February 07, 2008

What does Saint Benedict teach his monks about Lent?

Chapter 49 of the Rule of Saint Benedict:

Although the monk’s life
the whole year round
should be an observance of Lent,
yet because few have this virtue,
therefore we urge one and all
to keep their lives in total purity
in those days of Lent,
and in these holy days
to atone for what was neglected
at other seasons.
This will be worthily done
if we abstain from all vice,
if we work at prayer with tears,
at reading and compunction of heart,
and at abstinence.
In these days therefore
let us increase somewhat our ordinary round of service:
prayers on one’s own,
abstinence from foods and drink,
so that each one of his own will may offer to God
with the joy of the Holy Spirit
something over and above
the norm required of him.
That is, let him withhold from his body,
some food,
some drink,
some sleep,
some chat,
some ribaldry,
and with the joy of spiritual desire
wait for holy Easter.
But this very thing however
which each is offering,
he shall suggest to his abbot
and do it
with his prayer and goodwill,
because what is done without the permission of the spiritual father
will be lodged to the account
of presumption and vain glory, not of reward.
All things therefore are to be done with the abbot’s goodwill.


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