Sermon: Benedict of Nursia

Saint Benedict Detail from a fresco by Fra Angelico
Benedict of Nursia, who we celebrate today, was the Benedict who is essentially responsible for monasticism as we know.  It was around the year 540 that he wrote his “Rule”.. what we now know as the Rule of St. Benedict.  The fact that this rule is still used today by the Benedictine monks speaks clearly to its significance.  In the opening three verses of the Rule, Benedict writes…
Listen carefully, my child,
to your master’s precepts,
and incline the ear of your heart
Receive willingly and carry out effectively
your loving father’s advice,
that by the labor of obedience
you may return to Him
from whom you had departed by the sloth of disobedience.
In those opening verses, Benedict establishes the purpose of the Rule, “Receive your loving Father’s advice.”  The Rule is based in love and it’s purpose is to assist its adherents in having a loving relationship with God and one another.  He accomplishes this by prescribing a daily rhythm of life, based in prayer, study and work.
Today, we may consider this Rule to be a bit antiquated and not applicable to our own lives.  We are not cloistered away in a monastery, but instead live in the world, in the middle of all the hubbub that Benedict was attempting to escape.  Yet, a closer look at the Rule demonstrates to us that even a minor and seemingly irrelevant point made to the life of a monk can be viewed from a spiritual perspective and speak to us the things of God.  Take for example “Chapter 22: How the Monks should Sleep”.  It speaks of cots.. how many to a room.. that a candle should burn all night.. and so on.  There is also a fun little sentence in the middle of the Chapter – keep in mind that most of these chapters are less than a page long – but the line states, “They should sleep clothed, girt with girdles or cords, but not with their knives at their sides as they sleep, for fear that a brother should be wounded while asleep.”
Personally, I’m not in the habit of sleeping with a knife in the bed with me… yet, what if we consider this passage from a spiritual perspective: What if the knife is not a physical item, but something that can bring us harm spiritually.. and what if going to sleep with that “sin” in our heart can do us damage?  Anything come to mind?  How about this: 
Ephesians 4:25-27 – “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. ‘In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.”
In this case, Benedict’s knife is our anger and just as a knife can bring us physical harm, our anger can bring us spiritual harm, allowing the devil a foothold in our souls.  The Rule can be read from a practical perspective for a monk, but also from a spiritual perspective for those of us in the world.
Today we celebrate Benedict of Nursia and I commend his Rule to you as a means of spiritual growth and understanding of how not only the monks, but all of us can live a life based in love for God and our neighbor.

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