Friday, August 19, 2016

The Rule of Saint Benedict: Chapter 40

Continuing on with the everyday life we now go into the proper amount of drink. This sounds ridiculous at first - thinking that surely the monks are allowed to drink when they are out working and get thirsty. But, a closer look at what the monks are drinking sheds a little light on this issue.


Chapter 40. THE PROPER AMOUNT OF DRINK

  1.  Everyone has his own gift from God, one this and another that (1 Cor 7:7). 
  2. It is, therefore, with some uneasiness that we specify the amount of food and drink for others.
  3. However, with due regard for the infirmities of the sick, we believe that a half bottle of wine a day is sufficient for each. 
  4. But those to whom God gives strength to abstain must know that they will earn their own reward.
  5. The superior will determine when local conditions, work or the summer heat indicates the need for a greater amount. He must, in any case, take great care lest excess or drunkenness creep in. 
  6. We read that monks should not drink wine at all, but since the monks of our day cannot be convinced of this, let us at least agree to drink moderately, and not to the point of excess, 
  7. for wine makes even wise men go astray (Sir 19:2).
  8. However, where local circumstances dictate an amount much less than what is stipulated above, or even none at all, those who live there should bless God and not grumble. 
  9. Above all else, we admonish them to refrain from grumbling.
I will tell you that if I had a half bottle of wine every day then I would have very few problems; wine gladdens a man's heart (Psalm 104:15) after all. 

Notice in the second verse up there that it says we are uneasy to specify the amount of food and drink. This is not an easy task to try to figure out; Saint Benedict did not just come up with this arbitrary half a bottle a day, it took some consideration.

I'm not really sure why there was a debate on whether or not monks should drink wine, but I do know that wine and other alcohols were very common drinks because often times water may not be sanitized. It seems like we would want monks to drink some wine in those conditions so they would not all fall ill and die because of tainted water. That is looking back with what we now know, however, and not beneficial to the discussion. Needless to say, there was apparently some discussion about monks abstaining from wine, but Saint Benedict here is allowing for his monks to drink, but not to excess, only in moderation.

Thank God Saint Benedict allowed his monks to drink wine because they have made some really good ones, as well as some good beers and brandies.

Anyway, to get back on point, we see that moderation is key - one reason why Saint Benedict was uneasy in regulating how much drink to let the monks have. One man can drink 5 beers, another can drink only 2 before both are drunk, so in the interest of trying to make things fair, a half bottle of wine was probably the best compromise.

But we see that the monks are not to grumble if they can not have wine for whatever reason, but bless God instead. Perhaps the region the monks are in has outlawed alcohol and the monks can not make it for themselves, but they should still be glad that they are allowed to praise God - or at the very least alive.


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