Saint Scholastica, 10th February 2022
Perhaps Benedict has become too proud.
Fallen in love, perhaps, with the routine and smooth running of his monastery, with the rules he himself has gradually formulated, after many years experience of the trials of monastic living.
Perhaps he’s spent too little time with women, and with the poor and disadvantaged, with the exigencies of everyday living as experienced by the majority of humankind. With all those moments which disturb us everyday when things don’t go as planned. The story of Martha and Mary is a warning in this respect, too. Instead of focussing on Christ in her service, Martha focusses on Mary’s apparent lack of service and so the pernicious vice of grumbling begins to appear – and there is always something we can grumble over.
And one wonders whether Benedict’s night with Scholastica is pre or post the writing of his Rule. Is he being hoisted with his own petard – reminded of his warning to others to be:
Not a grumbler (RB4) Not a murmurer (RB5)
for if anyone is found guilty of this he must be put under strict discipline (RB34)
And, if so, the lesson is well learned, for the Rule is acutely aware of the frailty of human living and the Abbot’s need not to provoke unnecessary grumbling:
Indeed, he should so adjust and arrange everything that souls may be saved and what the brethren do they do without just complaint. (RB 41)
Ah, there is room for complaint, yes, but not in the manner we might think, for who determines what is just but God, the one thing necessary? Get that right, and the rest – in both senses – will follow. Or as we will hear in our Vespers hymn tonight:
Jesus, desire of those you call apart (which is all of us)
To care for you alone
Brides of your Word in singleness of heart (which is all of us again)
Seeds in the desert sown
Be happy, Benedict, (and all of us) that she is goneTurvey Abbey
For love defeats the Law
And you shall follow where the dove has flown
In peace for evermore.