Esther de Waal brings us to the heart of the matter—the revelation that the Rule of Benedict is fundamentally a “way of love” (p. 44). In Chapter 4:21 Benedict says it simply: “the love of Christ must come before all else.”
When obedience is genuine, not coerced, it is always an act of love. The one asking for our obedience does so out of love for us, and we respond obediently out of love for the one asking us to obey. The Rule is a Lover-Beloved relationship.
It is Love which defines the path, and it is Love which keeps us on it. Moreover, it is Love which alone has the power to bring us back on the path when we stray from it. From start to finish, the life of discipleship is the life of love.
That’s why our predecessors in the faith spoke of Christian perfection as “perfection in love.” They believed that the more complete our love for God could be (Whose love for us is already complete), the more genuinely and powerfully we would experience the life of God in our souls. So, the pursuit of God has always been interpreted as a pursuit of love.
The Rule of Benedict simply describes a way of life that will cultivate a greater receptivity to God’s love and a greater response to that love. As we have shown previously, it is nothing more than a document that intends to help those who follow it to fulfill the two great commandments.