Esther de Waal writes in reflection on the rule of St. Benedict. The prologue to the Rule presents us with the image of God in the marketplace “is there anyone who yearns for life and desires to see good days?” Mind, Body and Spirit is in effect what the rule reflects. An holistic view of life, with the goal of Christian life as in the title of Thomas Merton’s book – becoming who you are.
The rule wasn’t original to Benedict, the first of its kind, not a definitive guide for christian community living, but it can be continually re-forming as it brings together the ‘rhythmic alternation which governs the whole of life’.
That the mind is to be active in learning, the body active in work and the spirit connected to God, sisters and brothers in community, those monastic, or otherwise. Chapters are devoted to the right outworking of community, knowing ourselves and our weaknesses and our propensity for failure, not because we need censure, but because each of us are deeply loved and particularly in the Benedictine way, ‘accepted, received’ for who we are. Being in community is to offer the self up to the other and to God.
We are challenged in our “daily, weekly, yearly pattern of life, inextricably bound up in the alternation of day and night, of the ebb and flow of the seasons, the changing shape of the liturgical year. This way of life brings us into touch with the rhythm inherent in all things, in the holding together of the contradiction of growth and decline, of light and dark, of dying and rising again.” My own community, has a somewhat simpler written rule of life, no less challenging in its outworking of the common life. It can be reflected in the following.
Work and Worship. Prayer and Politics. Sacred and Secular.
Work and Worship. Because all that we do ought to give worth to God, rather than distinct times set apart where we behave and act differently. Our time of worship is sunrise to sunset, more properly from birth until death, the hours of prayer refocusing us when our practical tasks take us far from the common life.
Prayer and Politics. Because to pray is to engage the heart and soul with a situation to enable our better outworking of community life rather than to pass on a list of requests to an elusive benefactor. Our prayers enable us to listen closely to God caught up in the reality of daily living and to respond in faith.
Sacred and Secular. Because all of life is caught up in the general dance and there is no place that is not deeply loved by God, there is no-where that God has not set apart for a purpose. Even when our actions stray from the path of those purposes, still in all things and through all things comes the divine image, though we might struggle to find it. In all of this we are asked to walk besides our neighbour whoever that might be that the journey might reflect the kingdom.
Take off your shoes and walk a mile in mine.
Walk in step unknowing beside our companions.
Walk slowly alongside those we nurture
Walk with an offer of hospitality and sanctuary to those we meet.
Walk with the inspiration to take a lighter journey
Walk with joy in every season.
Walk on a wide path with those we meet but rarely.
Walk on to catch but a glimpse of those far off.
Walk with kindred spirits from other islands.
Walk with souls connected at the deep down.
Walk on with a shared past, a story of struggle or pain.
Walk offering gifts, or a generous word.
Walk with a conversation picked up from the last journey.
Walk with poets whose words become our path.
Walk with a protest on our lips and a banner in our heart.
Walk with those who hold us in prayer, with those for whom we must pray.
Walk with those who offer us a new challenge
Walk close to those who are a challenge and those who find us the same.
Walk with a shared chance encounter.
Walk with those who sing,
Walk gently with those who we wish would not sing.
Walk as artists gathering the colours of nature
Walk with those we have carried and allow them to carry us in their turn.
Walk with the gentle ones, and those who could learn to be gentle
Walk with a vision to go further than we can go
Walk, lives connected, weaving in and out
On a woven path with the friends of friends of friends
Walk with those who make us laugh at ourselves
Walk in the company of strangers who at journeys end become friends.
Walk with those whose words will carry us until our walking days are done.