Benedictine Reflections for Lent
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Benedictine Reflections for Lent

St. Benedict, recognized as the father of Western monasticism, was born around 480 A.D. in the mountainous town of Nursia, in central Italy. Having been sent to study in Rome, he became dissatisfied with his life and chose to reject the materialism and turmoil he found all around him. He withdrew to the wild Italian hill country, where he lived an ascetical life, originally by himself, then as the spiritual father, or abbot, of a monastery; first at Subiaco, then he journeyed to Monte Cassino with some of his followers and established his greatest monastery.

Benedict remained at Monte Cassino until his death about 547 A.D. There he wrote his Rule, which has generally been considered the most influential document in the shaping of western monasticism and the foundation of our beloved Anglican faith tradition. The Rule is a textbook of Christian community development with its ideal being, to seek God in all things always and everywhere. Foundational elements of the Rule center in prayer; the Lectio Divina (holy reading [of scripture]); silence or listening with head and heart for the Word of God in all people and circumstances; living in community; poverty – focus on need versus wants; daily conversion; stability; and prophetic witness of the Divine through Jesus Christ.

Chapter 7 of the Rule of Benedict is devoted to the 12 degrees of humility. Set up initially as a community rule for monks, the rule has wide applications to everyday life by everyday Christians. Lent is a good time to reintroduce ourselves to humility, and to how we can better absorb the Lenten message.

During this holy Lent we offer, as a means of focus, St. Benedict’s observations about the virtues of humility in our relationship with God and all creation; that, in our humility we see God as the author of all giving, and in giving we share the divine love of God with others. As a practical way to practice this humility and to show progress, we pray this Lent that each according to his or her means will make a box or jar in which to place money each week to give to the poor as a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving through the Diocese of Washington, Hunger Fund, Mt. St. Alban, Washington, DC.

Diocesan Hunger Fund Committee


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Ash Wednesday - February 25, 2009

Chapter 7 of the Rule of Benedict is devoted to the 12 degrees of humility. Set up initially as a community rule for monks, the rule has wide applications to everyday life by everyday Christians. Lent is a good time to reintroduce ourselves to humility, and to how we can better absorb the Lenten message. Chapter 7 begins “…The first degree of humility, then, is that a person always have the fear of God before their eyes (cf Ps 35[36]:2) …The Prophet tells us this when he shows God to be ever present in our thoughts, saying: "The searcher of hearts and reins is God" (Ps 7:10)…"Then I shall be spotless before Him, if I shall keep myself from iniquity" (Ps 17[18]:24

On Ash Wednesday, the liturgy of the BCP presents the worshipper a proposal to observe a holy Lent, to conduct a self-examination and seek repentance by “…prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God's holy Word” in order to make a right beginning of repentance. It is a time for silence and humility and a time to exercise piety. In Matthew (6:1-6,16-21) we learn that Lenten piety should not be done in public so others can see how religious we are on the outside, but rather to exercise our piety in our hearts and minds as a sacrifice to God in secret. Our Lord clearly admonishes us to avoid hoarding our treasures "… where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Benedict’s view is discovering that we are constantly exist in the consciousness of God over time and that is critical to our spiritual lives. God is intent on it and so should we. God is also patient with us and waits for our return and repentance – Lent is a good time and place to begin that long journey back.

By giving away our money we help counteract one of the greatest sources of our lack of humility, pride in our wealth. We demonstrate God’s love to those around us as well as ourselves by sharing rather than hoarding. As we explore each degree of humility, a possible action this Lent is to take 10 percent of the cost of food for a day or week and send it to the Diocesan Hunger Fund to directly feed the hungry.

Almighty God, you have created us out of the dust of the earth: Grant that these ashes may be to us a sign of our mortality and penitence that we may remember that it is only by your gracious gift that we are given everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.


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March 1, 2009 - First Sunday in Lent

The second degree of humility teaches us the God is God; our center and our end – and in doing so we may achieve the fullness of life promised to us on the cross - …when a person does not love not their own will, nor is pleased to fulfill their own desires but by their deeds carries out the Word of the Lord which is: "I came not to do My own will but the will of Him that sent Me" (Jn 6:38). It is likewise said: "Self-will has its punishment, but necessity wins the crown."

…In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased." And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him. Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news." (Mark 1)

We are tempted by many things in this country: money, possessions, power, social standing, drugs, alcohol, even food. Overcoming a temptation, even once, brings us closer to the knowledge that what God wants for us brings us not only peace, but also great joy. Share your joy in God’s love, and demonstrate the peace that resisting one temptation brings, by setting aside an amount of money to help the hungry in our Diocese.

Almighty God, whose blessed Son was led by the Spirit to be tempted by Satan: Come quickly to help us who are assaulted by many temptations; and, as you know the weaknesses of each of us, let each one find you mighty to save; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


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March 8, 2009 - Second Sunday in Lent

The third degree of humility teaches us always to know we are not the center of all things, and we should always remain open to the wisdom of another, even in heated discourse - …that for the love of God a man or woman subjects themselves to a Superior in all obedience, imitating the Lord, of whom the Apostle says: "He became obedient unto death" (Phil 2:8).

…Then Jesus began to teach his disciples that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, "Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things, but on human things." He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels." (Mark 8)

Obedience to God’s will often brings scorn and ridicule from our friends and neighbors. Yet when we persevere in what we know is right, that scorn and ridicule reveals itself as fear and confusion, and a (perhaps unknown) hunger for an understanding of God’s love. Acknowledge the destructiveness of that emotional hunger by helping to feed our neighbors who suffer from very real physical hunger.

O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy: Be gracious to all who have gone astray from your ways, and bring them again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith to embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of your Word, Jesus Christ your Son; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


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March 15, 2009 - Third Sunday in Lent

The fourth degree of humility speaks of patience, something that our world is a bit short of right now - …if hard and distasteful things are commanded, no, even though injuries are inflicted, we are to accept them with patience and even temper, and not grow weary or give up, but hold out, as the Scripture says: "He that shall persevere unto the end shall be saved" (Mt 10:22). Sister Joan Chittister observes in “Insights for the Ages, Daily Reflections Taken from the Rule of Benedict: “…One thing about Benedict of Nursia: he is not is a romantic… The fourth step on the spiritual ladder, Benedict says, is the ability to persevere, even in the face of downright contradiction because it is more right to be open to the Word of God through others and have our enterprises fail sometimes than to be our own guide and have things turn out right.”

….The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves, "Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father's house a marketplace!" His disciples remembered that it was written, "Zeal for your house will consume me." The Jews then said to him, "What sign can you show us for doing this?" Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." The Jews then said, "This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?" But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken. (John 2)

It seems that there will always be poverty, hunger, homelessness and disease to battle. In the face of such unremitting suffering, it may seem foolish to try to alleviate any part of it. Yet God does not ask us to take car of all problems nor to alleviate all suffering. God asks us simply to persevere in our efforts to do what we can. Trust in God, and do what you can to help the hungry in our Diocese.

Almighty God, you know that we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves: Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


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March 22, 2009 - Fourth Sunday in Lent

The fifth degree of humility is about a need to periodically cleanse the soul through confession - …when one hides from his family and loved ones none of the evil thoughts which rise in their heart or the evils committed by them in secret, but humbly confesses them. Concerning this the Scripture exhorts us, saying: "Reveal thy way to the Lord and trust in Him" (Ps 36[37]:5). And it says further: "Confess to the Lord, for He is good, for His mercy endures forever" (Ps 105[106]:1; Ps 117[118]:1). And the Prophet likewise says: "I have acknowledged my sin to Thee and my injustice I have not concealed. I said I will confess against myself my injustice to the Lord; and Thou hast forgiven the wickedness of my sins" (Ps 31[32]:5).

….The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves, "Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father's house a marketplace!" His disciples remembered that it was written, "Zeal for your house will consume me." The Jews then said to him, "What sign can you show us for doing this?" Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." The Jews then said, "This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?" But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken. (John 2)

Confession of sins; visibility for all of our inadequacies; how uncomfortable is THAT?? Yet God sent Jesus to show us that we have nothing to fear, northing to squirm about, when we realize that God already knows all those things and loves us still. Model that love to our neighbors who are hungry, who must admit their need, by meeting that need with love and compassion. Help the hungry in our Diocese as God helps us.

Gracious Father, whose blessed Son Jesus Christ came down from heaven to be the true bread which gives life to the world: Evermore give us this bread, that he may live in us, and we in him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


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March 29, 2009 - Fifth Sunday in Lent

The sixth degree of humility talks about the lust for status and the importance of being grounded in knowing when enough is enough - ...when we are content with the meanest and worst of everything, and in all that is enjoined him holds himself as a bad and worthless workman, saying with the Prophet: "I am brought to nothing and I knew it not; I am become as a beast before Thee, and I am always with Thee" (Ps 72[73]:22-23).

…Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, "Sir, we wish to see Jesus." Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor. "Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say-- `Father, save me from this hour'? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name." Then a voice came from heaven, "I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again." The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, "An angel has spoken to him." Jesus answered, "This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself." He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die. (John 12)

Jesus says we must lose all to gain all. The gain is well worth the loss, but still the loss is painful. Our neighbors who are hungry suffer a painful loss every time their plate comes up empty. Help our neighbors who hunger to move beyond loss, as Jesus helps us.

Almighty God, you alone can bring into order the unruly wills and affections of sinners: Grant your people grace to love what you command and desire what you promise; that, among the swift and varied changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


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April 5, 2009 - Palm Sunday

The seventh degree of humility teaches us to realize and accept our frailties, and in doing so are freed from the need to lie about them and in doing so to deal gently with others when their smallness is made public - … not only with our tongue we declare, but also in our inmost soul believe, that we is the lowest and vilest of creates, humbling ourselves and saying with the Prophet: "But I am a worm and no man, the reproach of men and the outcast of the people" (Ps 21[22]:7). "I have been exalted and humbled and confounded" (Ps 87[88]:16). And also: "It is good for me that Thou hast humbled me, that I may learn Thy commandments" (Ps 118[119]:71,73).

In Mark’s version of the Passion, the Evangelist tells the story of Jesus’ trial, his conviction, the treachery of the chief priests that lead to the release of Barabbas over Jesus; his scourging and humiliation, the crucifixion and the final words of Jesus: "Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?" which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" There are no other words that Jesus said that reflected his humanity than those. Benedict says we too must come face trying times that peel the layers of the onion that obscures what we deep down believe and how we view the world. Lent is an opportunity many of us need to wrestle with the deep issues of our lives and to discover past all our triumphs and ego news ways in which we can begin to live with the mind of Christ. (Mark 15)

Our most deeply held beliefs shape our actions. Do we believe we’re on our own, need to look after ourselves, must protect what we have and acquire more by whatever means are necessary? Our crumbling economy shows us that this approach doesn’t work. But trusting in God, and in our selves to do God’s will, seems to lead to success, particularly the ultimate success of Jesus’ resurrection and the promise of everlasting life. Share this trust with our hungry neighbors and help them, and yourself, to a personal resurrection.

Almighty and everliving God, in your tender love for the human race you sent your Son our Savior Jesus Christ to take upon him our nature, and to suffer death upon the cross, giving us the example of his great humility: Mercifully grant hat we may walk in the way of his suffering, and also share in his resurrection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


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April 9, 2009 – Maunday Thursday

The eighth degree of humility reminds us to value the wisdom of those who came before us – and that all knowledge is not our own invention - …when a person does nothing but what is sanctioned by the common rule of the community and the example of our elders.

…Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him…Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them…By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." "Put your sword back into its sheath. Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?" (John 13 & 18)

Jesus embodied the concept of servant ministry. He did not come to “make everything better”, but to show us, with love, how to make it better ourselves, through faith in God. Hunger can become a debilitating burden that makes all things seem impossible. Help our neighbors who suffer the ravages of hunger, so that they may also obtain the strength to “make it better” themselves.

Almighty Father, whose dear Son, on the night before he suffered, instituted the Sacrament of his Body and Blood: Mercifully grant that we may receive it thankfully in remembrance of Jesus Christ our Lord, who in these holy mysteries gives us a pledge of eternal life; and who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


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April 10, 2009 – Good Friday

The ninth degree of humility speaks to foolish arrogance when our word is the last word; the only word - …when a person withholds their tongue from speaking, and keeping silence and not speak until asked; for the Scripture shows that "in a multitude of words there shall not want sin" (Prov 10:19); and that "a man full of tongue is not established in the earth" (Ps 139[140]:12). The tenth degree of humility reflects how serious humor should be taken – not everything is subject to humor. We are to know that especially in the spiritual life, ethnic, sexist, and degrading jokes are not funny –…when a person is not easily moved and quick for laughter, for it is written: "The fool exalts his voice in laughter" (Sir 21:23). The eleventh degree follows that as humble people, everyone should be safe in our company - …of humility is, that, when a person speaks, they should speak gently and without laughter, humbly and with gravity, with few and sensible words, and that they be not loud of voice, as it is written: "The wise man is known by the fewness of his words."

…After Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the Kidron valley to a place where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, because Jesus often met there with his disciples. So Judas brought a detachment of soldiers together with police from the chief priests and the Pharisees, and they came there with lanterns and torches and weapons. Then Jesus, knowing all that was to happen to him, came forward and asked them, "Whom are you looking for?" They answered, "Jesus of Nazareth." Jesus replied, "I am he." Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. When Jesus said to them, "I am he," they stepped back and fell to the ground. Again he asked them, "Whom are you looking for?" And they said, "Jesus of Nazareth." Jesus answered, "I told you that I am he. (John 18)

Speaking gently, Jesus made no attempt to hide as his betrayal was upon him. He did not rant nor rave, did not try to defend himself, did not vilify his accusers or executioners. Instead he prayed for them. Let us pray for our neighbors who are hungry, and help them - gently and with kindness.

Almighty God, we pray you graciously to behold this your family, for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed, and given into the hands of sinners, and to suffer death upon the cross; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


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April 12, 2009 – Easter Sunday

The twelfth degree of humility concludes this chapter by observing that humility is the foundation for our relationship with God, with others and the created world; not in arrogance or need to dominate – but gently and intentionally - …when a person is not only humble of heart, but always appear also in their whole exterior to all that see them; namely, at the Work of God, in the garden, on a journey, in the field, or wherever they may be, sitting, walking, or standing…Having, therefore, ascended all these degrees of humility, we will presently arrive at that love of God, which being perfect, casting out fear (1 Jn 4:18). In virtue of this love all things which at first we observed not without fear, we will now begin to keep without any effort, and as it were, naturally by force of habit, no longer from the fear of hell, but from the love of Christ, from the very habit of good and the pleasure in virtue. May the Lord be pleased to manifest all this by His Holy Spirit in His laborer now cleansed from vice and sin.

…When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint Jesus. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, "Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?" When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, "Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here…” (Mark 16)

The glory of the resurrection of Jesus included not only his spirit, but also his body. This reminds us of our need to feed not only our soul, but also our body, since we are tied to it, and supported by it, until we die. Help our hungry neighbors to feed their souls and bodies by sharing both Christ’s love and our resources.

O God, who made this most holy night to shine with the glory of the Lord's resurrection: Stir up in your Church that Spirit of adoption which is given to us in Baptism, that we, being renewed both in body and mind, may worship you in sincerity and truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


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