The Rule of
The Order of Saint John the Divine

Prologue

Saint John, the disciple whom "Jesus loved" and last of the Apostolic age, spoke with eloquent symbolism on many levels in his Gospel narrative. He has been described as "...less an Apostolic witness to history, than an Apostolic witness to what is beyond history...". And so, we find in Saint John the language of prophecy and transcendence. And yet, it is also Saint John who reveals the very essence of the Incarnation in his assertion that "...the Word became flesh". Therefore, we draw upon the witness of the Beloved Disciple and the wisdom of the early church, to set forth this rule for the conduct of our lives, both individually and collectively.

The Rule

Most Dearly Beloved brothers and sisters, let the fire of charity have dominion in your hearts. For by your love for each other, you will give witness to the Providence of Almighty God, the font of all love, and promote the unity of His kingdom, of which you are the heralds.

Cultivate an interior silence in your daily lives, that will create in you a spirit receptive to the Word of God. By the practice of daily prayer and meditation on the Mysteries of our Redemption, seek a more intimate relation with Our Lord Jesus Christ, your companion in joy and suffering.

Through frequent reception of the Holy Eucharist, rededicate your life to Christ and the service of others. Be ever grateful for the sublime gift of His sustaining Body and Blood, adoring Christís presence in the Blessed Sacrament and His image in those you serve

Seek the guidance of your Abbot, your superiors and your brothers and sisters in discerning the will of God. In dialogue with those who are likewise committed in religion, the Holy Spirit will be made manifest in the circumstances of your life.

Be faithful stewards of the Orders temporal affairs. Do only that which will give greater honor and glory to God, bringing charity and sound judgment to bear in all things.

Know, at last, that Christ is to be praised in all and through all. Let Him be the center of your life and rejoice with all in whom you find His love; having faith that, as we depart this earthly life, His great mercy and love will bring us into the Divine Presence.

Commentary on the Rule

In six brief paragraphs, the Rule of the Order of Saint John the Divine provides us the essential spiritual principles of monastic living. Rather than a detailed and extensive list of particular daily practices, the Rule is a framework of overriding themes which, while common to the lives of all religious, are stated in a way that allows the opportunity of choosing a style of monastic life suited to the local community or individual.

The influences brought to bear on the writing of the Rule, as well as the interpretation of the vows, can be found first of all in Sacred Scripture. The images and exhortations concerning love of neighbor, unceasing prayer, stewardship and service, spiritual discernment and ultimate faith in the salvific mission of Jesus Christ, are firmly rooted in the Gospel. In particular, the Gospel of Saint John is reflected in the Christocentric and transcendent aspects of the Rule pointing, not to a passive resignation regarding the inadequacies of human life, but to a prophetic, eschatological witness concerning the ultimate transformation of all creation in the Divine Plan.

Monastic traditions of both Roman Catholic and Anglican communities also find expression in the Rule. In particular, the Rule of Saint Benedict (including its antecedent Rule of the Master), the Rule of Saint Augustine And the Rule of Taize all inform the Rule of Saint John the Divine with their respective insights regarding religious life. The Order could, in fact, be seen as the point of convergence for these traditions, which have so richly endowed generations of monks and nuns for a life characterized by dedicated prayer and charity and an openness that gives witness to the possibility of real Christian Unity.

Clearly, the Rule encourages us to deepen our personal relationship with Christ by internalizing the rhythms of prayer and activity that should characterize our spirituality. The way in which we pursue this will be stamped with the individuality of our personalities and shaped by the circumstances of our lives. Its orientation is a sacramental one, seeing each person and situation, a well as each moment of prayer, to be an opportunity for revelation; an intuition of Godís will for us and others. This approach to our religious life should cause us to reach out and share our love of prayer with others. In letting our joy at the prospect of being in Godís presence through prayer and meditation be felt by those around us, we invite them to form a community with us that will foster personal and liturgical prayer.

Dialogue is the principle means of discernment given in the Rule for issues of a personal and communal nature, but it is also the means by which we break through barriers and touch peoples lives. If, as the Rule exhorts, we seek Christís image in those we serve, we must bear in mind that those we serve will be seeking Christís image in us. Through us, they will hope to touch God and this is the very heart of all ministry. The Rule gives us the means and the freedom to make the Incarnation a reality in our lives. If we are to truly achieve "unity in diversity" we must come to know Christ as that point of unity and share His love with those who may not yet be able to recognize it. In this way, we will hasten the day when God will say with the prophet, "for now I create a new heaven, and a new earth".


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© Copyright 1994-2003  The Most Reverend Richard G. Roy, OSJD  All Rights Reserved.