December 2020 Lectio Divina and Oblate Reflections
Sources: Luke 1:67-79; The Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 72 Study Guide for The Rule of St. Benedict, Maria-Thomas Beil, OSB, page 180-185
For our Lectio Divina practice, we read more deeply the well-known Benedictus that is prayed every morning in the Divine Office, Luke 1:67-79.
Words and phrases that resonate with us, shared in our discussion:
Save us from our enemies….to show mercy….to set us free… without fear…. knowledge of salvation….forgiveness of our sins….the way of peace…promise….prepare his way…you, my child…tender compassion.
The Benedictus proclaims what God is doing and will do for us—not what we do. Many of us have grown up with the image of an angry God, but that is not the God we are shown in Scripture. We are promised a God of tender compassion, not a bookkeeper of judgments. Mercy is God’s loving response to suffering. God is not watching from afar; God is suffering with us.
The dawn from on high breaks upon us—God is breaking in with the incarnation and gives us hope. Benedict was not harsh, but practical, just as God is tender. God enters our history to experience our suffering with us, but we must expose our wounds for the tender compassion of our God to work. To prepare our heart, we must invite God in. Advent was a time to prepare our hearts for God to enter—although this task is never fully completed. We must live in perpetual Advent, inviting God in and humbling ourselves without fear, to receive the tender compassion of our loving God.
For our afternoon session, we read Chapter 72 in the Rule of St. Benedict and pages 180-185 in our study book. Chapter 72 is the culmination and fulfillment of the Rule. In this last chapter, using biblical language to describe the ideal community, Benedict teaches us how to live together in Christ— in harmony, peace, and joy. A summary of the Rule and a roadmap for living in community, Chapter 72 asks monks to show good zeal and respect to the other, to have great patience, to be humble and to show fervent love. In our obedience and respect of others, we show humility, we listen to each other, attempting to understand where others are in their life. We bear one another’s weaknesses and accept considering what is good for others, not just ourselves. This attitude of living within community is a way to express that we prefer nothing whatever to Christ, that the love of Christ is our priority. We now have an opportunity to extend the “tender compassion of our God” to others.
Chapter 72 is a guide or mission statement for how to live in community—not just for the monastery, but a marriage, classroom, family, or workplace. We all fall short of the ideal even when we have the desire to follow this Rule. It can be so hard to be in community and challenging when we encounter a wicked zeal or when there is divisiveness. We are to still learn how to love, to not judge, and to presume positive intentions in the other. What we think or believe may not be the truth, not pure. We must challenge our misconceptions, judgements, and stereotype. A pure love is without expectation or agendas, not mixed with something else, absolute, free from sin, preferring nothing to Christ, a single-mindedness, a total acceptance of the other as different from ourselves. A pure love is when we do not try to change the other.
Community is a shelter, protection a defense, the first place we learn how to accept each other, to share, to respect, to welcome others. We all look for a place of belonging—and it is through the teaching in Chapter 72 that we can learn to be part of a community that welcomes us in our weakness as we do the same for others.
Photos from Munich and Schwarzach, Germany on Pilgrimage in 2019.