Benedict Nursia

Augustine Sokolovski

On the penultimate Saturday on the eve of Great Lent, the Orthodox Church celebrates the memory of all ascetics and monks canonized by the Church. This conciliar celebration in honor of all the saints who partake of holiness in renunciation of the world is gradually revealed in the first forty days of Great Lent. According to the liturgical calendar, the memory of many great saints is celebrated during this period.

Thus, on March 27, the Church commemorates Saint Benedict of Nursia (480-547). That day he went to the Lord. Or, as it is written in his vita, according to the voice of God in a vision to the disciples at the moment of his death, "he ascended into Heaven." Benedict celebrated the Eucharist, took communion, raised his hands in prayer, and thus departed to God. In popular piety, he was revered as the heavenly patron of dying people. In turn, Tradition calls him the "patriarch of Western monasticism" and the "Father of Europe."

Saint Benedict was a true prophet of his time. Europe then suffered from the migration of peoples, barbarian tribes and rulers succeeded each other. Many of them were heretics, that is, they held a false understanding of the Orthodox Faith, or, in the Christian understanding, did not possess any at all. Benedict resisted them with the impeccability of his deeds, with signs and wonders, which were the result of his election by grace and a sign of boldness before God.

In the words of Pasternak in the novel "Doctor Zhivago", he "liberated himself from himself, he achieved a grain of immortality." During the darkness that descended over Rome and Europe, he became the light of the Immortality of the Cross.

Information about the life of Benedict has come down to us thanks to St. Gregory the Great (540-604). Gregory was the bishop of Rome. Undoubtedly, in the image of St. Benedict, in response to the decision of the Archbishop of Constantinople to be called the "Ecumenical Patriarch", Gregory called himself "the servant of the servants of God."

In the memory of the Orthodox Church, Gregory, due to a curious translation error, is revered under the name "man of two words" ("Dvoeslov"). There is a certain metaphysical foolishness in this. The fact is that the "man of two words" is a literal translation of the title of the main work of the saint: "Dialogues, or conversations about the life of the Italian fathers."

In this work, he preserved for the Church the story of the life and deeds of St. Benedict. Gregory is one of the greatest Church Fathers, thinker, and theologian. The fact that it was to him, the great and impeccable authority for the entire Universal Church, God granted to bear witness to the life of the saint Benedict. It is the great grace of Providence. Benedict did so many truly biblical signs and wonders that, perhaps, subsequent generations simply would not have believed any other author!

The main deed of Benedict was the monastery he founded in the Italian village of Monte Cassino, and, of course, the monastic rule, the so-called Rule of Saint Benedict. Over time, on the basis of the Rule, the Order of the same name was formed.

If one tries to formulate the essence of the Rule in a few words, it is that humility is not a separate virtue, but the very flesh and bones of a monk, in the words of Almodóvar, "The skin I live in."

Let us recall that Eastern Orthodox monasticism lives according to a single rule. Western monasticism is "distributed" among the Orders. This is a consequence of the logic of withdrawal from the world. If, as for the first ancient monks, Anthony the Great, and others, the Church and the World seem imperfect to you, you create an "ideal" "church within the Church." The community of monasteries of a single charter is like a new special world in Christ. The history of the universe would have been different if Luther had not split the Church, but created his own order, headed a new special monastery.

Services to the "Lenten Saints", let's call them that, are very laconic. As if that humility, which, according to the monastic rules, the soul of a monk should be clothed with, expressed itself in the brevity of prayers. At the same time, this brevity itself is evidence that the deeds of the saints are always more immortal than the words dedicated to them.

Saint Benedict lived in an extremely difficult time, which seemed to many to be the last. He lived one and a half millennia before us. His example is to overcome despair and give thanks to God. For if those ancient times were really the last, then we would not have been born.