Let the brethren serve one another,
and let no one be excused from the kitchen service…for this service brings increase of reward and of charity.
The one who is ending his week of service
shall do the cleaning on Saturday.
He shall wash the towels
with which the brethren wipe their hands and feet; and this server who is ending his week,
aided by the one who is about to begin,
shall wash the feet of all the brethren.
He shall return the utensils of his office to the cellarer in clean and in good condition,
and the cellarer in turn shall consign them to the incoming server.
Did you think it is just about rules for kitchen duty? Think again.
This passage helps us understand how Benedict views the world with what I call “sacramental eyes.” Notice the connection points between kitchen service, the divine liturgy and the presence of the Lord.
The server and his assistant wash the feet of the next team of servers and thus echo the liturgy of Holy Thursday when the priest washes the feet of twelve men, and this connects sacramentally with the same action of our Lord who “did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
The care with which the servers deal with the towels, the plates and the cutlery all echo the care the altar servers and sacristans take with the sacred vessels of the altar. The vessels in the kitchen and the vessels of the altar are symbols of each one of us. We are vessels of the Holy Spirit and the care and reverence with which we treat these ordinary objects is how we should treat one another for each one of us is a vessel of the Lord and our feet, like his wounded feet are sacred. They are to be washed and kissed.
Life in the monastery is therefore imbued with meaning at every level. Every little thing connects with every other little thing. Nothing is wasted. They say “the devil is in the details”. For Benedict the divine is in the details.
If we lived life this way think how different our vision would be!