Daily Meditations on the Rule of Saint Benedict: Chapter 63

To be read: April 19, August 19, December 19

Everyone shall keep their rank in order in the monastery according to the time of their entry and as the virtue of their life distinguishes it, or as the Abbot directs. 2The Abbot is not to disorder the flock committed to him, nor by an arbitrary use of his power dispose of anything unjustly. 3He must always bear in mind that he will have to give an account to God for all his judgments and works. 4Therefore, let the brothers approach for the kiss of peace, for Communion, intone the psalms, and stand in choir in the order that the Abbot has established, or as already established among them. 5And in no place whatever let age determine the order or be a disadvantage. 6Remember Samuel and Daniel were mere boys when they judged their elders (cf 1 Sam. 3; Dan 13:44-62). 7Except for the one whom, as we have said before, the Abbot has from higher motives advanced, or for certain reasons has lowered, all the rest shall take their place as they are received. 8For example, let him who came into the monastery at the second hour of the day, know that he is younger than he who came at the first hour, whatever his age or dignity may be. 9Children are to be kept under discipline at all times and by everyone. 10Therefore, let the younger ones honor their elders, and the older love the younger. 11In speaking to each other let no one be allowed to address another simply by his name; 12rather let the older address the younger as brother, and let the younger call his elder, father, by which is implied the reverence due to a father. 13But because the Abbot is believed to hold the place of Christ, let him be called Lord and Abbot, not for any claim on his part, but out of love and reverence for Christ. 14Let him think of this and so show himself worthy of such an honor. 15Wherever the brothers meet, let the younger ask the blessing from the older, 16and when the older passes by, let the younger rise and give him place to sit, and not presume to sit down with him unless his elder bids him to do so, 17that it may be done as it is written: “outdo one another in showing honor” (Rom 12:10). 18Let children and boys take their places in the oratory and at table with all due discipline. 19Outdoors and wherever they may be, they should be supervised and controlled until they reach the age of understanding. 

“Everyone shall keep their rank in order… according to the time of their entry…”  Benedict is once again directing that we are to keep order in the community by maintaining the stability of rank.  The order within the community is not to be according to the worldly standards that we usually associate with social rank, for as Benedict says earlier in the Rule, the way of the  community “should be different from worldly ways” (RB 4:20).  The criteria for ranking the members of the community is not physical age, as one might expect; rather, order is determined by when one has joined the community.  The mindset of spiritual standards has already been well established in the Rule.  And when we follow these precepts given in the Rule of Saint Benedict, the community works in a healthy fashion.  Utilizing this model, every person is heard and every point of view is respected (cf. RB 3).  At the heart of this relationship of rank is mutual respect and care for one another.  There is a clear focus on respect in Benedict’s model.  The younger must respect their elders, even when the elders are not perfect.  But the respect must be mutual.  Benedict says “let the older love the younger”.  This is what one should expect from family life, and from those who are our brothers and sisters in the community of Christ.  In this way, following the example of the first Christian community described in the Acts of the Apostles, the goal is to be of “one in heart and mind” in Christ Jesus, and to live in the unity of the family of God, “having everything in common” (Acts 4:32). 

Order in the community can only be maintained when the Body works as one.  The governing principle is Benedict’s exhortation that “we all bear an equal burden of servitude under one Lord” that all may be one in Christ (cf. RB 2:20).  And of course, Jesus Himself commanded that “whoever would be great among you must be your servant,and whoever would be first among you must be your slave” (Matt. 20:26-28).  This chapter, then, is not touting a new teaching, rather it is taking the teachings from the early chapters and practically applying them.

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