|Source: Hildemar Translation Project|
I just wanted to alert interested readers to the availability of a translation of one of the earliest known commentaries on the Benedictine Rule, by the ninth century monk Hildemar of Corbie, dating from around 845 AD.
Early monastic commentaries on the Rule
Early commentaries on the Rule, other than in the forms of adaptations of it in the form of the so-called 'mixed-rules' (combinations of the Benedictine Rule and assorted others) and a few early customaries are scarce, and those that do exist are generally hard to access. There are of course some documents, such as early saints lives, surviving letters, charters and assorted pieces of ecclesiastical legislation that through some light on early Benedictine monasticism, but relatively few of these are available in translation.
That is slowly changing though. A translation of the oldest known commentary on the Rule, by Smaragdus (ca816) was published in the Cistercian Studies series in 2007.
And now a collaborative translation of Hildemar's Commentary has been made available through the Hildemar Translation Project. The translation is still a work in progress, but well worth a look.
Hildemar on the Opus Dei
Just by way of a taster to encourage you to go take a look, here are a few extracts from Chapter 8, On the Divine Office at Night, translated by Julian Hendrix:
"After he had discussed the mortification of the interior man and the formation of the exterior man, that is, the accomplishment of the steps [of humility], blessed Benedict now properly and agreeable adds concerning the Divine Office, because that Divine Office is pleasing to God because it is done by such men, that is, who abide in the twelve grades of humility, because just as the prophet says: Praise is not seemly in the mouth of a sinner. [cf. Sir 15:9] And also the psalmist says: I, however, say to the sinner: why do you describe my justices and receive my covenant through your mouth [when] you truly hate discipline and have cast my words behind you? If you have seen a thief, you have run with him and you have spent your portion with adulterers. Your mouth has abounded with wickedness, and your tongue produces deceit. Sitting you spoke against your brother, and laid a scandal against your mother's son. You have done these things and I was silent. [Ps 49:16-21]
And rightly he added divine when he said concerning the office, because there are other offices, which are not divine. Obviously he added at night to separate other times, for there are the other offices of the day, i.e., those which he will discuss below. But as Isidore says, there are many kinds of offices, but the chief one is that service which is held for holy and divine matters. [Isidore of Seville, Etymologiae VI. c. 19. 1; translation from Barney et al.] But why is it called office? In his books, which he wrote On Offices, that is, On the Customs of Human Life, Blessed Ambrose speaks in this way: We think 'office' [officium] is so called, as in "finished"[efficium], but on account of the elegance of words, with one latter changed it is called "office", or certainly for the purpose of conducting those matters [page 271] which harms no one but benefits all. [Ambrose, De officiis 1, c. 8.26, CCSL 15, p. 10]...
Psalmists [psalmista] are so called from singing psalms. They sing to kindle the spirits of their audiences to compunction - although some readers also declaim in so heart-rending a way that they drive some people to sorrow and lamentation..."