Friday, March 18, 2011

Rule of St. Benedict for Lent

My husband and I are Benedictine Oblates with the Monastery of Our Lady of the Cenacle here in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Yesterday we met with Father Mark Kirby, the Prior, for an explanation of The Rule of St. Benedict on Lent.

St. Benedict
Father Mark reminded us that Benedictine life is "an infirmary not Olympics. The Father monk applies the appropriate remedies to the other monks. God came to heal the sick and St. Benedict was fully aware of our human weaknesses and our tendencies toward discouragement."

"We urge the entire community during these days of Lent to keep its manner of life most pure...," said St. Benedict. This, Father Mark told us, is singleheartedness--keeping our hearts and minds fixed on the Lord. "Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God." Mt 5:8

The Rule continues, "...and to wash away in this holy season the negligences of other times." This is a time of reparation, a time to make up for sins, especially those of omission. The sins we commit by failing to do something, like not reconcile with a friend or relative, for example, or reach out to a neighbor in need.

"Compunction of heart" is something St. Benedict stresses for Lent. Allowing our hearts to be open and touched. It is humility and contrition that bring us closer to God.

Adding to the "usual measure of service," St. Benedict encourages us to abstain from food and drink. Father Mark explained that means to go without something, but to do it in moderation.  "Our usual measure of service," he said, "is our worship. Everything is worship. It's all integrated and everything is sacralized."

We offer to God an oblation--a free act of self offering--"with the joy of the Holy Spirit," wrote St. Benedict. 1 Thess 1:6  Yes, Lent is a time to have the joy of the Lord, the joy of spiritual desire--Holy Pascha.

And finally St. Benedict warned against doing anything with "presumption and vainglory," so Father Mark recommended for those who are married that we seek our spouse's approval for our spiritual observances. This will help safeguard peace and harmony in our marriage relationships.

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