Chapter Forty Nine
The life of a monk ought always to be a Lenten observance. However, since such virtue is that of few, we advise that during these days of Lent monks guard their lives with all purity and at the same time wash away during these holy days all the shortcomings of other times. This will then be worthily done, if we restrain ourselves from all vices. Let us devote ourselves to tearful prayers, to reading and compunction of heart, and to abstinence.
During these days, therefore, let us add something to the usual amount of our service, special prayers, abstinence from food and drink, that all alike offer to God "with the joy of the Holy Spirit" (1 Thes 1:6), of their own accord, something above their prescribed measure; namely, let them withdraw from their bodies somewhat of food, drink, sleep, speech, merriment, and with the joy of spiritual desire await holy Easter.
Let each one, however, make known to the abbot or abbess what is offered and let it be done with the abbot’s or abbess’s approval and blessing; because what is done without permission of the spiritual father or mother will be imputed to presumption and vain glory, and not to merit. Therefore, let all be done with the approval of the abbot or abbess.
I think most would read our Father Benedict's talk of the "joy of the Holy Spirit" with regard to Lenten abstinence as deluded or darkly humorous. We have a hard time imagining how "the joy of spiritual desire" can in any way be enhanced by physical denial. But in the Christian tradition, Lent is not punishment. It is preparation for New Life in the Easter experience. For the heart that truly desires this New Life, then, the Lenten practices, painful as they may be in the short term, can produce the profound joy of the Spirit who brings about New Life in us.