Benedict’s Rule: Only the Beginning

The final chapter of the Rule seems amazing at first glance.  Benedict says that the Rule just read is “only the beginning.”

This is the spirit of all true formation.  As Thomas Merton put it more recently—in matters of the spiritual life, we must face the fact that we will be ‘beginners’ all our days.

This is simply because a “graduation mentality” sows the seeds for feelings of superiority, which quickly leads to dualistic thinking and judgmentalism—where one person “knows more” or “has more” or “is better” than someone else.  The deadly sin of Pride comes to life and kills everything else around it.

It is only when everyone remains a “beginner” that humility, mutual love, and common life can exist.  As soon as someone becomes “the expert,” we’re all done for!

Moreover, as Chapter 73 shows, even with all the Rule has set forth, there is so much more to be explored and discovered.  In the infinity of who God is and the immensity of what has been written shared by Scripture and Tradition, how could anyone ever possibly presume to have “arrived.”

So….the Rule of St. Benedict ends exactly where it started….with “beginners” who are overjoyed to be tasting the good things of God and absolutely convinced that we will be “beginners” all our days.

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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