Daily Meditations on the Rule of Saint Benedict: Prologue 22-34

To be read: January 5, May 5, September 5

If we desire to dwell in the tabernacle of His kingdom, we cannot reach it in any way, unless we run there by doing good deeds. 23But let us ask the Lord with the Prophet, saying to Him: “Lord, who shall dwell in Thy tabernacle, or who shall rest on Thy holy hill” (Ps 14[15]:1)24After this question, brothers, let us listen to the Lord’s answer as He shows us the way to this tabernacle. 25“He who walks blamelessly, and does what is right; 26who speaks truth from his heart; who does not slander with his tongue, 27nor does evil to his friend, nor takes up a reproach against his neighbor” (Ps 14[15]:2-3). 28He has brought to nothing the foul demon tempting him, casting him out of his heart, and has taken his evil thoughts while they were yet new and dashed them against Christ (cf Ps 14[15]:4; Ps 136[137]:9). 29These people, fearing the Lord, are not puffed up by their goodness of life, rather holding that any actual good which is in them cannot be done by themselves, but by the Lord. 30They praise the Lord working in them (cf Ps 14[15]:4), and say with the Prophet: “Not to us, O Lord, not to us; but to Thy name give glory” (Ps 113[115:1]:9). 31Thus, in the same way, the Apostle Paul has not taken credit for his preaching, saying: “By the grace of God, I am what I am” (1 Cor 15:10). 32And again he says: “He who boasts, let him boast in the Lord” (2 Cor 10:17). 33Hence, the Lord also says in the Gospel: “He who hears these words of Mine and does them, is like a wise man who built his house upon a rock; 34the floods came, the winds blew, and they beat upon that house, but it did not fall, for it was founded upon the rock” (Mt 7:24-25)

The prologue to John’s Gospel tells us that Jesus came and “made His tabernacle with us” (John 1:14).  The tent of His Kingdom has been pitched in our world, because God so loved us that He sent His Son to dwell with us in order that we might dwell eternally with Him.  To “dwell in the tabernacle of His Kingdom” is to dwell in Christ Himself.  And according to the first verse of this section of the Rule, “we cannot reach it in any way, unless we run there by doing good deeds.”  Jesus says that the Holy Spirit “dwells with you and will be in you” (John 14:17).  And Paul reiterates this in Romans 8:9 saying, “the Spirit of God dwells in you.”  And in 1 Cor. 3:16, “Do you not know that you are God’s tabernacle and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?”  So, if the Father sent the Son to make His dwelling with us, and His Holy Spirit dwells in us, and it was the Father’s good pleasure to give us the Kingdom (Luke 12:32), then why does Benedict exhort us to “run there by doing good deeds”?

Throughout the history of the Church the question of the place of good works has fluctuated in importance and focus.  Pelagianism is the most prominent heresy associated with works righteousness, and many Protestant theologians err on the side of “faith only, without works”.  Sadly, the question of works can be a dividing wall between denominations.  The fact of the matter is that the same Spirit Who dwells in us is the One Who is doing the good works through us.  The Psalmist reminds us (16:2) that we have no good apart from God.  Therefore, any good works we do originate in the heart of God, not in us.  For us to run to the Kingdom is to actively seek relationship with God’s Holy Spirit, manifesting that relationship in our attitude and works for His Kingdom.  

Benedict goes on in the next five verses of this section to detail the good works expected of us, utilizing the words of the Psalmist in Psalm 15.  Then verses 28-34 put the entirety in the context of the Lord’s power and authority.  It is only by Christ’s authority that the evil one is overcome and temptations thwarted.  The fear of the Lord is the weapon to combat pride.  Praise exalts the Lord, that His Name alone, and not our own, may be glorified.  It is by grace—and grace alone—that we recognize God’s gift and are thereby empowered to minister through good works in His Name.  Our boasting can therefore be only in the Lord, not any works of our own.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s