How they leave off every kind of work at the sound of some one knocking at the door, in their eagerness to answer at once.
And so, sitting in their cells and devoting their energies equally to work and to meditation, when they hear the sound of some one knocking at the door and striking on the cells of each, summoning them to prayer or some work, every one eagerly dashes out from his cell, so that one who is practising the writers art, although he may have just begun to form a letter, does not venture to finish it, but runs out with the utmost speed, at the very moment when the sound of the knocking reaches his ears, without even waiting to finish the letter he has begun; but, leaving the lines of the letter incomplete, he aims not at abridging and saving his labour, but rather hastens with the utmost earnestness and zeal to attain the virtue of obedience, which they put not merely before manual labour and reading and silence and quietness in the cell, but even before all virtues, so that they consider that everything should be postponed to it, and are content to undergo any amount of inconvenience if only it may be seen that they have in no way neglected this virtue. 767
Cf. the Rule of S. Benedict, c. v.: “Those who choose to tread the path that leads to life eternal immediately quit their private occupations at the call of obedience, and, renouncing their own will so far as to cast away unfinished out of their hands whatever they may be occupied with, hasten to execute the orders of their superiors,” etc.