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The two chapters RB 33 and 34: “Monks and Private Ownership” and “Distribution of Goods According to Need,” they are part of the administrative section of the RB, in which, as soon as it is started, the second part is inserted in the so-called “penitential code” (RB 43 & RB 46). Both chapters 33 and 34 refer to the demands of renunciation and detachment from material things that is necessary for all followers of Christ; they become more radical when they are integrated into the monastic experience.
Apparently the two chapters deal with very concrete observations and have characteristics of the spirit and culture of the time. Someone might think, if they had not already done so, that those two chapters which intimidate our modern sensibilities could be excluded from it. Rule without prejudice to its content. This is a misconception and one that I would like to demonstrate.
1. A SAINT BENEDICT WHO FRIGHTENS
Chapter 33 begins quite abruptly. It does not like many other chapters, present a word of Scripture or of monastic wisdom as a principle from which practical aspects are detached.
Now the opening sentence is not only practical, but penetratingly strong as a disapproval and condemnation of an opposite attitude, that is, vice consisting of owning something of their own, conforms to, one can only conclude, from the title of the chapter.
This radical detachment, proper to the monastic life, will depend on the performance of the abbot, who is responsible for deciding what the monk may or may not retain for their own personal use. The doctrine is not new, but derives, as is well known, from the principle common to all the monastic tradition that tried to live, in a faithful way, the way of life of the primitive apostolic community of Jerusalem.
It is true that the text of the RB is not presented with the usual moderation that is characteristic of St. Benedict, but reveals an injudicious severity, which does not reappear in any other part of the Rule. Here, at the very genesis of the text an austere force of a disciplinary rule that admits no exception is already quite evident. This peremptory severity appears three more times within the same sentence, and with repetitions that reinforce it: especially as, vice must be rooted out of the monastery, no one dares to give or receive anything without the abbot’s order, nor to have anything at all of his own, nothing at all, no book, no tablets, no stylus, nothing at all.
Commenting on this chapter, observes Adalbert de Vogüé OSB., that Saint Benedict is shown here not only as severe, but altogether impulsive, with an impetuosity that is not found in his predecessors, such as Pachomius, Basil, Cassian, the Master and Augustine. It is also wholly clear that the basic motivation of this radical renunciation seems to be based exclusively on the renunciation made by the monk at his profession (especially since monks may not have the free disposal even of their own bodies and wills. v. 4) without taking into account the expropriation in view of the fraternal union with the brothers, in imitation of the life of the apostolic community: All things should be the common possession of all, as it is written, so that no one presumes to call anything his own (33.6). This text appears in this chapter, followed by the recommendation to wait for everything necessary from the monastery’s father (33.5).
Through this detachment the primitive community of Jerusalem tried to realise and live the mystery of union and fraternal communion between the brothers and with the Lord Jesus Christ himself, that which we call, koinonia: the multitude of those who had believed had only one heart and one soul, furthermore : they were assiduous in the teaching of the apostles, in fraternal communion (κοινωνία), in the breaking of bread and in their prayers. All those who had embraced the faith met and put everything in common: they sold their properties and goods and divided them among all, according to the needs of each one.
It is thus understood why the whole monastic tradition prior to Benedict, was so demanding with regard to the necessary renunciation and detachment of things for personal use which could be an object of greed for other monks. He is, therefore, to avoid any “particular property.” Thus the vice of appropriating something without having received the express permission of the abbot was called (vitium peculiaritatis).
We will see now in the next chapter (RB 34), without denying anything already established, that the relation of the monk with material things that he needs will be placed on another level, both in the human and spiritual aspect.
2. WORDS THAT COMFORT AND PACIFY
Chapter 34: If everyone should likewise receive what is necessary, as de Vogüé points out, he shows total independence from the RM, where we find absolutely nothing homogeneous.
On the other hand, invariably when RB considers the relationship of the monk to his brothers, Augustine’s dependence also becomes transparently apparent here. At the beginning of his Rule, Augustine quotes the two texts of the Acts of the Apostles mentioned above: Acts 4:32 and Acts 4:35.
The second text expressly mentions the method in which the distribution should be made. Not simply according to the same amount, but according to what one needs.
In the Benedictine Rule, the same text of Acts 4:35 is placed at the beginning of the chapter (as opposed to RB 33), as a fundamental principle, from which the various definitive applications proceed and the entire chapter becomes somewhat of a commentary on the said text. On the other hand, St. Benedict proceeds similarly in many other chapters.
b. THE DEPENDENCE OF AUGUSTINE
According to de Vogüé, it becomes self-evident in several ways:
- in the title: RB “si omnes aequaliter” corresponds to “non aequaliter” of Augustine, Rule 6.5-7.
- “Infirmitates”: RB 2,4 corresponds to Augustine, Rule 5,13
- “Qui minus indiget”: corresponds to Augustine, Rule 9,63 “quanto minus indigent’’
- “humilietur-extollatur” of RB 34,4 corresponds to Augustine, Rule 6,20 “si divites illic humiliantur”; 6.24 “nec extollantur” … , etc.
It should be noted, however, that Augustine refers here to the brothers who were rich in the century and who showed humility by joining the poor brothers: “They should not, however, be proud of the goods they brought for their common life, nor be proud of their riches, for having shared them with the monastery.”
The phrase of RB 34,4: who needs more, humble himself for his weakness and does not take pride because of mercy does not find correlation in the Rule of Augustine. Adalbert de Vogüé OSB points out that in the Augustinian Rule one does not find an exhortation that exactly corresponds to RB 34,4. Augustine does not preoccupy himself with the distribution of the necessary, but with the relationships between the rich and poor. Augustine’s argument aims to separate both the poor and the rich from feelings of pride and envy, cultivating humility, howbeit not because they were receiving anything other than to live with one another.
The RB, on the other hand, considers the nature of people, stronger or weaker, as the criterion for a greater or lesser need for goods. Thus, the one who receives less (because he is stronger) has the internal dictate not to be sad and to give thanks to God. And to the one who receives the most (because he is weaker) it is his duty not to take pride in himself for having received more, but rather to humble himself for his frailty. It is verified that, in an absolutely original way, Benedict establishes what could be called an equality of proportion:
The initial inequality, a consequence of the unequal distribution of goods (which could be the cause of envy and murmuring) is in some way compensated by the corresponding demand that each of them assume an interior attitude that will demand the perfect understanding of impartial reasoning, that is, the true reason of receiving less or more. And, as a subsequence, will also demand a personal and convinced acceptance of said reason, manifested by the respective attitudes (both internal and external). Being the following: “avoid sadness” (envy, etc.) and “give thanks to God” (for the gifts received that have strengthened them) or, in the alternative form, from one who received the most, toward an attitudes of “Not being proud” (for having received more) and to “humble themselves” (recognising their own weaknesses before God and his brothers).
Thus in this double relation, the RB finds the equality that seemed broken before and which is now at one’s disposal again, to an extent that without constraint the brothers are also willing to participate personally in the distribution of the necessary goods with each one. And with that participation, an expression of inner commitment, which is necessary to restore equality and peace among the brothers. For this reason RB 34,5 says: In this way all the members will be at peace, and there is therefore no reason that could cause or arouse gossip. At this point, as in the previous chapter, some of Benedict’s severity is also manifested: first of all, that the evil of murmuring does not appear in any word or attitude, whatever the cause. If anyone was surprised, let him be subdued to a more severe punishment.
c. AUGUSTINIAN OR ORIGINAL FORMULA?
We cannot help but admire this formula of verses 3-4, which is so beautiful and at the same time so wise and down-to-earth, where it is proposed so as to achieve the union and communion of the brothers through an equality of proportion between “to have and to be,” as we explained above. It is natural and, being driven by curiosity, that we try to perceive what Benedict’s possible source of this “inspiration” is.
In the first place, we re-read the main and well-known commentators of the RB. Nothing is found in them, apart from the appropriate but already known observations on the chapter. In relation to the monastic sources, a much broader and more complex field, what is particularly interesting is what de Vogüé says about this, as an indisputable authority on the subject. Having clearly stated that RB 34 depends on the Rule of Augustine, Vogüé affirms that no exhortation corresponding exactly to RB 34.4 is found in the Augustinian Rule.
He then clearly states that in this, the Benedictine Rule is relatively original (sic), therefore, not content with exhorting “the one who needs less,” adds a symmetrical exhortation addressed to “the one who needs more.”
This new exhortation is in line with those general attitudes recommended by Augustine, to the rich monks and referring to the graces that are granted to them. But there is no special recommendation for humility in Augustine, addressed to those who receive more than the others. Thus, concluding on this point the Augustinian Rule, Benedict really simplified it, omitting the causes and circumstances that would justify inequality.
It should be noted that Benedict’s formulation being at least “relatively original” as de Vogüé says, for having added something that is not found in Augustine’s Rule, becomes even more original because he is not looking for reasons to justify inequality.
What Benedict really does in his original formulation of verse 4 is to justify equality. This is: by requiring the participation of all the brothers with their inner feelings and convictions, Benedict, in fact, demonstrates that he managed to reestablish the necessary equality by saying: In this way all the members will be at peace. (v. 5). In my estimation, this is a totally authentic formula of Benedict, as an effective modus vivendi to prevent the diverse distribution of goods among the brothers and thus becoming an occasion of envy and murmuring due to apparent injustices.
d. BENEDICTINE PEACE, SCANDAL AND MURMURINGS
I find it important to recognise that the “peace” mentioned as the final fruit of this community process cannot be any “pacification” of spirits, by some exhortation or merely having a “pious” record. When we talk about the peace of a Christian community, it is, in my estimation, a Peace with a majuscule “P”, that is, of a Messianic Peace, fruit of the redeeming work of Christ who, after his resurrection, insists on giving, His Peace, to all his disciples. This peace is the fruit of true charity, of that love that Christ came to bring mankind. For this reason, true justice among men can not be established only by what is quantitatively just, but by what is just according to love, which discovers other demands and values.
According to this vision, it can be said that Benedict is not only “simplifying” Augustine, but creating something entirely new, the fruit of an intuition, it seems, totally his and original.
Likewise, the rigorous prohibition of murmuring, here as in other chapters of the RB, it is not solely to avoid the consequences originating from slander, complaints and unjust recriminations of the brothers. For the Fathers, as for ancient monasticism, murmuring within a Christian community will always be a repetition of the events of the Exodus. In them, the People of God, not knowing how to recognise the testimonies of God’s love in their history, cannot accept the trials and purifications of their faith. He is scandalised by situations of suffering and difficulty, he reveals himself against God and against his designs of life and salvation and rejects them with his murmuring. In the Gospels too murmuring is the consequence of the scandal that rejects Christ and departs from him.
Although under “justifiable” appearances, this is something extremely serious that concerns the basis of the religious experience of faith, hope and charity. It is precisely the attitude that rejects and impedes Peace and communion with God and with brothers and sisters. Only in this way can the rigor of Saint Benedict and the other monastic Fathers be understood.
2. IN SEARCH OF A SOURCE
To prove the Augustinian dependence on chapter 34 and, at the same time, its quite unique nature with regard to the execution method of teaching of Acts 4:34 (and 2,45): it was distributed to each according to his need, The question remains whether Benedict would have received from some unknown source, biblical or patristic, some inspiration for his original formulation: to try to establish equality and unity among the brothers through the aforementioned equality of proportion.
We all know how often the BR uses the words of the Apostle Paul. We can list 103 citations, either direct, or by allusion. And these can be certain or possible. In many places where the relations between the monks are considered, especially in the chapters that manifest later redaction or correction, quotes from the Apostle are found as models or ideal norms of the practice of charity or of the application of zeal demanded of monks from each other.
A text that appears especially outstanding in illuminating the formula of unity of RB 34,3-4, is found in 2 Cor. 8:14, where the whole context of the chapter reveals the same intention to arouse, to intensify the zeal, the request of love, so that the generosity of charity can be exercised with the needy brothers of the Church of Jerusalem. It is, as is known, the work so valued by the Apostle Saint Paul, the collection to be carried out in several newly founded churches in Macedonia and Achaea, to help the impoverished brothers of the Church of Jerusalem.
To better understand the text it is appropriate to proceed, to an initial rapid analysis of it. We are going to do this by following the comment of Fr. Ernest Bernard Allo OP.
At the beginning of chapter 8 the Apostle praises the great and generous charity of the communities of Macedonia and presents them as a model to the brothers of Corinth. It even emphasises the fact that the brothers have shown themselves so solicitous and generous in this good work just when they were afflicted by great hardships and difficulties, possibly as a consequence of persecutions motivated by their fidelity to the Christian faith. It is possible to imagine many types of suffering, without excluding the material lack of goods. Fr. Allo says that both the Philippians and the Thessalonians, without having known such difficulties before becoming Christians, now felt the weight of true poverty. Many assumptions can be made, but the fact that is certain is that “those good Christians had suffered a great impoverishment and meanwhile lived not only with great spiritual joy, but had given proof of an exalted generosity in the service of the brothers.” Nothing better than remembering the same text (2 Cor. 8: 1-6):
Brothers, we want you to know, about the grace of God that has been granted to the churches of Macedonia; for during a severe ordeal of affliction, their abundant joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For, as I can testify, they voluntarily gave according to their means, and even beyond their means, begging us earnestly for the privilege of sharing in this ministry to the saints— and this, not merely as we expected; they gave themselves first to the Lord and, by the will of God, to us, so that we might urge Titus that, as he had already made a beginning, so he should also complete this generous undertaking among you.
Let us first point out that in this text the Apostle deliberately emphasises expressions that express charity, generosity, solicitude, zeal and fervour.
Then, in verses 6-12 the Apostle communicates that he sends Titus so that he can bring this good work to a happy end in the community of Corinth, already begun, to a happy conclusion in the community at Corinth. In view of the beautiful example of the other churches, Saint Paul can now also praise the Cor. for their spiritual qualities and for the great generosity of their charity, hoping that, for that very reason, they can now make it overflow in this opus. The commentators do not fail to point out in these phrases the finesse and tact with which the Apostle, praising and extolling the virtues of His correspondents, gently leads them to not be able to refuse to contribute (and generously) in this holy work of the collect . Thus, Fr. Allo in his commentary to the present text says:
Ces grands enfants de Corinthe ont, plus que tous les autres, besoin de quelques éloges pour se mettre à faire le bien… Il s’adresse à leur légitime amour-propre: si en peut leur reconnaître tant de qualités, qu’ils n’aillent pas les démentir en faisant voir que la générosité u est pas du nombre.
The Apostle offers another reason for this encouragement: if, in fact, as expected, they proceed with generosity, this will be a way of verifying, for the brothers of the ancient Churches, the authenticity and zeal of their charity.
And as if to finish, he still proposes a new stimulus capable, by itself, of breaking down all the barriers. In a single phrase, extremely simple and profound, it places you before the very example of the immense charity of Christ our Saviour; You know, in fact, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ who, being rich, became poor for you in order to enrich you with your poverty. Finally, after much stimulation; In verses 13 and 14 the Apostle arrives at some practical determinations about the way of realising the collect.
First, an observation of prudence is not to bring aid to others at the cost of great sorrow, as it says, but that it maintains the level of equality.
The term used here, ίσότης, according to Fr. Allo, belongs to Hellenistic philosophy and is found, for example, in Philo who wrote a treatise: Περι ισότητος (On Equality or Equity). The Apostle does not clarify, but in the next verse (14), in explaining the deeper and ecclesial sense of the help they were giving to the poor of Jerusalem, he also reveals to them the true meaning of the “equality” that is then achieved.
And here we find a literary form by which the Apostle expresses the equality between two elements, through his relations with two others, that is, an equality between two relationships (v. 14). The text says: At this moment, your abundance supplies your shortage, so that the abundance of them may come one day to supply your shortage.
Schematically we have:
And the Apostle ends such a beautiful formulation by saying: Thus there will be equality (γένηται ίσότης), exactly as I said also at the beginning, in verse 13: “according to one (norm of) equality.”
And to conclude, he bases this strange equality, fruit of a change of values with the quotation from a well-known text of Exod. 16:18:
As it is written: “those who gathered much had nothing over, and those who gathered little had no shortage.”
As Fr. Allo says, this text of Exod. 16:18 recalled by the Apostle is for him a symbolic revelation of that intention of Providence that the “communion of saints” seeks to achieve in a way and according to a measure that is unknown.
But, visibly, this communion recommended by the Apostle, must be sought and established through a certain norm of “equality”, that is, by means of an “equitable” distribution of the possessed goods, as far as possible, as he says, not because of the imposition of precepts, but because of the sensitivity of love that, in perceiving the extreme need of other brothers, opens up in concrete gestures of generosity.
The text of Exod. 16:18 refers to the episode in which the people of God, in the desert, for the first time encounter manna. The Lord then orders that it be collected, in the morning, according to the number of people in each tent. And finally, the author then says that there was equality among all, for he who had gathered much had no more and he who had gathered little had no less.
As you can see, this image describes the gesture of collecting the manna in order to reveal the existence of a principle of equality and union among the Israelites. This will be remembered by Saint Paul as the prefigurement of that perfect equality and communion that should exist among all Christians. It is obviously an application in a figurative sense. The manna, gift of God to his hungry people, must be collected in such a way that it does not cause differences between some who would get a lot and others who would hardly pick up a little. Some commentators acknowledge a miraculous action of God in realising such “equality” after the unequal harvest of manna. Other authors point out that the same text, in verses 16-17, already declared in what way it would be possible to obtain such equality among all.
4. WILL RB 34,3-4 REALLY DEPEND ON THE TEXT OF 2 COR. 8:14?
We try to gather some reasons that may suggest such dependence or, at least, a great approximation both in the form and in the general content.
As we have already seen, the literary form of RB 34,4 which we have called an “equality of proportion” is not found in the Rule of Augustine, the main source of this chapter. Neither, it seems, has been found until today in another monastic text before RB.
1. The literary form used in 2 Cor. 8:14, although not identical to RB, clearly presents a very characteristic element, namely: the relation of proportionality. This is verified when two different elements are compared to each other, not by direct comparison, but in the measure in which the relationship between them is similar to the relationship of two other elements to each other:
COMPARISON BETWEEN THE TWO TEXTS
Both in 2 Cor. 8:14 and in RB 34,3-4 we find exactly this literary form, which establishes a comparison between the four elements and, moreover, the affirmation that between the two relations compared. There is an equality.
Now, this figure is quite rare as a literary form and we find it in the two texts of RB 34 and 2 Cor. 8:14 precisely to emphasise the existence of a unit, or equity, to be realised among the various related elements, since merely quantitative equality is inadvisable.
Thus, in 2 Cor. 8:14, in view of the great disparity between the economic situation of the Church of Corinth and that of Jerusalem, it is recommended that the present generosity of the collection of the brothers of Corinth, helping the brothers of Jerusalem in situation of penury, make them, later, with their most perfect spiritual condition (or with thanksgiving and prayers, see 2 Cor. 9:11-15) can supply the deficiency of the Church recently converted to the Gospel. And as the Apostle emphasises, making an inclusion, in v. 13 and at the end of v. 14: there will be equality (by equity)(έζ ίσότητος – γένηται ίσότης).
Now, in RB 34,3-4, rejecting a purely quantitative equality, Benedict presents the necessary form of equality (equity) that must be established, proposing that the brothers, receiving more or less the goods they need, participate with his inner attitude of truth, generosity and recognition, in the diverse distribution of them.
Finally, our holy Legislator can conclude: and thus all the members of the community will be at peace (that is, within a unity of order, justice or equity), in which there is no reason for complaints, recriminations or murmuring .
It should be noted that the existence of this final statement about the unity (equity) or peace made, in both texts, suggests the low probability of a simple coincidence.
2. Another reason can still be invoked to justify the approximation of these two texts. And this reason is especially relevant to show that the principle by which equality between brothers is realised, in the two texts (RB 34 and 2 Cor. 8: 2-15) is exactly the same. This fundamental principle is formulated in RB 34 shortly after the beginning of the chapter: As it is written, it was distributed to each according to his need. We find it in 260 8: 12-15, on the contrary, at the end of the text (v.15): As it is written: He who had gathered much (manna) did not have more; the one who had collected little, did not suffer shortage.
Apparently, the second text does not seem to coincide with the first. However, if we continue reading the same verse in the Exod text. 16:18 we will find the following words that are added to the previous ones: each one had collected what he could eat, which correspond, we can say, in a general sense, to the words of Acts 4:35: as any had need.
The text of Exod. 16:18 is presented by the Apostle as an example of this unity (equity) that must always be established among Christians. Reading the full text of this divine order (v. 16-17) will allow us to better understand the final verse (v.18):
This is what the Lord commands them: each one to collect from him (that is, from manna) what he needs to eat, one gomor per person. Each one will take according to the number of people who are in your store. And the children of Israel did so; and they picked some more, others less.
For this reason we can conclude, in verse 18, that despite having collected some more and others less, finally no one, in fact, had more than another since each one only collected what he needed according to the number of people in his store. There was then an equality. For this reason the text can conclude (v. 18): But when they measured it with an gomór, those who gathered much had nothing over, and those who gathered little had no shortage; they gathered (that is: as much as each of them needed).
It can be added that this same text of Exod. 16:18 (cited by 2 Cor. 8:15) was understood to be by early Christians as a biblical type of a future and true holy community, gathered in the faith and love of Christ , as described in Acts 2: 44-45. A rather interesting example of this approach, already in use among the Pachomian monks, is the presence of Exod. 16:18 in the Book or Testament of Orsisius, one of the successors of Pachomius. He remembers this text (Exod. 16:18) just as a biblical example of the necessary detachment from material goods, so that everyone, receiving according to their own need, can form that equality that will be the foundation of koinonia, of the communion that should be reign among the Pachomian monks, as reigned in the apostolic community of Jerusalem.
In this way, it would not be inconceivable to at least admit the possibility that someone reading Orsysius’s Book (already translated by Jerome in the fifth century) would have noticed an approximation between the text of Exod. 16:18 and of 2 Cor. 8:15 as a typological basis for the ideal of communion (koinonia) within the Apostolic Church of Jerusalem, by way of unity and Pachomian monastic communion. It would therefore be further conceivable that Benedict was that reader, and that he also had knowledge of the beautiful formula of 2 Cor. 8:14, there used to substantiate the fellowship among the churches, also applying it to the desired “equality” for his community of monks.
3. Beyond the aforementioned reasons, one can still refer to another, less demonstrative motive, true, but also quite significant in its more global vision of chapter 34. Since we mention the intimate relationship between chapters RB 33 and RB 34 in that both mutually complete each-other. It would now be opportune to note how much these chapters also differ from each other, to the point that they seem to come from a spiritual viewpoint of the author and seem almost completely antithetical. RB 33 reveals, as we saw, is given prominence in general by the commentators, a severity and a rigourism which is quite strange in the RB. The same literary style of the chapter, dealing with matters that are so important to the monastic doctrine, it seems to have run away from the way of thinking so common within the RB and so proper to Saint Benedict, to draw practical consequences from a text of the Scripture, as a fundamental principle that, as an orientation and criterion of the life of the monk, should be assimilated by all. RB 33 gives us the impression that it was written not only in light of a recently painful and difficult experience and still under very strong and vivid emotions. The words reveal an impetuosity of language by someone who accentuates with radical expressions, repeated prohibitions and of absolute character, with adjectives and adverbs, which in no way should exist in the monastery: the vice of private property.
RB 34, on the other hand, presents a totally opposite style. From the beginning, with the text of Acts 4:35 on the expropriation and the common use of the goods within an apostolic community, expressing the principle from which the doctrine and the practical applications of the chapter derive. The “climate” that remains constant is that which comes from the living sentiment of Christ’s charity, lived by the brothers in the community: There are no prohibitions nor categorical affirmations. The chapter is a continuous exhortation for a true and attentive charity that for that reason does not “accept people” but takes into account the weaknesses of the brothers.
The distribution of the necessary things should never be an occasion of envy, discord and murmuring. Sadness is not even admitted, as a sign of resentment. In order for there really to be peace among the brothers and all possible reasons for disagreement to be withdrawn, Saint Benedict “invents” the admirable procedure in which all the brothers participate personally in this distribution of the goods. Everyone should commit themselves in their hearts to be generous with their brothers, knowing how to accept less so that others can receive more, being humble and grateful.
Now, the whole context of 2 Cor. 8: 1-15; 9: 1-15 is a continuous exhortation to a charity that is ever more solicitous and ardent for the brothers among themselves and with special zeal and generosity towards the poorest. It is in this context that we find not only the aforementioned similarity of the “relation of proportion” that equality (equity) can make — so similar to that of RB 34,4 — , but also other words of the Apostle transcribed in other chapters of RB.
a. Thus, v. 7: Each one gives as he has disposed in his heart, not reluctantly or by force. for God loves the one who gives with joy, he is in RB 5,16: And the disciples should willingly lend it (obedience), for God loves a cheerful giver.
b. Although not literally, the text of verse 6: know that who sows miserably. meanwhile he will also harvest; and whoever sows with largess, with largeness will also reap is found, it can be said, as a backdrop of RB 49, “On the observance of Lent.” In verses 5-8 the monk’s own attitude for this Lenten season is described: Let us add, therefore, in these days, something to the habitual task of our servitude; prayers … and so offer each one to God, spontaneously. with joy of the Holy Spirit, something beyond the measure established for himself; and with joy of spiritual yearning, wait for Holy Easter.
Note that the expressions “to add,” “to offer” (2 times), “beyond the established measure” effectively give the idea of a generosity capable of expressing itself for these gestures: giving more than necessary, increasing, to add, proffering, [multiplying], etc.
Likewise, the mention of joy (2 times) is insisted, not only as a feeling, but as an experience that springs from faith – hope – charity and the strength of the Spirit.
c. Note that RB 49.6 also presents another condition for the authenticity of the generosity of the offering; Let it be done “spontaneously.” The same expression is used in 2 Corinthians 8: 4 when describing the generosity of the Macedonians: I testify that, according to their possibilities and above them, with all spontaneity and with lively insistence, they asked us the grace to participate.
d. Equally in 2 Cor. 8:2 one reads: for during a severe ordeal of affliction, their abundant joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part.
After our long reflection on RB 34 in light of all the spiritual climate present in 2 Cor. 8:1-15 it is possible that it is not yet evident to all the proof of the possibility of being the Apostle’s text the literary source of the original formulation of RB 34,3-4. Let us add something else, then.
The primary dependence of the Rule of Augustine is undeniable and this fact is a carrier of great significance for the understanding of the BR, as we know. Generally it is certain that the texts where the concern for fraternal charity appears, for the meaning of the life of the monk in the construction of the community, in the work, in the various trades, in the fraternal relationship, etc., are fruit of a knowledge of the works of Pacomio, Basilio and Agustín. Sometimes they also reveal a more mature experience of the author of the RB and, therefore, a later writing.
Significant, at this point, are the works of D. André Borias, in his many published articles. By the literary analysis of the text one can arrive at a certainty that the same chapter or a part of it expresses a writing clearly dependent on another monastic source and, therefore, more independent of RM.
In an article on RB 72.7 “No one is to pursue what he judges better for himself, but instead, what he judges better for someone else.,” a recommendation that we found several times in the canes of San Pablo, D. Borias concludes that several previous or contemporary monastic rules to RB use the same recommendations of the Apostle, but modifying and reducing in part their thought Casiano, in his two Conferences of Abbot Joseph (Conf. 16 on friendship and Conf. 17 on fidelity to promises) it also refers, more than once, to the texts of Saint Paul … But, in this case, as D. Borias says verbatim: “this text (of Cassian) reveals to us worries and an absolutely strange spiritual vision & RB. And the same author then concludes his investigation with a statement that seems to us of exceptional importance:
It was definitely in St. Paul itself that St. Benedict certainly sought what he wanted. This rapid investigation clearly shows us the essential importance that St. Benedict confers to charity in the midst of his community and the originality of his own attitude. It also verifies Benedict’s personal knowledge of the moral doctrine of St. Paul and the fidelity with which he follows it. However, far from passively copying the text of the Apostle, he knows how to give his teacher’s teaching a new formulation and a personal expression. This example finally allows to modulate certain general and peremptory assertions. Saint Benedict is not content with collecting and filtering the previous monastic tradition. He knows, according to need, to return with security and discernment to the source of this tradition that continues to be Scripture, and to remember that the monastic life, like all Christian life, must be animated by the double commandment of charity.
In light of these words which we set in front of the results of the investigation of D. Borias, I think we can also affirm that at the end of our reflection we will be able to verify the same truth regarding the possibility of the originality of St. Benedict in the formulation of the characteristic “principle of equality.”
Instead of simply accepting the Augustinian formulas, already known to him, he felt the need to better define the root of the problem posed by the unequal distribution of goods, advised by Acts 4:35. And knowing all the depth of the text of 2 Cor. 8: 1-15, where the generosity of charity, animated by the example of Christ, is capable of perfect union and equality between the brothers of the two Churches, he then discovered the ideal formula he needed for his own monastic rule .
How many treasures of doctrine and theological conclusions could still be discovered in reflecting on such a simple and ordinary event as is the distribution of the necessary objects to the brothers, in the light of the ecclesial formula of the Apostle of the Gentiles!