The theory of this relationship was elaborated in the Pauline letters and culminates in the declaration that Christ as messiah is telos nomou, end and fulfillment of the law Rom. By no means! Basil and Pachomius, to whom we owe, so to speak, the archetypes of the rules, are perfectly conscious of the irreducibility of the Christian form of life to the law. The rule, whose model is. The nova lex cannot have the form of law, but as regula, it approaches the very form of life, which it guides and orients regula dicta quod recte ducit, recalls an etymology from Isidore, Etymologiarum 6.
The problem of the juridical nature of the monastic rules here finds both its specific context and its proper limits. Certainly the Church will progressively construct a system of norms that will culminate in the twelfth century in the system of canon law that Gratian compiles in his Decretum. But if Christian life doubtless can readily encounter the sphere of law, it is just as certain that the Christian forma vivendi itself—which is what the rule has in view—cannot be exhausted in the observance of a precept, which is to say that it cannot have a legal nature.
There is, however, an aspect of the rules according to which they can be considered as juridical acts; it does not concern civil or penal law, but public law. At the foundation of this jurispublic nature of the rules stands the doctrine of the fuga saeculi as a so-to-speak constituent process of the community of believers, which was elaborated by Philo and picked up and developed by Ambrose. The cities are, moreover, Levitical cities, because the Levites are themselves in a certain way also fugitives and exiles phygades , who have abandoned parents, children, and brothers in order to please God.
To the Levites and priests are entrusted the care of the temple and the leitourgia that is, the public function of the cult. Who is this chief priest but the Son of God, the Word of God? We enjoy his adv ocacy in our behalf bef ore the Father, f or he is f ree f rom ev ery of f ense, both willed and unintentional, and in him subsist all things which are on earth and which are in heav en. And so all things endure, because he does not allow what things he has bound to be loosened, since they subsist by his will. Indeed, as long as he wills, he keeps all things in check by his command and rules and binds them by a harmony of nature.
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Ambrose, pp. At the suggestion of Philo and the Pauline letter to the Hebrews, the Word is immediately associated with the great priest of Psalm Be satisf ied now that he is the great high priest. This is the Word of God, in whom there inheres the high priesthood. In the account of the clothing of the high priest, Moses describes the garments sy mbolically, because the Word put on the world by his own power and is resplendent among all men as if he were clothed with it.
Christ is the head of all, and f rom him the whole body extends and is joined by a mutual joining of its parts to one another, while receiv ing its increase in the building up of itself in lov e.
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And it is on this basis that monastic exile from the world could be conceived as the foundation of a new community and a new public sphere. By making exile a constitutive political principle, Philo was in reality referring to a tradition established in Greek. In Ildefons Herwegen, the initiator of the liturgical movement in the Benedictine abbey of Maria Laach, called attention to an exceptional document that casts new light on the rules and monastic professions and, in particular, allows one to situate them in a jurispublic perspective. The text in question is the so-called Pactum, which is found at the end of St.
If any of us shall be complaining, obstinate, disobedient, or slandering against the Rule and against y our command [contra regulam et tuum praeceptum murmurans, contumax, inobediens vel calumniator], then, y ou may hav e the power to bring all into an assembly and to read the Rule in the presence of all and to correct our guilt publicly, and each one who is guilty shall receiv e his due, the lash or ban of excommunication, with due consideration f or his misconduct.
If any one shall secretly intrigue with his parents, brothers, sons, relativ es, or neighbors, or especially with a f ellow brother in the absence of the abov ementioned f ather, y ou may hav e the power ov er each one who has attempted such a crime to hav e him put under ban of excommunication and conf ined to a dark cell f or six months on bread and water alone, wearing a penitential tunic or sackcloth, without cincture and without shoes.
If a monk is unwilling to undertake such a penance with f ull consent, he is to be stretched out naked and giv en 72 blows with a lash and to be depriv ed of the clothing of the monastery and to be expelled f rom the institution in conspicuous disgrace. Herwegen, pp.
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Opposite this subjection of the monks to the sovereignty of the abbot stands, however, the obligation of the abbot to govern with justice and equity: We remind y ou, our master, that if y ou should treat any of us unjustly —which it is unreasonable to believ e and which may God not allow to happen—if y ou should treat any of us with pride or anger, or should lov e one and show hatred and rancor f or another, or should dominate one but rev ere another, as people of ten do, then we shall hav e the right also granted to us by God to take our complaint without pride and without anger through the dean to the prior, and the prior shall humbly kiss the f oot of y ou our lord and lay bef ore y ou the details of our complaint, and y ou must be willing to listen patiently and to bend y our neck humbly to the common rule and correct and ref orm y ourself.
If y ou are not willing to correct y ourself , then we may also hav e the power of consulting another monastery, or else a bishop who liv es under the Rule, or a Catholic count who is a def ender of the Church, and of inv iting them to meet with us, that, in their presence, y ou may correct y ourself and f ulf ill the tenets of the Rule.
Herwegen, who lingers on the juridical meaning of the document, renders an account of the constitutional character of the pact with respect to the convent community, but without drawing all its consequences. It is all the more surprising, then, that Herwegen, exclusively preoccupied with relating the pactum to its Visigothic context and distinguishing it from the monastic profession in the strict sense, does not notice that the pactum constitutes, perhaps, the first and only example of a social contract in which human beings in a group subject themselves unconditionally to the authority of a dominus, attributing to him the power to direct the life of the community that is thus founded in all its aspects.
In any case, however, what is decisive is that the pactum is not in any way assimilable to a private contract and that by abstracting the question from the discussion—which is, all things considered, sterile—of the contractual or votive character of the monastic profession, it allows us in some way to consider the rules in their integrity as true and proper. In reality, what is decisive here is not so much the problem of the more or less juridical nature of the rules, which cannot be proposed for the earliest rules, but more generally that of the peculiar relation between life and norm that comes to be established in the rule.
What is in question is thus not what in the rule is precept and what is advice, nor the degree of obligation that it implies, but rather a new way of conceiving the relation between life and law, which again calls into question the very concepts of observance and application, of transgression and fulfillment. Already in the earliest rules, the penal apparatuses often refer not to individual actions, but to something like a vice or a spiritual condition of the monk.
Qui facilis est ad detrahendum, si in hoc peccato fuerit deprehensus. Si quis frater contumax aut superb us aut murmurans aut inob oediens. And in the rule of Isidore, the index that enumerates the most serious offences is more similar to a catalog of vices than to the outline of culpable offences: si temulentus quisquam sit, si discors, si turpiloquus, si feminarum familiaris, si seminans discordias, si iracundus.
Responding in an imaginary dialogue to a monk who, having professed the rule, laments not being able to fulfill his vow in the monastery where he is, Bernard writes: But truly, I say, neither of these complaints is just. He who thinks it perjury not to observ e the rule in its purity [ ad purum], has I think paid scant attention to what he actually promised. This sort of prof ession f ormula has, in our day, been adopted by almost all monks. Howev er, God is serv ed in many div erse way s in the v arious monasteries.
So long as one caref ully observ es the good customs of his house he is bey ond any doubt liv ing according to the rule, f or the rule admits of v ariations in local customs. Bernard of Clairv aux, De praecepto et dispensatione, pp. As the opposition between a technical legal term spondere, to obligate oneself personally to something and an expression drawn from ascetic language to lead the proper form of life shows clearly, the passage testifies to a transformation that affects the way we understand the relationship between norm and life.
The one who promises does not obligate himself, as happens in the law, to the fulfillment of the individual acts expected in the rule, but puts into question his way of living, which is not identified with a series of actions or exhausted in them. The vow has, that is, the form of law, but not its content, and like the Kantian imperative, it has no immediate object except the very will of the one vowing.
In distinction from the pagan devotio, in which the devotus consigned to the gods his body and his biological life, the Christian vow is, so to speak, objectively vowed and has no other content than the production of a hab itus in the will, whose ultimate result will be a certain form of common life or, from the liturgical perspective, the realization of a certain officium or a certain religio.
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Once more, the decisive core of the monastic condition is not a substance or content, but a hab itus or a form. In order to understand the new figure of the relation between norm and life that here starts to be delineated, it is necessary to refer to juridical situations which find their technical form only later in administrative law—that is, in that branch of modern law that had its gestation in the sphere of the practices of Church administration. What is decisive in any case is that the form of life that is in question in the rules is a koinos b ios, a common life.
Every interpretation of the monastic rules must first of all situate them in this context, from which they cannot be separated. And to think one is following a rule is not to follow a rule. It is important to specify, therefore, that the common life is not the object that the rule must constitute and govern. What is in question, in the life of cenoby, is thus a transformation of the very canon of human practice, which has been so determinate for the ethics and politics of Western society that perhaps still today we cannot fully grasp its nature and implications.
Threshold As we will see, it is only with the Franciscans that this transformation reaches full consciousness, and consequently can be claimed as such, calling into question the very substance of the rule as a set of norms separate from life. The traditional juridical idea of the observance of a precept is here reversed.
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Not only is it the case that the Friar Minor does not obey the rule, but live it—with an even more extreme reversal, it is life that is to be applied to the norm and not the norm to life. What is in question in the monastic rules is thus a transformation that seems to bear on the very way in which human action is conceived, so that one shifts from the level of practice and acting to that of form of life and living.
This dis-location of ethics and politics from the sphere of action to that of form of life represents the most demanding legacy of monasticism, which modernity has failed to recognize. Whatever answer is given to this question, it is certain that the paradigm of human action that is at stake in it has progressively extended its efficacy beyond monasticism and Church liturgy in the strict sense, penetrating into the profane sphere and enduringly influencing both the ethics and the politics of the West.
If it is defined, as we have seen, as a tendential threshold of indistinction between rule and life, it is this threshold that we must investigate if we wish to comprehend its nature. Historians and theologians who have worked on monastic rules usually refer in a perfunctory way to the semantic history of the term regula and normally limit themselves to providing its meanings within the corpus in question. Naturally they all know or should know that beginning from the second century A.
Nonetheless, their relation with the syntagma regula vitae or regula vivendi , which is found in the text of monastic rules, has not been analyzed in an exhaustive way. On the other hand, outside the theological context, the importance of the regula iuris in the tradition of Roman jurisprudence is well known.
What is less known, however, is that this tradition must have been familiar to the Fathers, if Rufinus can refer to the monastic rules and constitutions themselves as jurisprudential responses sancti cuiusdam iuris responsa; Frank, p. Peter Stein, to whom we owe a thorough study of the regulae iuris, has shown that the term derives from the debate over analogy that is, regularity and anomaly namely, custom and use that divided Greek and Roman grammarians starting already in the second century A.
Stein, pp. This means that even grammatical expressions like regula loquendi or regula artis grammaticae could not have been foreign to the redactors of the monastic rules, who as we have already seen often made use of the metaphor of the ars. A passage from Varro on the relation between rule and use which he extends, significantly, even beyond the linguistic sphere indeed shows beyond any doubt how grammatical questions can be valuable for understanding the same problem in the monastic sphere.
Related Lessons on the Analytic of the Sublime (Meridian: Crossing Aesthetics)
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