The Sower

The Sower

This Sunday's Gospel reading features the Parable of the Sower in which Jesus likens the Father unto a farmer who is scattering seeds in the fields. Some fall on the road and are eaten by crows, while others fail to flourish having landed in bad soil or in the weeds. Then, there are those which land in the fertile soil, grow, and yield a plentiful harvest. Jesus explains that the seeds which are scattered represent the word of God that is placed in our hearts--it is the Grace that God  pours into our souls. The various places where they land (be it the road, weeds, bad soil, or good soil) represent the ways in which we might respond to the Grace which flows over us. Jesus instructs his followers that they should 'hear the word and understand it'. Their soul ought to be like fertile ground--indeed, the seed that falls on that ground 'grows, bears fruit, and yields a hundredfold' [cf. Mt. 13.23]. Simply put, the path to sainthood and eternal life starts with us accepting God's bountiful Grace and allowing it to work its marvels within us. 

The seed that is sown by the sower in the parable is not some rare type of crop that can only grow under strict conditions and in certain climactic regions. Rather, it is a universal crop that can grow in many types of good soil--said soil could be lay soil, a priestly soil, or a conventual soil. This Saturday is the Feast Day of St Benedict--the fifth-century founder of the Benedictine Order and the Father of Western Monasticism. In the year 516, Benedict wrote a book of precepts know as the Rule of St Benedict. It contains the rules, regulations, and the general philosophy behind the religious life. The Rule is so influential that it acts as the template for the Rules of many subsequent monastic and mendicant orders that have been founded over the course of the fifteen-hundred years. The seventh chapter of Benedict's rule is devoted to the virtue of humility and the ways in which a monastic community might embrace it. 

Although the Rule is written for those living the religious life, it is not irrelevant to us who live a lay, worldly life. The virtue of humility is important--indeed, it is the polar opposite of pride (the Original Sin and the cause of the Fall). To become the 'good soil', one must be humble enough to listen and obey the Word of God that is spoken to us through the Scriptures and humble enough to surrender the ourselves to that marvellous Grace that is poured into souls. 

An Excerpt from the Rule

Holy Scripture, brethren, cries out to us, saying, “Everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled, and he who humbles himself shall be exalted.” In saying this it shows us that all exaltation is a kind of pride, against which the Prophet proves himself to be on guard when he says, “Lord, my heart is not exalted, nor are mine eyes lifted up; neither have I walked in great matters, nor in wonders above me.” But how has he acted? “Rather have I been of humble mind than exalting myself; as a weaned child on its mother’s breast, so You solace my soul.”

Hence, brethren, if we wish to reach the very highest point of humility and to arrive speedily at that heavenly exaltation to which ascent is made through the humility of this present life, we must by our ascending actions erect the ladder Jacob saw in his dream, on which Angels appeared to him descending and ascending. By that descent and ascent we must surely understand nothing else than 

this, that we descend by self-exaltation and ascend by humility. And the ladder thus set up is our life in the world, which the Lord raises up to heaven if our heart is humbled. 

The Rule of St Benedict, 7.22

Artists: The Monks of the Abbey of St Peter at Solesmes/Dom J. Gajard OSB. 

A large section of Benedict's Rule is devoted to how a monastic community ought to pray together. The Benedictine model of the Liturgy of the Hours (eight services of prayer every centered around the recitation of the Psalms) remains at the centre of the daily prayer life of the Western Church to this day. 

Augustine taught that 'he who sings prays twice'. As such, the Liturgy of the Hours is sung to the ancient chants and psalm tones of the Church. Founded in the ninth century, the Abbey of St Peter at Solesmes, France, was restored in the early nineteenth century having been suppressed and destroyed during the French Revolution. The Abbey at Solesmes played a critical role in reviving Gregorian Chant through theological and musicological scholarship. 

The selection of Gregorian Chant (above) was recorded in the late 1960s by the monks of Solesmes. On the recording they sing under the direction of Dom Joseph Gajard OSB., the director of the Abbey's Gregorian Chant studium during the middle years of the twentieth century. 



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