Rule of St. Benedict

(Translated into English. A Pax Book, preface by W.K. Lowther Clarke. London: S.P.C.K., 1931)
PROLOGUE
Hearken continually within thine heart, O son, giving attentive ear to the precepts of thy
master. Understand with willing mind and effectually fulfil thy holy father’s admonition; that thou
mayest return, by the labour of obedience, to Him from Whom, by the idleness of disobedience,
thou hadst withdrawn. To this end I now address a word of exhortation to thee, whosoever thou art,
who, renouncing thine own will and taking up the bright and all-conquering weapons of obedience,
dost enter upon the service of thy true king, Christ the Lord.
In the first place, then, when thou dost begin any good thing that is to be done, with most
insistent prayer beg that it may be carried through by Him to its conclusion; so that He Who already
deigns to count us among the number of His children may not at any time be made aggrieved by
evil acts on our part. For in such wise is obedience due to Him, on every occasion, by reason of the
good He works in us; so that not only may He never, as an irate father, disinherit us His children,
but also may never, as a dread-inspiring master made angry by our misdeeds, deliver us over to
perpetual punishment as most wicked slaves who would not follow Him to glory.
Let us therefore now at length rise up as the Scripture incites us when it says: “Now is the
hour for us to arise from sleep.” And with our eyes open to the divine light, let us with astonished
ears listen to the admonition of God’s voice daily crying out and saying: “Today if ye will hear His
voice, harden not your hearts.” And again: “He who has the hearing ear, let him hear what the Spirit
announces to the churches.” And what does the Spirit say? “Come, children, listen to me: I will
teach you the fear of the Lord. Run while ye have the light of life, that the shades of death envelop
you not.”
And inquiring for His own labourer among the multitude of the people to whom He
proclaims these things, the Lord says again: “Who is the man that wishes for life, and desires to see
good days?” And if hearing this thou dost answer “I,” God then says to thee: “If thou dost wish for
life true and eternal, refrain thy tongue from evil and let not thy lips speak guile. Turn aside from
evil and do good; seek out peace and follow it. And when ye have done this, lo, My eyes are upon
you and My ears open to your prayers. And before ye call, I will say, ‘Behold, I am here.’ ”
What, most dear brethren, could be more sweet to us than this voice of the Lord inviting us?
Behold the Lord points out the way of life to us by His own fatherly affection.
Let our loins then be girt with faith and the observance of good works, and let us, gospelled, pursue His paths, that we may be worthy to see Him Who has called us unto His own kingdom.
But if our wish be to have a dwelling-place in His kingdom, let us remember it can by no
means be attained unless one run thither by good deeds. For, with the prophet, let us ask the Lord,
saying to Him: “Lord, who will dwell in Thy tabernacle, and who will rest in Thy holy mount?”
After putting this question, brethren, let us listen to our Lord showing us in answer the way to that
same tabernacle by saying: “He who lives blamelessly and does justice; he who speaks truth from
his heart; he who has kept his tongue from guile; he who has done his neighbour no evil and has
accepted no slander against his neighbour”: he who has brought to naught the malignant slanderer
the devil, rejecting from his heart’s thoughts him and his efforts to persuade him; and who has taken
The Rule of St. Benedict 2
hold of his suggestions or ever they be come to maturity and has dashed them against the Rock
which is Christ. Those who fear the Lord are not puffed up by their own good observance of rule,
but reckoning that the good that is in them could not be wrought by themselves but by God,
magnify the Lord working in them and say with the prophet: “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but
to Thy Name give glory.” Just as also the Apostle Paul attributed nothing to himself concerning his
own preaching, but said: “By the grace of God, I am what I am.” And again the same Paul said: “He
who glories, in the Lord let him glory.”

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