Building Community

In Chapter 63, Benedict, commenting on community rank, stipulates “the younger monks...must respect their seniors, and the seniors must love their juniors.”

This is a brilliant bit of wisdom. It is possible to respect a person, or at the least, a person’s station or office, and at the same time not yet love them. But it is impossible to actually love a person, and not have some kind of respect for their person-hood, their unknown history, even the mere fact of their brave essay at the self-offering required by monastic life—or any other venture of life.

St Benedict puts his finger here on the necessary element of hard-won incarnational experience in the formation of a love that is not only two or three-dimensional (that is, only notional or only limited to the immediate) but four-dimensional, a love that both respect history and involves hope.

This is the kind of love that embraces what is, and also what has the potential to be; a love that from afar off, sees things that the junior him or herself may not yet recognize.

This is the kind of realistic, compassionate, empathy-fuelled love that, informed by hope, actually brings persons into being and, quite literally, builds community.

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