Celebrating the seven Sundays before St Joseph’s feast on March 19th.
The scene that Gregory describes begins with St Benedict seated quietly at the door of his monastery, absorbed in reading. Suddenly, crashing unexpectedly into the peace of the scene, there comes riding up on a horse a rough-mannered and haughty barbarian, shoving before him a poor peasant , who is bound with ropes.
The peasant owes the barbarian money and has claimed his goods are deposited in the safekeeping of Benedict’s monastery. Without any introduction or any attempt at graciousness, the barbarian shouts at Benedict, “Get up! Get up! No tricks, just get me this guy’s money, which he says you have.”
What follows is a quintessential monastic moment. It is if you will, the monastic contribution to the world, the world being represented here in one of its unhappier aspects by the barbarian.
We are told that in response to the barbarian’s rude and abrupt command, St Benedict calmly raised his eyes from his reading and looked for a moment at the barbarian. Slowly his gaze turned toward the peasant, noting how cruelly he was bound. This is an image of monastic reading; this is an image of Christian contemplation. The monk looking up from the Scripture, fixes his gaze on the suffering of the world.
In that moment in which Benedict’ s eyes fall on the suffering man–it could be called the moment in which the light of Scripture penetrates the darkness of human suffering and injustice–a tremendous wonder is worked. The knots in the ropes that bound the man suddenly unravel, and he stands there completely free.
With wisdom like this–calm and kind, attentive and straightforward, anchored in the Word of God– St Benedict created monasticism.
–Jeremy Driscoll in A Monk’s Alphabet: Moments of Stillness in a Turning World