The three parts of the title reflect three links I’ll direct your attention to. I was at the auto shop waiting for my van to be serviced, found out they had a wi-fi connection (smart auto shop), and caught up on some blog-reading.
First there is a liturgical reading on the incarnation posted by Dan Wilt. He posted it Christmas Eve, which was a day too late for us, as we celebrated a Christmas liturgy Sunday night Dec 23, and the one for Christmas Eve had already been printed. Get these to us a week earlier, Dan!
Then, a post from Scot McKnight, who is blogging through Robert Webber’s posthumous book The Divine Embrace. Webber, taking his cues from the Rule of St. Benedict, proposes a rule of life that involves three vows (Stability, Fidelity, Obedience), three disciplines (Prayer, Study, Work), and three means to encounter Christ (in daily life, in material things, in encounters with people). It’s an interesting re-work of the idea of a rule of life – something I think is sorely needed these days.
Finally, a post from Halden, who is actually blogging through the Rule of St. Benedict, pondering the contemporary applications of the Rule. The three original Benedictine vows were conversatio (common life, no personal possessions), obedientia (absolute obedience to the abbot), and stabilitas (a lifelong commitment to the order). Halden points to "new monasticism" communities that involve similar commitments to the Rule of St. Benedict. While they aren’t "monastic" in the proper sense (they are free to be married, often live in their own houses, etc), they do embody many of the same values that are present in Benedict’s ancient rule.
In New Monastic communities, at the very least, all members commit to
living within the same general area, often with different members
living together in common households, depending on the cultural and
social location of the community in question. This commitment to
reorder one’s life around the common life of the community corresponds
to the Benedictine vow of conversatio. Obedience is likewise
a central element among New Monastic communities. While these
communities are not ordered under an abbot as Benedictine monasteries
were, the emphasis is on submission and deference to one another in the
making of decisions resonates with the monastic practice of obedientia rather than autonomy. Finally, New Monastic communities practice a form of the Benedictine vow of stabilitas.
There is always some measure of permanent commitment to the community
of which one is a part. While this is not practiced in the same sort of
way as is done in Benedictine monasteries, the concept of covenant is
central to the New Monastic understanding of how God calls us to be
faithful to one another, forsaking the transience and career-driven
mobility of our culture.
I believe we’re going to be seeing more and more of these kinds of communities cropping up, not to form a bunker against society, but to embody and display an alternative way of living in the world, one that doesn’t bow to the idols of our age. Especially as our society grows more and more fragmented and alienated, and as the church at large continues to swallow whole the values of the failed Enlightenment project, these kinds of communities will become vital for the ongoing witness of the church, I believe.