Benedict’s Rule: Early Detection and Correction

Chapters 45 and 46 go together, in that they both have to do with correcting mistakes.

Chapter 45 deals with mistakes while reading in the oratory.  Such mistakes are to be confessed with humility, for it is an error committed in relation to the Word of God.

Chapter 46 deals with mistakes made anywhere else in the monastery.  These too are to be confessed, because all work is holy and no errors should be hidden.

In these two chapters we are back to a key theme in the spiritual life:  “God is in the details.”  The contemporary slogan that the devil is in them is correct in some ways too.  But Benedict’s Rule comes down on the other side.

All work is holy.  It is a way of honoring God and a way of allowing God to be present in our lives.  Mistakes only “clog” the channels through which God works and we worship.  The best thing to do is to clear them out as soon as we realize they are there.

Charles Wesley picked up on the same idea in his hymn I Want a Principle Within, by writing, “if to the right or left I stray, that moment, Lord, reprove.”

“That moment”—as soon as we realize we’ve made a mistake.  As I have said before, it’s much easier to put out a fire when it’s in the waste basket than when it is climbing up the wall.

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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