Sunday, 22 July 2012

The Wisdom and Life of St Benedict/9 - Not to do to another what one would not have done to oneself

A priest shares his Easter meal with St Benedict
Il Sodoma, c1505

Today's saying from Chapter 4 of the Rule of  St Benedict is the Golden Rule.  It can be found in Scripture in several places, most notably Tobias 4:16; Acts 15:20, 29); Mt 7:12; and Luke 6:31.

The Golden Rule

In Tobias (Tobit), it forms part of the instructions Tobias gives his son before setting out on his journey:

"Hear, my son, the words of my mouth, and lay them as a foundation in your heart. 3 When God shall take my soul, you shall bury my body: and you shall honour your mother all the days of her life: 4 For you must be mindful what and how great perils she suffered for you in her womb. 5 And when she also shall have ended the time of her life, bury her by me. 6 And all the days of your life have God in your mind: and take heed that you never consent to sin, nor transgress the commandments of the Lord our God. 7 Give alms out of your substance, and turn not away your face from any poor person: for so it shall come to pass that the face of the Lord shall not be turned from you. 8 According to your ability be merciful. 9 If you have much give abundantly: if you have little, take care even so to bestow willingly a little. 10 For thus you store up to yourself a good reward for the day of necessity. 11 For alms deliver from all sin, and from death, and will not suffer the soul to go into darkness. 12 Alms shall be a great confidence before the most high God, to all them that give it. 13 Take heed to keep yourself, my son, from all fornication, and beside your wife never endure to know a crime. 14 Never suffer pride to reign in your mind, or in your words: for from it all perdition took its beginning. 15 If any man has done any work for you, immediately pay him his hire, and let not the wages of your hired servant stay with you at all. 16 See that you never do to another what you would hate to have done to you by another. 17 Eat your bread with the hungry and the needy, and with your garments cover the naked, 18 lay out your bread, and your wine upon the burial of a just man, and do not eat and drink thereof with the wicked. 19 Seek counsel always of a wise man. 20 Bless God at all times: and desire of him to direct your ways, and that all your counsels may abide in him."

St Benedict quotes it elsewhere in two places: in the context of accepting monks from another community without the consent of their superior (RB 61); and in the context of anyone venturing to punish another without the abbot's permission.

A priest shares his Easter feast with St Benedict

St Gregory the Great records a curious incident in the life of St Benedict of the Golden Rule benefiting the saint when he was still a hermit living in a cave at Subiaco:

"At length almighty God was determined to ease Romanus of his pains, and to have Benedict's life known to the world as an example, that such a candle, set upon a candlestick, might shine and give light to the Church of God. 

Our Lord appeared to a certain Priest dwelling a good way off, who had made ready his dinner for Easter day, and spake thus unto him: "Thou hast provided good cheer for thyself, but my servant in such a place is afflicted with hunger".  Hearing this, the priest rose up, and upon Easter day itself, with such meat as he had prepared, went to the place, where he sought for the man of God amongst the steep hills, the low valleys and hollow pits, and at length found him in his cave.

After they had prayed together, and sitting down had given God thanks, and had much spiritual talk, then the Priest said to him: "Rise up, brother, and let us dine, because today is the feast of Easter."

The man of God replied: "I know that it is Easter with me and a great feast, having found so much favour at God's hands as this day to enjoy your company" (for by reason of his long absence from men, he knew not that it was the great solemnity of Easter).

But the reverent Priest again did assure him, saying: "Verily, to-day is the feast of our Lord's Resurrection, and therefore meet it is not that you should keep abstinence, and besides I am sent to that end, that we might eat together of such provision as God's goodness hath sent us." Whereupon they said grace, and fell to their meat, and after they had dined, and bestowed some time in talking, the Priest returned to his church."

This series continues here.

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