Daily Meditations on the Rule of Saint Benedict: Chapter 53:1-15

To be read: April 4, August 4, December 4

Let all guests who arrive be received as Christ, because He will say, “I was a stranger and you welcomed Me”(Mt 25:35). 2And let appropriate honor be shown to all, “especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Gal 6:10) and to wayfarers. 3When a guest is announced, let him be met by the Superior and the brethren with every mark of love. 4First they are to pray together, and let them be united in peace. 5This kiss of peace, though, should not be given before a prayer has been said, because satan seeks to deceive. 6In the greeting let all humility be shown to the guests, whether coming or going. 7Let Christ be adored in them, with head bowed or the whole body prostrate on the ground, because He is also received in them. 8When the guests have been received, they should be invited to prayer, and after that the Superior, or whom he shall bid, will sit with them. 9The divine law is to be read to the guest so that he may be edified, and after that every kindness should be shown to him. 10The fast may be broken by the Superior in deference to the guest, unless it is a day of solemn fast, which cannot be broken. 11The brothers, however, keep the customary fast. 12The Abbot should pour water on the guest’s hands, 13and both the Abbot and the whole community wash the feet of all the guests. 14When they have been washed, the guests say this verse: “We have received Your mercy, O God, in the midst of Your temple”(Ps 47[48]:10). 15Great care must be taken, especially in the reception of the poor and travelers, because Christ is received more particularly in them; whereas our regard for the wealthy assures them of respect. 

The Rule of St. Benedict is an inspired document. The Holy Spirit obviously had His hand in its composition.  At the same time the Rule’s organization and many of its chapters are characterized by a response to issues facing a growing cenobitic Christian community.  Thus it is that chapters 53-63, which cover some household rules for the monastic community, may appear disparate but are bound together by the inspired theme which permeates the entire Rule: the Imago Christi—the “Image of Christ”.  Seeing Christ in the monastic guest, practicing humility before Abbot and brothers, and denying all for the sake of Christ, all point to the desire to be recreated in the image of Christ. This theme resonates throughout the Rule (cf. RB 72:11; RB 4:21; and meditations on chs. 2-3; chs. 35-42), and it underlies each of the eleven chapters we begin reading today.

Benedict begins this chapter with this exhortation:  “Let all guests who arrive be received as Christ…” In the early years of our parish, when we moved to our second location, Smoky Joe, a homeless man who lived under a lean-to behind the convenience store a half block from our church, would come to our services and sit on the steps to the parish hall at the back of the nave.  He was seldom washed and often reeked of alcohol.  One Sunday a parishioner was trying to comfort and quiet her infant daughter by pacing back and forth behind the last pews. Smoky Joe commented how beautiful the baby was.  The mother asked if he would like to hold her.  Joe was flabbergasted and protested, but she held the baby out to him and he took her in his arms.  Tears began to run down his cheeks.  The next Sunday Smoky Joe showed up for church washed and in clean clothes.  I asked him about the change, and he said to me, “I wasn’t sure you were serious that you welcomed me.  Now I know.”  Benedict says, “let appropriate honor be shown to all”—not just the clean and polished, but to all.  “Let Christ be adored in them…because He is also received in them.”  When we look at the guests who come in through the door of the church do we see the Imago Christi?  How do we greet them?  You can set the example.

One thought on “Daily Meditations on the Rule of Saint Benedict: Chapter 53:1-15

  1. It continues to amaze me how Abba always picks the perfect ministry entry for me to read when I have been negligent in following your postings.
    This one touched me deeply… both the rule and the application. May I learn how to truly receive those who come to our studies as I would receive Christ. Or, as St. Benedict put it, “Let Christ be adored in them…because He is also received in them.”

    Like

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