Let all guests who arrive be received like Christ, for He is going to say, “I came as a guest, and you received me.” (St. Benedict’s Rule for Monasteries, Chapter 53, p.73).
We have very little information about the life of St. Benedict. The Life and Times of St. Benedict that comes from book two of the Dialogues of St. Gregory the Great, tell us about the high points of St. Benedict. There is a great deal we do not know about the Father of Western Monasticism. What we do know about Saint Benedict and what his philosophy about the Monastic Life, comes from The Rule. He borrowed much of what he wrote in The Rule from St. Basil and St. John Cassian. The Rule of St. Benedict is best understood as being about relationships.
Lonni Collins Pratt and Father Daniel Homan, OSB in their book, Radical Hospitality: Benedict’s Way of Love, write about three important relationships. A Benedictine’s relationships are made up of the “cloister, community and hospitality”. (See chapter 7). The cloister is the time the monastic spends with God and oneself. The community is the time spent with those closest to her/him. Hospitality is the relationship with everyone else. In the end, Christ is present in all of these relationships. It is in and through these relationships that the Benedictine learns to “listen and incline the ears of our hearts.” At the end of the day, Benedictine hospitality is not as much about listening and greeting Christ in others to see what we can do for the individual(s). It is about listening carefully to what Jesus may be calling us to through that other person.
Contemplation and the mystical experience within the context of St. Benedict is about being attentive to what God is saying to us through all aspects of life. Prayer, work, the prayerful reading of Scripture, the things we handle, and living in relationship with others are all moments to be listening for God with attentive hearts. They are opportunities to encounter Christ in that which challenges and changes us from the outside on inward. By listening and engaging the presence of God, we are able to see all things a new from God’s viewpoint.
God our Father, you made St. Benedict an outstanding guide to teach us how to live in your service. Grant that by preferring your love to everything else, we may walk in the way of your commandments. We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB