“Day by day remind yourself that you are going to die” (RB 1980: The Rule of Saint Benedict in Latin and English. Chapter 4:47. p.184).
The above quote from Chapter 4 On the Tools of Good Works in The Rule hits us square in the face with a reality that will happen to all of us. Just as the ashes we receive at the beginning of Lent; Benedict gives us these words to remind us of our mortality. Benedict tells us to face this reality and do what God gives us to do in the here and now. He tells us to remember that we will die everyday as one of the tools for good works, so that we will make good use of everything we have been given to use. Especially the sacrament of time. We are not going to be on this earth forever. We are given time and tasks to do. We have been given those tasks because of God’s love for us. God wants us to do what we are to do in the here and now in response to that great love.
Today, we commemorate the day that Saint Benedict “raised his hands to heaven and yielded his angelic spirit into the hands of his Creator.”
St. Benedict spent his life seeking union with God through a life of continuous prayer in relationship with God and others. The Rule of St. Benedict which is a combination of The Rule of the Master, with texts borrowed from The Conferences and Institutes by St. John Cassian, and Benedict’s own additions; was his way of passing on the wisdom he learned from his life experience. It has been used, revised and adapted for the past 1500 plus years as a guide for monastics and non-monastics alike.
At the point in which Benedict handed over his spirit, he was able to surrender his entire self into the hands of God because of his trust and devotion to God. He made use of the tools God gave him to accomplish God’s will. As St. Gregory the Great wrote in The Dialogues “Benedict could not have lived in any other way, than what he taught.”
Our contemplative prayer and mystical experience happens when we live with the awareness of God’s Presence in the ordinary tasks of life. Washing dishes. Cleaning our homes. Doing our job well. Attending to the relationships God has entrusted us with. Consoling the sorrowful, clothing the naked and welcoming the stranger.
What are you doing with the tools and time that God has given you in the here and now?
What do the words “Day by day remind yourself that you are going to die” say to you?
Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB