Daily Meditations on the Rule of Saint Benedict: Chapter 62

To be read: April 18, August 18, December 18

If the Abbot desires to have a priest or a deacon ordained, he should select from among his monks one who is worthy to discharge the priestly office. 2But the one who has been ordained should be on his guard against arrogance and pride, 3and he should not attempt to do anything but what is commanded him by the Abbot, knowing that he is now all the more subject to the discipline of the Rule. 4Just because he is now a priest he should not forget the obedience and discipline of the Rule, but must advance more and more in godliness. 5Let him, however, always keep the place which he had when he entered the monastery, 6except when he is engaged in sacred functions, unless the community chooses and the Abbot wishes to promote him in acknowledgment of the merit of his life. 7He must know, however, that he must observe the Rule prescribed for the Deans and the Superiors; 8and if he should do otherwise, let him be judged, not as a priest, but as a rebel. 9If after frequent warnings he does not amend, let the bishop be notified. 10But if even then he does not amend, and his guilt is clearly shown, he is to be removed from the monastery, 11provided his obstinacy is such that he will neither submit nor obey the Rule. 

We have already dealt with the nature of the priestly role as the “servant of the servants of God” in the meditation on chapter 60.  But as was noted in that meditation, “Whether clergy or laity, as Christians we must practice…humility and thus permit ‘the love of Christ to come before all else’ (RB 4:21) in our lives and ministry.”  In this chapter, Benedict states that the one chosen by the abbot to be a priest should be “one who is worthy to discharge the priestly office”.  Thus that person “should be on his guard against arrogance and pride…[and] should not forget the obedience and discipline of the Rule, but must advance more and more in godliness.”  St. Benedict is inviting us, both clergy and laity, to consider what is the nature of personal holiness, and what it means to “advance more and more in godliness”.  This notion of an increase in holiness is basic to the whole concept of the spiritual life outlined in the Rule of St. Benedict.

In the footnotes on this chapter in the RB 1980, it says, “The notion of spiritual progress is basic to the monastic life and is evident in many places in RB.  It is implicit in the idea of a school for the Lord’s service (Prol. 45), in the processu…conversationis et fidei [progress in this way of life and in faith] of Prol. 49 and above all in the climbing image of RB 7, where spiritual progress is equated with progress in humility.”  The promise that Benedict gives us in Prologue 49 is that if we persevere and “progress in this way” then “we shall run on the path of God’s commandments, our hearts overflowing with the inexpressible delight of love.”  What a wonderful image!  We have been enrolled in school, and we will continue to learn as long as we attend school and engage the curriculum provided.

The Christian life is not static.  This concept of advancement in our relationship can be seen in Paul’s second letter to Corinth.  He says, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit (3:18).”  We are being changed!  The process of being changed—of sanctification—is a life-long endeavor.  And it requires stability.  We need the stability of the worshiping community where God has placed us.  We need fidelity to our brothers and sisters in Christ who encourage and support us as we grow.  And we need obedience to the Word and to those whom God has placed in authority over us.  We cannot do it alone.  It truly is about relationship—with God AND with one another in Christ.

And so, Benedict recognized the need for men of holiness to be raised up in the community to encourage and support the members of the community in their advancement in Christ.  These must be “worthy” men who will set the example for others in the school for the Lord’s service.  But these chosen clergymen must be ones who are also personally striving to “advance more and more in godliness”.  We don’t graduate from this school, we continue to advance.

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