On Monday there could be chaos
You can understand the concern
– rules are there to be obeyed, but they’re also there to protect, to enable
smooth living, to enable communities to function.
Anarchy may appeal to a few but for the vast majority of people it’s
rules that make them feel secure. So
pray for the people of
There’s a great deal of talk
at the moment amongst Companions and the Community of the Resurrection about the
role and form of the Rule that we commit ourselves to and it was thought that it
might be a good idea to consider the whole notion of the rule together as we
meet to celebrate the Eucharist and to pray this afternoon.
Changes in the Rule have been suggested – or at least, as I understand
it, no specific changes have been suggested yet but rather the suggestion of
change as the Community itself changes and gears itself up for the next 100
Now I have to confess to you
that I’m as far away from an anarchistic as you can probably get.
There’s something in my personality that craves order and routine and
that finds in those things safety and purpose.
I’ve just come back from my
annual two weeks on the beach in
You’ll no doubt be familiar
with St Benedict’s rule – the model for so many other monastic rules in the
western church. Benedict describes
it as ‘a little rule, written for beginners’ (Chapter 73) and in the
Prologue to the Rule he says ‘we hope to set down nothing harsh, nothing
burdensome’. As a consequence
Esther de Waal in her commentary on the Rule speaks of it as ‘a way of life, a
life-giving way’. So, rather than
seeing rules as restricting behaviour Benedict saw it as freeing people,
liberating people to live alongside God and alongside others in a richer and a
We can, I think, be a bit
confused with all of this because we’re so used to hearing St Paul speaking
about the law as being life denying and there being a freedom in Christ which
transcends the law. In his Letter
to the Romans he says ‘the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set
you free from the law of sin and death’ (Romans 8.2) and Jesus himself appears
to speak negatively about the effects of the law.
So why do we need a rule if we’ve been liberated by our faith from such
things, why can’t we just inhabit that freedom which Christ gives and not
resort to boundaries, in effect, to law?
But I don’t see Rule and law
as the same thing at all. Just
because I’ve freely committed to something, some pattern of Christian living,
of Christian discipleship, it doesn’t limit me, it liberates me.
In this Eucharist the First
Reading we heard was from the Acts of the Apostles.
It’s an important text for the Community of the Resurrection because
those who founded the Community saw themselves to be inheritors of the apostolic
life, living in the age of the resurrection.
Where else do we get an idea of
what that apostolic life was like other than from the Acts of the Apostles –
whatever their historical accuracy might be. In Acts 2.44-47 we hear described
the charism by which the early church lived and was formed – that apostolic
way of living that combined community, worship and service.
When we look at the commitments we’re asked to make and which we are
asked to keep as Companions we see that they mirror the life of that early
church, that early Christian community, that pattern and model of authentic
One of the interesting things
about the Companions Rule is that it is grounded in that baptismal vocation
which is shared by all Christian people and which itself links us to the
resurrection of Jesus. And so
everything in the Rule is an elucidation of what it means to be a baptised
person. In that sense our Rule should be lived by every person who through
baptism has come to share Christ’s death and resurrection – the kind of
expectations being placed on us are the expectations which we really place on
each other within the body of Christ.
We’re firstly told that
‘Companions live the baptismal vocation through a commitment to community
life.’ The author of the Acts of
the Apostles in the passage we’re thinking about tells us first that those who
believed lived as a community, sharing all things in common and distributing
their goods to those who were in need.
Secondly, we’re told that
‘Companions live the baptismal vocation maintained by common worship’ and
this mirrors exactly what scripture says in that the common life of which
we’ve heard then leads into a life of corporate worship, in the temple and in
their house communities, breaking bread, being real companions – those who
Finally, ‘Companions live the
baptismal vocation, issuing in works that are primarily of a public
character.’ Those early
The Gospel reading for this
Mass (John 13.31-35) took us to the Upper Room and the night before the Lord’s
death and that mandatum, that new commandment which he gave to his friends –
to us. That commandment was a rule
that would liberate the church and bring life to the world – the new
commandment ‘that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also
should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples,
if you have love for one another.’ (John 13.34-35).
See how they love one another.
It’s a good thing I think for
us to look again at the Rule that we have and as we look to remember that what
we’re not committing ourselves to is something that will limit but rather,
something that will liberate us in Christ to live an apostolic life together, in
relationship with God, in the sight of the community to the benefit of all –
that it gives form and structure to the life we seek to live.
And as Companions, as sharers
in the bread, we now do what stands at the heart of our Rule and meet our risen
Lord in broken bread and wine outpoured, the fulfilment of the law, in whom we
live and move and have our being.