For as we advance in the religious life [conversationis] and in faith, our hearts expand [dilatato corde] and we run in the way of God’s commandments with unspeakable sweetness of love [inenarrabili dilectionis dulcedine]. The Rule of St Benedict Prologue 49
This of course is written for the monks under the Rule of our holy father, St Benedict. It is a precious enticement for that seeker after the monastic life as he waits those days in the guesthouse, his vocation tested by a wise and godly elder and by the reading of the whole of this Rule. For this manner of life is not an easy one, there is the discipline of struggle, fasting, prayer, godly reading, physical labor, obedience, poverty. But look at what is promised from this life: unspeakable sweetness of love and the expansion of our hearts.
We of course, at least most of us engaging this post, are not monastics, and yet we are not devoid of this promise. We must, of course, temper our lives by disciplines such as these, but always with an eye to the specific vocation we have here and now. As we labor at our work, as we build our home, as we live chastely and faithfully with our spouses, as we parent our children in mercy. We too have our vocations and our disciplines. We, too, though not with St Benedict in the monastic enclosure, have in our days all the fastings, and obediences, and prayers, and poverties that his monks had, though shaped to the forms and norms of our ways of living.
And all these disciplines, onerous though they may be to us in our passions and weaknesses, heavy though they feel at times, yield to us far greater return for that which we give them. Any man who has witnessed the birth of his daughters, who marvels with tears how he can so wildly love this red and squirming, dear, precious person whom he has just met, this sort of man has perhaps only the very slightest of hints of the sweetness of love, of the phenomenon of the expanding heart. But however thin this apprehension, even this is a sweet and warming fire in the heart.
May God give us all this enlargement of the heart from the overflowing grace and sweetness of his love.