The Rule of St. Benedict: Edited with an English Translation and Explanatory Notes - D. Oswald Hunter Blair - ebook
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Almost 1500 hundred years have passed away since the founder and father of western monachism gave to the world, (about A.D. 535) from the solitude of Monte Cassino, the code of religious life which the consensus of Christian centuries has stamped with the distinctive title of the Holy Rule.Forming as it did for so many ages one of the most powerful instruments of the civilisation of Europe, the Rule of St. Benedict possesses - apart from its intrinsic merits, or its value as a literary monument of the early Church - an interest which is not limited to the Benedictine family alone, but which cannot but be shared by every thoughtful student of history.The English version here presented, which has been undertaken in compliance with the demand for a new translation of the Holy Rule, will be found, it is hoped, to have at least the merit of faithfully rendering the original text. It has been the translator’s aim, at the same time, to preserve as far as possible the simplicity of style which, next to the supernatural wisdom that illuminates every page, is perhaps the most striking characteristic of the Holy Rule.The Latin text adopted, which will be found to differ slightly from that of recent English editions, was first printed in 1659 by D. Augustine de Ferrariis, a monk of Monte Cassino, from the most ancient and authentic manuscripts in the archives of that venerable monastery. The text in question (since reprinted in the Florilegium Bibliothecae Casinensis) has been carefully collated throughout with an MS. copy of the Rule, and commentary of Bernard of M. Cassino, dating from the 13th century, and in the possession of Fort Augustus Abbey.The Dates in small type indicate the portion of the Holy Rule to be read daily in monasteries, usually at the end of Prime.An index has been added for convenience of reference. The explanatory notes are chiefly based upon the most ancient and approved commentaries on the Holy Rule; and it is hoped that they will be found of service in the elucidation of various passages whose meaning is not apparent from a mere verbal rendering of the original text. It has been thought best to place the notes in an appendix, rather than at the foot of the page, in order not to interfere with the use of the Holy Rule for purposes of devotion or meditation, for which it is so admirably adapted.May this little work go forth bearing with it the blessing of our dear Holy Father Saint Benedict; and may it be the means, under God, of making his name more widely known, and more abundantly honoured, in the land that was once his by a hundred ties.

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The Rule

of

St. Benedict

Edited with an English translation and explanatory notes

By

D. Oswald Hunter Blair

Abbot of Fort Augustus

Fort Augustus, Scotland

Abbey Press

1934

Hope. Inspiration. Trust.

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Contents

Translator's Preface

Prologue of our Most Holy Father Saint Benedict to his Rule

I. Of the Several Kinds of Monks and their Way of Life

II. What Kind of Man the Abbot ought to be

III. Of Calling the Brethren to Council

IV. What are the Instruments of Good Works

V. Of Obedience

VI. Of the Practice of Silence

VII. Of Humility

VIII. Of the Divine Office at Night

IX. How many Psalms are to be said at the Night Hours

X. How the Night-Office is to be said in Summer Time

XI. How the Night-Office is to be said on Sundays

XII. How the Solemn Office of Lauds is to be said

XIII. How Lauds are to be said on Week-days

XIV. How the Night-Office is to be said on Saints’ Days

XV. At what Times of the year Alleluia is to be Said

XVI. How the Work of God is to be done in the Day-Time

XVII. How many Psalms are to be sung at these Hours

XVIII. In what Order the Psalms are to be said

XIX. Of the Discipline of saying the Divine Office

XX. Of Reverence at Prayer

XXI. Of the Deans of the Monastery

XXII. How the Monks are to sleep

XXIII. Of Excommunication for Offences

XXIV. What the Measure of Excommunication should be

XXV. Of Graver Faults

XXVI. Of those who, without Leave of the Abbot, Consort with the Excommunicate

XXVII. How Careful the Abbot should be of the Excommunicate

XXVIII. Of those who, being often corrected, do not Amend

XXIX. Whether the Brethren who Leave the Monastery are to be Received again

XXX. How the Younger Boys are to be Corrected

XXXI. What Kind of Man the Cellarer of the Monastery is to be

XXXII. Of the Iron Tools and Property of the Monastery

XXXIII. Whether Monks ought to have Anything of their own

XXXIV. Whether all ought alike to Receive what is Needful

XXXV. Of the Weekly Servers in the Kitchen

XXXVI. Of the Sick Brethren

XXXVII. Of Old Men and Children

XXXVIII. Of the Weekly Reader

XXXIX. Of the Measure of Food

XL. Of the Measure of Drink

XLI. At what Hours the Brethren are to take their Meals

XLII. That no one may Speak after Compline

XLIII. Of those who Come Late to the Work of God, or to Table

XLIV. Of those who are Excommunicated, how they are to Make Satisfaction

XLV. Of those who make mistakes in the Oratory

XLVI. Of those who Offend in any Other Matters

XLVII. Of Signifying the Hour for the Work of God

XLVIII. Of the Daily Manual Labour

XLIX. Of the Observance of Lent

L. Of the Brethren who are Working at a Distance from the Oratory, or are on a Journey

LI. Of the Brethren who go not very far off

LII. Of the Oratory of the Monastery

LIII. Of Receiving Guests

LIV. Whether a Monk ought to Receive Letters, or Tokens

LV. Of the Clothes and Shoes of the Brethren

LVI. Of the Abbot’s Table

LVII. Of the Artificers of the Monastery

LVIII. Of the Discipline of Receiving Brethren into Religion

LIX. Of the Sons of Nobles or of Poor Men that are Offered

LX. Of Priests who may Wish to Dwell in the Monastery

LXI. Of Stranger Monks, how they are to be received

LXII. Of the Priests of the Monastery

LXIII. Of the Order of the Community

LXIV. Of the Appointment of the Abbot

LXV. Of the Prior of the Monastery

LXVI. Of the Porter of the Monastery

LXVII. Of Brethren who are Sent on a Journey

LXVIII. If a Brother be Commanded to Do Impossibilities

LXIX. That no One Presume to Defend Another in the Monastery

LXX. That no One Presume to Strike Another

LXXI. That the Brethren be Obedient One to the Other

LXXII. Of the Good Zeal which Monks ought to Have

LXXIII. That the Whole Observance of Perfection is not Set down in this Rule

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Translator's Preface

More than thirteen hundred years have passed away since the founder and father of western monachism gave to the world, (about A.D. 535) from the solitude of Monte Cassino, the code of religious life which the consensus of Christian centuries has stamped with the distinctive title of the Holy Rule.

Forming as it did for so many ages one of the most powerful instruments of the civilisation of Europe, the Rule of St. Benedict possesses - apart from its intrinsic merits, or its value as a literary monument of the early Church - an interest which is not limited to the Benedictine family alone, but which cannot but be shared by every thoughtful student of history.

The English version here presented, which has been undertaken in compliance with the demand for a new translation of the Holy Rule, will be found, it is hoped, to have at least the merit of faithfully rendering the original text. It has been the translator’s aim, at the same time, to preserve as far as possible the simplicity of style which, next to the supernatural wisdom that illuminates every page, is perhaps the most striking characteristic of the Holy Rule.

The Latin text adopted, which will be found to differ slightly from that of recent English editions, was first printed in 1659 by D. Augustine de Ferrariis, a monk of Monte Cassino, from the most ancient and authentic manuscripts in the archives of that venerable monastery. The text in question (since reprinted in the Florilegium Bibliothecae Casinensis) has been carefully collated throughout with an MS. copy of the Rule, and commentary of Bernard of M. Cassino, dating from the 13th century, and in the possession of Fort Augustus Abbey.

The Dates in small type indicate the portion of the Holy Rule to be read daily in monasteries, usually at the end of Prime.

An index has been added for convenience of reference. The explanatory notes are chiefly based upon the most ancient and approved commentaries on the Holy Rule; and it is hoped that they will be found of service in the elucidation of various passages whose meaning is not apparent from a mere verbal rendering of the original text. It has been thought best to place the notes in an appendix, rather than at the foot of the page, in order not to interfere with the use of the Holy Rule for purposes of devotion or meditation, for which it is so admirably adapted.

May this little work go forth bearing with it the blessing of our dear Holy Father Saint Benedict; and may it be the means, under God, of making his name more widely known, and more abundantly honoured, in the land that was once his by a hundred ties.

SANCTE PATER BENEDICTE, PER EXEMPLAREM VITAM ET PRETIOSISSIMAM MORTEM TUAM, BENEDIC ME IN VIA REGULAETUAE, UT PERVENIAM AD PATRIAMAETERNAE GLORIAE IN COELIS. AMEN

St. Benedict's Abbey,

Fort Augustus,

Scotland.

Solemnity of Our Most Holy Father St. Benedict, 1886

Prologue of our Most Holy Father Saint Benedict to his Rule

1 Jan. 2 May. 1 Sept

Hearken, O my son, to the precepts of thy Master, and incline the ear of thine heart; willingly receive and faithfully fulfil the admonition of thy loving Father, that thou mayest return by the labour of obedience to Him from Whom thou hadst departed through the sloth of disobedience. To thee, therefore, my words are now addressed, whoever thou art that, renouncing thine own will, dost take up the strong and bright weapons of obedience, in order to fight for the Lord Christ, our true king. In the first place, whatever good work thou beginnest to do, beg of Him with most earnest prayer to perfect; that He Who hath now vouchsafed to count us in the number of His children may not at any time be grieved by our evil deeds. For we must always so serve Him with the good things He hath given us, that not only may He never, as an angry father, disinherit his children, but may never, as a dreadful Lord, incensed by our sins, deliver us to everlasting punishment, as most wicked servants who would not follow Him to glory.

2 Jan. 3 May. 2 Sept.

Let us then at length arise, since the Scripture stirreth us up, saying: It is time now for us to rise from sleep.” And our eyes being open to the deifying light, let us hear with wondering ears what the Divine Voice admonisheth us, daily crying out: “To-day if ye shall hear His voice, harden not your hearts.” And again, “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the Churches.” And what saith He? “Come, my children, hearken to Me, I will teach you the fear of the Lord. Run while ye have the light of life, lest the darkness of death seize hold of you.”

3 Jan. 4 May. 3 Sept.

And the Lord, seeking His own workman in the multitude of the people to whom He thus crieth out, saith again: “Who is the man that will have life, and desireth to see good days. And if thou, hearing Him, answer, “I am he,” God saith to thee: “If thou wilt have true and everlasting life, keep thy tongue from evil and thy lips that they speak no guile. Turn from evil, and do good: seek peace and pursue it. And when you have done these things, My eyes will be upon you, and My ears will be open to your prayers; and before you call upon Me, I will say unto you, “Behold, I am here.” What can be sweeter to us, dearest brethren, than this voice of the Lord inviting us? Behold in His loving-kindness the Lord sheweth unto us the way of life.

4 Jan. 5 May. 4 Sept.

Having our loins, therefore, girded with faith and the performance of good works, let us walk in His paths by the guidance of the Gospel, that we may deserve to see Him Who hath called us to His kingdom. And if we wish to dwell in the tabernacle of His kingdom, we shall by no means reach it unless we run thither by our good deeds. But let us ask the Lord with the Prophet, saying to Him: “Lord, who shall dwell in Thy tabernacle, or who shall rest upon Thy holy hill?” After this question, brethren, let us hear the Lord answering, and shewing to us the way to His tabernacle, and saying: “He that walketh without stain and worketh justice: he that speaketh truth in his heart, that hath not done guile with his tongue: he that hath done no evil to his neighbour, and hath not taken up a reproach against his neighbour:” he that hath brought the malignant evil one to naught, casting him out of his heart with all his suggestions, and hath taken his bad thoughts, while they were yet young, and dashed them down upon the (Rock) Christ. These are they, who fearing the Lord, are not puffed up with their own good works, but knowing that the good which is in them cometh not from themselves but from the Lord, magnify the Lord Who worketh in them, saying with the Prophet: “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto Thy Name give the glory.” So the Apostle Paul imputed nothing of his preaching to himself, but said: “By the grace of God I am what I am.” And again he saith: “He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.”

5 Jan. 6 May. 5 Sept.

Hence also the Lord saith in the Gospel: “He that heareth these words of Mine, and doeth them, is like a wise man who built his house upon a rock: the floods came, the winds blew, and beat upon that house, and it fell not, because it was founded upon a rock.” And the Lord in fulfilment of these His words is waiting daily for us to respond by our deeds to His holy admonitions. Therefore are the days of our life lengthened for the amendment of our evil ways, as saith the Apostle: “Knowest thou not that the patience of God is leading thee to repentance?” For the merciful Lord saith: “I will not the death of a sinner, but that he should be converted and live.”

6 Jan. 7 May. 6 Sept.

Since then, brethren, we have asked of the Lord who is to inhabit His temple, we have heard His commands to those who are to dwell there and if we fulfil those duties, we shall be heirs of the kingdom of heaven. Our hearts, therefore, and our bodies must be made ready to fight under the holy obedience of His commands; and let us ask God to supply by the help of His grace what by nature is not possible to us. And if we would arrive at eternal life, escaping the pains of hell, then - while there is yet time, while we are still in the flesh, and are able to fulfil all these things by the light which is given us - we must hasten to do now what will profit us for all eternity.

7 Jan. 8 May. 7 Sept.

We have, therefore, to establish a school of the Lord’s service, in the setting forth of which we hope to order nothing that is harsh or rigorous. But if anything be somewhat strictly laid down, according to the dictates of sound reason, for the amendment of vices or the preservation of charity, do not therefore fly in dismay from the way of salvation, whose beginning cannot but be strait and difficult. But as we go forward in our life and in faith, we shall with hearts enlarged and unspeakable sweetness of love run in the way of God’s commandments; so that never departing from His guidance, but persevering in His teaching in the monastery until death, we may by patience share in the sufferings of Christ, that we may deserve to be partakers of His kingdom. Amen.

I. Of the Several Kinds of Monks and their Way of Life

8 Jan. 9 May. 8 Sept.