Benedictine Spirituality

December 20, 2007


Benedictines are monks and their spirituality derives from the earliest manifestations of consecrated life in the Church. The word monk (monos) means someone who is alone. The solitude is to create room for a better meeting with God. Christian monasticism is a form of a man`s answer to the grace of the Gospel. The main feature of monastic spirituality is “being with God ” which a monk pursues by metanoia, i.e. everyday convertion. Monasticism has its very distinct place in the Church as a SIGN of God`s absolute.

God`s absolute, revealed in Christ, is the essential truth conditioning the sense of a monastic vocation. Understanding this truth is not only the activity of intellect, but of the whole human being, which involves the necessity of testifying to one`s faith by practical subordination of life to highest God. For sure it refers to each Christian, but in the case of a monk it has to assume the essence and form of exclusive attachment to God.

The first condition of the development of a conscious contact with God is willingness to break with a sin. Various ascetic practices aiming at purification of man help to do this on the basis of grace. However the penitential or ascetic aspect does not constitute in itself the essence of metanoia, which task is to lead man on the way of searching God. Thus it is constant and real submission to the will of God. Metanoia is an expression of love.

A monk, basing on the evangelical counsels and vows corresponding with them, is to become a sign of dignity of a human being and a Christian, not only in an interior dimension. A Benedictine in his vows commits himself to adoption of a monastic lifestyle, obedience according to the rule and to permanency. The characteristic feature of the Benedictine vows is binding a monk with a particular community. Vows, despite their great value and dignity, are not the aim in themselves; they are the means of realizing the deepest desire to be with God. The monastic profession taking place together with the Eucharist is a public adoption of God`s consecration.

The monk is called to do good for their brothers by a clear example of a life directed towards God. The distance to the “world” in Benedictine spirituality does not mean any contempt of goods created by God, but is to express itself by a wise selection, which leads to more objective and sober appraisal of temporality.

In monastic spirituality the internal life is characterised by utmost freedom, however it is shaped on the Bible and liturgy. Thus prayer appears in two forms: as liturgical prayer and individual prayer. Liturgy is one of the essential elements uniting the monastic community and is for the monks the basic, never-failing and extremely rich source of the whole internal life. The everyday Eucharist is the centre of Monastic Liturgy of Hours.

Monastic tradition did not create a distinct system of internal prayer. This prayer is characterized by great openness. It derives from two sources: everyday liturgy and lectio divina – meditative reading of the Bible and its comments, mainly patristic. In a monk`s life the point is to create a specific attitude of prayer, which makes the monk a man of prayer.

St. Benedict in the Rule assumed clearly a positive attitude towards work. It is a normal source of the monastery maintenance and help for the needy. Work is for him one of the ways of “God`s service”, an opportunity to approach God and brothers. Thus, a very serious and honest attitude to work as a consequence of the feeling of God`s presence.

The monk binds himself forever with one community as a “school of Lord`s service” (BR Prol, 45). In its framework solitude and mutual bonds are equally important for being open to the mystery of Christ. An abbot is a visible sign uniting the whole community.

Receiving guests in whom monks are to meet Christ is an integral part of the Benedictine rule and tradition. This basic form of apostolate in monastic life is accomplished in a way typical for each monastery.

Monastic life lived comprehensively, without looking for any strange secondary values, qualifies for an optimistic attitude to matter, creation and world, despite their transitoriness. Peace – pax benedictina – so searched by the monk is its fruit.