The merciful patience of God

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Painting: The Prodigal Son by Edward John Poynter (1836-1919)

Prologue of Our Most Holy Father Benedict to His Rule
5 Jan. 6 May. 5 Sept.
Hence also the Lord saith in the Gospel: "He that heareth these words of Mine, and doeth them, is like a wise man who built his house upon a rock: the floods came, the winds blew, and beat upon that house, and it fell not, because it was founded upon a rock." And the Lord in fulfilment of these His words is waiting daily for us to respond by our deeds to His holy admonitions. Therefore are the days of our life lengthened for the amendment of our evil ways, as saith the Apostle: "Knowest thou not that the patience of God is leading thee to repentance?" For the merciful Lord saith: "I will not the death of a sinner, but that he should be converted and live."

Firm Upon the Rock

A monk, in consequence of his Baptism and monastic consecration, builds his life upon the rock of the Word of God. He stands on the Word of God; he makes it his home, his shelter, and the unshakeable ground of his stability. Left to himself, a monk, like any other man, is infirm; that is to say that he is without firmitas; he has no solid ground upon which to plant his feet. Without the stability of the Word of God, all that the world offers is shifting and uncertain. When a man takes his position on the Word of God, he acquires firmitas, a strength against which every other force is shattered.

A God Who Waits

Saint Benedict says that the Lord is waiting daily for us to respond by our deeds to His holy admonitions. The very notion of the Creator who waits for his creature; of the heavenly Father who waits for the least of His children; of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ waiting for one redeemed by His precious Blood is difficult to take in. It reveals the profound humility of God. God is exquisitely courteous in all His dealings with the creatures upon whom He has set His Heart.

God lengthens the days a man's life in order to give him time to repent; his days are, nonetheless numbered. The psalmist says:

Be converted, O ye sons of men. For a thousand years in thy sight are as yesterday, which is past. And as a watch in the night, things that are counted nothing, shall their years be. In the morning man shall grow up like grass; in the morning he shall flourish and pass away: in the evening he shall fall, grow dry, and wither. (Psalm 89:3-6)

And again, in the same psalm:

Our years shall be considered as fragile as a spider's spinning: The days of our years in them are threescore and ten years. But if in the strong they be fourscore years: and what is more of them is labour and sorrow. For mildness is come upon us: and we shall be corrected. (Psalm 89:9-10)

Never to Despair of the Mercy of God

God is patient and merciful. In Chapter IV of the Holy Rule, Saint Benedict will enjoin his monk, "never to despair of the mercy of God." Already, in the Prologue, in order to impress upon us the goodness of the Father, he presents us with His patience and mercy. To the patience of God, the monk responds with a ready repentance; and to His mercy, the monk responds with confidence.

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About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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