So, brothers, we have asked the Lord who is to dwell in His tent, and we have heard His commands to anyone who would dwell there; it remains for us to fulfill those duties.
Therefore we must prepare our hearts and our bodies to do battle under the holy obedience of His commands; and let us ask God that He be pleased to give us the help of His grace for anything which our nature finds hardly possible. And if we want to escape the pains of hell and attain life everlasting, then, while there is still time, while we are still in the body and are able to fulfill all these things by the light of this life, we must hasten to do now what will profit us for eternity.
St. Benedict tells us we should prepare our hearts and our bodies for battle. Our heart – the immaterial part of ourselves, from whence come our thoughts, acts of will, affections. It is a lifelong process of purifying one’s will, ordering it to the Lord; of extirpating vices acquired over years; of being vigilant of our thoughts… Our bodies – especially in our current society, we have become all too quick to pamper our body, of giving into the natural appetites indiscriminately (after all, isn’t that the “freedom” we’re sold every day). While the monk may have more rigorous fasting and ascetical practices, we as baptized Christians are also called to this (according to our state in life, obviously). The monk’s fight is not different in kind, but only in degree, so we support one another by our prayers and struggles – we believe in the Communion of the Saints, after all; we are not isolated Christians. And lest we be overwhelmed by the thought of the difficulties we have to overcome, our holy father reminds us that the Lord’s grace will provide for what is lacking; in Him is our strength.
As a father the preparation of my children for spiritual combat is an ever-present concern. I have to teach them about preparing their heart and body; I don’t wish for them the same path I tread, growing up not knowing about this, learning only after coming into adulthood. So many vices that could have been uprooted early on, but now find themselves like weeds entrenched, in need of constant work. Just as St. Benedict speaks to us with authority, I as a father have to speak to my children with authority. But this authority is not about lording it over them, an exercise in power, but an authority that finds its origin and understanding in the Author of Life. I exercise authority over them, not for my sake, but for theirs, to help bring them to the Lord. There are things about being a parent that I’d rather avoid, that may sometimes be unpleasant, but they too are a part of my own preparation.