Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Rule of Saint Benedict: Chapter 44

We have now seen some of the everyday governance that takes place in a monastery. Being in a monastery, however, things will always have a spiritual slant to them, and when the Church is involved there is always the possibility - no matter how sad and heartbreaking - of being excommunicated.


  1. Anyone excommunicated for serious faults from the oratory and from the table is to prostrate himself in silence at the oratory entrance at the end of the celebration of the Work of God. 
  2. He should lie face down at the feet of all as they leave the oratory, 
  3. and let him do this until the abbot judges he has made satisfaction. 
  4. Next, at the bidding of the abbot, he is to prostrate himself at the abbot's feet, then at the feet of all that they may pray for him. 
  5. Only then, if the abbot orders, should he be admitted to the choir in the rank the abbot assigns. 
  6. Even so, he should not presume to lead a psalm or a reading or anything else in the oratory without further instructions from the abbot. 
  7. In addition, at the hours, as the Work of God is being completed, he must prostrate himself in the place he occupies. 
  8. He will continue this form of satisfaction until the abbot again bids him cease.
  9. Those excommunicated for less serious faults from the table only are to make satisfaction in the oratory for as long as the abbot orders. 
  10. They do so until he gives his blessing and says: "Enough."
We will recall that the Divine Liturgy revolves around the Eucharist - Communion - it is wholly Christ-centered. To be in communion with the Church means that you agree with the Church and its teachings. But there is more to it than that.

In order to take communion one should go to confession often. One should not have committed serious offenses, and if one does commit a serious offense then one can be excommunicated as a matter of education and repentance. In the course of being excommunicated one usually has a penance they must do before they are allowed to commune again - saying 10 Hail Marys is what one usually sees in movies that have a scene in a confessional booth, but they can range from very simple things such as praying more, to - as we read above - making prostrations in front of the priest and the people/ abbot and monks.

This is not to embarrass the penitent, but to bring out correction and humility. The idea is to bring about metanoia - a repentance which brings about a change of heart in the penitent to the degree that they would not want to commit the same sin again. 

Once the penance is completed to the satisfaction of the confessor (the abbot or the priest) then the penitent is allowed to commune once again. If they person held some kind of rank in the Church then it is on the confessor to either restore that rank, or have the person start elsewhere after the penance is completed - in the case of a priest he could lose his ordination and become a layman once again, or someone who was in the choir may no longer be allowed to sing in the choir for a length of time.

I'm not a priest, only a layman, so the information that I have presented here may not be accurate. I am open to correction if I have misrepresented any facts, but these are the facts as I understand them and that I understand them to have been explained to me.
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