Returning to the spring

Daily Reading for July 9

When I first picked up the Rule my immediate reaction was gratitude that it was short. I was expecting it to be largely irrelevant to my life, but it was like the start of a conversation with a friend, a conversation in which I would explore new issues and discover new depths, always finding myself revived, encouraged and also challenged. Benedict became friend and guide. When I first read the Rule it was as the wife of a busy husband and the mother of four teenage sons. It spoke to my situation then, and that has remained true through all subsequent change, and not least in my present situation where I find myself living on my own. For the Rule is like the Gospel itself, a spring or source, to which one returns all the time, for it possesses a dynamism capable of inspiring the lives of those in every age who approach it prayerfully with openness and receptivity.

Benedict shows me a life in which there is no separation between praying and living, for everything is undergirded by prayer. Of course I would like to say the daily offices but I find that impossible. I do, however, begin each morning with prayer and reading, a commitment which lays the foundation for the rest of the day. Often in the psalms there will be a small phrase to which I pay particular attention, listening with the “ear of the heart” and making it my very simple daily lectio. “If you hear his voice today do not harden your hearts.”

I return time and time again in my mind to the image of the cloisters which said so much to me in those early Canterbury days and which I have now internalized. What other complex of buildings would have the audacity to put emptiness at its centre? What does that tell me about myself?

From “Living the Rule in the World” by Esther de Waal, quoted in The Benedictine Handbook (Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 2003).

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