March 9, July 9, November 8
Above all, let the cellarer be humble. If goods are not available to meet a request, the cellarer will offer a kind word in reply, for it is written: “A kind word is better than the best gift” (Sir. 18:17). Cellarers should take care of all that the abbot entrusts to them, and not presume to do what the abbot has forbidden. They will provide monks their allotted amount of food without any pride or delay, lest they be led astray. For they must remember what the Scripture says that person deserves “who leads one of the little ones astray” (Matt. 18:6).
If the community is rather large, the cellarer should be given helpers, so that with their assistance the cellarer may calmly perform the duties of the office. Necessary items are to be requested and given at the proper times, so that no one may be disquieted or distressed in the house of God.
Humility is the human and Christian virtue, and so is the quality most revered in a Benedictine spirituality. Humility saturates the Rule. The cellarer appreciates that both their role and person are part of the broader project of community as a humble way of service into God. This is especially the case if helpers are needed. Delegation requires an acceptance of our own limitations. We cannot be all things to all people. Over time, this humble acceptance becomes a lifestyle that includes the way we serve. We can then remain centred, calm, and present, expressing ourselves rather than being overly active and anxious. The cellarer is a model for us in what it is to be contemplative and active at the same time.
Today many seem to have forgotten the power of a kind word. We are caught in rush, caught in reaction, caught in unrealistic expectation. A kind word, given sincerely, can disarm the unawares and smooth the rough edge in an exchange; it can also reveal the proud and the careless to themselves. A purely kind word is not given to do these things, it is given because it exists on its own as a way of love. A kind word is something new and unexpected that any cellarer can draw from their storeroom, be it the shop assistant dealing with a difficult customer, or a friend experiencing another’s bad mood, or our fellow humanity at the bus stop.
The giving of a kind word is affected by our internal state and where our attention is placed. Loving practically in whatever way is next, be it saying the mantra or sweeping the floor, all this affects the availability of a kind word. To love practically is to have attention lovingly placed. In this way we can be the cellarer of own internal states, living soulfully as we observe the rise and fall of thoughts, perhaps becoming conscious of what is underneath them, what energises them. This too is the cellarer bringing out the old and the new in the service of love.
The cellarer of the community provides the necessities of life so that all are free to seek and grow in God. They moderate between the common good and the human tendency to desire stuff. Too much beyond what is necessary is a distraction from what is important; life is about quality of relationship, not quantity of things. Benedict knew that attachment to the stuff of life undermines how we attend to others and weakens our consciousness of the depths of God. Today we have stuff, but does that stuff have us?
Have you understood all these things?’ They said to him, ‘Yes.’ And he said to them, ‘Well then, every scribe instructed for the kingdom of Heaven is like a householder who brings out from his storeroom new things as well as old. (Matt 13:51-52, RNJB)