Its Prologue and seventy-three chapters provide teaching about the basic monastic virtues of humility, silence and obedience as well as directives for daily living. RB prescribes times for common prayer, meditative reading and manual work; it regulates details of common living such as clothing, sleeping arrangements, food and drink, care of the sick, reception of guests, recruitment of new members, journeys away from the monastery etc. - While the Rule does not shun minute instructions, it allows the abbot to determine in great detail the particulars of common living.
RB, written anywhere between 530 and 560 A.D., is not an entirely original document. It depends in great measure on the rules and traditions of Christian monasticism that existed from the fourth century to the time of its writing. Scholars note that rules and writings like those of St. Pachomius (fourth-century Egypt), St. Basil (fourth-century Asia Minor), St. Augustine (fourth- and fifth-century North Africa), Cassian (fifth-century southern Gaul) stand behind RB and at times are clearly evident in the text. The most important source for RB, however, is the Rule of the Master (RM), an anonymous rule written two or three decades before St. Benedict's Rule. Not infrequently, especially in RB's Prologue and first seven chapters, St. Benedict copied extensively from the Rule of the Master. St. Benedict entered monastic tradition and then copied from its documents (as was customary at the time). However, he also corrected and altered the tradition in significant ways.
St. Benedict wrote his Rule in the spoken and ordinary Latin of the day. It is not the classical Latin of antiquity, nor the scholarly Latin taught in the remaining schools of his time, though occasionally his language is elegant and polished. As the Rule drifts from the classical language, it also gives evidence of the breakdown of Latin into more common forms of speech (which later morphed into the various Romance languages). St. Benedict writes with crispness and directness. Seldom is he profuse or homiletic.
Via Media* - The Middle Way Of Measure And Discretion
Compared with the tradition and especially with the Rule of the Master, St. Benedict regulates monastic life that has rhythm, measure and discretion. His monks are not overdriven by austerities in fasting and nightly vigils. They do not own anything personally, but they have enough to eat and to drink (even wine when it is available) and to clothe themselves. They work with their hands about six hours a day but they also have leisure for prayerful reading and common prayer. Their sleep is sufficient, and they may even take a siesta as needed. The young, the sick and the elderly are cared for with compassion and attention. The abbot, while he directs all aspects of the common life, must seek counsel from the monks; and the Rule makes provision for his limitations and failings. In short, RB arranges for a monastic life, in which the monastics may seek God in prayer and reading, in silence and work, in service to guests and to one another.
*pronounced: vee-ah meh-dee-ah
St. Benedict's Rule stands tall in the great tradition of Christian monasticism. It is a Christian rule in the sense that its spiritual doctrine falls in line with the values of the Bible (e.g., prayer, fasting, service of neighbor) and arranges for a life, in which these values can be lived out in community. RB is not written for monastic hermits, though Benedict has high regard for them; it is written for ordinary Christians who wish to immerse themselves in a pattern of living, in which the life of Christ can be lived out with understanding and zeal.
RB is still used today in many monasteries and convents around the world. Both monastics and Oblates of today still find in it much wisdom for their vocation and life in community. It still protects the them from arbitrariness on the part of the abbot or others; it still provides a way of living the Christian life more in-depth. Monastic communities accept it as their basic inspiration even as they mitigate or supplement it by adapting to the demands of modern times.