Bishop Dominic introduced this subject by outlining the Hebrew tradition of being in a covenant relationship with God. In the OT, we have the covenant with Noah.
The sign of the rainbow, with its 2 ends touching earth and its rounded part in heaven, is a sign of God’s loving relationship with his people.
And then, there were covenants that were sealed in blood showing that we have a sacrificial God who calls us to self-sacrifice. The cross brings both of these together. God’s covenant is expressed in the words: “You are my people and I am your God”: a relationship that cannot be broken. The Nazirite vow was a kind of monasticism: the uncut hair was an outward sign of dedication to God in a covenant relationship.
OT covenants are fulfilled in the cross and our baptismal covenant: we die with Christ and are raised with him: we are in him. This is the basis of the covenantal relationship with God into which all Christians enter. We become God’s people and he becomes ours. We belong to him. Any other covenant we enter into is part of the carrying out of our baptismal life: some people live this out in marriage and some in celibacy.
We are saved by grace through faith so our rules of life are not law; they are tools to help us enter into a deeper relationship with God. They are not ends in themselves but are means to lead us into greater freedom. So our rule should not be restricting or too demanding.
Benedict said the rule should be demanding enough to require effort but not to take all the joy out of life.
As you persevere in your rule, it will become a part of you and you will live it more naturally. If it’s not giving you freedom, you will need to modify it.
The Single Consecrated life is a life commitment which we enter with a life intention even if we make 1st vows initially. Our rule of life should provide a framework that supports us. It should be our servant and not our master. It should lead us into a deeper relationship with God. It is advisable to build times into our lives when we relax the rule and have a holiday.
Our devotion to God – meditation, daily office, Eucharist
Our responsibility to others – hospitality and ministry
Care for ourselves – recreation and renewal
Some of us are linked to a Religious Order as Tertiaries or Oblates. These will advise on a rule of life. It’s important that we find a good spiritual director who can help us develop the rule that is right for us and make adjustments where necessary. People may feel bad if they feel they are failing. It’s OK to become more contemplative. Our chief purpose is to enjoy God so, if we are not enjoying life, something is wrong.
People in SCL don’t make a vow of obedience; but it’s important to have someone who can help us discern what is right for us: we need to be accountable; to seek advice about major life decisions. The word obedience comes from the word to listen: in making decisions, we listen to God and to others first.