The Rule of Saint Benedict: Prologue

Carisma 14

 

The Prologue of the Rule of St. Benedict introduces the main principles of religious and spiritual life. The language used is careful and friendly, sounding like a loving father welcoming and advising his sons: "He has already included us as his sons, and therefore we should never grieve him by our evil actions" (line 5). In this introduction we read about some of the key concepts to the Rule: obedience ("we have asked the Lord who will dwell in his home, we have heard the instructions for dwelling in it [...] We must, then, prepare our hearts and bodies for the battle of holy obedience to his instructions", line 39-40), the importance of prayer and fixing our humanly faults ("the Lord waits for us daily to translate into action his holy teachings. Therefore our life has been lengthened, so that we may amend our faults", lines 35-36), avoiding evil and temptation ("If you desire true and eternal life, keep your tongue free from vicious talk and your lips from all deceit; distance yourself from evil and do good", line 17), and the renouncement of one's personal will in order to gain wisdom and virtue ("if you are ready to give up your own will, once and for all, and armed with the strong and noble weapons of obedience to do battle for the true King, Christ the Lord", line 3). The prologue is therefore an invitation to the sacred path to salvation, "Listen carefully, my son, to the master's instructions, and attend to them with the ear of your heart. This is the advice from a father who loves you; welcome it, and faithfully put it into practice" (line 1). It concludes by saying that those who follow these instructions are assured that by "faithfully observing His doctrine in the monastery with perseverance until death, we shall share in the sufferings of Christ, so that we may deserve also to share in his kingdom" (line 50).

Prologue (50 lines total):
1. Listen carefully, my son, to the master's instructions, and attend to them with the ear of your heart. This is the advice from a father who loves you; welcome it, and faithfully put it into practice.
2. The labor of obedience will bring you back to him from whom you had drifted through the sloth of disobedience.
3. This message of mine is for you, then, if you are ready to give up your own will, once and for all, and armed with the strong and noble weapons of obedience to do battle for the true King, Christ the Lord.
4. First of all, remember that every good work you undertake, you must pray to him most earnestly to bring it to perfection,
5. Because He has already included us as his sons, and therefore we should never grieve him by our evil actions.
6. With his good gifts which he has given to us so that we may serve him so faithfully, we must obey him at all times that he may never become the angry father who disowns his sons,
7. Nor the Lord, enraged by our sins, who punishes us forever as worthless servants for refusing to follow Him to glory.
8. Let us rise up then, at long last, for the Scriptures awakened us when they say: "It is high time for us to arise from sleep",
9. And let us open our eyes to the divine light, and listen with attentive ears to the cautionary voice of God that every day tells us:
10. "If you hear His voice today, do not harden your hearts ,
11. Who has ears to listen, listen to what the Holy Spirit says to the Church."
12. And what does it say? "Come and listen to me, sons: I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
13. Run while you have the light of life, that the darkness of death may not overtake you."
14. And because, among the crowd of men to whom this cry is addressed, the Lord is searching for his workers, the Lord again says:
15. "Who here is the man who yearns for life and desires to see good days?"
16. If you hearing this, you respond "I do," God then directs these words to you:
17. "If you desire true and eternal life, keep your tongue free from vicious talk and your lips from all deceit; distance yourself from evil and do good; search for peace and follow it."
18. And when you have done this, my eyes will be upon you, and my ears will be ready for your prayers, and even before you ask me, I will say to you: "Here I am."
19. What is sweeter, dear brothers, than this voice of the Lord calling to us?
20. Here in his fatherly goodness the Lord shows us the way of life.
21. Clothed then with faith and the performance of good works, let us set out on this way, with the Gospel for our guide, that we may deserve to see Him who has called us to His kingdom.
22. If we wish to dwell in the home of this kingdom, we will never arrive unless we run there by doing good deeds.
23. Let us ask the Lord with the Prophet: "Who will dwell in your home, O Lord; who will find rest upon your holy mountain?"
24. After this question, brothers, let us listen well to what the Lord says in reply, for He shows us the way to Him, saying:
25. "He who walks without blemish and is just in all his dealings;
26. He who speaks the truth from his heart and has not practiced deceit with his tongue;
27. He who has not wronged a fellow man in any way; he who has not listened to slanders against his neighbor"
28. He has foiled the evil one, the devil, at every turn, flinging both him and his temptations far from the sight of his heart, and when these temptations were born, he caught hold of them and destroyed them in Christ;
29. Those people for fear of the Lord do not become elated over their good deeds, they judge it is the Lord's power, not their own, that brings about the good in them,
30. And for this reason they praise the Lord working in them, and say with the Prophet: "Not to us, Lord, not to us, but to your name alone give the glory."
31. In this way Paul the Apostle also refused to take credit for the power of his preaching. He declared: "By God's grace I am what I am";
32. And again he declared: "Let he who glories, glory in the Lord".
33. That is why the Lord says in the Gospel: "Whoever hears these words of mine and puts them in practice, is like a wise man who built his house upon rock:
34. The floods came, the winds blew, and beat against the house, but it did not fall because it was founded on rock."
35. With this conclusion, the Lord waits for us daily to translate into action his holy teachings.
36. Therefore our life has been lengthened, so that we may amend our faults.
37. As the Apostle says: "Do you not know that the patience of God is leading you to repent?"
38. And indeed the merciful Lord tells us: "I do not wish the death of a sinner, but that he turn back to me and live."
39. When, oh brothers, Brothers, we have asked the Lord who will dwell in his home, we have heard the instructions for dwelling in it, but only if we fulfill the obligations of those who desire to dwell there.
40. We must, then, prepare our hearts and bodies for the battle of holy obedience to his instructions.
41. And what it not possible in us by our nature, and that nature cannot lend us, let us ask the Lord to supply by the help of His grace.
42. If we wish to avoid the torments of hell and reach eternal life,
43. While there is still time, while we are in this body and have the possibility to accomplish all these things by the light of life,
44. We must today run and do now what will benefit us forever.
45. Therefore we must establish a school for the Lord's service.
46. In drawing it up, we hope to set down nothing harsh, nothing burdensome.
47. But if something a little difficult, suggested by a reasonable balance, may be introduced in order to amend faults and to safeguard charity,
48. Do not be daunted immediately by fear and run away from the road that leads to salvation. It is bound to be narrow at the onset.
49. But as we advance in the monastic virtue and in faith, the heart expands, and we will run the path of God's commandments in the inexpressible sweetness of love.
50. So never departing from the teachings of God, and faithfully observing his doctrine in the monastery with perseverance until death, we shall share in the sufferings of Christ, so that we may deserve also to share in his kingdom. Amen.