustaining rhythm envisaged by St Benedict's Rule, consisting primarily in the threefold activities of prayer, holy meeting and work, we were, of course, looking at this rhythm first and foremost from a positive point of view. In other connections, we have become aware, whether in relation to the community at large or its various officials, of Benedict's provision for real differences of temperament, capacity and character. And although chapter 65 verse 5, 63 verse 5, is very firm that on no occasion whatever should age and distinguish the brethren and decide their order, chapter 4 on the tools for good works insists in verse 70, as 63 does, or so at verse 10, that we should respect

[01:01]

the elders and love the young. Well it's evidently in these, among other matters, that the difficulty of the life of the rule emerges. And we must now look at some of this explicitly. What is, in other words, the asceticism of this singularly humane and merciful rule? Without venturing to state our conclusion before we've examined the evidence, we should, I hope, reasonably anticipate that we should be likely to find the areas of difficulty in the dynamism of the life, rather than in isolated ascetic practices. Let's turn, first of all, to the prologue and the epilogue in chapter 73, and remind ourselves once again of the theological context in which Benedict deliberately places his rule. The prologue, embedded in its own introductory four sentences, gives us, we shall recall, the image of the return to God of the one who listens. Listens, not primarily to the voice of the writer of the rule, but to that of Christ, which leads, as it did Christ himself, to the labour of obedience.

[02:03]

We are not immediately made aware of this link until we get to the very last phrases of the prologue, where we are told that it is by never abandoning his rule over us and persevering in the teaching of God, that by our patience we have our share in the sufferings of Christ. There are enough indications in the course of the prologue itself that some of what we suffer in the course of this return journey to God, under the guidance of the Gospel, is a result of our fraud and condition. There is no egotism in the will of Christ, which rebelled against suffering and death as contrary to the original intentions of God for human beings. Lots of our rebellions occur because of those countless private whims which we have to renounce in order to fight or serve under the banner of Christ, which is one of the reasons why, in the last of those four sentences, we are told that we need to make instant prayer about every good thing we are about to do. For we cannot achieve the good we desire without the help of God.

[03:07]

This last point is explicitly made in verse 29 of the prologue, immediately after we have been recommended to dash the beginnings of our temptations against the rock of Christ. For as 29 says, these people fear the Lord and do not become elated over their good deeds. They judge that it is the Lord's power, not their own, that brings about the good in them. Lest Benedict, or my interpretation of him, should be misunderstood in this matter, it is perhaps necessary to explain what I have just said in several words is indicated by Benedict by the single use of the word proprius, the adjective proprius, as I have already suggested in our first talk. There is not the slightest indication in the course of the rule, as far as I can see, that Benedict undervalues the human will in itself as good. It is the human will as seeking what is private to it, and hence against the common good and

[04:09]

against the good intentions and wishes of God, must be continuously converted to God by those who embark on the return journey the rule sets before them. Actually, I am going to talk about the conversion almost exclusively next time, but this can't be said here. St. Paul is of course making essentially the same point in his praise of love in 1 Corinthians chapter 30, where he insists at verse 5, as you all remember, that love does not insist on its own way. As RSV translates, was Bishop Juan's always interesting power of grace, which is very often a good translation in fact, says, never pursues its own selfish interests. And it's doubtless because of this hindering between obedience and Christ-like love that the opening sentence of chapter 5 on obedience, as we have earlier seen, is that obedience without delay is appropriate to those who hold nothing dearer than Christ.

[05:10]

Insofar as this is also said to be the first step of humility, we find ourselves confronted with that trinity of obedience, humility, love, which sometimes seems to be almost indistinguishable aspects of the same act. Notice too, how much these three are the mark of the profoundest respect for God and his ways in the world, and the root of genuine religion for all are involved in that remembrance of God, which is among the proper dispositions for singing in the office in choir, as we were noticing in our last talk. There's a kind of link between these three, obedience, humility, and love, and this is an assumed profound respect, profound reverence. It's unfortunate of course that most of the words and translations of these things talk about fear, which is a sort of strange word to us nowadays to use, but it does mean basically reverence. And so I think this is very, very basic to when we're thinking about Benedict's asceticism,

[06:19]

that behind this, there's this pattern of the trinity of obedience, humility, and love. We can go far, but it's doubtful we shall ever find an asceticism that's more certain than this is. Beside it, many common ascetic practices look like games. But in case we should fall into the trap of imagining we always do what we admire, Francis said, I think he said that, it's very just reason to think so, sometimes we imagine we do what we think we admire. I think we must look perhaps a little closer at the signs of ascetic practice up and down the room, that's what I'm doing today really. Already in chapter 3, on the summoning of the brethren to council, we notice in the middle of sentence 8, a phrase which affects both the brethren as a whole and the abbot alike, that, in the monastery, no one is to follow his own heart's desire. This is evident of the reason why the brethren are told to give their advice with all humility

[07:22]

and not presume to defend their own views obstinately. While the abbot is reminded that, like everyone else in the house, he must keep the rule in all he does. This clearly implies a basic restraint of egotism in the running of the house for the good of all. As everyone knows, the restraint of egotism in public affairs is only likely to be healthy and consistent if her selfishness is being coped with at the personal level. After innumerable interruptions and claims, chiefly connected with my duties in the guest house, I just reached this point in the preparation of this talk when a short but wonderful letter from a very dear benediction friend in Europe arrived, a man who was for several years a neighbouring hermit with me in Norway, often used to meet and sing vespers together when we could, though he was hours away from me. And this letter arrived to remind me of the meaning of the rule, lived in a concrete way which is so vivid that it would be quite legitimate to quote some lines from it for you. For me it's extra vivid because I know the monastery very well and several of its monks,

[08:30]

including the first one mentioned in this letter. It's Wednesday at 9.45. I have just been chaving poor little Father Bernhard Henn, who after a slight sale of hemorrhage four years ago, lives in a condition of deep depression. In 20 minutes I shall go to change the bandage to Brother R, who had a serious attack of phlebitis five weeks ago, but this doesn't prevent him from being in the best of humour and with all sorts of ideas for things to be done in months and years ahead. He will be 80 on Christmas Eve. Then at 10.30 we have conventional mass. Naturally with 12 months between 80 and 90, 12 hours between 70 and 80, out of 40 months in the monastery, work never ceases. Even though the greater number of the elder fathers and brothers have an astonishing vitality. Hours go by and days pass. We reach November 27th. In a quarter of an hour I go to feed Father T, who is 83.

[09:34]

He can still move his head a little, though the rest of the body is paralysed. He has to take all his nourishment through a baby feeder. He is done and he lives. I would guess a level of a baby of two or three months old. I foresaw I would be overloaded with work when I returned here, and I am. When all is said and done I am happy, with an odd kind of happiness. I cannot find any other word for it. Yes, in spite of all, perhaps of great peace. All the waves go quietly over my head. Something like this state of mind is, I believe, the normal fruit of what Benedict means by work in all its dimensions. Notice how often he does talk about different kinds of work, the work of the divine obvious. And of course the monk in the chapter on humility, chapter 7, is talked about as the workman of God. And I don't think such fruits are normally tasted without a lifelong attention to at least some of the things Benedict lists under the tools of good works.

[10:44]

So I think we must turn our attention a little more closely to chapter 4 than we did when we touched on it before. It's not at all an easy chapter to handle, it really is quite difficult, and isn't actually made much easier in R.B. 1980. Rarely a trade to do, but it's an extraordinary example. Never mind, I shan't say too much about it. It's something, for those of you who know Latin, please look at Latin every time, because very often R.B. 1990 is having so little games. This list of 74 items is enclosed within the two fundamentals of love and mercy, especially our love of God and his mercy on us. For the first tool is to love the Lord God with all one's heart, all one's soul and all one's strength. And the final one, never to lose hope in God's mercy. One will not be likely to feel the first or survive to cleave to the last one, without some attention to those which lie in between. A superficial glance might lead one to suppose that this begins simply with the Ten Commandments,

[11:53]

which is fundamental enough. But this is not quite true. For it is the commandments seen from a New Testament point of view. So that, for instance, the precept to honour father and mother is translated to the command of the first letter of Peter, 2.17, to honour everyone. To these add a number of other Christian practices, the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, which so often involve renouncing oneself to follow Christ and preferring nothing to the love of Christ, as verses 10 and 21 insist. Notice this is a kind of tenuous theme, the rule, the presence of Christ. I do not find in these first 21 phrases anything which would have seemed strange to our earliest forefathers in the faith, whatever they might have been. Not even number 20, which says that one should make oneself a stranger to worldly ways of acting, to which I imagine all early Christians would have felt as much obliged as monks do.

[12:55]

To make oneself a stranger to worldly ways of acting. Here I preferred my own translation, because R.B. in 1980 seems to me to be much too weak. And even Justin can for once. It seems to me that in our own time it's once again vital for Christians and monks to make it clear that there are some ways of acting and behaving that are not acceptable for Christians, at least for himself. I don't think we should make fun of people about this, it is becoming very striking and important that we should say, I'm sorry we don't do it that way. More vital for the common life are numbers 22 to 43, starting with not to act in anger and not to nurse a grudge. No double thinking or double acting. And then one which is almost the invention of 1980, in the sense that the Latin doesn't have to mean that.

[13:55]

You shouldn't turn away someone who needs your love. Have a look at the Latin, you'll see it doesn't quite say that. It would be nice if it did. To speak the truth with heart and tongue is certainly as necessary as that. I think somehow, because we're all in love with love nowadays, but don't always realise how very vital it also is for other people, that we should speak the truth with heart and tongue. And of course it's not always as common as it should be. In fact I'm afraid I have to say, and I'm sure some people won't like to be scandalised if I say it, sometimes the clergy and religious are particularly bad about the truth. They find ways of imagining they don't have to say quite the truth. And I know that in fact even some clergy would pack a pound of nuts, but let's not worry about that. These wholesome attitudes are perhaps best cultivated by someone who does not do

[15:04]

what they do primarily to please somebody else and hope being accepted. But as number 41 says, puts their trust in God. I think that's not just a sudden leap. I think it really is really feeling that one's confidence ought to be grounded in God himself, rather than what one does. I'm not saying of course one shouldn't do things for people I love, and sometimes I think that one's attitude about these things can be determined by one's hope of being accepted. And there will be some moments I suppose in everybody's life in the monastery when they really have to lean rather heavily in their trust on God. Well numbers 42 to 43 makes a kind of transition which becomes more explicitly interior I think. First, to refer to the good one sees in oneself to God and not to oneself.

[16:05]

And then to be certain that the evil you commit is always your own and imputed to yourself. Then from 44 to 62 we are faced with ultimate things and the avoidance of every kind of sham. Not only the need to remember death and judgment, but the positive need to yearn for everlasting life with holy desire. And consequently a repetition of what we heard in the prologue, to dash the rock of Christ, to cast against the rock of Christ all the thoughts which may come into the heart which are destructive of that holy desire of course. And reveal them to one's spiritual guide. There is of course a great deal of profit in that. We'll talk about that in a moment, I suppose a little bit more next time. There is a great deal of profit in telling somebody else what's going on, if it's somebody you can trust. Because somehow, sometimes when one faces things better one actually hears oneself saying them.

[17:06]

I think that one of the purposes of spiritual direction is not so much to be told what to do, but to hear oneself talking about oneself, if one can bear this. Then come four, which I think are apt to cause trouble nowadays. Though they are all, I believe, concerned with the guarding of a basic honest and serious interiority. In so far as they are signs of what goes on in the heart. Out of which, of course, as you'll remember, our Lord says in the Gospel, so much evil can come. I think that particular thing which comes in the Gospel of Matthew, of course, is the only thing I can think of about sexual behavior in the Gospels themselves. Because it's a comment of our Lord, remember, on washing one's hands, and being concerned about exterior cleanliness. And our Lord said, what really does damage to one's, what comes out of the heart. Amongst these is fornication.

[18:10]

And so on. Well, number 51 tells us, guard your lips from evil and deceptive speech. Perhaps R.B. in 1980 is right to say deceptive, where I think we can justify there has depraved. In any case, it's any kind of crookedness, I think. Pravum is the word. Pravum is the adjective here. Which is, I suppose, what suggested depraved to Justin McCann, which is really what the English equivalent of that word is. But it's any kind of crookedness, I think. And then comes not to love talking too much. I suddenly remember a fellow, a sensitive fellow novice, saying to me many years ago, there now, I've broken the precious vessel in which I was carrying that. I mention this because these two sentences about restraint in speech

[19:16]

are followed by two more connected with laughter. Numbers 53 and 54, which run, speak no foolish chatter, nothing just to provoke laughter. And, do not love immoderate or boisterous laughter. I believe we get the significance of these four sentences entirely wrong if we fail to set them against the right background, which is not that of sober gloom, but of the positive value of silence as an atmosphere in which to listen. An atmosphere which one can either destroy for oneself or for others. Let's take first of all, since this generally applies to modern people more than most, what the sayings are talking about is quite literally empty chatter. It's vaan. And joking for its own sake.

[20:17]

And then, not every kind of laughter, but immoderate laughter. The scriptural background of monasticism towards this kind of laughing is, of course, Ecclesiastes, I suppose, chapter 7, verses 3 and 6. Sorrow is better than laughter, for by sadness of countenance the heart is made glad. For like the sound of thorns patting under a pot, the laughter of fools grates on the ear. In chapter 49, on the observance of Lent, Benedict makes it quite clear that he expects there to be some jesting in the house, since this is one of the things one should try to cut down during Lent. As we see when we look at this chapter, he thinks these suggestions tend to be connected with the awakening of spiritual longing. Similarly, I think it would be a mistake to fail to link these four sentences,

[21:19]

among the tools of good works, with chapter 6, which, as we saw earlier, R.B. 1980 clearly translates as the restraint of speech. This chapter, to which you must go again for a moment or two, opens with a quotation from Psalm 38 or 39, which says, I was silent and humbled, and I refrained even from good words. Benedict's comment on this is, here the Prophet indicates that there are times when good words are to be left unsaid, out of esteem for silence. Once again, if we look elsewhere in the rule, we shall see that there are times to talk, and perhaps even some for jesting. But we find in chapter 48, verse 21, which we were looking at in our last talk, remember the chapter which deals with Lectio Divina and manual work, that the brethren should not associate with one another at unseasonable hours.

[22:21]

The unseasonable hour is that particular point, of course, where he's talking about Lectio Divina. It's not a suitable time to have people in corners talking aloud, because, in fact, these monks are not living in their separate rooms, they're eating in common place. And so it has to be quiet there, that everybody may properly attend to it. And with the mention of that, of course, we come, I think, very close to the reason for silence in the monastery at all. It is that we may preserve the atmosphere of attentive listening. Forgive me for once again referring to my chapter on the difference of silence in my Asking the Fathers, where you'll find some of the traditional argumentation on this subject. I was looking at it, and it seems to me to be all right in what it does, and I can't tell you something with quite so few pages, which does deal with it very well, and there isn't really time to do it in the space of today's talk about it.

[23:23]

Perhaps I may just be allowed to use one quotation from it, where St Ambrose says, Eve fell because she said to the man words she'd not heard from the Lord her God. The first word God says to you is hear. And similarly, in his chapter 6 on the restraint of speech, at verse 6, Benedict says, it befits the disciple to be silent and to listen. In both this and the previous quotation from the Rule, I've referred, just as we can, to R.B. 1980, as being nearer the Latin. Whenever I say this, you must look at it for yourself, those of you who can, but I think it's sometimes quite fair to look closely at exactly what Benedict says. So it's probably interesting, I think, when we look through this list which we've been looking at, the tools of good work, that immediately after these four I've just been talking about, the next tool is number 55,

[24:30]

listen readily to holy reading. If there's too much noise going on, you can't do it. And after that, 56, to devote oneself often to prayer. I think neither of these things comes very easily if one is habitually in the state of diversion. As well, I see there are places where that happens nowadays. Quite small, unnecessary breaches of silence at unseasonable hours can be extraordinarily destructive to the silence of the heart. It's sad to reflect that it's nowadays often only the guests of some monasteries who can experience the special joy and usefulness of long periods of unbroken silence. So even they are sometimes disturbed by the desperate need of some monks at all. It ought, I think, to be a sufficient safeguard against pharisaical silence, which Ambrose rightly calls the silence of beasts.

[25:33]

Please look at that chapter, it's well worth looking at. It's the kind of thing, it takes nearly all the things a lot of people say, they all appear there in the old writers. Ambrose says, well, if you're just keeping one, then you're just as likely to be an ox in a stall. That's not what silence is about. I think, of course, what we have to do is the thing that comes, surely, this is where number 62 comes in from chapter 4. Do not aspire to be called holy before you really are. But first, be holy that you may truly be called so. For this embodies, I think, Benedict's habitual emphasis on being and living over theory and the ascetic practice. It's doubtless for this reason, that just as he doesn't appoint any specific time for prayer apart from that taken by the divine office, so he also makes no special provision for speech or silence apart from the total ban on talking after contemplating.

[26:33]

And even that can be dispensed in need. It's evidently our fault as monks if we do not find for ourselves the life-giving value of prayer and silence and seek both accordingly. And so, the last few of the tools embody, I think, very few fundamental things, starting at 63 with living by God's commandments every day. It's, of course, part of that remembering which we were talking about. These, notably for Christians, include, I suppose, especially number 72, praying for our enemies out of love of Christ. And several of the others are very important for the common life. Not to hate anyone, not to be jealous or envious, or to shun arrogance. Respecting the old and loving the young.

[27:38]

I remember when I was a young girl, a nice thing happened to me by a man who's now very well-known, saying to me about somebody who I really found his behavior, I found it very difficult to understand. He said to me one day, don't you realize that man is jealous of you? It never actually occurred to me, but I think he was probably right. And it can be a very insidious thing in people's lives. Extraordinary, you see, the thing is, what we were talking about, I suppose, when we're talking about the rhythm of the rule, we are talking about something which does, in fact, tend to concentrate all our capacities in various kinds of ways. And one thing, the whole thing that's happened is if you don't get the ascetic principles right, then some ways, some people can actually lose. Because they become, all their energy can go into hating people, being jealous of them, being envious of them, doing little niggling things against them, and so on, all the time. Well, whatever happens, even then,

[28:45]

if things go wrong, to make peace before the sun goes down. And finally, of course, 74, never despair of the mercy of God. These then, the chapter concludes, are the tools of the spiritual craft. And the workshop where we shall faithfully use them, is the enclosure of the monastery and stability in the community. We're going to have to say something about stability next time. But I think, primarily, we can say straight away that what has been its real interest in stability is, obviously, in the development of stability of character, not so much place. Thus it would seem that the monastery is meant to be a school of growth, which reaches into the deepest recesses of the personalities it goes on. I'm going to say a bit more about this next time,

[29:46]

because we've got a rhythm, we've got also a seasonal pattern, working through all this, and then we've got, through it all, growth going on too. This evidently happens not just through living the life of the rule, and life of the tools of good works, but through the total context of the life of obedience and restraint, in chapters 5 and 6. You can see what I'm really trying to do now is look against the background of the rhythm, with the ascetic chapters, number 7 we'll come back to next time, but 5 and 6 we must just have another look at again, I think to get it all right. I think both of these, if we look carefully at what Benedict says, are designed to promote capacity to listen, and listen primarily to God. So that out of it all, a certain kind of generosity of heart develops. I think this is the right way to look at 5 and 6.

[30:48]

It really is, you just learn how to use a certain moderation, a certain restraint in everything, both in what you decide what to do, and what you'll say, but in all of this you may listen. For as verse 16 of chapter 5 says, quoting St. Paul, the disciples' obedience must be given gladly, for God loves a cheerful giver. And all the time the Lord's workmen, as the monk is called at the end of chapter 7, will be growing in the supreme virtues of the virtue of the heart, loving humility. Well as I've just said, this is such a very large subject, I prefer to reserve now a second look at it, at this rather splendid chapter, which we've said something earlier on, until next time, when we think about what the monk promises in undertaking this form of life.

[31:51]

But of course this chapter, chapter 7, is the really great one to keep thinking about, in relation to the whole business of development, growth in the life. For today I'd just like to conclude with two factors about the perspective of the Lord, I believe, free the heart for happiness and joy, and the first of these is the monk's relationship towards the things he uses and needs. I suppose the obvious point at which to start is chapter 33, which I didn't put up on the board actually, I wasn't quite clear how I was going to do this bit at that point. Chapter 33, whether a monk should have anything of his own. And although I haven't commented on it explicitly, of course you take with it chapter 54, about receiving small gifts, they really go together. It's a chapter which follows the one on the tools of the monastery, and you'll remember the attitude to this we've seen when talking about the seller and the avid.

[32:54]

Here we're concerned, as we have been when talking about our will in the prologue, with the true force of the Latin word procrium, with its heavy sense of mine and yours. The question is, am I to have something which I call mine, which is not yours? That's what the chapter is really about. So we shall not be surprised that this chapter 33 opens with a firm statement, above all this evil practice, that is to say the practice of private ownership, must be removed and uprooted from the monastery. We mean, that without an order from the avid, no one may presume to give, receive, or retain anything as his own, nothing at all. Not a book, writing tablets, or stylus. In short, not a single item. Especially since monks may not have the free disposal even of their own bodies and wills. There could obviously be no firmer statement of absolute personal piety. But as we've noticed in earlier talk,

[33:59]

this is not because the monastery is a mean-minded kind of place. The following chapter says that everyone should receive what they need. Remember we looked at this in earlier context of talking. Everybody should receive what they need. And needs of course differ. So this is one of many, many ways in which the rule is taught, I think, in very personal terms. We also noticed earlier, that it's the avid business to see that everyone has clothes and shoes that fit them. Nor could anyone complain about the allowances of food and drink, which appear in 39 and 40. Indeed, in the beginning of chapter 14, Benedict with characteristic modesty says, it's with some uneasiness that we specify the amount of food and drink for other people. In chapter 39, a choice of dishes is provided. I don't know how many, and Milton's provided today,

[35:00]

but there should be two anyway, in case somebody can't take one of them. And a third of food or vegetables, if any are available. With a good pound of bread a day, which can be divided up between the meals if there are more than one. But notice also that in the case of both these, extra allowances are permitted for heavier work. Just as in chapters 35 and 38, the weekly servers and the reader at table are given extra allowances, so they won't find their job a physical burden. Apart then from the absence of meat, except for the sick and the feeble, this is not physically a very austere life, except perhaps for those who'd find the time and number of meals specified in chapter 41 rather difficult to observe. I don't know many places where it is observed. We try to observe it at Christendom Desert, more or less,

[36:02]

but it isn't very easy for most modern people. I suppose partly because most modern people find it rather difficult to eat a very large meal, which is enough for the whole day at one go. Many of us simply can't do it physically. I've never forgotten staying with the Carthusians on one occasion, being presented with one of their big single meals, and this included an enormous, the largest apple pie I've ever seen. It was great and big, it was a huge apple, covered with crust, and nearly as big as Therese's head. And that was only one item, this single meal, that I was expected to eat at one go. And so, anyway, it's not a very austere life, and everybody certainly has enough to eat, and special allowances are made for this. So, although the emphasis is on absolute poverty, it's to be a sensible, balanced kind of life, in which even the beds one would give to them are not just boards. As Chapter 55 specifies,

[37:02]

they are provided with a blanket, cover, and pillow, and as reasonable calculations make it possible to show, Benedict provided for an average of eight hours of sleep, and in winter even more, something about nine and a half, on his schedule. But a glance at the opening sentences of Chapter 41, on the times for meals, will show us, I think, something we should also have noticed in relation to chapters on the Divine Office, at which we were chiefly looking last time. It is this, that the seasonal rhythm of the life of the Lord is not just determined by the natural seasons of light and dark, heat and cold, but by the liturgical seasons, with Easter at the centre of it all. The significance of this, for the entire life of Benedict's monastery, comes, I think, to the fore, clearest in Chapter 49, on the observance of death, which is why I put it on the board, because I knew I was going to come at this point with this as kind of drawing together all these thoughts.

[38:07]

This chapter opens with the observation, the life of a monk ought at all times to be Lenten in its character. This is Justin McCann's translation, which is, I think, rather near that in the Nobby 1980s, Continuous Lent, which makes it sound much more formative than Benedict actually says. Yes, certainly. Not really continuous Lent, but it should have a Lenten character about it. On the whole, I suppose, I may have forgiven just saying here, on the whole, R.B. 1980 has a certain fondness for broad sweeps of phrase. More numerous, I think, perhaps, in Chapter 4, as far as I can see, than anywhere else, but they do take their liberties. Sometimes they're rather fond, for anyone who loves them knows they take their liberties. It's always fascinating to see somebody else trying to translate them, but I think they do need to be thought about. We then come to a problem of translation on which there is not very helpful footnote in R.B. 1980.

[39:19]

They obviously wish to insist that the entire community make special efforts about Lent. I suppose it is another expression of that contemporary mania for insisting on everything being done knee-to-knee, which comes out again in this translation of Chapter 72, as I mentioned in the earlier talk. Why we should wish to be so insistent on this is not quite clear to me, as the text of Chapter goes on and makes it quite clear that each member does something for which he gets an individual blessing and approval. Now, although it's true that this amounts to the whole community doing something to mark Lent, why they should not be content to translate Omnis Paradise, meaning all alike, is obscure, for this is really what is meant. It's all alike we do it, since although everybody does something different, they all alike ask for something to do. The one common thing they're all required to do is actually not mentioned in that chapter, but in Chapter 48, the previous chapter, where it's made especially clear

[40:22]

that the morning reading is made ample for the reading of a book that is to be given from the library, which is to be during Lent. An article of which my old teacher once said to me, he thought it was contrary to common sense, where a man, Martin Mundo, published an article in which he tries to say that because the word bibliotheca, the word for library, can also mean, of course, the Bible, the whole Bible, so therefore he's given an individual book of Bibles to read. It doesn't seem very probable as to what it's meant, because after all, that's what people were doing all the time in their lecture this evening, and in very much more ample readings of the Bible, as far as I can see, in earlier times. Perhaps not necessarily on the scale as Evangelio Cluny, where there is a whole book of Genesis during Advent. I think I might say. And reading that aloud in choir must be quite a formidable thing to do. At any rate,

[41:22]

it seems to me quite clear that what everybody, all alike is required to do is find something that adds on what they're doing. Everybody is required to take a book, a special book for Lent, which they're meant to read as a whole, straight through, as a whole. I must admit, from my very early years, I made this almost a rule about books. In fact, I've even made a rule at one point about whether I bought a book or not, except for obvious books of reference. Namely, that if a book is not worth reading as a whole and in all, it's probably not worth reading at all. I can only say that it's profited me in many ways, including sometimes discussions with scholars, who do not, I'm afraid, always do this. The thing which I began to suspect, when in university libraries I found I was often reading famous books quoted by everyone whose pages were still uncut after half a century. I'm afraid what easily happens, even with scholars, they take each other's footnotes.

[42:25]

Bruno Albers, Constitutiones. You know Bruno Albers? Of course I'm interested in books, of course I know Bruno Albers rather well. I was shocked to find that sometime in the early 60s, I cut the copy of Bruno Albers in Knox University Library, where everybody quotes Bruno Albers, what he says on constitution, but nobody apparently found an issue to cut the page of this one copy, which had been there since 1890. So I'm sorry I put that in a kind of footnote about the Denver, but I think it is something, both I think perhaps for the grand, the Lord Abbots or Priors, who give the books out, but also for people who read them, if a book is worth reading, it feels rather thorny. It means of course the books have to be much better quality than most modern books are. Some were not meant to be that thorny. They're meant to be read like newspapers, which thank God one doesn't have to study. But naturally of course

[43:28]

there are other deeper and sounder reasons for knowing an important book as a whole. This is of course a slight distraction from what the Legend of Gemini is chiefly saying. It recommends something added to personal prayer, reading, and absence of food and drink. But the most significant sentence is the one about the way this choice is to be made, since it expresses, I believe, the real principle behind Benedict's attitude to ascetic practice of any kind. It's sentence number six, where again I prefer McCann's translation. Let each one, over and above the measure prescribed for him, offer God something of his own free will, in the joy of the Holy Spirit. And then, sentence seven says, look forward to Holy Easter with joy and spiritual longing. Whatever is to be done is to be done only with the permission and blessing of the spiritual Father. Evidently, as a defense against that self-will,

[44:29]

which all who come to the Mosque are to renounce, as the prologue begins by declaring. When I say these sentences give us a complete perspective for asceticism in the entire rule, I think we see this again, as we earlier have in chapter 20, where even such spiritual thinking as saying prayers is not to be done beyond certain moral limits, unless the time is, as Benedict says, prolonged on the inspiration of divine grace. It is, of course, in this way of humility before God, that true listening and longing are awakened in the heart. Although this is not explicitly said, how many things Benedict leaves unsaid, this is certainly, I think, the reason why in the opening sentence of chapter 42 on the silence after a compliment, the words say, monks should cultivate silence at all times. There is a quietening of the soul, which only comes about if it is offered in the joy of the spirit.

[45:30]

The aim of minimizing jesting in that, one of the things mentioned in chapter 49, is not to sink into gloom, but to open one's heart in joy to what may come from the Lord. And the ultimate perspective is what Easter celebrates, which takes the sting even out of death, beyond which there is nothing but happiness, grace and joy. Well, I'm sorry, because I've been slightly distracted, I'll take a little longer than usual, but if anybody wants to say anything or ask anything, please do. Yes? I was just wondering, in chapter 4, you said, first of all, love the Lord. You didn't say the second part. I wonder why you didn't say that. What was that? And among the neighbors yourself, you were actually... Yes, I didn't say it, it's true. I was wondering if you meant... No, it wasn't deliberate, it wasn't deliberate, no. Yes, it was the kind

[46:32]

of thing monks tend to do, because one often has to go... That's one reason, I suppose, one has to go on reading these texts all the time, as one does the texts of scripture, because there happen to be certain days when you need to see the other bit rather specially, don't they? Not quite right. No, there was no reason at all. I was just simply meaning to emphasize love, you know, that's the unlike thing. Does... Do you... But since I know you're one of the people who's concerned about this, do you feel a little bit more satisfied with what I said about silence and jokes today than you were? Oh, everybody finds it a bit like that to begin with, especially, of course, from... In a world in which everybody is kind of rather hale-filled and well-meant, this is what the society aims at producing. And sometimes even a false kind of intimacy by that comes from me. So it does occur to me in my training, but I think it also does

[47:32]

require the experience of what one thinks is to have a lot of silence, when it's there for positive reasons. Yes? I feel that as a layperson only, it's difficult when the husband keeps silence after seven, and it's difficult to fast with a good cook husband and things like that. Yes. I think I'm tired to have the spirit I've said with the wife, or all that. I think I could firmly say, I'm sure I could firmly say in a way of answer that, of course, one shouldn't try to keep silence after seven with one husband. Because in fact you have undertaken to live that same kind of life which is the rule of the monastery and to be selfish. And obviously I think that most husbands and wives, most of them are those whose lives are narrated to in fact allow themselves to cry rather

[48:32]

critically. And that's where it's meant to work out I think for a lot of those. It's not meant to be taught. That I think would be entirely false to try and make one's husband not talk up and say maybe he needs to. Maybe he's going to try and talk to him about that. That certainly you see, that's the kind of thing that never does it. Nothing in the whole rule does that kind of silliness to you. As I say, it doesn't even say exactly where the place of time is or where they are. There are places where they have to even have to go. But where it is, you have to decide. And I think, it seems to be very interesting, I don't know what else it's been, I've not only lived in several different communities myself and others, not to do with other communities, every community I think eventually has to find its own way. And the nearer they get to the spirit rule, I think, the happier it feels, even when it's silent. I find all the time I've been with people like this, you can tell so much about what's really going on, whether they're talking

[49:32]

or not. If they're not happy, if silence is only visible, if it's only the spirit, it's always dead. And then you'll feel the anger, you'll feel all those other kinds of things going on. In other words, certainly, yes, well, you get to really, because they're drilling themselves and they're trying to drill you too in. Yes, exactly. They're not happy in the first place, which is really, exactly, you see, I mean, you remember earlier on I quoted, for instance, that even during this army silence, Benedict specifically says that when they're getting up in the dormitory, they shouldn't tell each other if they're sleeping and so on. So those different things are numb. That kind of kindness, that kind of calmness, whatever you do, that's the ordinary human thing to do. I mean, I'm not going to give them away. You know, it's interesting

[50:32]

that the spirit, this is where the spirit is. When somebody else is with you who needs silence, silence is Oh, yes. In fact, those of us who were in the old days when silence was much more general than the normal society, except the formal things, which really are hard. I think very few of these people didn't find recreation hard. Most of them didn't find recreation hard. They only got to be hard-minded to find something to say. They weren't only going to make and say something to say. They didn't have to be hard-minded to say. yes. I think this whole notion of the quote practice of silence or the proven use of speech can have so many pitfalls in the sense that if we're inaccurate in the temperament of being quiet, we think that we're practicing silence.

[51:33]

If we're silent and easy to talk to others, then we can either be thought to be someone who's always talking, or we can think we're more charitable because we're more aware and we're more responsive. Also, I think we can also somehow think we're being charitable when we're with people we like and so we're talking and practicing charity and then people who don't respond as easily to what

[53:36]

we're talking to we're being when we're with people we like and then people as easily even if nobody's talking because everybody is in fact happy with it and they're quite good communicators when they come to the country it's all better, it's more strange, but finally it's become increasingly difficult, everybody has to talk about this now because suddenly in houses where it was kept in a kind of military way now talk goes on day and night, absolutely night. You know, when my community went through a great change and they were re-examining all the so-called rules and we got to this, they shifted

[54:40]

it to a proper prudent respectful use of speech, you know, and we were saying, we never really looked at speech in its value because it's prudent use before you rigidly adhere to the silence and then speech started eliminating things and then you turn it around and that would also help you to become more reflective and less paranoid if you began to see that speech is to be used carefully. I think this is what Ben was saying when he talked about unseeing certain patterns which are patterns which just need to be talked about. They are necessary if either the situation is right or the person is not. And that has to be done. And it seems to refer to what you said about the heart because what goes deeper than the whole question of speech is what's already in the mind that speaks. And

[55:42]

that seems to have a lot to do and I need to ask you about that. Where love does not insist on its own way and never pursues its own selfish interest. It seems to go right along with that even though Benedict values the human will, what is private is not meant to go against the common good. So that whole question is not good in psychological terms. If one is ego involved, or selfishly involved in a way where he's narcissistic or primarily preoccupied with one's own interest or whatever, then it's going to go against the common good and you can feel that tension and you feel then that it's whether it has to do with silence or anything that has to do with the external thing.

[56:42]

It's going to be difficult because the person has not grown enough to be able to let go of those blinds, which are so-called private. Yes, what you're saying, one way is that some people find that silence is extremely noisy. Yeah. Because of the vibrations. Yes, because there are problems downstairs. It's a very practical thing, though. Some people in the community, I mean, we have a large number of people, and some people, sometimes you meet as many as 20 people, and yet you may have, you might be all talked out by the 20 person. Even if you only say, if you're really attentive. This is really why I didn't mention this, it's quite a small thing, but don't really need to say that.

[57:42]

Sometimes it's just, well, trying to cut those down fairly consciously because they make too many breaks in a day, and they I hope this is the value of trying to think about things that are all together like this, is that unless you get a common view of what it's about, then it won't ever be natural, and it must be natural somehow. It's just like I've heard oftentimes somebody regretting the absence of some novice who left the White House because they were joking and happy, and this is what we need to laugh at. I think there is two kinds of humor, and it is a gentle, beneficial way of humor and rejoicing that it's not evaporating the silence of the interior mind. To me,

[58:43]

this is what we should try to cultivate. Yes, so obviously this is what the rule intends. I think as I say, I have a place of feeling that those moments of rejoicing are like the one which I go to the restaurant today. I think when you go there, you don't feel any sense of tension or pressure and so on. People, they've lived in this together and they accept it together. It doesn't mean that it's not difficult. It's more difficult for some people than for everybody. It's difficult for some days. Some days one loves it, not having to think about it, or talk to it, or whatever. thinks one finds out it's very often that it's still free. Have you reviewed this since those days? I would like you to look at my chat on silence. So I think I've forgotten everything I've said in this, I'm very, very, very glad to get it. I think one of the things I've talked about is the fact that speech has also got to unfold in that sense. I'm actually looking at some of the things I'm talking about with my people.

[59:45]

Have you thought about this group at all since, though, that in fact you haven't had to, because you're all living together, I think. Every group here, I think, should be thinking about this much more, and the answer is certainly not to have time for talking. That doesn't stop you from talking. It's a better attitude towards talking and judging than it's needed. And they've been willing to think again, and of course now we're preparing for another assembly in the summer, which we've got to roll with, with that, if we began to look at speech in a positive way, all those honey-tailed little rules that you shall not talk in recess at this time, and you shall not talk in that way at that time, that those were unnecessary. That if you first looked at the value of silence and the value of speech, in both good and, in a sense, a maturing of the Rajayana spiritual, then you would know the right time, by general experience, to do that. You wouldn't need those 15 little rules to have that time.

[60:47]

I'll watch for that. I'd like to hear you, if you have anything to say about it. There's not very much to say good on. Have you seen anything very good on it, Thomas? Is this, everybody, is there a very kind of official, I wish I could remember the article that there was a Franciscan priest down in Santa Barbara, who was a poet, a writer himself, he's passed away now, but he told me of a book about silence that was totally about that subject. Well, that's Pika. There's a lot of different forms of silence. That's Pika. I think what I've done then, it's a small thing, I'd be very grateful to anybody who comes in and asks what's wrong with this thing. I'm thinking that this book probably will be re-published very soon. That's something I want to change. I don't think it's changed anything. I think as far as it goes, it includes as much as I know,

[61:51]

because it comes out of my own retraction, which is what's embedded in the rule. And I'm very glad that, by the chance, other thinkers too might think about some of what I'm trying to do. The only thing that I can think of is, not to be judgmental if somebody isn't talking, or isn't... Well, you can't, you can't. If we're into this rule and then, you know... We can't. We can't. Some people don't. Some people don't want to speak at their own time. I don't know. I came and said, to a man who obviously wasn't a morning person, good morning, Paul. He said, don't be so damn cheerful. He's gone. LAUGHTER So that's what I have. LAUGHTER

[62:40]

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