Benedict of Nursia: Continuous Lent

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“The life of a monk ought to be a continuous Lent. Since few, however, have the strength for this, we urge the entire community during these days of Lent to keep its manner of life most pure and to wash away in this holy season the negligences of other times. This we can do in a fitting manner by refusing to indulge evil habits and by devoting ourselves to prayer with tears, to reading, to compunction of heart, and self-denial.

During these days, therefore, we will add to the usual measure of our service something by way of private prayer and abstinence from food or drink so that each of us will have something above the assigned measure to offer God of his own will with the joy of the Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 1:6). In other words, let each one deny himself some food, drink, sleep, needless talking and idle jesting, and look forward to holy Easter with joy and spiritual longing.”

Benedict of Nursia (480-543) in The Rule of St. Benedict in English 49.1-7 (Collegeville: Liturgical) RB 1980, 71.

We are about halfway though Lent. Today, Benedict reminds us that this season teaches us self-denial. Many Christians don’t like to talk about self-denial. They think (wrongly!) that it views God’s gifts as bad and not to be enjoyed. Nothing could be further from the truth! The aim of the Benedict’s community of Christ-followers was enjoyment with self-denial so that indulgence is precluded and sharing is possible.

My prayer for readers on this feast day is that this journey leads you to a lifestyle of “continuous Lent.” Don’t do this because I say so. Do it because it is the pathway Jesus marked for us. Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me” Luke 9:23. Self-denial is “Spring Training” for disciples of Jesus who desire to follow Him through the seasons of life!