In The Rule of St. Benedict it is written of the Monks that all of their life is meant to be lived as one continual Lent. But, that during the actual Season of Lent, an additional Practice is to be taken on. St. Benedict recommends nothing too difficult. Maybe an extra Book that the monk should read, cover to cover, omitting nothing and not skipping over any chapters because of one’s personal inclinations. In other words, if you’re bored with it, too bad! I say that with a smile, having recognized myself more than once in that passage. Why would that seem so important to St. Benedict, anyway? Maybe he had his reasons for the monks of that 6th Century. But, does that still have relevance for us, today?
I say an emphatic, YES it does! Reading a Book according to this instruction makes of the Book an acceptable Lenten offering to God. And, its prayerful reading, an acceptable Spiritual Practice. To read in this particular way requires a spirit of attention. A focused and vigilant effort to remain with the words of one page at a time. Patience. An open heart to receive what the message behind the words has to offer. A slow and measured reading also takes longer. It requires a certain commitment of one’s time. Likewise, it insures one’s self-will is not to be fed by denying the monk the opportunity to read only the chapters he personally prefers.
When I first read the Rule of St. Benedict many years ago, this part of Rule would have gone right over my head. I would simply have skipped it and wouldn’t even have looked back. My head would have recorded it as “Read an Extra Book for Lent”. And I would have done so, without any understanding of how it could matter on any other than the superficial level I had relegated it to. But, Today?!
Thanks be to God, Today…. I Prayerfully select a Book. Place it on my Altar. Make my Spiritual intention. Then, offer it to God with maybe a lighted candle or some incense to represent my intention. And when Lent begins, I read the words of every page, mindfully…prayerfully. I stop every so often to rest in silence. And then I go on. After 40 days, if I have remained faithful to the instruction of St. Benedict, I may actually have been blessed to have received a glimpse into Benedictine Humility. God be Praised! AMEN