Oblate Program at Belmont Abbey, NC

Being formed through listening

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... It has been said that our Father Saint Bernard knew the Bible by heart. I do not know how true that is, but he was certainly filled with the Bible. Benedict is that way, too. And you will be, too, if you keep going to the Office, pray the psalms, listen to readings, and doing the lectio (spiritual reading). You become so filled with the scripture that you almost have to express yourself in a scriptural way.

When reciting the Hebrew poetry in the psalms, we come across an idea put forth in one way, followed by the same idea presented in another way using images. This structure brings us to a fuller understanding, experience, and comprehension of the psalms. We find this at the beginning of the Rule, too. Saint Benedict says, “Listen, son, to the precepts of the master. Incline the ear of your heart” [RB prol 1.]. “Listen, son” is followed by an image, “incline the ear of your heart.” Et inclina aurem cordis tui. It is the image of someone straining to hear everything. You get your ear out there. You want to get every word being said. You want to get the fullness of it. So it is to incline the ear of your heart. It is of the heart, not just the mind. It is the whole man. Benedict is saying that this listening is an attitude where you are all there. There is a desire to receive the Rule fully. It is a zeal for listening to the Holy Rule—its teaching and wisdom.

Dom Basil Pennington
“Incline the Ear of Your Heart”
A talk given on the Rule of Saint Benedict
Sunday, March 18, 2001
© Copyright of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery, 2006

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