Tuesday, 30 August 2016

rb 72 - Good and bad zeal

CHAPTER 72

Of the good zeal which monks ought to have

As there is an evil zeal of bitterness which separates from God and leads to hell, so there is a good zeal which separates from vices and leads to God and life everlasting.  Let monks, therefore, practice this latter zeal with most fervent love: that is, let them in honor anticipate one another; let them bear most patiently one another's infirmities, whether of body or of character; let them endeavor to surpass one another in the practice of mutual obedience; let no one seek that which he accounts useful for himself, but rather what is profitable to another; let them practice fraternal charity with a chaste love; let them fear God; let them love their Abbot with a sincere and humble affection; let them prefer nothing whatever to Christ; and may He bring us all alike to life everlasting. Amen.

Caput LXXII De Zelo bono, quem debent habere Monachi

[1] Sicut est zelus amaritudinis malus qui separat a Deo et ducit ad infernum, [2] ita est zelus bonus qui separat a vitia et ducit ad Deum et ad vitam aeternam.[3] Hunc ergo zelum ferventissimo amore exerceant monachi, [4] id est ut honore se invicem praeveniant, [5] infirmitates suas sive corporum sive morum patientissime tolerent, [6] oboedientiam sibi certatim impendant; [7] nullus quod sibi utile iudicat sequatur, sed quod magis alio; [8] caritatem fraternitatis caste impendant,[9] amore Deum timeant,[10] abbatem suum sincera et humili caritate diligant,[11] Christo omnino nihil praeponant, [12] qui nos pariter ad vitam aeternam perducat.


Notes

The most famous line of this chapter is prefer nothing whatsoever to Christ, which can be traced back to St Cyprian:
Now that is the will of God which Christ both did and taught. Humility in conversation; steadfastness in faith; modesty in words; justice in deeds; mercifulness in works; discipline in morals; to be unable to do a wrong, and to be able to bear a wrong when done; to keep peace with the brethren; to love God with all one's heart; to love Him in that He is a Father; to fear Him in that He is God; to prefer nothing whatever to Christ, because He did not prefer anything to us; to adhere inseparably to His love; to stand by His cross bravely and faithfully; when there is any contest on behalf of His name and honour, to exhibit in discourse that constancy wherewith we make confession; in torture, that confidence wherewith we do battle; in death, that patience whereby we are crowned—this is to desire to be fellow-heirs with Christ; this is to do the commandment of God; this is to fulfil the will of the Father.(Treatise 4) 
The text on good and evil zeal seems to come largely from St Ambrose:
There is a zeal that leads to life, and a zeal that leads to death.  It is zeal that leads to life to observe the divine precepts, and for love of the Lord to keep his commandments, as Phineas did.  We read in Numbers: “Phineas, son of Eleazar; son of Aaron the priest, has turned away my fury from the Israelites, because he was moved with my zeal against them. Therefore I have not devoured the Israelites in my zeal, as I said I would. See, I give them a covenant of peace, and to him and to his descendants after him it will be an eternal covenant of his priesthood, because he was zealous for his God, and did not entreat on behalf of the Israelites.” (Nb 25:11-13) Twenty-four thousand of the people lay slaughtered. The punishment extended to all, nor was there an end to their destruction. Phineas (cf. Nb 25:7-9) seized a dagger, slew the two that were unlawfully having intercourse, redeemed all, turned away the wrath of the Lord, and gave victory to those to whom he was refusing life. How salutary, therefore, is zeal for God!
... So may the Lord establish with you a covenant of peace, a covenant of grace, and a covenant of heavenly promises. A priest ought to have zeal. It is his to be eager to preserve the chastity of the Church incorrupt. Therefore the Prince of priests says: “Zeal fur your house has devoured me.” (Jn 2:17. Ps 68:10)  Phineas was a priest, and the grandson of a priest, and the son of a priest.  Zeal in a priest is good, and greatly to be prized. Above all he should never be indifferent, never be remiss. Better that the greater number be saved by the loss of one or two, than to let two off scot free and place a very great number in peril.
 “Zeal for your house has devoured me,” (Ps 118:139) he says. You see that the zeal of God is a grace; it devours, it overcomes, it pours itself into the heart of the just. The zeal of God is life. The Lord said: “Zeal for your house has devoured me.” (Jn 2:17. Ps 68:10)  Just as previously in Adam an overpowering death had devoured man, so zeal has consumed the one who has been born to life in Christ. Elias had zeal, and therefore he was snatched up to heaven. “With zeal,” he says, “I have been zealous for the Lord.”(1K 19:10) Matathias Butanus (prob. Bar Johannis) had zeal, for he stirred up the people of God against the sacrileges of Antiochus. (cf1M2)  Those who have zeal consider as their personal enemies all who are enemies of God, whether they be father, brothers, or sisters. They say of all of them: “They have become enemies to me,” (Ps 138:22)  just as David does. Why labour the point? Even an apostle of the Lord has been called: “The Zealous,” for we read in the Gospel the name: “Judas the Zealot.” (cf. Lk 6:15)
 By their zeal for the faith the Gentile people have acquired for themselves that eternal life which the Jewish people, by their negligence and sloth, have lost. Therefore Scripture says: “Zeal has seized a people without learning,” (Is 26:11) for the people who were learned in the Law had nothing of the ardour of faith. Zeal passed over to the Gentiles, whose grace is so considerable that it has surpassed the prerogative of the chosen with all their research and their learning. By seizing hold of this people that were unlearned, zeal has made them superior to the learned.
Grace has so worked among the people of the nations that they have merited the inheritance of the Lord. The Lord has done this to join to himself a Church from among the nations. Zeal is love. Consequently, “Love is strong as death; zeal is hard as hell.” (Song 8:6)  Zeal is hard, no earthly allurement can master it. It is “hard as hell,” for through it we die to sin so that we may live to God. (cf. Rm 6:10)
The angels, too, are nothing without zeal. They lose their privileged status unless they sustain it by the ardour of their zeal. In the Revelations of John the Lord says to the Angel of Laodicea: “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot! But because you are tepid, I will begin to eject you from my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich, and have extensive possessions. I want for nothing.’ You do not know that you are poor and wretched; a beggar, naked and blind. I advise you to buy from me gold tried in the fire.” (Rv 3:15-18)   This “fire” is zeal for God. This is the fire of faith, the fervour of devotion, which melts and moulds us like savoury food in Christ. How great is the grace of the Lord, that places us in his own mouth, so that he feasts as it were on a banquet consisting of our merits. If we deserve it he will eat us, but only so long as we give him delight by the savour of our food. Happy is the one whom wisdom has devoured, whom virtue has drunk, whom justice has received. Blame can have no share in him, for forgiveness of sins has quite swallowed him up. For where will sin light on one whom Immaculate Sinlessness has taken to Himself?
Why should we be surprised that the angels have zeal? God the Father himself  said:  “With zeal and with great zeal I will be zealo us for Jerusalem”. (Zc 8:2)   God is great, therefore his zeal is great too; according to the capacity of each one, so is his zeal mediocre or great. With zeal Jerusalem is punished, with zeal is the Church gathered together, with zeal is faith acquired, with zeal is chastity maintained. The Lord Jesus, too, has said: “Zeal for your house has devoured me.” (Jn 2:17)  He spoke angrily to the Jews because they had made a house of prayer into a den of thieves and a place of business. (cf. Mt 21:13. Jn 2:16)
But we should have zeal not only for the place where the Church is built, but also for God’s interior house within ourselves; so that we do not let it become a house of commerce or a den of thieves. If we go chasing lucre, gain, money, profits, we have made it a house of commerce. If we invade the possessions of others, the property of the widow or orphan, we have made it a den of thieves. Let the Word of God come and throw out of his house the thieves, the plunderers, the hucksters; so that your heart and soul may be pure.
There is a blameworthy zeal, and there is a praiseworthy zeal. David himself has said: “I was jealous because of the peace of sinners”. (Ps 72:3)  And it is written in Ecclesiasticus: “Do not be jealous of the wife of your bosom, or she might learn to your detriment your lesson in evil.” (Si 9:1) And the jealous woman is rightly reproved, (cf Si 26:8) as compared with the faithful woman. We notice, therefore, that there is a certain measure and discipline to be observed with regard to zeal, just as virtue has its discipline. Happy is the one who understands the discipline of zeal and hates all who, by forsaking the Lord’s grace, abandon their own salvation and accept error and deceit.
He says: “Because my enemies have forgotten your words.” (Ps 118:139)  Who are these enemies?  If the Jewish people, how come that his enemies were under his rule? For David  governed within his own kingdom all the Jews. If Gentiles, how could people who never knew the Lord’s Law forget God’s words? Unless a man has first received something, he cannot forget it. Those enemies of mine, therefore, who were enemies of yours, are those who were not going to welcome the Lord when he would come into his own. (cf. Jn 1:11)  The Prophet testifies that these grievous enemies were his own enemies; not those who rebelled against himself, but those who rebelled against Christ. And in another place he says: ‘Because of your enemies I wasted away; and I hated them with a just hate;” (Ps 138:21-22)  he thought the weapons of irreligion more dreadful than those of battle. For mankind has no greater enemy than he who wounds the author of all men. Therefore the peoples of the nations were acquired with great zeal, because God was rejected by his own people. They were unable to retain either devout faith or the discipline of virtue, seeing that they did not retain the memory of the heavenly precepts. So Adam was cast out from paradise; so were the Jewish people excluded from the privilege of being the chosen ones. 
See also St Clement to the Corinthians, 2, 3, 9, 38
Cassian conferences 6:3, 5; 16: 6;19:9;
Cyprian: On Jealousy and Envy; on Fortitude

Monday, 29 August 2016

rb71 - Mutual obedience

CHAPTER 71 - That the brethren are to obey one another

The good service of obedience is to be rendered by all not only to the Abbot, but let the brethren likewise obey one another knowing that by this path of obedience they shall go to God. Giving precedence, therefore, to the commands of the Abbot or of the superiors appointed by him (to which we allow no private commands to be preferred), for the rest, let all the younger brethren obey their seniors with all charity and solicitude.

But if anyone is found to be contentious, let him be rebuked. If anyone is rebuked in any way by the Abbot or by any other superior for any reason, however small; or if he perceives that any superior is angered or disturbed by him, however little, let him immediately and without delay cast himself on the ground at his feet and there continue in that posture of penance until the superior is appeased and gives his blessing. But if anyone should disdain to do this, or remain obstinate, let him be expelled from the monastery.

 Caput LXXI Ut obedientes sint sibi invicem Fratres

[1] Oboedientiae bonum non solum abbati exhibendum est ab omnibus, sed etiam sibi invicem ita oboediant fratres, [2] scientes per hanc oboedientiae viam se ituros ad Deum.[3] Praemisso ergo abbatis aut praepositorum qui ab eo constituuntur imperio, cui non permittimus privata imperia praeponi, [4] de cetero omnes iuniores prioribus suis omni caritate et sollicitudine oboediant.

[5] Quod si quis contentiosus reperitur, corripiatur.[6] Si quis autem frater pro quavis minima causa ab abbate vel a quocumque priore suo corripitur quolibet modo, [7] vel si leviter senserit animos prioris cuiuscumque contra se iratos vel commotos quamvis modice, [8] mox sine mora tamdiu prostratus in terra ante pedes eius iaceat satisfaciens, usque dum benedictione sanetur illa commotio. [9] Quod qui contempserit facere, aut corporali vindictae subiaceat aut, si contumax fuerit, de monasterio expellatur.

Notes


St Clement's Letter to the Corinthians points to the problems of failure to practice mutual obedience:
Every kind of honour and happiness was bestowed upon you, and then was fulfilled that which is written, My beloved ate and drank, and was enlarged and became fat, and kicked.  Hence flowed emulation and envy, strife and sedition, persecution and disorder, war and captivity. So the worthless rose up against the honoured, those of no reputation against such as were renowned, the foolish against the wise, the young against those advanced in years. For this reason righteousness and peace are now far departed from you, inasmuch as every one abandons the fear of God, and has become blind in His faith, neither walks in the ordinances of His appointment, nor acts a part becoming a Christian, but walks after his own wicked lusts, resuming the practice of an unrighteous and ungodly envy, by which death itself entered into the world. 

St Augustine's Praeceptum (ch 4) points to the positive dimensions of it's practice:
So when you are together in church and anywhere else where women are present, exercise a mutual care over purity of life. Thus, by mutual vigilance over one another will God, who dwells in you, grant you his protection.  If you notice in someone of your brothers this wantonness of the eye, of which I am speaking, admonish him at once so that the beginning of evil will not grow more serious but will be promptly corrected.  But if you see him doing the same thing again on some other day, even after your admonition, then whoever had occasion to discover this must report him as he would a wounded man in need of treatment. But let the offense first be pointed out to two or three so that he can be proven guilty on the testimony of these two or three and be punished with due severity. And do not charge yourselves with ill-will when you bring this offense to light. Indeed, yours in the greater blame if you allow your brothers to be lost through your silence when you are able to bring about their correction by your disclosure. If you brother, for example, were suffering a bodily wound that he wanted to hide for fear of undergoing treatment, would it not be cruel of you to remain silent and a mercy on your part to make this known? How much greater then is your obligation to make his condition known lest he continue to suffer a more deadly wound of the soul...
Similarly, in chapter 6 he adds:
Your should either avoid quarrels altogether or else put an end to them as quickly as possible; otherwise, anger may grow into hatred, making a plank out of a splinter, and turn the soul into a murderer. For so you read: Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer.  Whoever has injured another by open insult, or by abusive or even incriminating language, must remember to repair the injury as quickly as possible by an apology, and he who suffered the injury must also forgive, without further wrangling. But if they have offended one another, they must forgive one another's trespasses for the sake of your prayers which should be recited with greater sincerity each time you repeat them. Although a brother is often tempted to anger, yet prompt to ask pardon from one he admits to having offended, such a one is better than another who, though less given to anger, finds it too hard to ask forgiveness. But a brother who is never willing to ask pardon, or does not do so from his heart, has no reason to be in the monastery, even if he is not expelled. You must then avoid being too harsh in your words, and should they escape your lips, let those same lips not be ashamed to heal the wounds they have caused. But whenever the good of discipline requires you to speak harshly in correcting your subjects, then, even if you think you have been unduly harsh in your language, you are not required to ask forgiveness lest, by practicing too great humility toward those who should be your subjects, the authority to rule is undermined. But you should still ask forgiveness from the Lord of all who knows with what deep affection you love even those whom you might happen to correct with undue severity. Besides, you are to love another with a spiritual rather than an earthly love.

Sunday, 28 August 2016

rb70 Brethren not to excommunicate one another

CHAPTER 70 - That no one is to presume rashly to strike or excommunicate another

In order to remove from the monastery all occasion of presumption, we ordain and decree that it shall be lawful to no one to excommunicate or strike any of his brethren, unless he be given authority to do so by the Abbot. Those who sin against this rule shall be reproved before all, so that others may be filled with fear.

Children, however, shall be kept by all under close discipline and surveillance until their fifteenth year; yet this, too, with all moderation and discretion. If anyone presumes, without leave of the Abbot, to punish at all such as are above that age, or to show undue severity even to children, let him be subjected to the regular discipline, because it is written: "See thou never do to another what thou wouldst hate to have done to thee by another."

Caput LXX Ut non praesumat quisquam aliquem passim caedere aut excommunicare

[1] Vitetur in monasterio omnis praesumptionis occasio; [2] atque constituimus ut nulli liceat quemquam fratrum suorum excommunicare aut caedere, nisi cui potestas ab abbate data fuerit. [3] Peccantes autem coram omnibus arguantur ut ceteri metum habeant.

[4] Infantum vero usque quindecim annorum aetates disciplinae diligentia ab omnibus et custodia sit; [5] sed et hoc cum omni mensura et ratione.[6] Nam in fortiori aetate qui praesumit aliquatenus sine praecepto abbatis vel in ipsis infantibus sine discretione exarserit, disciplinae regulari subiaceat, [7] quia scriptum est: Quod tibi non vis fieri, alio ne feceris.

Notes

St Augustine's Rule provides for fraternal correction:
...Thus, by mutual vigilance over one another will God, who dwells in you, grant you his protection.
If you notice in someone of your brothers this wantonness of the eye, of which I am speaking, admonish him at once so that the beginning of evil will not grow more serious but will be promptly corrected.
But if you see him doing the same thing again on some other day, even after your admonition, then whoever had occasion to discover this must report him as he would a wounded man in need of treatment. But let the offense first be pointed out to two or three so that he can be proven guilty on the testimony of these two or three and be punished with due severity. And do not charge yourselves with ill-will when you bring this offense to light. Indeed, yours in the greater blame if you allow your brothers to be lost through your silence when you are able to bring about their correction by your disclosure. If you brother, for example, were suffering a bodily wound that he wanted to hide for fear of undergoing treatment, would it not be cruel of you to remain silent and a mercy on your part to make this known? How much greater then is your obligation to make his condition known lest he continue to suffer a more deadly wound of the soul...
 But there are obvious dangers to this going too far, hence the safeguards put int place by St Benedict.

The situation is different with children.  St Basil's Asketicon provides for more separation than does St Benedict:
...They should be reared with all piety as children belonging to the entire community, but meals and quarters for both girls and boys should be separate, to avoid their being too familiar or too self-confident with their elders and, also, that through the rarity of their association with them, their reverence for their directors may be preserved.... 
To maintain this economy, then, and to ensure decorous behavior in other respects, the children's quarters should be separate from those of the more advanced in perfection...Moreover, one who is advanced in years should be placed in charge of these little ones, a person of more than average experience and who has a reputation for patience. Thus, he will correct the faults of the young with fatherly kindness and give wise instruction, applying remedies proper to each fault, so that, while the penalty for the fault is being exacted, the soul may be exercised in interior tranquility. qu 25

Saturday, 27 August 2016

rb 69 - No defending others

CHAPTER 69 - That no one is to presume to defend another in the monastery

LET every precaution be taken that no one in the monastery under any circumstances presume to defend another or become, as it were, his protector, even though they be united by some tie of relationship. Let not the monks presume to do this in any way whatsoever, because occasion of most grievous scandals may arise therefrom. Should anyone transgress this rule, let him be severely punished.

Caput LXIX Ut in Monasterio non praesumat alter alterum defendere

[1] Praecavendum est ne quavis occasione praesumat alter alium defendere monachum in monasterio aut quasi tueri, [2] etiam si qualivis consanguinitatis propinquitate iungantur. [3] Nec quolibet modo id a monachis praesumatur, quia exinde gravissima occasio scandalorum oriri potest. [4] Quod si quis haec transgressus fuerit, acrius coerceatur.

Notes

Pachomius' Precepts and Judgments is one key source for this:
If anyone agrees with sinners and defends someone else who has committed a fault, he shall be accursed before God and men, and shall be severely rebuked.  But if he has been deceived through ignorance, thinking the situation to be other than it was in reality, he shall be forgiven....16
St Basil's Shorter Rule, question 26, expands on this discussion with some Scriptural citations dealing with those who defend sinners.


Friday, 26 August 2016

rb68 - Hard or impossible commands

CHAPTER 68 - If a brother be commanded to do what is impossible

If a brother is commanded to do things that are perhaps hard or impossible, let him receive the command of his superior with all meekness and obedience. But if he sees that the burden altogether exceeds his strength, let him represent to his superior the reasons for his inability, submissively and at an opportune time, without showing pride or resistance or stubbornness. If, however, after these representations, the superior insists on his command, let the subject be persuaded that it will be to his benefit, and let him obey out of love, trusting in the help of God.

Caput LXVIII Si Fratri impossibilia iniungantur

[1] Si cui fratri aliqua forte gravia aut impossibilia iniunguntur, suscipiat quidem iubentis imperium cum omni mansuetudine et oboedientia. [2] Quod si omnino virium suarum mensuram viderit pondus oneris excedere, impossibilitatis suae causas ei qui sibi praeest patienter et opportune suggerat, [3] non superbiendo aut resistendo vel contradicendo. [4] Quod si post suggestionem suam in sua sententia prioris imperium perduraverit, sciat iunior ita sibi expedire, [5] et ex caritate, confidens de adiutorio Dei, oboediat.

Notes

Cassian and the Desert Fathers argue for strict obedience, even (perhaps especially) in relation to impossible and ridiculous tasks.  Later religious orders, such as the the Carmelites also followed this path.

St Benedict, however, at least allows for discussion of such cases.  In this he follows St Basil, who, in the shorter rule, after an admonition to obedience in every respect adds:
But if there is some reason where by it seem to him he might rightly excuse himself from that task which he is excusing himself, let him put it before the one who presides and leave it to his judgment so that he may examine whether the plea he submits has merit. Qu 68
Similarly, the late fifth century Pseudo-Basilian Admonition to a Spiritual Son (possibly from Lerins) suggests:
Everything that has been inflicted upon you in the name of religion, receive it freely and with obedience. Although it will have been beyond your power, don't reject or avoid it. But tell faithfully the cause of your inability to him who inflicted it upon you so that although it will have been burdensome to him, by his moderation, it may be lightened so that you may be free from the vice of contradiction...(trans LePree)

Thursday, 25 August 2016

RB 67 - Prayers for those journeying

CHAPTER 67 - Of the brethren who are sent on a journey

Let the brethren who are about to be sent on a journey commend themselves to the prayers of all the brethren or of the Abbot; and at all times, at the conclusion of the Divine Office, let a remembrance be made of all who are absent.

On returning from a journey, the brethren on that same day shall lie prostrate on the floor of the oratory at the conclusion of each of the Canonical Hours and beg the prayers of all for their transgressions, in the event that they may have had occasion on their journey of seeing or hearing something evil or may have fallen into idle talk. And let no one presume to relate to others what he may have seen or heard outside the monastery, for this is often a pitfall of destruction. If anyone presumes to do so, let him be subjected to the regular penance. He shall be similarly punished who presumes to leave the enclosure of the monastery or go out anywhere or do anything, however small, without the permission of the Abbot.

Caput LXVII De Fratribus in via directis

[1] Dirigendi fratres in via omnium fratrum vel abbatis se orationi commendent, [2] et semper ad orationem ultimam operis Dei commemoratio omnium absentum fiat.

[3] Revertentes autem de via fratres ipso die quo redeunt per omnes canonicas horas, dum expletur opus Dei, prostrati solo oratorii [4] ab omnibus petant orationem propter excessos, ne qui forte surripuerint in via visus aut auditus malae rei aut otiosi sermonis. [5] Nec praesumat quisquam referre alio quaecumque foris monasterium viderit aut audierit, quia plurima destructio est.

[6] Quod si quis praesumpserit, vindictae regulari subiaceat. [7] Similiter et qui praesumpserit claustra monasterii egredi vel quocumque ire vel quippiam quamvis parvum sine iussione abbatis facere.

Notes

This chapter provides the basis for the 'Et cum fratibus nostris absentibus' prayer of the office.

Keeping silence about what is seen outside is consistent with the Lives of the Fathers:
A brother asked an old man, "If a brother from outside comes to me wanting to tell me his thoughts, should I tell him not to do so?"  "Yes," said the old man, "for you are not your brother's keeper and furthermore if you were to tell him not to do something you never know but what you might find yourself falling into the same fault. It should be sufficient for him that you wish to preserve your silence.V.xv. 59. 
The strictness with which enclosure is to be maintained follows Cassian:
.Next, the rule is kept with such strict obedience that, without the knowledge and permission of their superior, the juniors not only do not dare to leave their cell but on their own authority do not venture to satisfy their common and natural needs. And so they are quick to fulfil without any discussion all those things that are ordered by him, as if they were commanded by God from heaven; so that sometimes, when impossibilities are commanded them, they undertake them with such faith and devotion as to strive with all their powers and without the slightest hesitation to fulfil them and carry them out; and out of reverence for their senior they do not even consider whether a command is an impossibility.  Institutes 4 Chapter 10
cf Reg Orint 31; Pachomius 57


Wednesday, 24 August 2016

RB 66 - Protecting the enclosure - the porter and the Rule

CHAPTER 66 - Of the porter of the monastery

Let there be placed at the gate of the monastery a wise brother of mature age who is able to understand and reply in all matters, and whose grave habits will not permit him to wander about. This porter is to have his cell near the gate, that they who come may always find someone at hand to make response. As soon as anyone shall knock, or a poor person shall beg for charity, he shall answer, "Thanks be to God," or, "God bless you"; and then, with all the gentleness of the fear of God, let him quickly respond in the fervor of charity. If the porter stands in need of assistance, let him have with him one of the younger brethren.

The monastery, if it is possible, ought to be so constructed that all things necessary- such as, water, a mill, a garden, a bakery, and the various workshops-may be contained within it, so that there may be no need for the monks to go abroad, for this is not at all healthful for their souls.

Moreover, we wish this Rule to be read frequently in the community, that none of the brethren may excuse himself on the plea of ignorance.

Caput LXVI De Ostiario Monasterii

[1] Ad portam monasterii ponatur senex sapiens, qui sciat accipere responsum et reddere, et cuius maturitas eum non sinat vagari. [2] Qui portarius cellam debebit habere iuxta portam, ut venientes semper praesentem inveniant a quo responsum accipiant. [3] Et mox ut aliquis pulsaverit aut pauper clamaverit, Deo gratias respondeat aut Benedic, [4] et cum omni mansuetudine timoris Dei reddat responsum festinanter cum fervore caritatis. [5] Qui portarius si indiget solacio iuniorem fratrem accipiat.

[6] Monasterium autem, si possit fieri, ita debet constitui ut omnia necessaria, id est aqua, molendinum, hortum, vel artes diversas intra monasterium exerceantur, [7] ut non sit necessitas monachis vagandi foris, quia omnino non expedit animabus eorum.

[8] Hanc autem regulam saepius volumus in congregatione legi, ne quis fratrum se de ignorantia excuset.

Notes

The History of the Monks in Egypt, however, would appear to the most direct source for St Benedict's prescriptions:
In the Thebaid we also saw the monastery of Isidore, a large enclosed space surrounded by a wall, within which could be seen a large number of buildings in which the monks lived. Inside there were several wells, irrigated gardens and sufficient apple trees and trees of paradise to supply all needs, in fact more than enough. This ensured that none of the monks living there had any need to go outside to get anything that was needed.
At the gate sat a senior, chosen out of the leading men for his gravity, whose task it was to acquaint newcomers with this rule that once they were in they would not be allowed to come out. This was an unbreakable law for those who decided to go in, but the wonderful thing was that it was not the obligation of law that kept them in but the blessedness and perfection of their lives. 
This old gatekeeper lived in a guest house of which he was in charge and where he gave hospitality to visitors and showed them every possible human kindness. So when we were received by him we were not allowed to go inside, though we did learn from him what kind of blessed life was lived there. 
He said that there were only two of the senior men who had liberty to go in and out, with the responsibility for selling articles which the men had made and for bringing in anything which was needed. All the others lived in peace and quietness giving themselves to prayers and religious exercises, and cultivating the virtues of the soul of which they all showed evidence. And the most wonderful sign of all was that none of them ever fell ill. Even when they approached the end of their lives they were completely aware of it beforehand. Each of them would warn the other brothers of his departure and wish everyone farewell, whereupon he would lie down and give up his spirit with joy. (17)
cf also Regula Orientalis ch26; Cassian's Institutes, (4:7).