Filed under: Patristics
During this season every year, I return to the work of a patrologist I much admire, Father Kurt Belsole, O.S.B. His book is called Joy in Lent, and it’s a study of St. Benedict’s winsome approach to the Church’s season of penance. Father Kurt shows that Benedict’s emphasis on joy in Lent is an original contribution in the history of monastic spirituality. Here’s Benedict himself in chapter 49 of his Rule. The passage is titled “On the Keeping of Lent”:
The life of a monk ought always to be a Lenten observance. However, since such virtue is that of few, we advise that during these days of Lent he guard his life with all purity and at the same time wash away during these holy days all the shortcomings of other times. This will then be worthily done, if we restrain ourselves from all vices. Let us devote ourselves to tearful prayers, to reading and compunction of heart, and to abstinence.
During these days, therefore, let us add something to the usual amount of our service, special prayers, abstinence from food and drink, that each one offer to God “with the joy of the Holy Ghost” (1 Thes 1:6), of his own accord, something above his prescribed measure; namely, let him withdraw from his body somewhat of food, drink, sleep, speech, merriment, and with the joy of spiritual desire await holy Easter.
Father Kurt unpacks that passage as only a good scholar — and good son of St. Benedict — can. Joy in Lent is available, as far as I know, only from the monks of St. Vincent Archabbey. If you don’t own a copy of Benedict’s Rule, consider buying this one, which is quite beautiful and comes with helpful annotation, historical background, and commentary.
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