Perspectives on the Rule of St. Benedict: Expanding Our Hearts In Christ by Aquinata Bockmann (Liturgical Press) Written by Sister Aquinata Bockmann, a member of the Benedictine Missionary Sisters of Tutzing, Germany and experienced professor of spirituality and theology, Perspectives on the Rule of Saint Benedict: Expanding Our Hearts in Christ is a blend of scholarly scrutiny and Benedictine love in examining the Rule of Saint Benedict, specifically vv. 1-4, 45-50 of the prologue and chapters 72, 73, 58, and 53. Line by line, the ancient text is scrutinized from both past and contemporary viewpoints, while never losing sight of the christological nature of the Rule itself. Researched in depth and heavily annotated, Perspectives on the Rule of Saint Benedict is methodical in its dissection of intent word by word as it is passionate about the needs of the spirit. A deeply theological and worshipful treatise.
The renewal movements of religious life after the Second Vatican Council aim at a return to the sources of Christian life and the original spirit of the individual institutes with adaptations to the changed conditions of our time, but also at openness to the future. The two dimensions are interrelated: A person who is deeply rooted in a healthy tradition is able to stretch and grow and has the courage to change. Or using another image: A person who really feels at home can open the door wide. H. Nouwen said:
It seems that progress is always connected with a refreshing of our collective memory. Practically all reforms in the Church and the Orders of the Church have been marked by a new appreciation of the intentions of the early Church and a renewed study of the past, not to repeat it but to find there the inspiration for real renewal.
During the nineteenth century nearly all Benedictine communities experienced a renewal and a fresh impetus to connect with older traditions (usually the Middle Ages). This met a need of that time. The abbey of Beuron strongly influenced monasticism in German-speaking regions.
For a future-oriented renewal today, it is helpful to reach back to a tradition even more ancient than the Middle Ages, to the Rule of Benedict and to the early church. On the one hand, we feel Benedict to be closer to us in many respects than the nineteenth century.' On the other hand, we also realize the distance of 1500 years of history. We need to enter into St. Benedict's world in order to understand better what he intended and what the Gospel demands of us. The Rule of Benedict in its historical context is directing us again and again to Sacred Scripture, moving us also to a deeper biblical spirituality.
This commentary has developed from practical work with the Rule of Benedict and especially from collaboration with others: from lectures and seminars at Sant' Anselmo in Rome on aspects of monastic life and the Rule of Benedict, from meetings of formators in Brazil and Germany, from seminars, talks, and group work on chapters and topics of the Rule of Benedict in Benedictine communities, and also from retreats about the spirituality of Benedict. Therefore, this book is a living dialogue with all those who posed questions, made suggestions or contributions. In addition there is my personal experience, the adventure of being engaged with a saint who took me in hand, corrected and educated me, and kept leading me to Sacred Scripture.
This commentary aims at developing a perspective of the Rule of Benedict (RB), patiently feeling our way to the concerns of Benedict so that his message may become clearer for today and tomorrow. It dares to build a bridge, attempting to unite the fruits of historical-critical research with impulses for our spirituality and the practical interpretation.
In the manner of biblical commentary, and building on the results of research, the chapters of the Rule will be explained in their historical con-text as a help for interpretation in our communities. The book's primary purpose is not an introduction to scholarly problems or yielding new results in research. Aware of pertinent controversies, I will try to do my work based on certain or more trustworthy positions. To avoid excessive scientific weight, questions concerning text variations in manuscripts or which source is applicable to a certain verse will be treated only when they are significant for the interpretation and might result in a different meaning.
As in biblical exegesis, the literal meaning will be determined by using possible sources, ancient texts (before or even after Benedict), and especially Sacred Scripture. It seems important to me to enter the world of Benedict, his horizon, what he dealt with day by day, what he heard and saw, so as to facilitate a well-grounded understanding of the Rule in our communities. I will try especially to illuminate the biblical background. The monks of Benedict's time breathed Sacred Scripture like air—at the liturgy, during lectio divina, at meals, at work, interacting with the abbot, with each other, and with persons from outside the monastery. Breathing in this same air is really a prerequisite for a true understanding of the RB. Sacred Scripture is practically omnipresent for Benedict. Since this is no longer true to the same degree for us today, the biblical dimension will be made especially clear.
The book is addressed particularly to persons who work intimately with the RB, desiring to deepen their understanding of it and explaining it to others. The work with the text is intended to give inspiration for living it.
For easy use, the verses of the chapters are treated in sequence. This entails some repetition in order to save excessive cross-references. Several excursuses of a more systematic type are intended to complete the exegesis.
Being a Missionary Benedictine Sister with all my heart, I read the Rule from this perspective. This means I will be perhaps less perceptive regarding some values and more so regarding others. Every interpretation is subjective to some extent. This commentary is a beginning and requires rounding out by others. Ultimately, each community must write its own commentary to the Rule, its own members being a living commentary. The diversity of interpretation in our monasteries is a great enrichment as long as no interpretation is absolutized and we all remain aware of the need to have our own interpretation complemented.
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