Benedict’s Rule: Why All the Attention?

Wow!  It’s taken two months just to get through the Preface to Seeking God!  Before we launch into the main chapters of this excellent book, I want to take a “breath” and simply ask, “Why is the Rule of Benedict worthy of all this attention?”

From a scholarly vantage point, the response could include multiple reasons.  But I want to provide an answer more in keeping with the formative potential of this historic text.

For one thing, our time reflects similarities with Benedict’s.  As Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove has so clearly pointed out in his book New Monasticism, we are living in a time when it’s hard to be Christian.  The church in North America is floundering on the inside and the culture (e.g. rise of the “no religion” people) is increasingly marginalizing Christianity.  Even though the specifics of this 21st-century phenomenon would be new to Benedict, he could easily identify with the stresses and struggles we’re facing.

But most of all, we believe as Benedict did, that God is at work.  “Dark ages” do not mean the Light of God has gone out, but only that it has been eclipsed by other things.  And even in the midst of our challenges, there’s plenty of evidence that a fresh Wind of the Spirit is blowing.  Benedict comes to our day and says, “Raise your sails and follow where the Wind takes you.”  He did it, and this is the pattern for subsequent renewals:  realization, responsiveness, renunciation, and renewal.

So, what we find as we begin to move into the key principles of the Rule is Benedict’s exhortation and direction in the development and deployment of those four R’s.  We see that the life of ancient monasticism can be the basis for a “new monasticism”—an abundant life in Christ, rooted in community, and expressed in worship and work (a manifestation of the two great commandments).

If you’ve come new to this weekly theme, I hope you’ll purchase a copy of The Rule of St. Benedict.  An inexpensive text copy is available through Amazon.  And, as you like, you can go back into my previous postings of “Benedict’s Rule,” where I spent quite a bit of time summarizing and commenting on each Chapter of the Rule.

But whatever you do, join the journey that connects “then” and “now” in the deep conviction that the God who has begun a good work in us through Christ, is indeed bringing to completion until the Day of Christ Jesus.

About Steve Harper

Dr. Steve Harper is retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 45 books. He is also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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