The Rule of Saint Benedict
In monastic circles, they tell a little story:
Every morning, at chapter, the abbot gives us a commentary on the gospel of the day. It is beautiful and very spiritual. But it is a pity, because if he commented on the Rule, he would be able from time to time to recall that it is good to arrive at meals on time!
Our aim is to follow Christ, however, we live a very different life from his. But, to be precise, he did not say: “Do as I do!” he said: “Follow me!”
The Rule translates into our everyday life the means we give ourselves to learn to love God and our neighbor. It is not a treatise of the spiritual life, for it is not in reading the Rule that our heart is enlarged, but it is in putting it into practice in the workshop which is the monastery.
This Rule, written 1500 years ago, passes on the fervor of the first monks, hermits in the Egyptian desert, enriched by the first attempts at communal life. It seems to be calm and balanced synthesis. It offers an alternation of prayer, work, and reading, it tempers the rigors of asceticism, it arranges human relationships around the main virtue of humility.It was, however, written for a world very different from our own. Its interpretation has evolved greatly. The Cistercian reform was born from an awareness that these developments, by giving greater range to choral prayer, had ended up by substantially modifying the way of practicing the Rule. In founding the New Monastery, the first Cistercians wanted to rediscover the rectitude of the Rule of Saint Benedict.
Today, it is the abbot who is given charge of interpreting the Rule.
He can only interpret it to the degree that he is himself its servant.