Benedict’s Rule: Proper Nourishment

Chapters 39-41 in the Rule deal with the eating habits of the monks.

The life of the monastery revolves around prayer and work.  Both require energy and health.  The energy comes from eating and drinking proper amounts.  Health comes from eating good food.  So, Benedict establishes guidelines for both.

In reading these chapters I was struck by the relationship between the amount of work and the amount of food.  Clearly, the harder one works, the more nourishment one needs.  Even in eating and drinking, there is no one-size-fits-all approach.  The same holds true for those in the community who are sick.  Age also plays a factor.  Overindulgence is to be avoided regardless of where a particular monk falls on the scale of labor.

Similarly, when the monks eat is dealt with according to the time of the year and according to the intensity of the labor being performed.  Everything should be done when there is sufficient daylight.

Moreover, fasting and eating are put alongside each other.  Fasting is not as much about deprivation as it is about establishing a pattern of “work/rest” in relation to eating and drinking.  The whole of life is “rhythmic.”

Our exploration of Benedict’s Rule is an adventure in “ordinary holiness.”  Nothing is too small, routine, or mundane as to escape attention.  Spirituality is a whole-life endeavor.

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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