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Nourished by Our Roots - the Rule of Saint Augustine: Day Twenty One

Written by Fr Richard Peers, posted on Friday, November 27, 2020

Day Twenty One

5:4. The washing and cleaning of your clothes may be done in the monastery or at the laundry. The superior decides how often your clothes are to be laundered, lest an inordinate desire for clean clothes inwardly stain your soul.
5:5. Nor shall the body be denied proper hygienic care as standards for good health require. Do this without grumbling, following the advice of a physician. In the event a brother is unwilling to comply and the superior gives strict orders, he shall do what has to be done for his health. If a brother desires something which is harmful, he ought not to satisfy his desire. Desires are sometimes thought to be salubrious when they are really injurious.

V.       You have made us for yourself, O Lord. [Alleluia].
       Our hearts are restless until we find our rest in you.  [Alleluia].


Augustine might well be described as the ‘theologian of desire’. For him it is our desire for God that will lead us to God. desire is an essential part of our lives, not least our spiritual lives.  For most of the summers of my adult life I have accompanied groups of young people to the ecumenical monastic community of Taizé in France. In the Bible study groups there with young people the question of what the participants desire is often addressed.

At that formative sage of their lives what young people want from life is foremost in their minds. Work, relationships, success, fame. Whatever it is, those desires are significant.

In spiritual direction it is quite good to explore what people desire. We reveal a lot when we reveal our desires.

Augustine is not criticising desire in general at the end of this section. But he knows that we need to recognise that desire can be as much a part of our fallen as our redeemed nature. Augustine is not a pessimist about human nature, but he is a realist. We need to be equally realistic. Realistic about our own nature and realistic about the natures of those around us.

Traditional Christian liturgies are sometimes criticised for their emphasis on sin. I think Augustine would be very happy with them. Every day is a blessing; every day is an opportunity for thanksgiving but every day is a day in which we operate as sinners. For many years I was able to make my confession sacramentally every week. the lockdowns have rather put an end to that. However, I know that there is not a single day of my life in which my own sinfulness is not clearly present. The Book Of Common Prayer’s daily Confession is powerful and true:

“we have erred and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep; we have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts”.


May the Lord
grant that we may observe all these things with love,
as lovers of spiritual beauty,
radiating by our lives
the sweet fragrance of Christ,
not like slaves under the law
but as free persons
established in grace.
Through the same Jesus Christ, Our Lord. 



You can find the full text of the Rule of saint Augustine by clicking here