Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Rule of Saint Benedict: Chapter 4

This chapter of the Rule covers good works. Many of my protestant readers may think that Orthodoxy is a works based religion, which is partially accurate; we are a faith based religion that practices faith based works. We don't think that these works will get us into heaven; rather we have faith, and doing works is a result of that faith.

What are these works that we practice? Well in general it is the things we are told to do in Scripture; praying, fasting, tithing, clothing and feeding the homeless, loving God and our neighbors, etc. We are, of course, still human so many of us stumble in these things - for instance I am horrible at fasting - we still try to do these things on account of our faith, because we are told to do these things. This next chapter brings that point home with many references to Scripture.

Chapter 4

The Tools for Good Works

First of all, love the Lord God with you whole heart, your whole soul and all your strength,

and love your neighbor as yourself
(Matt 22:37-39; Mark 12:30-31; Luke 10:27).

Then following: You are not to kill,

not to commit adultery;

you are not to steal

nor to covet
(Rom 13:9);

you are not to bear false witness (Matt 19:18; Mark 10:19; Luke 18:20).

You must honor everyone (1 Pet 2:17),

and never do to another what you do not want done to yourself (Tob 4:16; Matt 7:12; Luke 6:31).

Renounce yourself in order to follow Christ (Matt 16:24; Luke 9:23);

discipline your body (1 Cor 9:27);

do not pamper yourself,

but love fasting.

You must relieve the lot of the poor,

clothe the naked,

visit the sick
(Matt 25:36)

and bury the dead.

Go to help the troubled

and console the sorrowing.

Your way of acting should be different from the world's way;

the love of Christ must come before all else.

You are not to act in anger

or nurse a grudge.

Rid your heart of all deceit.

Never give a hollow greeting of peace

or turn away when someone needs your love.

Bind yourself to no oath lest it prove false,

but speak the truth with heart and tongue.

Do not repay one bad turn with another (1Thess 5:15; 1 Pet 3:9).

Do not inure anyone, but bear injuries patiently.

Love your enemies (Matt 5:44; Luke 627).

If people curse you, do not curse them back but bless them instead.

Endure persecution for the sake of justice (Matt 5:10).

You must not be proud,

nor be given to wine
(Titus 1:7; 1 Tim 3:3).

Refrain from too much eating,

or sleeping,

and from laziness (Rom 12:11).

Do not grumble,

or speak ill of others.

Place your hope in God alone.

If you notice something good in yourself, give credit to God, not yourself,

but be certain that the evil you commit is always your own and yours to acknowledge.
Live in fear is judgement day

and have a great horror of hell.

Yearn for everlasting life with holy desire.

Day by day remind yourself that you are going to die.

Hour after hour keep careful watch over all you do,

aware that God's gaze is upon you, wherever you may be.

As soon as wrongful thoughts come into your heart, dash them against Christ and disclose them to your spiritual father.

Guard your lips from harmful or deceptive speech.

Prefer moderation in speech

and speak no foolish chatter, nothing just to provoke laughter;

do not love immoderate or boisterous laughter.

Listen readily to holy reading,

and devote yourself often to prayer.

Every day with tears and sighs confess your past sins to God in prayer

and change from these evil ways in the future.

Do not gratify the promptings of the flesh (Gal 5:16);

hate the urging of self-will.

Obey the orders of the abbot unreservedly, even if his own conduct - God forbid - be at odds with what he says. Remember the teaching of the Lord: Do what they say, not what they do (Matt 23:3).

Do not aspire to be called holy before you really are, but first be holy that you may more truly be called so.

Live by God's commandments every day;

treasure chastity,

harbor neither hatred

nor jealousy of anyone,

and do nothing out of envy.

Do not love quarrelling;

shun arrogance.

Repect the elders

and love the young.

Pray for your enemies out of love for Christ.

If you have a dispute with someone, make peace with him before the sun goes down.

And finally, never lose hope in God's mercy.

These, then, are the tools of the spiritual craft.

When we have used them without ceasing day and night and have returned them on judgement day, our wages will be the reward the Lord has promised:

What the eye has not seen nor the ear heard, God has prepared for those who love him (1 Cor 2:9).

The workshop where we are to toil faithfully at all these tasks is the enclosure of the monastery and stability in the community.


As we saw, many of the things mentioned are things we should already be doing quoted directly from Scripture. Some of the other things were not quoted, but taken from Scripture as well.

These are all things that we should be doing day and night, without ceasing.
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