(Untitled)

Monks, the cutting-edge Followers, have always made obedience central to their quest. The earliest order devoted to the higher life, the Greek Pythagoreans, required new pupils to listen and obey for five years before receiving full membership. The Jewish Essenes required its members to surrender all possessions and permit a steward to handle all earthly needs of the community. The founder of Christian monasticism, St. Basil, probably drew on both of these sources when devising his Longer and Shorter Rules for monastic life and made obedience (along with other humbling acts, like manual labor) a foundation of monastic life. St. Benedict opens his Rules for Monasticism (a book that probably ruled more lives for a longer period of time than any other book in history) with the exhortation that places obedience at the center of monasticism: “Listen, my son, to your master's precepts, and incline the ear of your heart. Receive willingly and carry out effectively your loving father's advice, that by the labor of obedience you may return to Him from whom you had departed by the sloth of disobedience.” Obedience saturates the Rules and a separate chapter is devoted to the topic. The crucial importance of obedience was later captured by Alfonso Rodriguez, who wrote “The Superior may commit a fault in commanding you to do this thing or that, but you are certain that you commit no fault so long as you obey . . .”.

Eric Scheske

Eric Scheske