As a Benedictine Oblate I read the Holy Rule of St. Benedict three times a year. Today, September 1st, we again begin the Prologue.
L I S T E N carefully, my child,
to your master's precepts,
and incline the ear of your heart (Prov. 4:20).
Receive willingly and carry out effectively
your loving father's advice,
that by the labor of obedience
you may return to Him
from whom you had departed by the sloth of disobedience.
To you, therefore, my words are now addressed,
whoever you may be,
who are renouncing your own will
to do battle under the Lord Christ, the true King,
and are taking up the strong, bright weapons of obedience.
And first of all,
whatever good work you begin to do,
beg of Him with most earnest prayer to perfect it,
that He who has now deigned to count us among His children
may not at any time be grieved by our evil deeds.
For we must always so serve Him
with the good things He has given us,
that He will never as an angry Father disinherit His children,
nor ever as a dread Lord, provoked by our evil actions,
deliver us to everlasting punishment
as wicked servants who would not follow Him to glory.
The Prologue sets the tone for the whole Rule. It is a loving father speaking to his children and teaching them the ways of God and how to live a life prefering "nothing to the Love of Christ." Holy Father Benedict begins with the word "LISTEN." In Latin the word is "obsculta" which not only means to listen but to obey. Humble obedience is the hallmark of the Holy Rule. To obey someone is to listen carefully to what someone in authority has to say to us and then to follow what is asked of us.
To someone who first picks up the Rule it may seem harsh and difficult, but as one delves into the fatherly guidance and loving admonitions found in its brief pages, he or she begins to understand that the path outlined in the Rule is not harsh but challenging. To live the Rule is to live life in union with God. We are to "listen" not just with our ears but with the ears of our hearts for God speaks to us in our hearts. Obedience to God and to the Rule brings with it a freedom and opens our hearts to be truly human, truly children of God.