St. Benedict is a Christian saint who is responsible for the creation of the Rule of Benedict, which is a set of rules and guidelines for Christian monks to follow. It is regarded as one of the most influential texts that helped establish the basic rules of monasticism in medieval Europe. This essay aims at examining the virtues and guidelines that St. Benedict sees as crucial in a monastic way of life and compares them to earlier Church Fathers to determine differences and similarities.
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The central virtues of The Rule of Benedict are obedience, silence, and humility. They are given thorough descriptions in chapters V-VII to better illustrate their importance in monasticism. To reinforce the idea of a certain type of behavior that is befitting a monk, he also provides detailed guidelines in chapter IV. This set of rules is supposed to provide the clergy with an example to follow in their mission to serve the Lord.
Obedience implies total subordination to the superiors in the clergy, even if it involves abandoning the original objective the monk is trying to achieve. The importance of the orders commanded by the higher church members is comparable to God’s will and cannot be postponed or denied. “To hate one’s own will” and “to fulfill daily commandments of God by works” guidelines illustrate the virtue of obedience and abandoning personal ambitions for a greater purpose.
The virtue of silence is best illustrated by such guidelines as “to guard one’s tongue against bad and wicked speech” and “not to be a murmurer.” However, the virtue does not imply the vow of silence, rather a certain degree of restraint when it comes to questioning the credibility of orders and speeches of superior members of the clergy. A positive attitude in tasks’ completion is also required in order to satisfy Lord’s will.
The virtue of humility is best represented by “to be in dread of hell” and “not to love pride” rules. Every monk should be acquainted with the consequences of their sinful behavior as well as of exaltation of one’s soul. Pride is put in stark contrast with humility, implying that the latter is a way to everlasting life in heaven, while the former leads to eternal damnation in hell.
Perhaps, it is the most logical to compare the Rules of St. Benedict to the Rules of St. Basil and the Rule of the Master. Two works had a tremendous influence on the set of guidelines, both thematically and structurally. The rules of Basilian monks cover a lot of similar topics and focus mainly on the same virtues. Both emphasize the importance of humility, hard work for the good of society, contrary to the hermitic way of monasticism, and self-abnegation. However, St. Benedict’s rules also mention the virtue of silence, which translates to total subordination and lack of doubt in your superiors. The structuring of the Rule of the Master heavily resembles one of the Benedictian rules; however, some parts are omitted from the latter. St. Benedict adapts the former’s ideas to stress the importance of brotherly love and the inherent goodness of human nature.
In conclusion, the Rules of St. Benedict is a set of guidelines that highlighted virtues and provided lines that helped establish western monasticism. Benedictian monks share a large number of similarities with Basilian monks, due to the nature of virtues both sets of guidelines emphasize. Humility, obedience, and self-abnegation are considered essential for a monastic way of life. It is also worth mentioning that the structure of the Rules of Benedict is almost identical to the Rule of the Master, making it a possible source of inspiration for St. Benedict.
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