The Rule of St. Benedict: Chapter 48, part 1
One of my favorite lines in all of Sr. Joan's commentary on the Rule is from today's reading. She writes, "Benedictine spirituality exacts something so much harder for our century than rigor. Benedictine spirituality demands balance."
The story of Jesus' visit to Martha's home in Chapter 10 of St. Luke's Gospel is instructive here. Martha welcomes Jesus and his entourage in, offering them hospitality, but is "distracted by her many tasks" to the extent that she begrudges her sister, Mary, her seat at Jesus' feet. This passage is often used to extol the virtues of overt religious devotion over and against the vice of being a busybody, but far more than this simplistic dichotomy is at play here. Jesus' affectionate admonition to Martha contrasts the "many things" about which she is "worried and distracted" with the "only one thing" of which there is need. To be "worried and distracted" implies that one's attention is absent from one's actual environment. Presence is the "one thing" that is needed if one is to, like Mary, listen to what the Lord is saying.
Rigor often holds one's attention hostage to a set of expectations around what must be done. Those who value rigor too highly often direct their efforts toward human-made goals at the expense of presence in each moment. Yet it is only in each moment that the voice of Christ can be heard.
What Benedictine balance affords us is the opportunity to move from sleep to prayer to study to work in a way that needs only the "one thing." When it is time to work, we listen to what the Lord is saying through our work. When it is time to stop working and pray, we leave our work, perhaps undone, and listen to what the Lord is saying through the Office. It is not magic, nor is it easy, but such is the balanced life that shapes the Benedictine soul.