Anglican Benedictines, presuming they follow the Holy Rule and therefore use the Anglican edition of the Office according to St. Benedict, celebrate the Feast of St. Maurus today with commemoration of the second Sunday after Epiphany. This feast ranks as a Double of the Second Class and is therefore one of the more important feasts in the year for Benedictines. It is not just the rank of the feast which shows us its importance. There is also the fact that the first four lessons at Matins for St. Maurus are the proper lessons for the feast of the Passing of our Holy Father Benedict, March 21st. The responses to the lessons are different though.
We have seen in previous posts that obedience is a fundamental value for the Benedictine way of life. Obedience is first of all to God. But St. Benedict, the “father” of all Benedictines, ministers to his disciples on God’s behalf. So that obeying the voice of St. Benedict is the Benedictine way of obeying the voice of God. This does not elevate St. Benedict to some heavenly pantheon where he resides next to God, rather, it makes God available to real people in their everyday lives. God comes to us, using a human voice. Benedict is an instrument in God’s hands so to speak.
In the Office of St. Maurus obedience plays a central role. Lesson viii in particular brings this out very clearly. In this lesson we are told how St. Maurus ran over the water to save a drowning child (St. Placidus). Maurus, simply obeying Benedict without thinking it through, never noticed he was running on the water until it had already happened and Placidus and he were back at the shore. Blind obedience indeed!
The blindness of Maurus’ obedience is not a negative. It is this immediate and simple obedience which prevents him from being exposed to the danger of drowning and it is this faith-full obedience which allows Maurus to “overcome” the world and perform a great miracle. The same simple and immediate obedience would have prevented Adam and Eve from eating the forbidden fruit, and the same simple and immediate obedience would have prevented Peter from sinking.
The Gospel reading for the feast is well chosen. It relate us the story of St. Peter walking on the water toward Jesus. Peter starts out fine, obeying Jesus’ word without questioning. It is when questioning begins:
Is the wind not very hard? Yes it is. Very. The waters are unsafe because of it. It is dangerous to be even in a boat. Wait. I am not in a boat. I am walking on the water. That’s not possible. Even in a boat there is a danger of drowning, this is crazy, I should not be out in a boat let alone out of the boat! – or some such thought process – until fear clouds Peter’s faith to the point that he begins to sink.
Peter’s obedience to Jesus is now turning to doubt, loss of faith, and his obedience is switching allegiance to fear. Now Peter needs saving. Jesus, being good, saves Peter and gives him a lesson concerning faith. A lesson all of us have now heard.
Will we obey?
Fr. Gregory Wassen