Friday, March 21, 2008

Going to School

“Therefore we intend to establish a school for the Lord’s service.” [Prologue 45]

All of life is a classroom. Every day is filled with opportunities to learn. Every day is filled with opportunities for observation. Every day greets us with assignments and tests of one sort or another. Some we do well at. Others we do poorly at. Occasionally something comes along that we fail miserably at.

Life is viewed by Benedict as a process of lifelong learning where degrees of spiritual maturity are recognized in the lives of students and honored by all but, at least in his day, not articles that are printed, framed, and hung on walls where they can pridefully call attention to those who acquire them. He thinks of the monastery as a school where those enrolled live in an obscure residency for the duration of their natural lives. [Prologue 50] Then, once physical life is gone, they are laid to rest in a small, obscure cemetery where their remains await the coming of the Lord.

Referring to the monastery as a “school ‘for’ rather than ‘of’ seems best to catch the idea that the monastery is a place where the monks both learn how to serve the Lord and actually do so.” [1] This implies that “the monastery is the place where Christ continues to teach his disciples the baptismal renunciation of sin and the ways that lead to the repose of eternal life. It implies that life in the monastery is a service to Christ, the Lord.” [2]

Our surroundings, the basic structure of our individual classrooms, do not necessarily have to remotely resemble a monastic enclosure for us to benefit from the curriculum taught in the school. There is something of an academic nature inherent in this school [RB 73] and Benedict encourages academics as part of the learning curve. His first emphasis though is not academically oriented. His first emphasis is more on the intuitive nature. Listen, he tells us, with the ear of your heart. [Prologue 1]

It is, after all, in the interior regions of the heart where we hear the still, small voice of God. It is here, in the regions of the heart, where our wills are first exercised. It is here, in the depths of the heart, that we are able to say “I believe” [Romans 10:10] despite all that would try to convince us otherwise.


[1] RB 1980, p. 165, Commentary notes.
[2] Ibid