Rule of St. Benedict
friend what have you come for?
are you hastening home? then keep this little rule
day by day remind yourself that you are going to die
abandon your will lay down what you have in hand leave it unfinished
be silent and enclose yourself
embrace suffering content yourself with lowliness
prayers should be short and pure make haste to help
eradicate the ego become a vessel of perception
do not retain anything as your own
be ready to rise without delay
set aside what you have with utmost speed
nothing is to be preferred
from this day you are no longer free
even your body is not your own
this is the law under which you serve
if you can keep it come in
what is there to say about the desert fathers?
they fled temptation to the wilderness hid themselves in clefts and caves
and temptation found them there demons in the form of seducers quarrels
provoked by pride and boredom the desire to curse god
return to city living
they lived on pillars to escape the demands of many who promptly built pulleys
to haul their questions up to beg for blessing
they wove baskets of reeds to buy their bread fought devils with the psalms
had three hair shirts they changed occasionally
take away temptation every itch and no one will be saved
since allthing hath the love of god
come to him pleynly and homely
god of thye goodnesse give me thyselfe
thou art enow to me
these words were seyd full tenderly
full lovesome to the soule
to litil and smale low and simple
and al thing shall be wele
and all manner thing shal be wele
lessons from the desert
if a passionate thought enters my heart how should I reject it?
by contradiction? rebuke? by hastening toward god?
brother the passions are afflictions demons to be cast out
silence is good in every case what more do you want?
when a thought enters cut it short immediately
unending vigilance is required
remember you are earth and shall return to it
empty as the dead reckon yourself as nothing
taking not too little nor too much keep to the simple way
giving up self-trust and self-deceit
die to everyone a true exile
carefree of all you will find god
remain modest do not believe
you have done any good
in unceasing prayer sit and learn to weep
these things will yield a hundredfold
instructions for change
go away from here flee
your white-washed cell and your work
do not close the door but go leaving it open
if you are thirsty drink from the sea
it will prove sweet and do not fear
being thirsty later on god is here
god is everywhere
how should one pray?
the old man said there is no need
to make long discourses it is enough to stretch out your hands
and say have mercy and if the conflict grows say help
an anchorite able to banish demons asked them what is it that makes you go?
I say my little office
is it fasting? they said we do not eat or drink
I pray and meditate
vigils? they said we do not sleep
I live in peace
separation from the world? we live in deserts
what else can I do?
what sends you away? nothing can overcome us they said only humility
the old man stood up and stretched his hands toward heaven
his fingers became like ten lamps of fire he said
why not be utterly changed into fire?
Amy Katherine Cannon is a writer and writing teacher living in Los Angeles. She received her MFA from UC Irvine, where she was the recipient of the Gerard Creative Writing Endowment. She is the author of the mini-chapbook ‘to make a desert’ (Platypus Press, 2016). Her work can be found in BOAAT, BODY, Juked, and LIT, among other places. She is Managing Editor of Palaver Arts Magazine, a student publication.
Artwork: Christian Worthington, St. Jerome in the Desert, 2016, ink on copper, 8″x10″.