February 13, June 14, October 14
Chapter 11: How the Night Office Is to Be Said on Sundays
the hour of rising for the Night Office should be earlier.
In that Office let the measure already prescribed be kept,
namely the singing of six Psalms and a verse.
Then let all be seated on the benches in their proper order
while the lessons and their responsories are read from the book,
as we said above.
These shall be four in number,
with the chanter saying the "Glory be to the Father"
in the fourth responsory only,
and all rising reverently as soon as he begins it.
After these lessons
let six more Psalms with antiphons follow in order, as before,
and a verse;
and then let four more lessons be read with their responsories
in the same way as the former.
After these let there be three canticles
from the book of the Prophets,
as the Abbot shall appoint,
and let these canticles be chanted with "Alleluia."
Then when the verse has been said
and the Abbot has given the blessing,
let four more lessons be read,
from the New Testament,
in the manner prescribed above.
After the fourth responsory
let the Abbot begin the hymn "We praise You, O God."
When this is finished
the Abbot shall read the lesson from the book of the Gospels,
while all stand in reverence and awe.
At the end let all answer "Amen,"
and let the Abbot proceed at once
to the hymn "To You be praise."
After the blessing has been given,
let them begin the Morning Office.
This order for the Night Office on Sunday
shall be observed the year around,
both summer and winter;
unless it should happen (which God forbid)
that the brethren be late in rising,
in which case the lessons or the responsories
will have to be shortened somewhat.
Let every precaution be taken, however,
against such an occurrence;
but if it does happen,
then the one through whose neglect it has come about
should make due satisfaction to God in the oratory.
Making the comparatively safe assumption that the majority of those
reading this will not be spending the wee hours of Sunday celebrating
three nocturns instead of two, what do we glean from this? Well, for
starters, let's note that St. Benedict goes out of his way to make
Sunday special year-round, even when he would at other times shorten
the Office. Making Sunday special, by the way, was not some novel
idea of his own: it's a commandment of God, one we often forget these
Sunday is not just a day off. Sunday is not observed by just cramming
Church in somehow and the rest of the day no different. The Roman
Catholic practice of Saturday Vigil Masses can really throw a wrench
into this: do it late Saturday afternoon and "get it out of the way."
Whoops! In spite of the theological and liturgical justifications of
a Vigil Mass, that's what it often boils down to in people's minds:
less than an hour, done late the day before, and you're done! Not!!!
If Sunday affords no extra time at all to you for rest, for prayer,
for lectio, please change something. I know one family who can't make
it to Mass on Sunday because of sports schedules for several kids in
different games. What will those kids grow up thinking of as
Sabbath? A rushed 45 minute Mass Saturday evening, if that? How many
observant Jews does one find in that dilemma? None. They know what
No one took the Sabbath away from Christians: we surrendered it willy
nilly! It is, by the way, still there waiting, just as God is, for us
to take it back. Fully within our power to do so. All we have to do
is change ourselves. That can be hard at first, but the rewards are
Albert Schweitzer once said that the proof that Christianity had
failed in Europe was war. I would say that the only proof needed to
say that our Christian theology of the Sabbath has failed is to take
a look at what's left of Sunday. And please don't blame the pagans
for this one: we are at the root of the problem. Most likely at fault
was our legalistic idea of you goes to Church and youse done with it.
Hence, don't go running for some Christian source to read up on the
Sabbath. Check out your library or bookstore for some good Jewish
books on how to keep the seasons, holidays and Sabbath. You're going
to have a refreshing surprise. You're going to find deep holiness and
you're going to find it largely "home-made" by the believers
themselves, in their own homes. If you whine as Christians can how
tough it is to run uphill against a secular Sunday, bear in mind that
Jews are doing all this themselves on SATURDAY, with absolutely no
cooperation from government or business or society at all.
This, by the way, is not imposing monasticism on your children: it's
making them Christian. Not an optional job!
Love and prayers,
St. Mary's Monastery Petersham, MA