MONASTIC RULE FOR A MONASTERY WITHOUT WALLS

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MONASTIC RULE FOR A MONASTERY WITHOUT WALLS

 As can be seen by looking at the series of essays beginning with the essay entitled “stage one of monastic purification”, the Rule of Benedict is a useful guide to begin an examination of the contemplative triad of purification, illumination and union.

 The premise of New Day Monks is that the protestant evangelical church will benefit by adding the ideas and practices of the ancient monastic traditions of the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches to the ideas and practices of the Reformation.

 When, however, the Rule of Benedict, or any other monastic structure, is applied to people who are living in normal society there is a need to modify the Rule. For example, within a monastery the members can all adapt to the same schedule and, therefore, times of prayer can be regulated. If, on the other hand, people who are living in a secular context, with families, careers, travel, etc want to improve their prayer life they will have to use a system that is more flexible than the actual monastic Rule.

 Thus, even if Evangelical Protestants can benefit from ancient ideas and practices they will have to modify the Rule and adapt it to their individual situation.

 Some of the people in New Day Monks would like to start an actual community with shared living conditions, making a use of The Rule of Benedict easier to adopt. Some of us though wish only to gain from the principles of monasticism and yet retain a secular life style. We want the spiritual fruit that is gained by monastic discipline and yet we feel led to remain married, employed, mobile, etc. Thus we are attempting to adapt the Rule to our individual lives.

 

First, we will look at a general conception of what a “Rule” would entail. It is important to realize we are not talking about “rules” but “A Rule”. We, of course, (retaining, as we have stated, the advances of the Reformation) don’t want to fall into legalism. The monastic disciplines involve are using the will to seek God, and gaining His help in working out our salvation, and not a mere using of the will to change our behavior by following rules. The word for “Rule” is related to the word for a trellis. That is, a structure to help support a vine as it grows. It is this sort of support that we seek in our individual Rule.

 

Here is an example of a general conception of what a Rule could entail:

 GENERAL AND TYPICAL ELEMENTS OF A RULE:

1. Prayer: Yielding to silence and solitude in order to hear God inwardly.

 2. Active Purification: Using the will to conduct a moral and spiritual inventory.

 3. Illumination: Letting God give us a revelation of ourselves and of Himself.

 4. Surrender of the will: Releasing self will and ambition in the pursuit of ministry.

 5. Seeking Humility: Welcoming lowliness and deprivation as a practice of crucifying pride.  Seeking worthy authorities and then practicing obedience towards them.

 6. Rest and Sabbath: Taking time to stop.

 7. Evangelism and Service: Walking in love and humility towards others for their good.

 

Next we will look at 4 examples of an individual Rule. These represent a description of what 4 individuals in New Day Monks are already doing and intend to continue doing:

 

 

 AN EXAMPLE OF ONE PERSON’S RULE:

 

 

I.        The Rule of Prayer:

                   A. Average at least 1 hour/day of silence and solitude

                   B. Listen as much or more than I speak

                   C. Take a daily moral inventory

                   D. Daily allow God to search my heart and speak what He sees

                   E. Go beyond the mind and hear God in the stillness of my spirit

                   F. Allow God to reveal His vision and desire

                   G. Face selfish ambition, envy and striving for significance

                   H. Follow God in His vision, leaving behind ambition.

                  

II.       The Rule of Purity:

                   A. Weigh, taste and sort the motives behind desires and decisions

                   B. Trace motives to their source: the lower nature or the higher nature

                   C. Let God’s fire burn off double mindedness

         D. Allow God to pass judgment on my desires and decision

         E. Move forward with His judgment, vigilantly resisting the lower nature, while yielding to the higher nature

                   F. Not confusing temptation with sin

                   G. Bringing other humans into these steps, being transparent.

 

111.   The Rule of Relationships:

                   A. Using the Rule of Purity in my relationships

         B. Using the Rule of Prayer to see and admit my feelings for another person and their actions

                   C. Resisting lower feelings, yielding to higher feelings

                   D. Forgiving everyone who hurts me in all instances

                   E. Not confusing forgiveness with reconciliation

                   F. Pursuing reconciliation with a whole heart

                   G. Moving on in freedom if reconciliation fails.

 

IV.      The Rule of Obedience:

                   A. Obey God in all things, using the rule of Prayer and the rule of Purity

                   B. Obey the civil law and secular authorities if possible under God

                   C. Obey authorities at work or challenge them openly

                   D. Obey spiritual leaders up to the border of their authority

                   E. Always doubt an impulse to rebel

 

V.       The Rule of Humility:

        A. Do not flee adversity or lowliness.

        B. Be quick to listen to others and patiently and prayerfully submit until released to express the balance of truth.   

 

VI.      The Rule of The Sabbath:

  A. When done with one task take 10 minutes to “see” stillness and “hear”   silence, and look for the beauty realm, before starting the next task.

 

VII.      The Rule of Service:

                   A. See Jesus in all people

                   B. Be Jesus to all people

                   C. Try to see things from the other person’s shoes

                   D. Help others carry their burden

                   E. Help others fulfill their calling in God

                   F. Give up leisure and pleasure to help others

 

 

 

 

ANOTHER EXAMPLE OF AN INDIVIDUAL RULE:

 

 

WORSHIP:

  • Prayer:  St. Silouan the Anthonite said “Keep your mind in hell, but do not despair.” This disposition helps me to enter into prayer with a right view of my own sinfulness and my desperate need for the mercy of Jesus Christ. In the effort of progressing in ceaseless prayer, by the grace of God I will do the following:

o       1. Pray twice a day, using a rosary to guide me, for myself, for my family, and for my brothers and sisters in Christ, and for the world.

o       In order to keep my heart and mind focused on Christ, I will use the Jesus Prayer in my prayer time and throughout the day.

 

  • The Word:  In order to remain grounded in the Word of God I will daily spend time in the Bible. I will use Lectio Divina as my primary method of daily reading. I will also use Bible study methods to assist me with reading the Bible as I attend and serve in any teaching roles at the church.

 

  • Serving:  I will offer my gifts and abilities with open hands where ever I am for the body of Christ and for my neighbors. I will make myself available to the leadership of the church and ask for opportunities to support them. I will look for opportunities where I can serve others.

 

  • Reading:  Continual reading of spiritual books is an important part of my growth in Christ. I will read books that can help me learn from the spiritual practice of men and women in the church. I would like to read approximately 12 books a year, with an emphasis on prayer and the spiritual life.

 

 

RELATIONSHIPS:

  • Marriage and Family:  I recognize my marriage as my true monastic vows. I want to intentionally cultivate love with my wife by expressing my love for her in ways that she feels loved and treasured. I want to grow in my submission to her and my godly leadership of her, loving her as Christ loved the Church. I want to spend significant time each day investing into my family; loving them unconditionally, interacting with them, guiding them to a Fear of the Lord, and teaching them the importance of prayer and humility.
  • Intentional Relationships:  I want to be cultivating intentional relationships with other men, meeting regularly to talk honestly and transparently. I also want to invest into relationships in my community, seeking to befriend and love others who God has brought into my life.

 

LIFESTYLE:

  • Moderation:  I recognize I am prone to a life of excess, which is toxic to my spiritual growth. Therefore I will practice moderation in all areas of life. I will be cautious about what I eat, using a regular meal plan to guide my eating. I will avoid drunkenness by limiting when and where I drink and use caution with how much I drink. I will also seek to remain physically active, respecting my physical body.
  • Simplicity:  I will seek to live without debt. I will use a budget to carefully steward the resources God is providing.
  • Work:  Work is a necessity and I will work with integrity as unto the Lord. I will seek to work with honesty in all I do and use work as an opportunity to provide for my family and love others.

 

 

 

 

YET ANOTHER EXAMPLE OF AN INDIVIDUAL RULE:

 

1. End of day examination of conscience.

2. Limit TV and computer to intentional use.

3. Bear others patiently.

4. Regular practice of silent prayer in solitude.

5. Regular practice of self denial, such as fasting to gain a hunger for God.

6. Regular practice of study and writing.

7. Simpler living: such as less ‘wired’, less passive viewing of unrealistic portrayals of life such as seen on television,  more observing and listening to reality.

8. Reverence and gratitude in work.

9. An annual (or more frequent) retreat.

10. Regular service of others.

11. Seeking an answer as to how to practice obedience.

 

 

THE FOURTH AND LAST EXAMPLE:

 

Having never before written out a Rule for my life, I think it is important that I first write out my observations of what I am currently doing as opposed to my good intentions of what I hope to be doing soon or one day in the vaguely undefined future.

 

RULE OF LIFE IN REGARD TO BEING WITH GOD:

I usually begin praying when I wake up, with my head still on the pillow. I find myself thinking about what I must do that day, and include conversation with God and requesting His help in this coming day.

I currently read from daily devotionals and scriptures nearly every morning as the beginning of my day. This reading is done slowly, thoughtfully, prayerfully, in the presence of God, with the accompaniment of good coffee. I sometimes use some form of the daily office as a guide for my prayers in the morning. I may go weeks using the office, and then put it down for a while and just practice restful abiding in His presence, or find myself discussing the reading with my wife.

Two to four times per week, depending upon the week, I will spend extended times of worship, confession, intercession and/or silent contemplative prayer in a specific chair in my church office, usually mid to late morning.

I go through the events of my day and my week based upon appointed times of meeting with other people, and use the in between times to study and prepare for various things…sermons, counseling sessions, house church discussions, etc. I sometimes fast from lunch if I have a lot of preparation to do, as my mind loses sharpness and focus after eating lunch. I try to do boring administrative stuff, bathroom cleaning, email returning, etc., in the afternoons.

Evenings are always spent in the company of others, either family or friends or house churches. I watch very little television, usually sports. I set aside Thursdays as an exclusive evening to be with the family.

I sometimes pray before bed but usually pass out first. If I do not pass out first, I review the events of my day with the Lord, thank Him for being with me, confess the failures, receive forgiveness and say “I will lie down and sleep in peace, for You alone make me dwell in safety.” But I usually just pass out.

Ongoing throughout the day, I stop on a regular basis…3-10 times per day…and pay attention to what I see, hear, smell, taste and feel, physically and emotionally-RIGHT NOW-and remember that I am alive and that the Father is with me-RIGHT NOW. I think about the story He is writing in the world, the fact that it is His story, and that it is lived out through discovering and giving in to what He is doing. This sometimes happens in a 10 second span of time, sometimes 30 minutes.

In addition, I try to not over-schedule my life so that I am available to pull away with Him when He calls me inwardly. When I feel myself getting cynical or uncaring toward others, or, conversely, feeling too much weight of others’ burdens, I know I have neglected His call for too long.

All this takes place amidst the endless distractions and temptations of life on Earth in a materialistic, self-indulgent, too hurried and thoughtless culture, of which I am a product. Some days I am more like a brute beast than a loving child, but those days are lessening and He is increasing as I become more consistent in the practices described here.

RULE OF LIFE IN REGARD TO BEING WITH OTHERS: All these can be filed under the heading of “love others”. I see these things in some measure in my life and hope to see them increasing as a result of abiding more truly and consistently in Christ, until the full light of day.

1. Consider others more important than myself.

2. Be eager to listen, willing to speak.

3. Look for and take opportunities to do good for others and serve them.

4. Learn from everyone.

5. Give others the benefit of the doubt whenever possible.

6. Give grace and forgiveness freely, regularly, and humbly.

7. Understand the difference between agreement and acceptance. Accept and respect others in the midst of disagreement.

8. Give away money and stuff and time to people who need it.

9. Pray for people.

10. Look for and take opportunities to encourage others.

11. Be genuinely interested in people. Ask lots of questions. Listen to the answers.

12. Be real with others, and really be with others while with them.

13. Receive correction and criticism humbly. Consider it in the Lord’s presence.

14. Be a peacemaker, not a peacekeeper. Be willing to say the hard things, lovingly.

15. Be reluctant to say what God thinks people should do. Ask people questions and direct people to God for the answers.

16. Always suspect pride or selfishness in my motives in dealing with others.

17. Value people over everything else (security, accomplishment, pleasure, etc.) except God.

18. Tell the truth-gently, kindly, compassionately. Be extremely certain of God’s leading if using anger in truth telling.

19. Fight the need to be heard or understood or respected or to win arguments.

20. Consider how my actions will affect what people think of God.

21. Shine in such a way that my actions and words draw others into eternal relationships with our heavenly Father.

 

 

As you can see from the above, the individual Rules differ according to the individual’s life situation, experience, gifting, design, etc. Nevertheless they all accomplish the same goal: an intentional approach to interior spiritual formation that first and foremost turns the person to God.  This leads to a purification of character and to a revelation of self, both as we are on our own and as we are in Christ.

Lastly, we will look at a “starter Rule” that could be used as a generally agreed upon framework in a community. This could be used to introduce interested persons to a community, or to direct applicants for membership in a community, or as a minimum starting point that a novice would then build upon to form an individual rule.

It needs to be stressed that the development of an individual Rule, although unique to one person, is not formed alone by just one person. Each applicant, novice or aspiring member would need to be in relationship with a mentor, or “spiritual director” that would assist them in forming their Rule and walk. Jesus works through His word, by His Spirit, in a community, under discipleship and mentoring to bring us to where “Christ is formed within us”.

 

GENERAL COMMUNITY GUIDELINES

 

Here is an example of a general Rule of Life that contains openness for varying personal practice: *

 

Daily:

 

1.    Seek the Lord every morning. Speak to Him. Listen to Him. Rest in Him.

2.    Read scripture every day.

3.    Take time at least once during each day to acknowledge God and your position   before Him and relationship with Him.

4.    Intercede in prayer for others each day.

5.    Seek opportunity to love others each day by giving: time, attention, truth, physical service, stuff, or money.

6.    Examine your heart, motives, important decisions, attentiveness to God, and treatment of others each day in the presence of the Lord.

7.    End each day in seeking the Lord. Speak to Him. Listen to Him. Rest in Him.

 

Weekly:

 

1. Fast sunrise to sundown (or longer) at least once per week.

2. Gather with like-minded believers at least once per week.

3. Spend thirty minutes in solitude and silence at least once per week.

4. Engage in vigorous physical exercise at least once per week.

 

Monthly:

 

1. Meet in person with your spiritual director at least once per month for prayer, confession, examination and encouragement of your life in relationship with the Lord.

2. Obey your spiritual director.

 

 

Annually:

 

1. Take a personal silent retreat of at least 24 hours at least once per year.

2. Take a retreat with like-minded believers of at least 48 hours at least once per year.

 

 

 

*Varying practice leaves room for individual temperament and needs at any given time. Resting in the Lord could mean non-discursive prayer for some, or centering prayer for others, or restfully listening to music while engaged with God.   Reading scripture could be a psalm per day or “through the Bible in a year” or practicing lectio with the same parable for a month.  Serving others could be feeding a hungry beggar, visiting a nursing home, or teaching others the good news of God’s love. Fasting could be food and water or merely a reduction in intake or even abstaining from certain activities. This could all be established in cooperation with the spiritual director.

 

For an example of a similar presentation of an introduction to monastic practice in a monastery without walls see The Ancient Way, A Third Order Rule for Evangelicals in the writers club.

 

 

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ELIZABETH’S RULE

 

 

PRAYER

begin each day with verbal prayer and worship

read Scripture every day

devote 30 minutes each evening to silence and solitude

 

PURIFICATION

reflect and pray each week to evaluate time spent on internet, how I spent my money, and what I watched/read

 

ILLUMINATION

be intentional about seeking God to reveal my heart/motive and His heart

Here is a note I sent back to her: (Under ILLUMINATION I would add something like: “To have visitation from God that shows me His holiness, beauty and wisdom; even if the light of such a visit revealed my flaws and weaknesses”  Of course, you did say that, but I have a feeling that many of us, in the fairly near future, are going to have more of this sort of purifying revelation so I’m just making the language a little stronger.)

 

 

SURRENDER

do not hold tightly to my own desires and plans

examine my heart and motives before God in regard to my relationships

seek godly counsel but take all counsel to God and allow Him to speak to it before making a decision

 

HUMILITY

meet once a month with the Tarrs and continue to attend the Tuesday night home group, while both are available

be submissive to the authority in my life…family, church, work

 

REST and SABBATH

refrain from doing any school-related work on Sundays

Fast from food once a week

 

EVANGELISM

actively use my time to develop and nurture relationships with the following people:  Rachel, Cathy, Chelsey, Christine, Mitzy, Stevenia

 

 

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ERIC’S Common Rule;

 

The Common Rule of the Ancient Way

 

 

All who join the Ancient Way must pass the first 6 months as an apprentice in probation meeting with a mentor/spiritual advisor on a monthly basis who is an existing member,  and then make their profession upon the Rule of the Ancient Way, pledging themselves to observe the Rule of the Ancient Way and the commandments of God, and to repent when they fail their profession.  At profession, let them then be given and wear the ring of the Ancient Way, reminding them daily/hourly/by moment wherever they are that they are sons of God by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

 

Those who offend against the provision of this Rule do not incur the guilt of sin, unless in so doing they transgress the commandments of God as revealed in the Bible.

 

The first and foremost rule of the Rule of the Ancient Way is the practice of prayer.  The old adage is that practice makes perfect. The ideal of Christian perfection defined as Union with God is the goal, to what extent that Christian Perfection can be achieved in life in this lower world.

 

Members shall practice prayer at least once per day, reciting the Divine Office* during morning, midday, evening, night, or vigil offices Reciting more than one office per day is preferable.  The office may be read, recited or chanted according to the circumstances afforded.  The practice of prayer should include 15-20 minutes of meditation, either Lectio Divina or Contemplation, whichever suits the participant. They shall also make frequent use of Scripture reading during this prayer time.

 

 

Members shall be careful to avoid all forms of dissipation.

 

Members shall be temperate in eating and drinking.

 

Members shall fast one meal each week and one full day each month, from sun up to sun- down meditating on the passion and death of Christ.

 

Members shall partake of the Lords table at least once per month.

 

In their daily life let members strive to lead others by a good example and to promote piety and good works.

 

Members shall earnestly maintain the spirit of love among themselves and toward others. Let them strive to heal discord when they can.

 

Let members examine their conscience every night before retiring to see if they have offended God in anything.  If they have, let them repent before retiring.

 

Let members not forsake the fellowship of believers by attending a regular weekly church service, and being committed to the local church, which is the expression of Gods Kingdom on earth.

 

Let members give regularly to their local church generously with a grateful heart.

 

All members shall take a spiritual retreat of not less than 2 days at least once per year, spending the majority of time in solitude and prayer.

 

Members shall make every effort to each have a spiritual director who is competent to guide the member to pursue Christian perfection, or Union with God, to the extent that it is possible in this life. The member shall communicate with their Director in all honesty at least once per month to describe their spiritual journey.

 

All disobedient and harmful members should be admonished of their duty a second and third time, if they do not submit, let them be dismissed from the Ancient Way Order.