Benedict’s Rule: Listen! Then Do Something About It

Having laid the foundation of the centrality of Christ in his Rule, St. Benedict points to the primary means by which we establish his Lordship in our lives:  listening.

If you’ve followed Oboedire for any length of time, you have read multiple posts on the necessity of attentiveness in the Christian spiritual life.  In fact, you’ll already know that I chose the term “attentiveness” in the tag line of this blog—and that I did so because I discovered that the meaning of obedience begins in listening.

But that personal conviction has been amplified and strengthened as I find one saint after another exhorting us to listen.

Of course, Benedict wrote the Rule for a monastic community.  And there will be ways we cannot duplicate some of his instructions.  But we also need to remember that Benedict was a layperson, and the core of what he was trying to do was establish a means by which anyone could live for Christ in the world.  Most of us will not do this as monks or nuns, but all of us do it as Christians.

And—Benedict says—we do it by listening.  Esther de Waal has a beautiful chapter in Seeking God  listening, and we’ll be exploring it in upcoming posts.

Benedict used the Latin word obsculta to describe the kind of listening he had in mind–a kind of listening (de Waal shows) that is reverent, ready, and humble (p. 42).  It is a disposition of the heart, not just a bent of the ear.

This listening is multi-leveled.  It means listening ultimately to the Word of God (who is Christ, but revealed in the Bible), but also hearing Christ speak through the church, our brothers and sisters in Christ, to the Rule, and to our own hearts.

One word often used to describe this kind of listening is mindfulness—in keeping with St. Paul’s admonition for us to have “the mind that was in Christ” (Philippians 2:5).  It is a disposition not only to receive, but also to respond—not only to listen, but also to live.

De Waal writes about this clearly:  “Having heard the word, through whatever channel it may have come…I stop and take  it seriously and then do something about it” (p.43).  This is the listening Benedict has in mind—the kind of listening to which God calls us.

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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