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251.: The Rule of St. Benedict. About 530. - Oliver J. Thatcher, A Source Book for Mediaeval History. Selected Documents Illustrating the History of Europe in the Middle Age 
A Source Book for Mediaeval History. Selected Documents Illustrating the History of Europe in the Middle Age, ed. Oliver J. Thatcher and Edgar Holmes McNeal (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1905).
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The Rule of St. Benedict. About 530.
Monasticism arose in Egypt and western Asia, where the climate was such that those who lived out-of-doors suffered very little from the inclemency of the weather. The first monks were true hermits, each one living quite alone. Very little shelter was necessary; a tree, an overhanging rock, a small cave, would offer quite enough protection against the weather. But as the movement spread to countries where there was more rain and the winters were colder their manner of life was necessarily modified. They began to live together in houses, but at the same time attempted to preserve as much of the hermit life as possible. Although under the same roof, the monks avoided life in common. Each one had his own room or cell, prepared his own food, and was as far as possible separated from his fellow monks. But the mere fact that they lived under one roof made certain rules necessary, and they had to have regulations to protect themselves against impostors. And if they had rules, there must be some one to enforce them. So in a natural way every monastery came to have an organization and certain officials. Since each monastery had its own regulations or rule, there was the widest divergence among them. By making a rule which was eventually adopted in all Greek monasteries, Basil the Great (d. 379) brought about uniformity without introducing any important changes.
Monasticism was introduced into the west toward the middle of the fourth century and spread rapidly. Here, too, each monastery made its own rule. Some of these rules achieved a local reputation and were adopted by several monasteries. But they were all eventually superseded by the rule of St. Benedict, which by fortunate circumstances came to be regarded in the west as the only proper monastic rule.
The loose organization of the monasteries had permitted many abuses to creep in (cf. ch. 1). The rule of St. Benedict was intended to correct these. Probably the worst of these abuses was the instability of the monks. This was due to the fact that they were not compelled to take a vow to remain in the monastery. Neither were their vows regarded as perpetually binding, or at least there was no means of compelling them to keep their vows, or of punishing them if they broke them. If any monk grew tired of the monastic life or found it irksome, he might leave the monastery and either enter another, or lead a vagabond sort of existence by wandering from one place to another (cf. ch. 1). In this way he could escape all the rigors of the rule and free himself from all discipline. It was not uncommon for monks to leave the monastery and go back to a life in the world. St. Benedict put an end to these abuses by requiring each monk to take a vow to remain forever in the same monastery, and by making all the vows of a monk perpetually binding: “Once a monk always a monk.”
An important change was made in monasticism in the west by introducing the common life. In consequence of this all traces of the hermit life disappeared. The monks slept in a common room and ate in a common refectory. The monk spent all his time in the company of his fellow monks. Privacy was entirely unknown to him.
The rule of St. Benedict owes its popularity chiefly to the fact that Gregory I (590-604) was a Benedictine monk and gave the rule his support. St. Augustine, whom he sent as a missionary to England, was also a Benedictine, and carried the rule with him. So it was quite natural that it should have been the rule of all monasteries in England. St. Boniface, an Englishman, considered it a part of his reform to introduce the Benedictine rule into all the monasteries of Germany. Its fame and success soon led to its adoption in all the monasteries of the west.
The rule is worthy of careful study because for several centuries it governed the lives of thousands of monks who, by their piety, their works of charity in caring for the sick and giving shelter to travellers, their learning, their industry, their practice of agriculture, architecture, and other industrial and fine arts, influenced the lives of millions of laymen and advanced them in civilization. The student should note: (1) The extensive acquaintance of the monks with the Bible as shown in the large number of quotations from it and the amount of it which must be read by them in their services; (2) the character of an ideal abbot; (3) an ideal monk and the good works and virtues which he was required to practise (cf. chaps. 4, 5, and 6); (4) the administration of the monastery, which was characterized by a judicious mixture of democratic and monarchical principles, and a high degree of flexibility, so many things being left to the judgment of the abbot; (5) the amount of time devoted to work, reading, and meditation; and (6) the fact that the majority of monks were laymen and not priests.
The first edition of the rule was written probably about 530. But it received some additions and changes were made in it by Benedict himself before his death, which took place in 543, or soon after. The exact date of his death is unknown. The rule was the basis for all the reforms in monasticism for several centuries. The new orders which were founded for the most part merely increased its ascetic features and made additions which were calculated to keep the monks up to the high standard of asceticism set for them.
The great influence of the rule of St. Benedict seemed to justify us in offering the whole of it. No other document presents so well as it the ideals of the monkish life. The documents which follow it illustrate some of the forms and ceremonies spoken of in the rule, the rise of the military-monkish orders and their extensive privileges, the founding of one of the great orders of friars, and the opposition to them on the part of the parish or secular clergy. A few documents are also given which throw a certain side-light on the history of the orders.
Ch. 1.The kinds of monks.—There are four kinds of monks. The first kind is that of the cenobites [that is, those living in common], those who live in a monastery according to a rule, and under the government of an abbot. The second is that of the anchorites, or hermits, who have learned how to conduct the war against the devil by their long service in the monastery and their association with many brothers, and so, being well trained, have separated themselves from the troop, in order to wage single combat, being able with the aid of God to carry on the fight alone against the sins of the flesh. The third kind (and a most abominable kind it is) is that of the sarabites, who have not been tested and proved by obedience to the rule and by the teaching of experience, as gold is tried in the furnace, and so are soft and pliable like a base metal; who in assuming the tonsure are false to God, because they still serve the world in their lives. They do not congregate in the Master’s fold, but dwell apart without a shepherd, by twos and threes, or even alone. Their law is their own desires, since they call that holy which they like, and that unlawful which they do not like. The fourth kind is composed of those who are called gyrovagi (wanderers), who spend their whole lives wandering about through different regions and living three or four days at a time in the cells of different monks. They are always wandering about and never remain long in one place, and they are governed by their own appetites and desires. They are in every way worse even than the sarabites. But it is better to pass over in silence than to mention their manner of life. Let us, therefore, leaving these aside, proceed, with the aid of God, to the consideration of the cenobites, the highest type of monks.
Ch. 2.The qualities necessary for an abbot.—The abbot who is worthy to rule over a monastery ought always to bear in mind by what name he is called and to justify by his life his title of superior. For he represents Christ in the monastery, receiving his name from the saying of the apostle: “Ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father” [Rom. 8:15]. Therefore the abbot should not teach or command anything contrary to the precepts of the Lord, but his commands and his teaching should be in accord with divine justice. He should always bear in mind that both his teaching and the obedience of his disciples will be inquired into on the dread day of judgment. For the abbot should know that the shepherd will have to bear the blame if the Master finds anything wrong with the flock. Only in case the shepherd has displayed all diligence and care in correcting the fault of a restive and disobedient flock will he be freed from blame at the judgment of God, and be able to say to the Lord in the words of the prophet: “I have not hid thy righteousness within my heart; I have declared thy faithfulness and thy salvation” [Ps. 40:10]; but “they despising have scorned me” [Ezek. 20:27]. Then shall the punishment fall upon the flock who scorned his care and it shall be the punishment of death. The abbot ought to follow two methods in governing his disciples: teaching the commandments of the Lord to the apt disciples by his words, and to the obdurate and the simple by his deeds. And when he teaches his disciples that certain things are wrong, he should demonstrate it in his own life by not doing those things, lest when he has preached to others he himself should be a castaway [1 Cor. 9:27], and lest God should sometime say to him, a sinner: “What hast thou to do to declare my statutes, or that thou shouldest take my covenant in thy mouth? Seeing that thou hatest instruction, and castest my words behind thee” [Ps. 50:16, 17], or “Why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?” [Matt. 7:3]. Let there be no respect of persons in the monastery. Let the abbot not love one more than another, unless it be one who excels in good works and in obedience. The freeman is not to be preferred to the one who comes into the monastery out of servitude, unless there be some other good reason. But if it seems right and fitting to the abbot, let him show preference to anyone of any rank whatsoever; otherwise let them keep their own places. For whether slave or free, we are all one in Christ [Gal. 3:28] and bear the same yoke of servitude to the one Lord, for there is no respect of persons with God [Rom. 2:11]. For we have special favor in His sight only in so far as we excel others in all good works and in humility. Therefore, the abbot should have the same love toward all and should subject all to the same discipline according to their respective merits. In his discipline the abbot should follow the rule of the apostle who says: “Reprove, rebuke, exhort” [2 Tim. 4:2]. That is, he should suit his methods to the occasion, using either threats or compliments, showing himself either a hard master or a loving father, according to the needs of the case. Thus he should reprove harshly the obdurate and the disobedient, but the obedient, the meek, and the gentle he should exhort to grow in grace. We advise also that he rebuke and punish those who neglect and scorn his teaching. He should not disregard the transgressions of sinners, but should strive to root them out as soon as they appear, remembering the peril of Eli, the priest of Siloam [1 Sam. chaps. 1-4]. Let him correct the more worthy and intelligent with words for the first or second time, but the wicked and hardened and scornful and disobedient he should punish with blows in the very beginning of their fault, as it is written: “A fool is not bettered by words” [cf. Prov. 17:10]; and again “Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell” [Prov. 23:14].
The abbot should always remember his office and his title, and should realize that as much is intrusted to him, so also much will be required from him. Let him realize how difficult and arduous a task he has undertaken, to rule the hearts and care for the morals of many persons, who require, one encouragements, another threats, and another persuasion. Let him so adapt his methods to the disposition and intelligence of each one that he may not only preserve the flock committed to him entire and free from harm, but may even rejoice in its increase.
Above all, the abbot should not be too zealous in the acquisition of earthly, transitory, mortal goods, forgetting and neglecting the care of the souls committed to his charge, but he should always remember that he has undertaken the government of souls of whose welfare he must render account. Let him not be troubled about the poverty of his monastery, since it is written: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” [Matt. 6:33]; and again, “For there is no want to them that fear him” [Ps. 34:9]. Let him know that those who undertake the care of souls must be ready to render an account of them. So he must make a reckoning to God on the day of judgment for all the souls according to the number of the brothers under his charge, and of his own soul as well. Therefore, while he keeps in mind the account which he must render of the sheep committed to him, and guards the interests of others, he is also solicitous for his own welfare; and while he administers correction to others by his preaching, he also frees himself from sin.
Ch. 3.Taking counsel with the brethren.—Whenever important matters come up in the monastery, the abbot should call together the whole congregation [that is, all the monks], and tell them what is under consideration. After hearing the advice of the brothers, he should reflect upon it and then do what seems best to him. We advise the calling of the whole congregation, because the Lord often reveals what is best to one of the younger brothers. But let the brethren give their advice with all humility, and not defend their opinions too boldly; rather let them leave it to the decision of the abbot, and all obey him. But while the disciples ought to obey the master, he on his part ought to manage all things justly and wisely. Let everyone in the monastery obey the rule in all things, and let no one depart from it to follow the desires of his own heart. Let no one of the brethren presume to dispute the authority of the abbot, either within or without the monastery; if anyone does so, let him be subjected to the discipline prescribed in the rule. But the abbot should do all things in the fear of the Lord, knowing that he must surely render account to God, the righteous judge, for all his decisions. If matters of minor importance are to be considered, concerning the welfare of the monastery, let the abbot take counsel with the older brethren, as it is written: “Do all things with counsel, and after it is done thou wilt not repent” [Ecclesiasticus 32:24].
Ch. 4.The instruments of good works.—First, to love the Lord God with all the heart, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and then his neighbor as himself. Then not to kill, not to commit adultery, not to steal, not to covet, not to bear false witness, to honor all men, and not to do to another what he would not have another do to him. To deny himself that he may follow Christ, to chasten the body, to renounce luxuries, to love fasting. To feed the poor, to clothe the naked, to visit the sick, to bury the dead, to offer help in trouble, to comfort the sorrowing. To separate himself from the things of the world, to prefer nothing above the love of Christ, not to give way to anger, not to bear any grudge, not to harbor deceit in the heart, not to give false peace, not to be wanting in charity. Not to swear, lest he perjure himself; to speak the truth from the heart. Not to return evil for evil. Not to injure others, but to suffer injuries patiently. To love his enemies. Not to return curse for curse, but rather to bless; to suffer persecution for righteousness’ sake. Not to be proud, nor drunken, nor a glutton, nor given to much sleeping, nor slothful, nor complaining, nor slanderous. To put his hope in God; when he sees anything good in himself to ascribe it to God, and when he does any evil, to ascribe it to himself. To fear the day of judgment, to be in terror of hell, to yearn with all spiritual longing for eternal life, and to keep ever before his eyes the thought of approaching death. To guard his acts in every hour of his life, to remember that God seeth him in every place, to crush down with the aid of Christ the evil thoughts arising in his heart and to confess them to his spiritual superior. To keep his mouth from evil and vain talk, not to love much speaking, not to speak vain and frivolous words, not to love much and loud laughter. To listen gladly to holy reading, to pray frequently, to confess daily in prayers to God his past sins with tears and groaning, and to keep himself free from those sins afterward. Not to yield to the desire of the flesh, to hate his own will, to obey the commands of the abbot in all things, even if the abbot (which God forbid) should himself do otherwise than he preaches, remembering the word of the Lord: “What they say, do; but what they do, do ye not.” Not to wish to be called holy before he is so, but rather to strive to be holy that he may be truly so called; to obey the commandments of God in his daily life, to love chastity, to hate no one, not to be jealous or envious, not to be fond of strife, to avoid pride, to reverence his elders and cherish those younger than himself, to pray for his enemies through the love of Christ, to agree with his adversary before the going down of the sun, and never to despair of the mercy of God.
Lo, these are the implements of the spiritual profession. If they have been constantly employed by us night and day, and are reckoned up and placed to our credit at the last judgment, we shall receive that reward which the Lord himself has promised: “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” [1 Cor. 2:9]. But these graces must be exercised in the cloister of the monastery by strict adherence to the vows and obedience to the rule.
Ch. 5.Obedience.—The first grade of humility is obedience without delay, which is becoming to those who hold nothing dearer than Christ. So, when one of the monks receives a command from a superior, he should obey it immediately, as if it came from God himself, being impelled thereto by the holy service he has professed and by the fear of hell and the desire of eternal life. Of such the Lord says: “As soon as he heard of me, he obeyed me” [Ps. 17:44]; and again to the apostles, “He that heareth you, heareth me” [Luke 10:16]. Such disciples, when they are commanded, immediately abandon their own business and their own plans, leaving undone what they were at work upon. With ready hands and willing feet they hasten to obey the commands of their superior, their act following on the heels of his command, and both the order and the fulfilment occurring, as it were, in the same moment of time—such promptness does the fear of the Lord inspire.
Good disciples who are inspired by the desire for eternal life gladly take up that narrow way of which the Lord said: “Narrow is the way which leadeth unto life” [Matt. 7:14]. They have no wish to control their own lives or to obey their own will and desires, but prefer to be ruled by an abbot, and to live in a monastery, accepting the guidance and control of another. Surely such disciples follow the example of the Lord who said: “I came not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me” [John 6:38]. But this obedience will be acceptable to God and pleasing to men only if it be not given fearfully, or half-heartedly, or slowly, or with grumbling and protests. For the obedience which is given to a superior is given to God, as he himself has said: “Who heareth you, heareth me” [Luke 10:16]. Disciples ought to obey with glad hearts, “for the Lord loveth a cheerful giver” [2 Cor. 9:7]. If the disciple obeys grudgingly and complains even within his own heart, his obedience will not be accepted by God, who sees his unwilling heart; he will gain no favor for works done in that spirit, but, unless he does penance and mends his ways, he will rather receive the punishment of those that murmur against the Lord’s commands.
Ch. 6.Silence.—Let us do as the prophet says: “I said, I will take heed to my ways that I sin not with my tongue; I will keep my tongue with a bridle. I was dumb with silence, I held my peace even from good” [Ps. 39:1, 2]. This is the meaning of the prophet: if it is right to keep silence even from good, how much more ought we to refrain from speaking evil, because of the punishment for sin. Therefore, although it may be permitted to the tried disciples to indulge in holy and edifying discourse, even this should be done rarely, as it is written: “In a multitude of words there wanteth not sin” [Prov. 10:19], and again: “Death and life are in the power of the tongue” [Prov. 18:21]. For it is the business of the master to speak and instruct, and that of the disciples to hearken and be silent. And if the disciple must ask anything of his superior, let him ask it reverently and humbly, lest he seem to speak more than is becoming. Filthy and foolish talking and jesting we condemn utterly, and forbid the disciple ever to open his mouth to utter such words.
Ch. 7.Humility.—Brethren, the holy Scripture saith: “And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted” [Matt. 23:12]. Here we are shown that all exaltation is of a piece with pride, which the prophet tells us he avoids, saying: “Lord, my heart is not haughty nor mine eyes lofty, neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me. Surely I have behaved and quieted myself, as a child that is weaned of its mother; my soul is as a weaned child” [Ps. 131:1, 2]. Therefore, brethren, if we wish to attain to the highest measure of humility and to that exaltation in heaven which is only to be gained by lowliness on earth, we must raise to heaven by our deeds such a ladder as appeared to Jacob in his dream, whereon he saw angels ascending and descending. For the meaning of that figure is that we ascend by humility of heart and descend by haughtiness. And the ladder is our life here below which God raises to heaven for the lowly of heart. Our body and soul are the two sides of the ladder, in which by deeds consistent with our holy calling we insert steps whereby we may ascend to heaven.
Now the first step of humility is this, to escape destruction by keeping ever before one’s eyes the fear of the Lord, to remember always the commands of the Lord, for they who scorn him are in danger of hell-fire, and to think of the eternal life that is prepared for them that fear him. So a man should keep himself in every hour from the sins of the heart, of the tongue, of the eyes, of the hands, and of the feet. He should cast aside his own will and the desires of the flesh; he should think that God is looking down on him from heaven all the time, and that his acts are seen by God and reported to him hourly by his angels. For the prophet shows that the Lord is ever present in the midst of our thoughts, when he says: “God trieth the hearts and the reins” [Ps. 7:9], and again, “The Lord knoweth the thoughts of men” [Ps. 94:11], and again he says: “Thou hast known my thoughts from afar” [Ps. 139:2], and “The thoughts of a man are known to thee” [Ps. 76:11]. So a zealous brother will strive to keep himself from perverse thoughts by saying to himself: “Then only shall I be guiltless in his sight, if I have kept me from mine iniquity” [Ps. 18:23]. And the holy Scriptures teach us in divers places that we should not do our own will; as where it says: “Turn from thine own will” [Ecclesiasticus 18:30]; and where we ask in the Lord’s Prayer that his will be done in us; and where it warns us: “There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” [Prov. 14:12]; and again, concerning the disobedient: “They are corrupt and abominable in their desires” [Ps. 14:1]. And we should always remember that God is aware of our fleshly desires; as the prophet says, speaking to the Lord: “All my desire is before thee” [Ps. 38:9]. Therefore, we should shun evil desires, for death lieth in the way of the lusts; as the Scripture shows, saying: “Go not after thy lusts” [Ecclesiasticus 18:30]. Therefore since the eyes of the Lord are upon the good and the wicked, and since “the Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men to see if there were any that did understand and seek God” [Ps. 14:2], and since our deeds are daily reported to him by the angels whom he assigns to each one of us; then, surely, brethren, we should be on our guard every hour, lest at any time, as the prophet says in the Psalms, the Lord should look down upon us as we are falling into sin, and should spare us for a space, because he is merciful and desires our conversion, but should say at the last: “These things hast thou done and I kept silence” [Ps. 50:21].
The second step of humility is this, that a man should not delight in doing his own will and desires, but should imitate the Lord who said: “I came not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me” [John 6:38]. And again the Scripture saith: “Lust hath its punishment, but hardship winneth a crown.”
The third step of humility is this, that a man be subject to his superior in all obedience for the love of God, imitating the Lord, of whom the apostle says: “He became obedient unto death” [Phil. 2:8].
The fourth step of humility is this, that a man endure all the hard and unpleasant things and even undeserved injuries that come in the course of his service, without wearying or withdrawing his neck from the yoke, for the Scripture saith: “He that endureth to the end shall be saved” [Matt. 10:22], and again: “Comfort thy heart and endure the Lord” [Ps. 27:14]. And yet again the Scripture, showing that the faithful should endure all unpleasant things for the Lord, saith, speaking in the person of those that suffer: “Yea, for thy sake are we killed all the day long; we are counted as sheep for the slaughter” [Ps. 44:22]; and again, rejoicing in the sure hope of divine reward: “In all things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us” [Rom. 8:37]; and again in another place: “For thou, O God, hast proved us; thou hast tried us as silver is tried; thou broughtest us into the net, thou laidst affliction upon our loins” [Ps. 66:10 f]; and again to show that we should be subject to a superior: “Thou hast placed men over our heads” [Ps. 66:12]. Moreover, the Lord bids us suffer injuries patiently, saying: “Whosoever shall smite thee on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain” [Matt. 5:39-41]. And with the apostle Paul we should suffer with false brethren, and endure persecution, and bless them that curse us.
The fifth step of humility is this, that a man should not hide the evil thoughts that arise in his heart or the sins which he has committed in secret, but should humbly confess them to his abbot; as the Scripture exhorteth us, saying: “Commit thy way unto the Lord, trust also in him” [Ps. 37:5]; and again: “O, give thanks unto the Lord, for he is good; for his mercy endureth forever” [Ps. 106:1]; and yet again the prophet saith: “I have acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin” [Ps. 32:5].
The sixth step of humility is this, that the monk should be contented with any lowly or hard condition in which he may be placed, and should always look upon himself as an unworthy laborer, not fitted to do what is intrusted to him; saying to himself in the words of the prophet: “I was reduced to nothing and was ignorant; I was as a beast before thee and I am always with thee” [Ps. 73:22 f].
The seventh step of humility is this, that he should not only say, but should really believe in his heart that he is the lowest and most worthless of all men, humbling himself and saying with the prophet: “I am a worm and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of all people” [Ps. 22:6]; and “I that was exhalted am humbled and confounded” [Ps. 88:15]; and again: “It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I might learn thy statutes” [Ps. 119:71].
The eighth step of humility is this, that the monk should follow in everything the common rule of the monastery and the examples of his superiors.
The ninth step of humility is this, that the monk should restrain his tongue from speaking, and should keep silent even from questioning, as the Scripture saith: “In a multitude of words there wanteth not sin” [Prov. 10:19], and “Let not an evil speaker be established in the earth” [Ps. 140:11].
The tenth step of humility is this, that the monk should be not easily provoked to laughter, as it is written: “The fool raiseth his voice in laughter” [Ecclesiasticus 21:23].
The eleventh step of humility is this, that the monk, when he speaks, should do so slowly and without laughter, softly and gravely, using few words and reasonable, and that he should not be loud of voice; as it is written: “A wise man is known for his few words.”
The twelfth step of humility is this, that the monk should always be humble and lowly, not only in his heart, but in his bearing as well. Wherever he may be, in divine service, in the oratory, in the garden, on the road, in the fields, whether sitting, walking, or standing, he should always keep his head bowed and his eyes upon the ground. He should always be meditating upon his sins and thinking of the dread day of judgment, saying to himself as did that publican of whom the gospel speaks: “Lord, I am not worthy, I a sinner, so much as to lift mine eyes up to heaven” [Luke 18:13]; and again with the prophet: “I am bowed down and humbled everywhere” [Ps. 119:107].
Now when the monk has ascended all these steps of humility, he will arrive at that perfect love of God which casteth out all fear [1 John 4:18]. By that love all those commandments which he could not formerly observe without grievous effort and struggle, he will now obey naturally and easily, as if by habit; not in the fear of hell, but in the love of Christ and by his very delight in virtue. And thus the Lord will show the working of his holy Spirit in this his servant, freed from vices and sins.
Ch. 8.Divine worship at night [vigils].—During the winter; that is, from the first of November to Easter, the monks should rise at the eighth hour of the night; a reasonable arrangement, since by that time the monks will have rested a little more than half the night and will have digested their food. Those brothers who failed in the psalms or the readings shall spend the rest of the time after vigils (before the beginning of matins) in pious meditation. From Easter to the first of November matins shall begin immediately after daybreak, allowing the brothers a little time for attending to the necessities of nature.
Ch. 9.The psalms to be said at night.1 —During the winter time, the order of service shall be as follows: first shall be recited the verse [ “Make haste, O God, to deliver me; make haste to help me, O God,” Ps. 70:1]; then this verse three times: “O Lord, open thou my lips and my mouth shall show forth thy praise” [Ps. 51:15]; then the third psalm and the Gloria, the 94th Psalm responsively or in unison, a hymn, and six psalms responsively. After this the abbot shall give the benediction with the aforesaid verse, and the brothers shall sit down. Three lessons from the gospels with three responses shall then be read from the lecturn by the brothers in turn. The first two responses shall be sung without the Gloria, but in the third response which follows the last reading the cantor shall sing the Gloria, the monks rising from their seats at the beginning of it to show honor and reverence to the holy Trinity. Passages are to be read from the Old and New Testaments in the vigils, and also the expositions of these passages left by the accepted orthodox Catholic fathers. After the three readings and the responses, six psalms with the Halleluia shall follow, then a reading from the epistles recited from memory, and the usual verses, the vigils concluding with the supplication of the litany, “Kyrie eleison.”
Ch. 10.The order of vigils in summer.—From Easter to the first of November the above order of worship shall be observed, except that the reading shall be shortened because of the shorter nights; that is, in place of the three lessons, one lesson from the Old Testament shall be recited from memory, with the short response. The rest of the service shall be observed as described above, so that the number of psalms read shall never be less than twelve, not counting the 3d and the 94th.
Ch. 11.The order of vigils on Sunday.—On Sunday the brothers shall rise earlier than on other days. The order of service in the vigils of Sunday shall be as follows: first, six psalms and the verse are to be said as described above; then the brothers, sitting down, shall read in order from their seats four lessons from the gospels, with responses, and in the fourth response the cantor shall sing the Gloria, at the beginning of which all shall rise to show reverence. After the lessons six other psalms shall be said responsively and the verse; then four more lessons shall be read with the responses as before; then three canticles chosen from the prophets by the abbot shall be sung with the Halleluia; then after the verse and the benediction of the abbot, four other lessons shall be read from the New Testament in the same order as above, and after the fourth response the abbot shall begin the hymn “We praise thee, O Lord” (Te Deum laudamus), following it with a lesson from the Gospel, during which all rise to show reverence and honor to God. After the reading all shall respond “Amen,” and the abbot shall begin the hymn: “It is a good thing to praise the Lord”; then the abbot shall give the benediction, and the matins shall be begun. This order of service is to be observed on all Sundays, winter and summer, unless it should happen, which God forbid, that the brethren are late in rising, in which case the readings and responses may be shortened. But care should be taken that this does not happen, and if it does, he whose negligence caused the delay should make satisfaction to God for his fault by doing penance in the oratory.
Ch. 12.The order of matins on Sunday.—In the matins on the Lord’s day the order of service shall be as follows: first, the 66th Psalm in unison, then the 50th Psalm with the Halleluia, then the 117th and the 62d Psalms, the Benedictiones [that is, Dan. 3:52-90], and the Laudes [that is, Pss. 148, 149, 150], a lesson from Revelation recited from memory, a response, a hymn, the usual verse, and a song from the Gospel, concluding with the litany, and the benediction.
Ch. 13.The order of matins on week days.—On week days the order of service in the matins shall be as follows: first, the 66th Psalm recited somewhat slowly as on Sunday, in order that all may be in their places in time to join in the 50th Psalm, which is to be recited responsively; then two psalms for the day according to this schedule: on Monday, the 5th and the 35th; on Tuesday, the 42d and the 56th; on Wednesday, the 63d and the 64th; on Thursday, the 87th and the 89th; on Friday the 75th and the 91st; and on Saturday, the 142d and the song from Deuteronomy [33:1-43], the last being divided by two Glorias. On other days, the songs from the prophets are to be sung, each on its proper day, according to the custom of the Roman church. Then shall follow the lauds, a lesson from the epistles recited from memory, the response, a hymn, the verse, and a song from the Gospel, concluding with the litany and the benediction. At the close of matins and vespers every day, the superior shall recite the Lord’s prayer in the hearing of all, because of the quarrels which are apt to occur among the monks; so that the brethren, in their hearts uniting in the petition, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those that trespass against us,” may cleanse their hearts from sins of this sort. In other services, the last part of the prayer, “Deliver us from evil,” shall be said responsively by all.
Ch. 14.The order of vigils on Saints’ days.—On Saints’ days and on all feast days, the order of service shall be the same as that for Sunday as described above, except that the psalms and responses and readings belonging to the particular day shall be used.
Ch. 15.The occasions on which the Halleluia shall be said.—From Easter to Pentecost the Halleluia shall be said with the psalms and responses. From Pentecost to the beginning of Lent in the vigils of the night the Halleluia shall be said only with the last six psalms; on Sundays, except in Lent, the Halleluia shall be said also with the songs at matins, prime, terce, sext, and nones, but at vespers the songs shall be said responsively. The responses shall not be said with the Halleluia except during the season from Easter to Pentecost.
Ch. 16.The order of divine worship during the day.—The prophet says: “Seven times a day do I praise thee” [Ps. 119:164]; and we observe this sacred number in the seven services of the day; that is, matins, prime, terce, sext, nones, vespers, and completorium; for the hours of the daytime are plainly intended here, since the same prophet provides for the nocturnal vigils, when he says in another place: “At midnight I will rise to give thanks unto thee” [Ps. 119:62]. We should therefore praise the Creator for his righteous judgments at the aforesaid times: matins, prime, terce, sext, nones, vespers, and completorium; and at night we should rise to give thanks unto Him.1
Ch. 17.The number of psalms to be said at these times.—We have already described the order of psalms for the nocturnal vigils and for matins; let us now turn to the other services. At prime, three psalms shall be said separately, that is, each with a Gloria, the verse, “Make haste, O God, to deliver me,” and the hymn for the hour being said before the psalms; then one lesson from the Epistles shall be read, then the verse, the “Kyrie eleison,” and the benediction. At terce, sext, and nones the same order shall be observed: first the prayer (that is, the verse, “Make haste, O God,” etc.), the hymn for the hour, the three psalms, the lesson, the verse, the “Kyrie eleison,” and the benediction. If the congregation is large, the psalms shall be said responsively; if small, they shall be said in unison. At vespers four psalms shall be said responsively, then shall follow the lesson, the response, the hymn for the hour, the Ambrosian hymn, the verse, the song from the Gospel, the Litany, the Lord’s prayer, and the benediction. At completorium, three psalms shall be said in unison, then the hymn for the hour, the lesson, the verse, the “Kyrie eleison,” the benediction, and the dismissal.
Ch. 18.The order in which these psalms shall be said.—All the services of the daytime shall begin with the verse “Make haste, O God, to deliver me; make haste to help me, O God,” followed by the Gloria and the hymn for the hour. The order in which the psalms are to be read in these services is as follows: at prime on Sunday, four sections of the 118th Psalm, and at the other services on Sunday, terce, sext, nones, three sections each of the same psalm; at prime on Monday, three psalms, the 1st, 2d, and 6th; so on through the week to Sunday again, three psalms being said at each prime in the order of arrangement to the 19th, the 9th and the 17th being divided into two readings. In this way vigils on Sunday will always begin with the 20th psalm. At terce, sext, and nones on Monday, the nine sections of the 118th psalm which remain shall be said three at each service, thus reading the whole 118th Psalm on the two days, Sunday and Monday. On Tuesday the nine psalms from the 119th to the 127th shall be read three at each of the services of terce, sext, and nones. This order of psalms, and the regular order of hymns, lessons, and verses is to be observed throughout the week, and on Sunday the reading shall begin again with the 118th psalm. At vespers four psalms are to be read daily, from the 109th to the 147th, leaving out those that are prescribed for the other services (from the 117th to the 127th, the 133d, and the 142d). As this does not make the required number of psalms, three for each day, the longer ones shall be divided, namely, the 138th, the 143d, and the 144th; and the 116th, being very short, shall be read with the 115th. The rest of the service of vespers, the lesson, the response, the hymn, the verse, and the song, shall be observed as already described. At completorium, the same psalms shall be read each day, namely, the 4th, the 90th, and the 133d. All the rest of the psalms, not thus arranged for, shall be divided equally among the seven nocturnal vigils, the longer ones being divided, making twelve readings for each night. If this particular order of the psalms is not satisfactory, it may be changed; but in any case, the whole psalter with its full number of 150 psalms should be completed every week, and should be begun again from the first at the vigils on Sunday. Monks who read less than the whole psalter with the customary songs during the course of the week are assuredly lax in their devotion, since we are told that the holy fathers were accustomed in their zeal to read in a single day what we in our indolence can scarcely accomplish in a whole week.
Ch. 19.The behavior of the monks in the services.—We know of course that the divine presence is everywhere, and that “the eyes of the Lord look down everywhere upon the good and the evil,” but we should realize this in its fulness, especially when we take part in divine worship. Remember the words of the prophet: “Serve the Lord in all fear” [Ps. 2:11], and again “Sing wisely” [Ps. 47:7], and yet again, “In the sight of the angels I will sing unto thee” [Ps. 138:1]. Let us then consider how we should behave in the sight of God and his angels, and let us so comport ourselves in the service of praise that our hearts may be in harmony with our voices.
Ch. 20.The reverence to be shown in prayer.—When we have any request to make of powerful persons, we proffer it humbly and reverently; with how much greater humility and devotion, then, should we offer our supplications unto God, the Lord of all. We should realize, too, that we are not heard for our much speaking, but for the purity and the contrition of our hearts. So when we pray, our prayer should be simple and brief, unless we are moved to speak by the inspiration of the spirit. The prayer offered before the congregation also should be brief, and all the brothers should rise at the signal of the superior.
Ch. 21.The deans of the monastery.—In large congregations certain ones from among the brothers of good standing and holy lives should be chosen to act as deans and should be set to rule over certain parts under the direction of the abbot. Only persons to whom the abbot may safely intrust a share of his burdens should be selected for this office and they should be chosen not according to rank, but according to their merits and wisdom. But if any one of the deans shall be found in fault, being perhaps puffed up by his position, he should be reprimanded for his fault the second or third time, and then if he does not mend his ways he should be deposed and his place given to a worthier brother. The same treatment should be accorded the præpositi.
Ch. 22.How the monks should sleep.—The monks shall sleep separately in individual beds, and the abbot shall assign them their beds according to their conduct. If possible all the monks shall sleep in the same dormitory, but if their number is too large to admit of this, they are to be divided into tens or twenties and placed under the control of some of the older monks. A candle shall be kept burning in the dormitory all night until daybreak. The monks shall go to bed clothed and girt with girdles and cords, but shall not have their knives at their sides, lest in their dreams they injure one of the sleepers. They should be always in readiness, rising immediately upon the signal and hastening to the service, but appearing there gravely and modestly. The beds of the younger brothers should not be placed together, but should be scattered among those of the older monks. When the brothers arise they should gently exhort one another to hasten to the service, so that the sleepy ones may have no excuse for coming late.
Ch. 23.The excommunication for lighter sins.—If any brother shows himself stubborn, disobedient, proud, or complaining, or refuses to obey the rule or to hearken to his elders, let him be admonished in private once or twice by his elders, as God commands. If he does not mend his ways let him be reprimanded publicly before all. But, if, knowing the penalty to which he is liable, he still refuses to conform, let him be excommunicated [that is, cut off from the society of the other monks], and if he remains incorrigible let him suffer bodily punishment.
Ch. 24.The forms of excommunication.—The nature of the excommunication and discipline should be suited to the extent of the guilt, which is to be determined by the abbot. If the brother is guilty of one of the lighter sins, let him be deprived of participation in the common meal. The one who has been thus deprived shall not lead in the psalms and responses in the oratory or read the lessons; he shall eat alone after the common meal; so that, for example, if the brothers eat at the sixth hour, he shall eat at the ninth, and if the brothers eat at the ninth hour, he shall eat at vespers. This shall be continued until he has made suitable satisfaction for his fault.
Ch. 25.The excommunication for the graver sins.—For graver sins the brother shall be deprived of participation both in the common meal and in the divine services. No brother shall speak to him or have anything to do with him, but he shall labor alone at the work assigned to him as a penance, meditating on the meaning of that saying of the apostle: “To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus Christ” [1 Cor. 5:5]. And he shall eat alone, receiving his food in such measure and at such time as the abbot shall determine. No one meeting him shall bless him, and the food which is given him shall be unblessed.
Ch. 26.Those who consort with the excommunicated without the order of the abbot.—If any brother shall presume to speak to one who has been excommunicated, or shall give a command to him, or have anything whatever to do with him, except by the order of the abbot, he shall be placed under the same sort of excommunication.
Ch. 27.The abbot should be zealous for the correction of those who have been excommunicated.—The abbot should exercise the greatest care over erring brothers; as it is written: “They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick” [Matt. 9:12]. So the abbot should use all the means that a wise physician uses: he should send secret comforters, wiser and older brothers, who will comfort the erring one, and urge him humbly to make amends, as the apostle says: “Comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with too much sorrow” [2 Cor. 2:7], and again “Charity shall be confirmed in him” [2 Cor. 2:8]. Let him also be prayed for by all. It should be the greatest care of the abbot that not one of his flock should perish, using to this end all his wisdom and ability, for he is set to care for sick souls, not to rule harshly over well ones. Let him be warned in this matter by the words of God spoken to the evil shepherds of Israel through the prophet: “Ye did take that which ye saw to be strong, and that which was weak ye did cast out” [cf. Ezek. 34:3 f]. Let him rather follow the example of the good shepherd, who, leaving his ninety and nine, went out into the mountains and sought the one sheep which had gone astray; who, when he found it, had compassion on its weakness, and laid it on his own sacred shoulders and brought it back to the flock.
Ch. 28.Those who do not mend their ways after frequent correction.—If any brother has been frequently corrected and excommunicated, and still does not mend his ways, let the punishment be increased to the laying on of blows. But if he will not be corrected or if he attempts to defend his acts, then the abbot shall proceed to extreme measures as a wise physician will do; that is, when the poultices and ointments, as it were, of prayer, the medicines of Scripture, and the violent remedies of excommunication and blows have all failed, he has recourse to the last means, prayer to God, the all-powerful, that He should work the salvation of the erring brother. But if he still cannot be cured, then the abbot shall proceed to the use of the knife, cutting out that evil member from the congregation; as the apostle says: “Put away from among yourselves that wicked person” [1 Cor. 5:13]; “If the unbelieving depart, let him depart” [1 Cor. 7:15]; that the whole flock be not contaminated by one diseased sheep.
Ch. 29.Shall brothers who have left the monastery be received back?—If a brother has left the monastery or has been cast out for his own fault, and shall wish to be taken back, he shall first of all promise complete reformation of that fault, and then shall be received into the lowest grade in the monastery to prove the sincerity of his humility. If he again departs, he shall be received back the third time, knowing, however, that after that he shall never again be taken back.
Ch. 30.The manner of correction for the young.—The forms of punishment should be adapted to every age and to every order of intelligence. So if children or youths, or those who are unable to appreciate the meaning of excommunication, are found guilty, they should be given heavy fasts and sharp blows for their correction.
Ch. 31.The cellarer.—The cellarer of the monastery, chosen from among the congregation, should be wise, sedate, and sober; he should not be gluttonous, proud, quarrelsome, spiteful, indolent, nor wasteful; he should fear God, since he acts in a way as the father of the monastery. He should be careful of everything, doing nothing except by the order of the abbot, and observing all the commands laid upon him. He should not rebuke the brothers roughly; if any brother is unreasonable in his demands, he should yet treat him reasonably, mildly refusing his request as being improper. He should make his service minister to his own salvation, remembering the words of the apostle: “They that have used the office well, purchase to themselves a good degree” [1 Tim. 3:13]. He should have special care for the sick, for children, for guests, and for the poor, seeing that he will certainly have to give a reckoning of his treatment of all these on the day of judgment. He should look after all the utensils of the monastery as carefully as if they were the sacred vessels of the altar, and he should be careful of the substance of the monastery, wasting nothing. He should be neither avaricious nor prodigal, conducting his office in moderation under the commands of the abbot. Above all he should conduct himself humbly; if he is not able to furnish what is asked for, he should at least return a pleasant answer, as it is written: “A good word is above the best gift” [Ecclesiasticus 18:16]. He should take charge of everything intrusted to him by the abbot, and should not interfere in what is prohibited to him. He should see to it that the brothers always have the regular amount of food, and he should serve it without haughtiness or unnecessary delay, remembering the punishment which the Scripture says is meted out to those who offend one of these little ones. In large congregations, the cellarer should have assistants, with whose aid he may be able to fulfil the duties committed to him without unnecessary worry. He should, moreover, so arrange the work in his department that the distribution of food and the other details may come at convenient hours, and may not disturb or inconvenience anyone.
Ch. 32.The utensils and other property of the monastery.—The possessions of the monastery in the way of utensils, clothes, and other things should be intrusted by the abbot to the charge of certain brothers whom he can safely trust, and the various duties of caring for or collecting these things should be divided among them. The abbot should keep a list of these things, so that he may know what is given out or taken back when the offices change hands. If any one of these brothers is careless or wasteful of the goods of the monastery which are intrusted to him, he should be reproved and if he does not reform he should be subjected to discipline according to the rule.
Ch. 33.Monks should not have personal property.—The sin of owning private property should be entirely eradicated from the monastery. No one shall presume to give or receive anything except by the order of the abbot; no one shall possess anything of his own, books, paper, pens, or anything else; for monks are not to own even their own bodies and wills to be used at their own desire, but are to look to the father [abbot] of the monastery for everything. So they shall have nothing that has not been given or allowed to them by the abbot; all things are to be had in common according to the command of the Scriptures, and no one shall consider anything as his own property. If anyone has been found guilty of this most grievous sin, he shall be admonished for the first and second offence, and then if he does not mend his ways he shall be punished.
Ch. 34.All the brothers are to be treated equally.—It is written: “Distribution was made unto every man as he had need” [Acts 4:35]. This does not mean that there should be respect of persons, but rather consideration for infirmities. The one who has less need should give thanks to God and not be envious; the one who has greater need should be humbled because of his infirmity, and not puffed up by the greater consideration shown him. Thus all the members of the congregation shall dwell together in peace. Above all let there be no complaint about anything, either in word or manner, and if anyone is guilty of this let him be strictly disciplined.
Ch. 35.The weekly service in the kitchen.—The brothers shall serve in their turn in the kitchen, no one being excused, except for illness or because occupied in work of greater importance; thus all shall learn charity and acquire the greater reward which is the recompense for service. Assistants shall be allowed to the weak, that they be not too greatly burdened in the service, and shall also be provided for all, if the size of the congregation or the conditions of the place make it necessary. In large congregations, the cellarer shall be excused from service in the kitchen, as also those who, as we have already indicated, are engaged in more important labors; but all the others shall serve in their turn. The one who goes out of office at the end of the week, should do all the cleaning on Saturday, and should wash the towels on which the monks dry their hands and their feet, and both he and the one who succeeds him shall wash the feet of all the brothers. The one who is leaving shall turn over the utensils of the service properly cleaned to the cellarer, who shall then consign them to the one who succeeds, keeping account of what he gives out and what he receives back. Those who are engaged in this service shall be allowed a piece of bread and a cup of wine an hour before the time of the common meal, so that they may serve the brethren during the meal without inconvenience or cause for complaint; but on holy days they shall fast until after the mass. On Sunday, immediately after matins, the outgoing and the incoming cooks shall kneel in the oratory and ask for the prayers of all the brothers. The one who has finished his service for the week shall say this verse three times: “Blessed art thou, O Lord God, who hast aided and consoled me,” and then shall receive the benediction; the one who is entering on the service shall say: “Make haste, O God, to deliver me; make haste to help me, O God”: this shall be repeated three times by all, and then he shall receive the benediction and enter upon his duties.
Ch. 36.The care for brothers who are ill.—Above all, care should be taken of the sick, as if they were Christ himself, as he has said: “I was sick, and ye visited me” [Matt. 25:36]; and again, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” [Matt. 25:40]. But the sick should consider that the service performed for them is done to the honor of God, and should not make it a burden for the brothers who attend them. Those who labor in this service, on their part, should endure it patiently, because it redounds to their greater reward. The abbot should make it his especial care that no one suffers neglect. A special room shall be assigned to the sick, and they shall be given pious, diligent, and careful attendants. The sick should also be allowed the use of baths as often as seems expedient, a thing which is to be accorded to the young and strong more rarely. Those who are sick or weak are, moreover, to be permitted to eat meat to strengthen them, but when they have recovered they shall abstain from it in the usual manner as the others. The abbot should see to it also that the sick are not neglected by the cellarer or the other servants, for their negligence will be placed to his account, if he is not diligent in correcting them.
Ch. 37.The aged and children.—Special regard and consideration is due to human nature in the extremes of life, old age and childhood, and yet this must be regulated by the rule. Their weakness shall always be taken into consideration, and the strict requirements of the rule in regard to food may be relaxed for them, so that they may anticipate the regular hours of eating.
Ch. 38.The weekly reader.—There should always be reading during the common meal, but it shall not be left to chance, so that anyone may take up the book and read. On Sunday one of the brothers shall be appointed to read during the following week. He shall enter on his office after the mass and communion, and shall ask for the prayers of all, that God may keep him from the spirit of pride; then he shall say this verse three times, all the brethren uniting with him: “O Lord, open thou my lips, and my mouth shall show forth thy praise;” then after receiving the benediction he enters upon his office. At the common meal, the strictest silence shall be kept, that no whispering or speaking may be heard except the voice of the reader. The brethren shall mutually wait upon one another by passing the articles of food and drink, so that no one shall have to ask for anything; but if this is necessary, it shall be done by a sign rather than by words, if possible. In order to avoid too much talking no one shall interrupt the reader with a question about the reading or in any other way, unless perchance the prior may wish to say something in the way of explanation. The brother who is appointed to read shall be given the bread and wine before he begins, on account of the holy communion which he has received, and lest so long a fast should be injurious; he shall have his regular meal later with the cooks and other weekly servants. The brothers shall not be chosen to read or chant by order of rotation, but according to their ability to edify their hearers.
Ch. 39.The amount of food.—Two cooked dishes, served either at the sixth or the ninth hour, should be sufficient for the daily sustenance, We allow two because of differences in taste, so that those who do not eat one may satisfy their hunger with the other, but two shall suffice for all the brothers, unless it is possible to obtain fruit or fresh vegetables, which may be served as a third. One pound of bread shall suffice for the day, whether there be one meal or two. If the monks are to have supper as well as dinner, the cellarer shall cut off a third of the loaf of bread which is served at dinner and keep it for the later meal. In the case of those who engage in heavy labor, the abbot may at his discretion increase the allowance of food, but he should not allow the monks to indulge their appetites by eating or drinking too much. For no vice is more inconsistent with the Christian character; as the Master saith: “Take heed to yourselves lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting” [Luke 21:34]. A smaller amount of food shall be given to the youths than to their elders, and in general the rule should be to eat sparingly. All shall abstain from the flesh of four-footed beasts, except the weak and the sick.
Ch. 40.The amount of drink.— “Each one has his own gift from God, the one in this way, the other in that” [1 Cor. 7:7], so we hesitate to determine what others shall eat or drink. But we believe that a half-measure of wine a day is enough for anyone, making due allowance, of course, for the needs of the sick. If God has given to some the strength to endure abstinence, let them use that gift, knowing that they shall have their reward. And if the climate, the nature of the labor, or the heat of summer, or other conditions make it advisable to increase this amount, the superior may do so at his own discretion, always guarding, however, against indulgence and drunkenness. Some hold, indeed, that monks should not drink wine at all. We have not been able in our day to persuade monks to agree to this; but all will admit that drink should be used sparingly, for “wine maketh even the wise to go astray” [Ecclesiasticus 19:2]. Where wine is scarce or is not found at all because of the nature of the locality, let those who live there bless God and murmur not. In any case, let there be no murmuring because of the scarcity or the lack of wine.
Ch. 41.The time of meals.—From Easter to Pentecost, the brethren shall dine at the sixth hour and have supper in the evening. From Pentecost on through the summer, they shall fast on Wednesday and Friday1 until the ninth hour, unless they are laboring in the fields or find the heat of the summer too oppressive; on the other days of the week they shall dine at the sixth hour. But if the monks are working out of doors, or are oppressed with the heat, the abbot may at his discretion have dinner served every day at the sixth hour. In this, as in all matters, the abbot shall have regard for the souls of the brethren, that they be not given cause for grumbling. From the middle of September to the beginning of Lent, they shall dine at the ninth hour, and during Lent, toward evening. The time for the evening meal shall be so fixed that the brethren may eat without the aid of lamps; and indeed all the meals are to be eaten by daylight.
Ch. 42.Silence is to be kept after completorium.—The monks should observe the rule of silence at all times, but especially during the hours of the night. This rule shall be observed both on fast-days and on other days, as follows: on other than fast-days, as soon as the brothers rise from the table they shall sit down together, while one of them reads from the Collations or the lives of the fathers or other holy works. But the reading at this time shall not be from the Heptateuch or from the books of the Kings, which are not suitable for weak intellects to hear at this hour and may be read at other times. On fast-days the brethren shall assemble a little while after vespers, and listen to readings from the Collations. All shall be present at this reading except those who have been given other duties to be done at this time, and after the reading of four or five pages, or as much as shall occupy an hour’s time, the whole congregation shall meet for completorium. After completorium no one shall be allowed to speak to another, unless some unforeseen occasion arises, as that of caring for guests, or unless the abbot has to give a command to some one; and in these cases such speaking as is necessary shall be done quietly and gravely. If anyone breaks this rule of silence he shall be severely disciplined.
Ch. 43.Those who are late in coming to services or to meals.—When the signal is given for the hour of worship, all should hasten to the oratory; but they shall enter gravely, so as not to give occasion for jesting. The service of God is to be placed above every other duty. At vigils, those who do not come in until after the Gloria of the 94th Psalm ( “O come, let us sing unto the Lord”), which, as we have indicated above, is to be said slowly and solemnly, shall be held to be tardy. Such a one shall not be allowed to take his accustomed place in the choir, but shall be made to stand last or in a place apart such as the abbot may have indicated for the tardy. There he may be seen by the abbot and all the brothers, and after the service he shall do public penance for his fault. The purpose of placing him last or in a place apart from the others is to make his tardiness conspicuous, so that he may be led through very shame to correct this fault. For if those who come late are made to stay outside of the oratory, some of them will go back and go to bed again, or at least sit down outside and spend the time of service in idle talk, thus giving a chance to the evil one. Let them come inside that they may not lose all the service, and in the future not be tardy. At the services in the daytime, he who does not come in until after the verse and the Gloria of the first psalm, shall stand in the last place as already described, and shall not be allowed to take his own place in the choir until he has made amends, unless the abbot shall give him permission, reserving his penance for a later time. At the common meal all shall stand and say a verse and a prayer, and then sit down together. He who comes in after the verse shall be admonished for the first and second offense, and if he is again tardy after that he shall not be allowed to share the common meal, but shall be made to eat alone, and his portion of wine shall be taken away until he makes satisfaction. Those who are not present at the verse which is said at the end of the meal shall be punished in the same way. And no one shall eat or drink anything except at the appointed hours. If any one refuses to eat when food is offered to him by the superior, he shall not be allowed to do so later when he wishes it, unless he has made satisfaction for his fault.
Ch. 44.The penance of the excommunicated.—The one who has been excommunicated for grievous sins from both the divine services and the common meal shall do penance as follows: During the hour of worship, he shall lie prostrate at the door of the oratory, with his head on the ground at the feet of all as they come out. He shall continue to do this until the abbot has decided that he has made reparation for his sin. Then after he has been admitted again into the oratory, he shall fall at the feet, first of the abbot and then of all the other brothers, and shall beg them all to pray for him; then he may be permitted to take his own place in the choir or such other position as the abbot shall designate. But he shall not be allowed to lead in the psalms or the reading or any other part of the service until the abbot gives him permission. At the end of the service each day he shall prostrate himself upon the ground in the place where he was standing, until the abbot decides that his penance has been accomplished. Those who for lesser faults have been excommunicated from the table only, shall continue to do penance in the oratory until the abbot gives them his blessing and says: “It is enough.”
Ch. 45.The punishment of those who make mistakes in the service.—If anyone makes a mistake in the psalm or the response or the antiphony or the reading, he shall make satisfaction as described. But if he is not humbled by this and by the rebukes of his elders, and refuses to admit that he has erred, he shall be subjected to heavier punishment for his obstinacy. Children shall be whipped for such offences.
Ch. 46.The punishment for other sins.—When a brother has committed any fault in any of his work, in doors or out, such as losing or breaking anything, or making a mistake of some sort, he shall go immediately to the abbot and make satisfaction, confessing his fault before the whole congregation. If he fails to do this and leaves the mistake to be found out and reported by another, he shall be severely punished. But if it be a secret sin, he may confess it privately to the abbot alone or to such spiritual superiors as may be able to cure such errors without making them public.
Ch. 47.The manner of announcing the hour of service.—The signal for the hour of worship both in the daytime and at night, shall be given by the abbot or by some diligent brother to whom he has intrusted that duty, so that everything may be in readiness for the service at the proper time. The abbot shall appoint certain ones to lead in the psalms and the antiphonies after him; only those, however, shall be allowed to read or chant who are able to edify the hearers. These shall be appointed by the abbot, and shall perform their part gravely and humbly in the fear of the Lord.
Ch. 48.The daily labor of the monks.—Idleness is the great enemy of the soul, therefore the monks should always be occupied, either in manual labor or in holy reading. The hours for these occupations should be arranged according to the seasons, as follows: From Easter to the first of October, the monks shall go to work at the first hour and labor until the fourth hour, and the time from the fourth to the sixth hour shall be spent in reading. After dinner, which comes at the sixth hour, they shall lie down and rest in silence; but anyone who wishes may read, if he does it so as not to disturb anyone else. Nones shall be observed a little earlier, about the middle of the eighth hour, and the monks shall go back to work, laboring until vespers. But if the conditions of the locality or the needs of the monastery, such as may occur at harvest time, should make it necessary to labor longer hours, they shall not feel themselves ill-used, for true monks should live by the labor of their own hands, as did the apostles and the holy fathers. But the weakness of human nature must be taken into account in making these arrangements. From the first of October to the beginning of Lent, the monks shall have until the full second hour for reading, at which hour the service of terce shall be held. After terce, they shall work at their respective tasks until the ninth hour. When the ninth hour sounds they shall cease from labor and be ready for the service at the second bell. After dinner they shall spend the time in reading the lessons and the psalms. During Lent the time from daybreak to the third hour shall be devoted to reading, and then they shall work at their appointed tasks until the tenth hour. At the beginning of Lent each of the monks shall be given a book from the library of the monastery which he shall read entirely through. One or two of the older monks shall be appointed to go about through the monastery during the hours set apart for reading, to see that none of the monks are idling away the time, instead of reading, and so not only wasting their own time but perhaps disturbing others as well. Anyone found doing this shall be rebuked for the first or second offence, and after that he shall be severely punished, that he may serve as a warning and an example to others. Moreover, the brothers are not to meet together at unseasonable hours. Sunday is to be spent by all the brothers in holy reading, except by such as have regular duties assigned to them for that day. And if any brother is negligent or lazy, refusing or being unable profitably to read or meditate at the time assigned for that, let him be made to work, so that he shall at any rate not be idle. The abbot shall have consideration for the weak and the sick, giving them tasks suited to their strength, so that they may neither be idle nor yet be distressed by too heavy labor.
Ch. 49.The observance of Lent.—Monks ought really to keep Lent all the year, but as few are able to do this, they should at least keep themselves perfectly pure during that season, and to make up for the negligence of the rest of the year by the strictest observance then. The right way to keep Lent is this: to keep oneself free from all vices and to spend the time in holy reading, in repentance, and in abstinence. During this season, therefore, we should add in some way to the weight of our regular service, by saying additional prayers or giving up some part of our food or drink, so that each one of us of his own will may offer some gift to God in addition to his usual service, to the rejoicing of the Holy Spirit. Let each one then make some sacrifice of his bodily pleasures in the way of food or drink, or the amount of sleep, or talking and jesting, thus awaiting the holy Easter with the joy of spiritual desire. But the abbot should always be consulted in regard to the sacrifice to be made, and it should be done with his consent and wish; for whatever anyone does contrary to the wish of the spiritual father will not be imputed to him for righteousness, but for presumption and vainglory. So let everything be done in accordance with the wish of the abbot.
Ch. 50.The observance of the hours of worship by brothers who work at a distance from the monastery or are on a journey.—Those who are at work so far from the monastery that they cannot return for service (the question of fact shall be decided by the abbot) shall nevertheless observe the regular hours, kneeling down and worshipping God in the place where they are working. So also those who are on the road shall not neglect the hour of worship, but shall keep it as best they can.
Ch. 51.Those who are sent on short errands.—If a brother has been sent on an errand with instructions to return the same day with an answer, he shall not presume to eat outside of the monastery unless he has been told to do so by the abbot; and if he does, he shall be excommunicated.
Ch. 52.The oratory of the monastery.—The oratory should be used as its name implies: that is, as a place of prayer; and for no other purpose. When the service is over, let all go out silently and reverently, so that if any brother wishes to pray there in private he may not be disturbed by others. And when anyone wishes to pray there privately let him go in quietly and pray, not noisily, but with silent tears and earnestness of heart. No one else shall be allowed to remain in the oratory after the service, lest, as we have said, they disturb those who desire to pray there.
Ch. 53.The reception of guests.—All guests who come to the monastery are to be received in the name of Christ, who said: “I was a stranger and ye took me in” [Matt. 25:35]. Honor and respect shall be shown to all, but especially to Christians and strangers. When a guest is announced the superior and the brothers shall hasten to meet him and shall give him the kindest welcome. At meeting, both shall say a short prayer and then they shall exchange the kiss of peace, the prayer being said first to frustrate the wiles of the devil. The manner of salutation shall be humble and devout; he who offers it to a guest shall bow his head or even prostrate his body on the ground in adoration of Christ, in whose name guests are received. The way to receive a guest is as follows: immediately on his arrival he shall be conducted to the oratory for prayer, and then the superior or some brother at his order shall sit down and read from the holy Scriptures with him for his edification. After he has been thus received, every attention shall be shown to his comfort and entertainment. The abbot may break his fast to dine with a guest, unless the day be an especially solemn fast; but the brothers shall keep the regular fasts. The abbot shall offer the guests water for their hands, and together with all the brothers shall wash their feet, all repeating this verse at the end of the ceremony: “We have thought of thy loving kindness, O Lord, in the midst of thy temple” [Ps. 48:9]. Peculiar honor shall be shown to the poor and to strangers, since it is in them that Christ is especially received; for the power of the rich in itself compels honor. The abbot shall have a special cook for himself and the guests of the monastery, so that the brothers may not be disturbed by the arrival of guests at unusual hours, a thing always liable to occur in a monastery. Two well-qualified brothers shall be appointed to this office for the year, and shall be given such help as they may need, that they may not have occasion to complain of the service. But when they have nothing to do in this service, they shall be assigned to other tasks. It shall be the rule of the monastery that those who have charge of certain offices shall have assistants when they need them, and shall themselves be assigned to other tasks when they have nothing to do in their own offices. The guest chamber, which shall contain beds with plenty of bedding, shall be placed under the charge of a God-fearing brother. No one shall venture to talk to a guest or to associate with him; and when a brother meets one, he shall greet him humbly, and ask his blessing, but shall pass on, explaining that it is not permitted to the brothers to talk with guests.
Ch. 54.Monks are not to receive letters or anything.—No monk shall receive letters or gifts or anything from his family or from any persons on the outside, nor shall he send anything, except by the command of the abbot. And if anything has been sent to the monastery for him he shall not receive it unless he has first shown it to the abbot and received his permission. And if the abbot orders such a thing to be received, he may yet bestow it upon anyone whom he chooses, and the brother to whom it was sent shall acquiesce without ill-will, lest he give occasion to the evil one by his discontent. If anyone breaks this rule, he shall be severely disciplined.
Ch. 55.The vestiarius [one who has charge of the clothing] and the calciarius [one who has charge of the footwear].—The brothers are to be provided with clothes suited to the locality and the temperature, for those in colder regions require warmer clothing than those in warmer climates. The abbot shall decide such matters. The following garments should be enough for those who live in moderate climates: A cowl and a robe apiece (the cowl to be of wool in winter and in summer light or old); a rough garment for work; and shoes and boots for the feet. The monks shall not be fastidious about the color and texture of these clothes, which are to be made of the stuff commonly used in the region where they dwell, or of the cheapest material. The abbot shall also see that the garments are of suitable length and not too short. When new garments are given out the old ones should be returned, to be kept in the wardrobe for the poor. Each monk may have two cowls and two robes to allow for change at night and for washing; anything more than this is superfluous and should be dispensed with as being a form of luxury. The old boots and shoes are also to be returned when new ones are given out. Those who are sent out on the road shall be provided with trousers, which shall be washed and restored to the vestiary when they return. There shall also be cowls and robes of slightly better material for the use of those who are sent on journeys, which also shall be given back when they return. A mattress, a blanket, a sheet, and a pillow shall be sufficient bedding. The beds are to be inspected by the abbot frequently, to see that no monk has hidden away anything of his own in them, and if anything is found there which has not been granted to that monk by the abbot, he shall be punished very severely. To avoid giving occasion to this vice, the abbot shall see that the monks are provided with everything that is necessary: cowl, robe, shoes, boots, girdle, knife, pen, needle, handkerchief, tablets, etc. For he should remember how the fathers did in this matter, as it is related in the Acts of the Apostles: “There was given unto each man according to his need” [Acts 2:45]. He should be guided in this by the requirements of the needy, rather than by the complaints of the discontented, remembering always that he shall have to give an account of all his decisions to God on the day of judgment.
Ch. 56.The table of the abbot.—The table of the abbot shall always be for the use of guests and pilgrims, and when there are no guests the abbot may invite some of the brothers to eat with him. But in that case, he should see that one or two of the older brothers are always left at the common table to preserve the discipline of the meal.
Ch. 57.Artisans of the monastery.—If there are any skilled artisans in the monastery, the abbot may permit them to work at their chosen trade, if they will do so humbly. But if any one of them is made proud by his skill in his particular trade or by his value to the monastery, he shall be made to give up that work and shall not go back to it until he has convinced the abbot of his humility. And if the products of any of these trades are sold, those who conduct the sales shall see that no fraud is perpetrated upon the monastery. For those who have any part in defrauding the monastery are in danger of spiritual destruction, just as Ananias and Sapphira for this sin suffered physical death. Above all, avarice is to be avoided in these transactions; rather the prices asked should be a little lower than those current in the neighborhood, that God may be glorified in all things.
Ch. 58.The way in which new members are to be received.—Entrance into the monastery should not be made too easy, for the apostle says: “Try the spirits, whether they are of God” [1 John 4:1]. So when anyone applies at the monastery, asking to be accepted as a monk, he should first be proved by every test. He shall be made to wait outside four or five days, continually knocking at the door and begging to be admitted; and then he shall be taken in as a guest and allowed to stay in the guest chamber a few days. If he satisfies these preliminary tests, he shall then be made to serve a novitiate of at least one year, during which he shall be placed under the charge of one of the older and wiser brothers, who shall examine him and prove, by every possible means, his sincerity, his zeal, his obedience, and his ability to endure shame. And he shall be told in the plainest manner all the hardships and difficulties of the life which he has chosen. If he promises never to leave the monastery [stabilitasloci] the rule shall be read to him after the first two months of his novitiate, and again at the end of six more months, and finally, four months later, at the end of his year. Each time he shall be told that this is the guide which he must follow as a monk, the reader saying to him at the end of the reading: “This is the law under which you have expressed a desire to live; if you are able to obey it, enter; if not, depart in peace.” Thus he shall have been given every chance for mature deliberation and every opportunity to refuse the yoke of service. But if he still persists in asserting his eagerness to enter and his willingness to obey the rule and the commands of his superiors, he shall then be received into the congregation, with the understanding that from that day forth he shall never be permitted to draw back from the service or to leave the monastery. The ceremony of receiving a new brother into the monastery shall be as follows: first he shall give a solemn pledge, in the name of God and his holy saints, of constancy, conversion of life, and obedience (stabilitas loci, conversio morum, obedientia);1 this promise shall be in writing drawn up by his own hand (or, if he cannot write, it may be drawn up by another at his request, and signed with his own mark), and shall be placed by him upon the altar in the presence of the abbot, in the name of the saints whose relics are in the monastery. Then he shall say: “Receive me, O Lord, according to thy word, and I shall live; let me not be cast down from mine expectation” [Ps. 119:116]; which shall be repeated by the whole congregation three times, ending with the “Gloria Patri.” Then he shall prostrate himself at the feet of all the brothers in turn, begging them to pray for him, and therewith he becomes a member of the congregation. If he has any property he shall either sell it all and give to the poor before he enters the monastery, or else he shall turn it over to the monastery in due form, reserving nothing at all for himself; for from that day forth he owns nothing, not even his own body and will. Then he shall take off his own garments there in the oratory, and put on the garments provided by the monastery. And those garments which he put off shall be stored away in the vestiary, so that if he should ever yield to the promptings of the devil and leave the monastery, he shall be made to put off the garments of a monk, and to put on his own worldly clothes, in which he shall be cast forth. But the written promise which the abbbot took from the altar where he placed it shall not be given back to him, but shall be preserved in the monastery.
Ch. 59.The presentation of children.—If persons of noble rank wish to dedicate their son to the service of God in the monastery, they shall make the promise for him, according to the following form: they shall bind his hand and the written promise along with the consecrated host in the altar-cloth and thus offer him to God. And in that document they shall promise under oath that their son shall never receive any of the family property, from them or any other person in any way whatsoever. If they are unwilling to do this, and desire to make some offering to the monastery for charity and the salvation of their souls, they may make a donation from that property, reserving to themselves the usufruct during their lives, if they wish. This shall all be done so clearly that the boy shall never have any expectations that might lead him astray, as we know to have happened. Poor people shall do the same when they offer their sons; and if they have no property at all they shall simply make the promise for their son and present him to the monastery with the host before witnesses.1
Ch. 60.Priests who wish to live in the monastery.—If a priest asks to be admitted into the monastery, he shall not be immediately accepted. But if he persists in his request, let it be made clear to him that he shall have to obey the whole rule, and that the regular discipline will not be relaxed in his favor; as it is written “Friend, wherefore art thou come?” [Matt. 26:50]. The abbot may assign him the place nearest himself, and may give him authority to pronounce the benediction or officiate at the mass, but the priest shall not presume to do any of these things, except by the authority of the abbot, for he is subject to the rule as all the others, and should indeed set an example to them by his humility. And when an ordination or other ceremony is held in the monastery, the priest shall occupy in the service the place which he holds as a monk, and not that which he would have as a priest. Members of other clerical grades [deacons, etc.] may also be received into the monastery as ordinary monks, if they wish to enter; but they shall be made to promise obedience to the rule and never to leave the monastery.
Ch. 61.The reception of strange monks.—If a monk from a distant region comes to the monastery and asks to be received, accepting the conditions and the customs of the place without fault-finding, he shall be welcomed and entertained as long as he wishes to stay. And if he humbly suggests certain faults and possible improvements in the conduct of the monastery, the abbot shall consider his suggestions carefully, for he may have been sent there by God for that very purpose. If he expresses a wish to remain permanently in that monastery, he may be admitted to membership immediately, ample opportunity having been given to discover his real character while he was a guest. The one who has been discovered during this time, however, to be wicked or unreasonable, shall not only be refused admission to the monastery as a member, but shall be plainly told to depart, that the congregation may not be contaminated by his evil example. Those who are worthy, on the other hand, shall not only be received at their request, but may be urged to stay as a good example for the rest, since we all serve the same Lord and Master wherever we may be. The abbot may even advance such a one to a higher grade if he thinks best, for it is in his power to promote not only monks, but priests and other members of the clergy, if their character and manner of life make it expedient. But the abbot should be careful that he does not receive into his congregation monks from other monasteries who have left without the consent of their abbot, or the usual commendatory letters;1 as it is written: “Do not unto others what ye would not that they should do unto you” [Luke 6:31].
Ch. 62.The ordaining of priests in the monastery.—When the abbot wishes to ordain a priest or a deacon for the service of the monastery, he shall choose one of his own congregation who is worthy to exercise such an office. And that brother shall not be elated because of his ordination, nor presume to exercise his office except by the command of the abbot; he should rather obey the rule the more carefully because of his calling, that he may grow in grace. Except for his right to officiate at the altar, he shall occupy the same position as before his ordination, unless he is promoted to a higher grade for his merits. He shall be subject to the authority of the deans and præpositi of the monastery as the rest, for his priestly office ought to incline him to greater obedience, rather than to resistance to authority. But if he is rebellious and refuses to submit even after frequent admonitions from the abbot, he may be handed over to the bishop of the diocese for correction. If after that he persists in his flagrant sin, refusing utterly to obey the rule, he shall be cast out of the monastery.
Ch. 63.Ranks among the monks.—There shall be different ranks among the monks, the rank of each being determined by the length of his service, by the character of his life, or by the decision of the abbot. But in this matter the abbot shall be careful not to give offence to any of his congregation, nor to use his power unjustly, for God will surely demand a reckoning of all his acts and decisions. These differences in rank are to be observed by the brothers in their daily life, each one having his own position in the choir, and his own turn at the confession and communion and in leading the psalms. But these differences shall not be based solely upon age, for we are told that Samuel and Daniel while still youths were made judges over priests; but rank shall ordinarily be determined by the time of entrance upon the monastic life, except in the case of promotions and degradations which the abbot may have made for cause. Thus, for example, one who was admitted as a monk at the second hour of the day shall be the inferior of the one admitted at the first hour. But in the case of children the discipline necessary to their welfare shall not be disturbed for this consideration. The proper attributes of inferiors are honor and reverence for those above them; and of superiors, love and affectionate care for those below them. This distinction shall be observed in addressing one another; thus an inferior shall be addressed as brother, and a superior as “nonnus” [that is, tutor or elder], as a sign of paternal reverence. But the abbot, since he is the representative of Christ, shall be addressed as “lord” and “abbot” [that is, father], not for his own exaltation, but for the honor and reverence which are due to Christ; and on his part, he shall always so conduct himself as to merit the honor which is shown to him. When two brothers meet, the inferior shall ask the other for his blessing. The inferior shall always rise and offer his superior his seat, and shall remain standing until the other bids him be seated; as it is written: “In honor preferring one another” [Rom. 12:10]. The children and youths are to be given their own places at the table and in the oratory, for the sake of preserving discipline, and indeed they shall be under strict discipline in all circumstances, until they have arrived at an age of discretion.
Ch. 64.The ordination of the abbot.—The election of the abbot shall be decided by the whole congregation or by that part of it, however small, which is of “the wiser and better counsel.”1 And he shall be chosen for his meritorious life and sound doctrine, even if he be the lowliest in the congregation. But if the whole congregation should agree to choose one simply because they know that he will wink at their vices, and the character of this abbot is discovered by the bishop of the diocese or by the abbots and Christian men of the neighborhood, they shall refuse their consent to the choice and shall interfere to set a better ruler over the house of God. If they do this with pure motives in zeal for the service of God they shall have their reward; just as, in neglecting to do so, they shall surely be guilty of sin. The one who is ordained should realize that he has assumed a heavy burden and also that he will have to render an account of his office to God. He should understand that he is set to rule for the profit of others and not for his own exaltation. He must be learned in the divine law, that he may know how and be able to bring forth things new and old [Matt. 13:52]. He shall be chaste, sober, and merciful, and always prefer mercy to justice, as he hopes to receive the same treatment from God. He should love the brothers, but hate their sins. He should exercise his authority to correct with the greatest prudence, lest, as it were, he should break the vase in his efforts to remove the stains. Let him remember in this regard that he himself is frail, and that “A bruised reed is not to be broken” [Is. 42:3]. We do not mean that he is to allow vices to flourish, but that he should exercise charity and care in his attempts to root them out, adapting his treatment to each case, as we said above. Let him strive to make himself loved rather than feared. He should not be violent nor easily worried, nor too obstinate in his opinions; he shall not be too jealous or suspicious of those about him, else he shall never have any peace of mind. His commands shall be given with foresight and deliberation, and he shall always examine his decisions to see whether they are made with regard for this world, or for the service of God. He shall profit by the warning of St. Jacob, where he says: “If I overdrive my flocks, they shall die all in one day” [cf. Gen. 33:13]. He should rule wisely, using discretion in all things; so that his administration may be such that the strong shall delight in it, while the weak are not offended by it. Above all, he should obey the rule in everything. Then, at the end of a good ministry, he shall receive that reward which the Lord has promised in the parable of the good servant: “Verily, I say unto you, that he shall make him ruler over all his goods” [Matt. 24:47].
Ch. 65.The præpositus of the monastery.—The ordination of præposit has been a frequent source of trouble in the monastery, for some of them have acted as if they were second abbots, and by their presumption have aroused ill-feeling and dissensions in the congregation. This occurs especially where the præpositus is ordained by the bishops and abbots from whom his own abbot has received his ordination. Herein is found the cause of the whole trouble, for the præpositus is led to believe himself freed from the control of the abbot because of his equal ordination. Thence arise envying, quarrels, dissensions, and disturbances; for, the abbot and the præpositus being opposed to one another, the congregation is divided into factions, to the peril of their souls. They who ordain them in this way are responsible for these evils. Accordingly we believe it better, for the sake of the peace of the monastery, that the abbot rule his congregation without a præpositus, intrusting the management to deans, as we have already suggested; because where several are employed with equal authority, no one can become unduly exalted. But sometimes the circumstances seem to require the services of a præpositus, or else the whole congregation humbly petitions the abbot to appoint one. Then, if he wishes, he may, with the advice of the brothers, choose one and ordain him himself. The præpositus shall have charge only of such affairs as the abbot may intrust to him, doing nothing without his consent; for his position calls for greater obedience because of the greater trust committed to him. But the wicked præpositus who acts presumptuously or refuses obedience to the rule shall be admonished for his fault at least four times; after that, if he persists in his evil ways, he shall be subjected to the discipline provided in the rule; and finally he shall be deposed from his office, and a worthier brother put in his place. And if he refuses to submit quietly and to take his old place in the congregation, he shall be cast out of the monastery. But the abbot should examine his own motives to see that he is not actuated by envy or jealousy, for he must render account to God for all his acts.
Ch. 66.The doorkeeper of the monastery.—The door of the monastery shall be kept by an aged monk, one who is able to perform the duties of that position wisely and whose age will prevent him from being tempted to wander outside. He shall have his cell near the door to be always at hand to answer to those who knock. Everyone who knocks shall receive a ready response, the doorkeeper welcoming him with thanks to God for his coming and giving him his blessing. If he needs an assistant he shall be given the services of one of the younger brothers. If possible, the monastery should contain within its walls everything necessary to the life and the labors of the monks, such as wells, a mill, bake-oven, gardens, etc., so that they shall have no excuse for going outside.
This rule shall be read often before the whole congregation, that no brother may be able to plead ignorance as an excuse for his sin.1
Ch. 67.Brothers who are sent on errands.—Those who are about to leave the monastery on errands, shall ask for the prayers of the abbot and the whole congregation while they are away; and this petition shall be added to the last prayer at every service during their absence. Likewise, at the end of every service on the day when they return, they shall prostrate themselves on the floor of the oratory and ask all the brothers to pray for them, because of the sins which they may have committed while out on the road, sins of seeing or of hearing or of speech. And no one of them shall venture to relate to the others anything that he saw or heard while out in the world, for herein lies the greatest danger of worldly contamination. If anyone shall do this he shall be disciplined according to the rule. Those who wander outside of the monastery without the permission of the abbot or go anywhere or do anything at all contrary to his commands shall also be punished.
Ch. 68.Impossible commands.—If a brother is commanded by his superior to do difficult or impossible things, he shall receive the command humbly and do his best to obey it; and if he finds it beyond human strength, he shall explain to the one in authority why it cannot be done, but he shall do this humbly and at an opportune time, not boldly as if resisting or contradicting his authority. But if after this explanation the superior still persists in his demands, he shall do his best to carry them out, believing that they are meant for his own good, and relying upon the aid of God, to whom all things are possible.
Ch. 69.No one shall defend another in the monastery.—No monk shall presume to come to the defence of another who has been reprimanded by his superior, even if the two are bound by the closest ties of relationship, for such actions give rise to the evils of insubordination and breach of discipline. If anyone violates this rule, he shall be severely punished.
Ch. 70.Monks shall not strike one another.—Monks should avoid especially the sin of presumption. Therefore, we forbid anyone to excommunicate or to strike his brother, unless by the authority directly given him by the abbot. When sinners are to be punished it shall be done before the whole congregation, for the example to the rest. Children and youths under fifteen years shall be subject to the discipline and control of all the brothers, but this, too, shall be exercised in reason and moderation. Any brother who of his own authority shall venture to strike one over that age, or who shall abuse the children unreasonably, shall be punished according to the rule; for it is written: “Do not unto others as ye would not that they should do unto you.”
Ch. 71.Monks are mutually to obey one another.—Not only should the monks obey the abbot; they should also obey one another, for obedience is one of the chief means of grace. The commands of the abbot and of the other officials shall always have precedence over those of any persons not in authority, but next to them the younger brothers should give loving and zealous obedience to the commands of their elders. If anyone refuses to do this, resisting the commands of a superior, he shall be corrected for his fault. Whenever a brother has been reprimanded by his abbot or by any superior for a fault of any sort, or knows that he has offended such a one, he shall immediately make amends, falling at the feet of the offended, and remaining there until he has received his forgiveness and blessing. And the one who refuses to humble himself in this way shall be punished with blows, being even cast out of the monastery if he persists in his stubbornness.
Ch. 72.The good zeal which monks should have.—There are two kinds of zeal: one that leads away from God to destruction, and one that leads to God and eternal life. Now these are the features of that good zeal which monks should cultivate: to honor one another; to bear with one another’s infirmities, whether of body or mind; to vie with one another in showing mutual obedience; to seek the good of another rather than of oneself; to show brotherly love one to another; to fear God; to love the abbot devotedly; and to prefer the love of Christ above everything else. This is the zeal that leads us to eternal life.
Ch. 73.This rule does not contain all the measures necessary for righteousness.—The purpose of this rule is to furnish a guide to the monastic life. Those who observe it will have at least entered on the way of salvation and will attain at least some degree of holiness. But he who aims at the perfect life must study and observe the teachings of all the holy fathers, who have pointed out in their writings the way of perfection. For every page and every word of the Bible, both the New and the Old Testament, is a perfect rule for this earthly life; and every work of the holy catholic fathers teaches us how we may direct our steps to God. The Collations, the Institutes, the Lives of the Saints, and the rule of our father, St. Basil, all serve as valuable instructions for monks who desire to live rightly and to obey the will of God. Their examples and their teachings should make us ashamed of our sloth, our evil lives, and our negligence. Thou who art striving to reach the heavenly land, first perfect thyself with the aid of Christ in this little rule, which is but the beginning of holiness, and then thou mayst under the favor of God advance to higher grades of virtue and knowledge through the teaching of these greater works. AMEN.
[1 ] The numbering of the psalms in the authorized version differs from their numbering in the Vulgate. We have followed the numberings of the latter in those passages of the Rule in which the psalms for the services are given. But in quotations from the psalms we have followed the translation as well as the numbering of the authorized version, except occasionally when the translation in the authorized version does not give the sense required by the context of the Rule. In these cases we have translated the Latin of the Vulgate. The following table gives the corresponding numbers in each version:
In the Vulgate there are two psalms having the same number 10.
[1 ] There were eight services to be held every day. The night service was called vigils and was held some time between midnight and early dawn, perhaps as early as 2 a.m. in summer, and as late as 4 or 5 in winter. The first service of the day was called matins. It followed vigils after a short interval. It was supposed to begin about daybreak, which is also an indefinite expression and not a clearly fixed moment. The service of prime began with the first period of the day, terce with the third, sext with the sixth, and nones with the ninth. Vespers, as its name indicates, began toward evening. Completorium, or compline, was the last service of the day and took place just before the monks went to bed.
These designations of time are necessarily very inaccurate and indefinite. Beginning with sunrise the day was divided into twelve equal periods which were numbered from one to twelve. Beginning with sunset the night was divided in the same way. The day periods would, of course, be much longer in summer than in winter. As their methods of measuring time were primitive and inaccurate we must not suppose that the services took place exactly and regularly at the same hour every day.
[1 ] In the early church Wednesdays and Fridays were fast-days, because Christ was believed to have been born on a Wednesday and he died on a Friday.
[1 ] The vows which a monk had to take are found in chap. 58 and in nos. 252-257. They are differently stated but may be summed up as follows: (1) stabilitas loci, stability of place, steadfastness; that is, he took a vow never to leave the monastery and give up the monastic life; (2) conversio morum, conversion of life; that is, to give up all secular and worldly practices and to conform to the ideals and standards of the monastic life; (3) observance of the rule; (4) obedience, that is, to the abbot and to all his superiors; (5) chastity; and (6) poverty. The last three are generally meant when “monastic vows” are spoken of.
[1 ] See nos. 259, 260.
[1 ] See nos. 261-264.
[1 ] See introductory note to no. 113.
[1 ] From this last sentence it is thought that this was at one time the end of the rule, and that all the chapters which follow were added at a later date.