The Rule

The choice of the name Benedict by the new pope got me to take at look at the first Benedict, and the Order of Saint Benedict (OSB). Benedictines live by some rather strict rules, as even a casual perusal of the Rule of St. Benedict will reveal.

This is exceeding strange territory for a Reformed Protestant. The first thing that struck me was the awesome power invested in the Abbot (or Abbess for women religious). It’s plain that the Abbot stands in for our Lord, and has much power over his flock of brothers. It is also plain that the Rule is a wordly attempt at perfection in the eyes of the Lord. This is not to condemn it; rather, to wonder how long this poor pilgrim would last among those who have truly supressed their egos.

There is also something faintly communistic about communal living under the Order of St. Benedict. No surprise there, given the very nature of the vowed life (vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience), but I suspect it is communistic with a great difference from the cult of personality of the neopagan Communists. The big difference? The Rule is grounded in Scripture.

For example, what could easily become just another hippie commune’s rule on personal property is Chapter 34: Whether All Should Receive in Equal Measure What Is Necessary:

Let us follow the Scripture, “Distribution was made to each according as anyone had need” (Acts 4:35). By this we do not mean that there should be respecting of persons (which God forbid), but consideration for infirmities.

There is much to admire; much to be fearful of as it concentrates far too much power in the hands of one man, the Abbot. Additionally, for the Reformed mind, there is far too much direction on the life of the Spirit. What to pray, when to do so, strict rules all around which attempt to compass what should not be attempted, what can not be bound — the love of God expressed through our prayers to Him.

All of this being said, however, does not change my admiration for men and women who can serve Christ in this way; totally committed to Him, albeit in some ways that I find not beneficial to the worship of God. But the Order of St. Benedict has been around almost 1500 years, so they must be doing something right.

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