by Deacon Walter Sweeney
www.deaconden.org “Saint Benedict has a beautiful and surprisingly up to date sounding Chapter in his Rule: Chapter 49. The Observance of Lent. I found it very helpful in refocusing for this holy and joyful season as we begin to prepare for the Easter mysteries. I thought others might find it helpful as well.”…..
Benedict’s ideal for monks, and somehow also for deacons striving for holiness in our own particular situations, is to live a continuous Lent. “The life of a monk ought to be a continuous Lent.” Most of us, including his monks, seem to lack the strength to live this ideal of continuousness. So he proposes that we spend these 40 days purifying our lives by washing away our “negligences of other times.” It is a season to reanimate our holiness.
So we add to our “usual measure of service” by “private prayer and abstinence of food and drink; “something above the assigned measure … with the joy of the Holy Spirit (1 Thess 1:6).” He further recommends refusing to indulge in evil habits, prayer with tears for our sinfulness, holy reading, denying also sleep, needless talking and idle jesting. And looking “forward to holy Easter with joy and spiritual longing.” And St. Benedict cautions against presumption and vain glory in perhaps taking on inappropriate or excessive exercises not prompted by God or departing from legitimate obedience.
Chapter 49 is short, though it contains much food for thought, discernment and prayer. You may have noticed that it makes no mention of almsgiving. It is perhaps not on the top of the list for monks in the sixth century, but it seems it should be very much in the forefront of the minds of deacons blessed, as many of us have been, with material opportunities.
Perhaps a prayer to Holy Benedict as we finalize our Lenten penances and practices. A Holy and Joyous Lent, personally and as a holy and joy filled community.
Deacon Walter Sweeney
February 1, 2016