Prayers, please, for Jim D., and his wife, Angela. His company was
sold and he is jobless after 24 years. Please also remember all his
co-workers who lost their jobs. Thanks so much! NRN JL
February 14, June 15, October 15
Chapter 12: How the Morning Office Is to Be Said
The Morning Office on Sunday shall begin with Psalm 66
recited straight through without an antiphon.
After that let Psalm 50 be said with "Alleluia,"
then Psalms 117 and 62,
the Canticle of Blessing (Benedicite) and the Psalms of praise (Ps.
then a lesson from the Apocalypse to be recited by heart,
the responsory, the Ambrosian hymn, the verse,
the canticle from the Gospel book,
the litany and so the end.
By now, it should be clear that St. Benedict goes out of his way to
make Sunday special, its liturgy more solemn and joyous. Tucked in
this short chapter, however, is a key to the monastic struggle that
is often forgotten or under-emphasized in the modern West: lifelong
repentance. Not just during the week, but even on Sundays, the feast
of the Resurrection spread throughout the year, he wants the
monastics to say Psalm 50(51), "Have mercy on me, O God..." This is
the most famous confession of guilt in the Psalter, *THE* penitential
Psalm par excellence!
Because East and West understand very different things
by "repentance" it is easy for either side to become annoyed with the
interpretation of the other. Extremely put, an Easterner might be
turned off by what would be seen as the Western practice of "repent
and get over it," a more or less (to their eyes,) temporary activity.
Westerners would be equally grossed out by the Eastern position of
LIFELONG repentance. It would strike them as severe and overdone, a
bit like the perfect student cheerleader who bursts into tears
because she got an A minus! (How many of us plodders have wanted to
retch and gag at such Honor Roll tears!! Puhleeze, get a life!)
Hate to tell you, folks, but I think that the East has the healthiest
view on this one. They view repentance not just as mourning, but as
turning around, "metanoia." Granted, the term metanoia gained a
certain popularity in the West in the late 20th century, but its full
Eastern meaning as a synonym for repentance seems to have escaped us!
In the West, we would term metanoia as "conversion", a turning around
or away from and repentance more as a passive regret. To the East,
both these active and passive actions make up the whole of
repentance. This may seem a silly distinction, but when two parties
mean slightly different things by the same term, it is wise to clear
up the picture!
In that light, repentance is a turning which does not turn back. It
is not just passive remorse, it is active and lifelong conversion.
Ah, now our Western minds can wrap around it more easily! Repentance
means to Eastern ears what we Benedictines would call conversion of
manners! You don't repent once and quit, you go on and on in
There might be a Western glimmer of that absolute repentance which
continues in some fashion or other in a Spanish phrase: "De repente."
It is used to mean suddenly, all at once, in a twinkling. However,
(correct me, mis Latinos, if I am wrong here!) once something
happens "de repente" a complete and total return to the prior state
of affairs does not occur. If you fall in love "de repente" you may
indeed later fall out of love, but you will never return to the
condition which preceded your love, to the beloved being unknown or
ignored. De repente is not just sudden, it is, in a real sense,
definite: things will never the exactly the same again.
That's why St. Benedict wants us to repent everyday. He wants us to
never be exactly the same again! And that, beloveds, is what
conversion of manners is all about: different and hopefully better
Love and prayers,
jeromeleo@... St. mary's Monastery Petersham, MA