These texts at the end of the Rule throw light on what the Master, meant by dominici scola servitii in his introduction. What the word servitii had made us suspect is confirmed strikingly. For our author, servitium was equivalent to militia, and this latter term, which evokes military or civil service is ordinarily associated with the term scola. The definition given in the commentary on the psalms has therefore a double meaning. In the first place scola there designates a scholastic establishment, as the words magisterium (teaching authority) and doctrina (teaching) used soon afterwards show. But the word also connotes a corps of soldiers or civil servants, suggested by servitium (service).

Adalbert de Vogüé. The Rule of Saint Benedict. A Doctrinal and Spiritual Commentary. Kalamazoo, Michigan; Cistercian Publications, 1983. 26.

Having discussed the educational implications of the word scola in the Rule of the Master, which serve to connect monasticism to the teaching of Christ, Father de Vogüé turns to another aspect of this word which was also important for the Master. He points out that in antiquity a school could refer to a professional fellowship or to a place set aside for it. It could also refer to a body of soldiers or civil servants. This suggests that

the activity exercised in this scola is a service, indeed a public service (militare), like that of the soldier or civil servant. (26)

De Vogüé continues:

The ‘school of the Lord’s service’ is therefore a complex metaphor which makes the monastery appear both as a teaching establishment and as a corps of soldiers or civil servants. (27)

Such an image is not as secular as it may sound, for it was also used to designate ecclesiastical orders. Its use by the Master highlights his understanding of the relationship between the monastery and the Church in which

Like the soldiers and functionaries in the state, the monks, together with the clergy and other ecclesiastical agents, fulfil a sort of public function in the midst of the christian people. They are enrolled in the service of God, withdrawn from every other occupation; and they give themselves wholly to serve God, and to do the will of the king, the Lord Christ. (28)

This meaning of the word scola has two important implications for the Master’s understanding of monastic life. Firstly, monasticism is about more than just “learning” – monks do not stay students forever, but are expected to grow up and to serve. And, secondly, this service will involve struggle, weariness and danger in which the monks come to share in the passion of Christ.

This theme of patience [mentioned to the postulant at the end of the Rule] , which gives rise to the well-known developments in the chapters on obedience and humility, has therefore a relationship with the definition of the monastery as a scola. Thus the image proves astonishingly rich. It suggests in turn the docility of the pupil and the obedience of the soldier, activity and endurance. Correlatively, it allows the person of Christ to be invoked under three complementary aspects: the master who teaches, the leader who commands, and the redeemer on the cross. (28-29)

Advertisements