Book I, On the Benedictine Rule

You are seeking from me a small but useful thing (as it seems to you) and you are pressing hard, O Cuno, Friend of Christ, Lover of Truth. You are seeking for me to eagerly provide as suitable reasons as I can, by God's gift, for some sections of the rule of St Benedict, especially for those about which some of God's servants, devout men of our, that is, of the monastic, way of life, have raised questions that ought not to be dismissed. Once also, long before someone laid us low with questions of this kind, we had agreed on a discussion about the aforesaid rule of the same very holy father, namely, that the Holy Spirit, with Whom he was filled, had indeed arranged it in his mind and had spoken through his voice, and that it had been entirely built upon the foundation of a divine arrangement, a foundation of evangelical authority, to which such a builder, or writer, no doubt turned the open eyes of his mind as he was writing.

The first of the matters that I was discussing was the order of nocturns on Sunday night, which, made up of Psalms, readings, and responsories to the number of twelve, is brought to a close in such a way that the entrance of the priest, greeting the assembly of the church as it were suddenly and reading the Gospel, can render its conclusion very joyful and serene. When I set out the reasons for this order, or such reasons as I could, you were delighted by them and began to demand me to put in writing the things I had said or was still about to say, as matters useful to be known. Then you insisted gently but now more attentively and for almost all this present year, you will not leave me in peace because I have refused.

Accordingly, if I have offended anyone by writing this, it should be entirely your responsibility if some one, whoever he may be, be offended whether justly or unjustly. For He knows, in Whose sight we are, in Whose ears our words are, that I agreed to your suggestion not without some fear, on account of what He said once to some far wiser than we are: "you have not spoken right things before me, as my servant Job hath" [Job 42:7b]. For He must be feared as an unseen hearer, lest by chance what we say not be totally pleasing to Him. Moreover if any one finds some consolation in this, if someone (as you wish) be usefully comforted in his humility and simplicity by our words, this too should be wholly attributed to you together with God. For if you do not concede that the rest that I have written, whether unprompted or on request, is mine and ought to be attributed to me, how much less this, to which you have impelled me practically by force. For since I am a paltry fellow with a fat belly and rather like another Epicurus, you are accustomed to say that what I have written hitherto, you would no more deign to attribute to me than to an ass. And this is proper, I think. For when Balaam's ass spoke, and rebuked her rider the prophet [Num 22:22-35], who ever attributes this to the ass herself and not rather to God alone, who made both ass and prophet?

Therefore I shall do what you wish as far as I am able, but first bear with me while I say what my heart has prompted me to. For if I bear with you as many times as you vex me, as it were, in your service, why should you also not bear with me as I hasten to say other things that come to mind at the same time as what you have pressed upon me to be written? You have now called me down as it were from the heights of a high mountain because, having a plan to write about the glory and honour of the Son of Man, and having started on the Gospel of Matthew following this plan, I was there in mind and nearly constant thought, I was standing on that mountain where, sitting and opening His mouth, He taught His disciples in a most lovely discourse [cf. Mt 5:2]. And from that you have called me, with the discourse not yet finished. Therefore, since you have brought me down unwilling from that height into this valley, that is, to write this in which there is no small controversy, I shall first, as I have said, speak what my heart has prompted me to, and not yet this. What is it?

Wisdom says: "The poor man spoke and they say, who is this? And if he stumble, they will overthrow him" [Eccl 13:29]. This is what my heart prompts me to say, for this saying also applies to me. For I spoke and because I spoke they said, "who is this?" You know what I said and you have freely embraced what I said: I shall yet discuss this hereafter but for now it is better to say whence and according to the thoughts of what sort of people I was a poor man or as good as one. I was reputed to be a poor man in their thoughts because I have been a monk and contained -- or rather detained -- in the cloisters of a monastery since I was a boy. I have not travelled over the sea and dry land, like those rich merchants in whose thoughts I am poor, one of whom dares, perhaps, to apply to himself the parable which the Lord spoke: "The kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls" [Matt 13:45], etc. For they have gone far away and sojourned among famous teachers and after many pearls (which seemed fine to them), the pearls of poets and philosophers, they have found one truly good and truly precious, the pearl of the Holy and Divine Scriptures, and they have bought it with the great price of wakefulness and care -- would that they may find it perfect and have it forever! This I have not done, but I have dwelled at home, like honest Jacob with his mother Rebecca [cf Gen 25:27]. Therefore I am according to their thoughts a poor man and contemptible and they have said, who is this? For he writes and speaks, speaks and writes, who was never worthy even to see our masters and teachers. Therefore also I am a poor man because I was scarcely able to have or get little sheets on which I could write.

But I have seen the wisdom of God; I have seen in some manner the Incarnate Word, Christ, the Son of God. He was wholly golden, having as it were a body wholly formed of the finest gold and from it living waters poured forth into me with force, through many pipes projecting from that body of his on every side. Did He not encourage the poor man with such a device and did He not speak what is His? For that same Wisdom says: "I love them that love me; and they that in the morning watch for me, shall find me. With me are riches and glory, glorious riches and justice. My fruit is better than gold and the precious stone, and my blossoms than choice silver, that I may enrich them that love me, and fill their treasures" [Prov 8:17-19, 21]. Again she says: "I, Wisdom, have poured out rivers. I, like a brook out of a river of a mighty water; I, like a channel of a river and like an aqueduct, came out of paradise. I said: I will water my garden of plants, and I will water abundantly the fruits of my meadow. And behold my brook became a great river, and my river came near to a sea. For I make doctrine to shine forth to all as the morning light, and I will declare it afar off" [Eccl 24:40-44].

Did not, I say, this vision speak to me according to the sense of these words? And if I did not at once understand what was meant, yet now the interpretation is trustworthy because the result followed immediately and endures right up until now. And if this perhaps seems ridiculous or infantile to someone else, it ought to appear to be pleasant and worthy of respect to you at least, through whom from that time on it started to happen that the money was not lacking, the sheets not unavailable, for me to write and by writing to pour back for any one that wanted the living waters pouring into me from that golden seal or stamp, so that I can say that Christ, the Wisdom of God, is, according to that golden vision, the rich man and has enough of gold and silver. May it be done to me according to that sign that He kiss me also with his whole mouth, with his golden mouth, as was already said, so that the understanding of his secrets, which is due to his friends alone, not fail me and that I may learn more and more from that experience that the living stream of Christ's fountain, continually running, is better than the tanks and cisterns of men.

How did they say about the poor man when he speaks, "who is this"? How did they wonder? How were they jealous? Doubtless it was thus written. For sometimes the least are permitted to serve the greatest according to some analogy. But they were annoyed with him and chided, bearing darts, they looked enviously on him. But again, it was written about him and about someone else like him: "Thou hast cried in affliction and I rescued thee; from the hidden places of the storm I have heard thee" [Ps 80:8a-b]. God who hears all has seen me as one hidden by the storm. He knows that I have undergone their curses on this account and that I have opposed them to their faces, lest they again introduce the heresy of Florinus by saying and absolutely claiming that God wills evil to happen and that that evil, that sin, by which death entered into the world by the jealousy of the Devil [cf. Wis 2:24], occurred by the will of God.

For you know, I think, that there were two contrary heresies, the Colitian and the Florian. The Colitians (so called from one Colitus) said that God made nothing wholly evil, against which was written: "I am the Lord: I make peace, and create evil" [cf Is 45:6-7]. (In that passage we should understand not the evil which is the opposite of virtue, but the evil of affliction which must happen sometimes as a punishment of evils, that is, of sins; for example, famine, the sword, pestilence, and wild beasts, which the Lord himself in Ezechiel called his four grievous judgments [Ez 14:21].) The Florians (so called from Florianus), on the other hand, said that God had created evils, and in fact those that are contrary to virtue (doubtless contrary to what is written "And God saw all that He had made and it was very good" [Gen 1:31]). This was the heresy that St Jerome was anathematizing when he expounded that verse from Isaiah ("I make peace, and create evil') with a sound understanding; explaining "evil" as "war", he wrote: "Just as darkness is the opposite of light, so peace is the opposite of war"; and he went on to say, "Therefore also the heresy is refuted that judges God to be the creator of evils, since this "evil" is not the opposite of good, but is established as an affliction, as in war, according the what is written in the Gospel [Matt 6:34b], 'sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof'" [Commentarium In Esiam 12.45.1/7 (ed. Marc Adriaen, CCL 73A (Turnhout, 1963), p. 505].

Many masters and renowned teachers, bright lights of all France, whose swarms of students hasten to hear from almost every province, were said to have promulgated this opinion about the will of God and to be firmly defending it. Therefore what ever I may say is not only not listened to, but also condemned as stupid. These adversaries are thus relying (or seem to themselves to be relying) upon their inviolable (as they think) authority, as if an angel from heaven had spoken to them -- yet they ought not to listen to that angel in this matter or in any other way if it should contradict the Scriptures of truth [cf Gal 1.8]. The wiser ones may have been more or less tolerant toward me in our disagreement but what shall I say of the unlearned rabble of the schools, who favoured my adversaries, as clerks against a monk or the masters against an uneducated man? What sort of reproach did I receive from such people? Truly I have learned by experience to feel rather in my own person what the Holy Church says by the mouth of blessed Job: "But now the younger scorn me, whose fathers I would not have set with the dogs of my flock: the strength of whose hands was to me as nothing, and they were thought unworthy of life itself: barren with want and hunger, they gnawed in the wilderness, disfigured with calamity and misery, and they ate grass, and barks of trees, and the root of junipers was their food: who snatched up these things out of the valleys, and when they had found any of them, they ran to them with a cry. Now I am turned into their song, and am become their byword. They abhor me and flee far from me, and are not afraid to spit in my face" [Job 30:1-5, 9-10]. But I despise all their song and all their despites with a set face so that now I (mindful of the matter and the occasion) can wonder and rejoice that this prophetic word also applies to me: "Behold I have made thy face stronger than their faces; and thy forehead harder than their foreheads. I have made thy face like an adamant and like flint" [Ez 3:8-9a].

I went to France especially to engage in a battle of disputation against those masters whose great authority was upon me and against me, so that as often as I recall that occasion, I should also recall that very true saying of Wisdom: "The rich man spoke and all held their peace; and what he said they extol even to the clouds. The poor man spoke, and they say, who is this?" [Eccl 13:28-29a]. For one of them was both a master and a bishop, the other was more famous than any bishop although he was not one. Now it is wonderful to me to think over my recollection of that event, how I, a young man, sitting alone on a worthless ass, accompanied by only one lad, set out for such distant cities for a conflict against such men, to whom I knew belonged both eloquence and wit, as well as a great dignity of office and magisterium. And I also knew, as indeed turned out to be the case, that a crowd would not be lacking, as it were no small army of masters as well as of students, gathered to hear me, to defeat me. But this seems more wonderful, that as I was entering the city, one of the said masters (and the most outstanding) was drawing his last breath and indeed died immediately after my entry, while the other one, with whom I have had a bitter conflict, did not even survive a whole other year. Since thereafter many equally devout and learned men rejected this view, but also (though quite silently) rejected it even while my principal adversaries were still alive, the storm of this debate has died down. But those against whom I had my first battle have held fast for a long time to the early hatred that they conceived against me, that they might truly say, "They hated him and could not speak peaceably to him" [cf Gen 37:4]. How they have sought vengeance, with what sort of retribution against me they long to be consoled, I shall speak later.

[A demonstration by Rupert that his opponents have shown that they did not fully understand the four passages of Scripture they used to prove their view of the divine will: PL 170.483B-489C.]

I have reported as briefly as I could the causes that have been the breeding ground for the hatred of many against this poor man, so that when he speaks, they say, "who is this?" They are intently studying him, so that if he offends in any way in his speaking, they may overturn him [cf Eccl. 13:29]. Now I should report what I said and how some of them (desiring me to stumble) have wanted to overturn me for vindication or to turn back on me the blame which I have continued, steady and unfailing, to hold against them, according to what has already been written. First I wrote a small work on the Divine Offices or sacraments over the course of the year, divided in twelve books; I compressed this great matter in a more brief work than should have been done, as you yourself say. Then I wrote fourteen books on the Gospel of John, and after that, forty-two books about the Holy Trinity and its works; then twelve books on the Apocalypse of John; then thirty-one books on the twelve minor prophets, then twelve books on the Victory of the Word of God. And now, most recently, I began at your request to write about the glory and honour of the Son of Man, according to the Gospel of Matthew, a work very dear to you, as you say. (I was wholly engaged in that, but you have interrupted me.) The poor man spoke these things, not on his own authority, but the authority of Him of whom it is written, "The lion shall roar; who will not fear? The Lord God hath spoken; who shall not prophesy?" [Amos 3:8] But what offence have they found in all this talk of the poor man? Rather, how have they examined my work so they may find offence and, why, examining it, have they fallen short? That old saw from Vergil applies to them all: "Learn all from one crime" [Aeneid II, ll. 65-6]. If it pleases you, I shall tell you about one, and from one, you shall learn all.

[Rupert then gives not one but three examples of how his opponents have tried to twist his words against him. The first is a dispute over whether he said in De diuinis officiis that the Holy Spirit became incarnate of the Virgin Mary. The second is over whether he said that angels were created out of darkness during the debate over the divine will. And the third is the famous dispute over Rupert's interpretation of Judas' presence or absence at the Last Supper, preferring Hilary of Poitiers' interpretation of the Gospels over Augustine's, as being the more scriptural. This is where he stated that Augustine was not in the canon of the Bible and that even the writings of the Fathers could and should be tested for conformity with Scripture. He ends by describing Cuno's kindness to him in pointing out the quote from Hilary, at a time when he scarcely knew him and when he was being accused of heresy for departing from Augustine's interpretation, and by recounting his departure for the district of Cologne. PL 170.490A-497A]

Therefore let my adversaries now cease saying of this poor man who has spoken, "who is this?" or "what need is there for him to speak when the holy and ancient doctors have said enough?" But even if they do not yet cease, I will still dare to speak and to tell this word of Isaiah, because it also befalls this poor man after all (or within all) the ends of the earth, that is, after all the humble who were mindful of the name of the Lord and spoke in the name of the Lord: "Lord, they have sought after thee in distress; in the tribulation of murmuring thy instruction was with them. As a woman with child when she draweth near the time of her delivery, is in pain and crieth out in her pangs; so are we become in thy presence, O Lord. We have conceived and been as it were in labour and we have brought forth" [Is 26:16-18a]. Who, I ask, is the wise man who says to the woman with child when she draweth near to the time of her delivery, "why are you crying out? why are you not quiet? why don't you cover your mouth with silence?" Perhaps someone will say to me, "so you are in this situation? when or how did you conceive a child? whence do you know you are with child in the Lord's presence, so that you speak what you have written as though you were in labour?" But I say this: "my secret to myself, my secret to myself. Woe is me!" [Is 24:16b].

But yet let them cease according to what Isaiah says also, "woe to him that saith to his father, why begettest thou? And to the woman, why dost thou bring forth? [Is 45:10]. For he takes something away from a father who bears a mother ill-will; he detracts from a begetter who bears ill-will to a woman giving birth. The Father of mercies and God of all consolation begets mercy and consoles a widowed soul by His word and you say, "why begettest thou?" The word conceived in the mind seeks a voice and you say, "woman, why dost thou bring forth?" Tamar the daughter-in-law of Judah defended herself with fitting witnesses, saying "by the man to whom these things belong, I am with child. See whose ring and bracelet and staff this is" [Gen 38:25b]. Know you also, if you will, whether there be in my writings the ring of Faith, the staff of Hope, the bracelet of Love and hear my soul say, "I am with child by the man to whom these things belong!" For I shall also recall what has happened in me with understanding so that I may say without doubt that what was given, this gift indeed, "is from above, coming down from the Father of lights" [James 1:17a].

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