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Life of Our Most Holy Father St. Benedict
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THE PROLOGUE

OF OUR

MOST HOLY FATHER SAINT BENEDICT

TO HIS RULE

Hearken, my son, to the precepts of thy Master, and incline the ear of thy heart willingly to hear, and effectually to accomplish, the admonition of thy living Father, that by the labour of obedience thou mayest return to Him, from Whom thou didst depart by the sloth of disobedience. To thee therefore is my speech now directed, who, renouncing thy own will, dost take upon thee the strong and bright armour of obedience, to fight under the Lord Christ our true King.

First of all whatever good work thou dost begin, beg of Him with most earnest prayer to perfect; that He Who hath now vouchsafed to reckon us in the number of His children, may not be saddened by our evil deeds. For we must at all times so serve Him with the goods He hath bestowed upon us, that He may not either as an angry Father disinherit us His children, or as a dread Lord, exasperated by our offences, deliver us up to perpetual punishment as wicked servants, who would not follow Him to glory.

Let us therefore arise, the Scripture stirring us up and saying, “It is now the hour for us to rise from sleep”,11Rom. xiii. 1 and our eyes being opened to the deifying light, let us with wondering ears attend to the admonition with the Divine Voice daily addresseth to us, saying: “To-day if you shall hear His voice, harden not your hearts”.22Ps. xciv. 8. And again: “He that hath ears, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the Churches.”33Apoc. ii. 7. And what saith He? “Come, ye children, and hearken unto Me: I will teach you the fear of the Lord.”44Ps. xxxiii. 12. “Run while ye have the light of life, that the darkness of death overtake ye not.”55Joan. xii. 35.

And our Lord seeking His labourer among the multitude to whom He here speaketh, saith again: “Who is the man that will have life, and desireth to see good days?”66Ps. xxxiii. 13 If thou, hearing this, dost answer: “I am he”: God saith unto thee: “If thou wilt have true and everlasting life, refrain thy tongue from evil, and thy lips, that they speak no guile. Decline from evil, and do good; seek after peace and pursue it.”77Ibid. 14, 15. And when you have done this: My eyes shall be upon you, and My ears shall be open to your prayers. And before you can call upon Me, I will say: “Behold I am present.”88Isai. lxv. 24. What, dearest brethren, can be sweeter, than this voice of the Lord, inviting us? Behold how in His loving Kindness He showeth unto us the way of life! Our loins therefore being girt with faith and the observance of good works, and our feet shod with the guidance of the Gospel of peace, let us walk in His ways, that we may deserve to see in His kingdom Him Who has called us.99Ephes. vi. 14, 15.

If we desire to dwell in the tabernacle of this kingdom, it can only be by running the way of good works, whereby alone it can be reached. But let us ask our Lord with the Prophet saying to Him: “Lord, who shall dwell in Thy tabernacle, or who shall rest on Thy holy hill?”1010Ps. xiv. 4. After this question, Brethren, let us hear our Lord answering and showing us the way to His tabernacle, saying: “He that walketh without spot and worketh justice. He that speaketh truth in his heart, that hath not forged guile with his tongue. He that hath not forged guile with his tongue. He that hath not done evil to his neighbour and hath not received reproach against him.”1111Ps. xiv. 2, 3.

He that rejecting out of his mind the malignant devil with his suggestions, hath brought them all to nought, and taking his thoughts while they are still young, hath dashed them against the rock Christ.1212Ps. cxxxvi. 9. All they who fearing the Lord, take not pride in their good observance, but knowing that all the good they have, or can do, proceedeth not from themselves, but from the Lord, magnify Him, thus working in them, and say with the Prophet: “Not to us O Lord, not to us, but to Thy Name give glory.”1313Ps. cxiii. 1. Thus the Apostle Paul imputed not anything of his preaching to himself, saying: “By the grace of God I am what I am.”1414I. Cor. xv. 10. And again he saith: “He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.”1515II. Cor. x. 47.

Hence also our Lord saith in the Gospel: “He that heareth these My words and doth them,—I will liken him to a wise man that hath built his house upon a rock. The floods came, the winds blew, and beat against that house, and it fell not; because it was founded upon a rock.”1616Matth. vii. 24, seq. Our Lord fulfilling these things, daily waiteth for us to answer by our deeds, these His holy admonitions. Therefore the days of our life are prolonged for the amendment of our evil deeds, according to those words of the Apostle: “Knowest thou not that the patience of God leadeth thee to repentance?”1717Rom. ii. 4. For our loving Lord saith: “I will not the death of the sinner, but that he be converted and live.”1818Ezech. xviii. 23.

Having therefore, my Brethren, enquired of our Lord who shall be the dweller in this tabernacle, we have heard the precept to the one dwelling, and if we fulfil the functions of this habitation we shall become heirs of the kingdom of heaven. Therefore our hearts and bodies must be prepared to fight under the holy obedience of His commands, and we must beg our Lord to supply that, by the assistance of His grace, which our nature is unable to perform. And if flying the pains of hell we will to attain to everlasting life, we must, while yet time serves, and we live in this flesh, perform all these things by the light of faith, and haste to do that now which will be expedient for us for ever hereafter.

We are therefore now about to institute a school of the service of God; in which we hope nothing will be ordained rigorous or burdensome. But if in some things we proceed with a little severity, sound reason so advising, for the amendment of vices or preserving of charity; do not straightway for fear thereof, flee from the way of salvation which is always strait and difficult in the beginning.1919Matth. vii. 13. But in process of time and growth of faith, when the heart has once been enlarged, the way of God’s commandments is run with unspeakable sweetness of love; so that, never departing from His teaching, but persevering in the Monastery in His doctrine until death, we share now by patience in the sufferings of Christ, that we may deserve afterwards to be partakers of His kingdom.2020II Cor. i. 7.


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