Holy Rule for Oct. 14
Prayers, please, for Marialyce, neck problems still bothering her, first
round of physical therapy was not very helpful, staring a new round and hoping
for better results. Prayers of thanks and Deo gratias for Enza, seriously
injured in a cab accident, now back taking classes again. prayers for the pilot
and instructor killed when their plane crashed into a NY apartment building,
also for the resident of the apt. struck (fortunately not at home,) and for her
son. She suffered serious injuries a few years ago and has never fully
recovered. Prayers for Sister Clare, (not our Petersham Sr. M. Clare,)
fibromyalgia and other more debilitating conditions, having a rough time of things. Deo
gratias and thanks: Walter, for whom we prayed after his stroke is doing
very well and getting around with a cane, his wife and daughter are so relieved
and grateful for the prayers, too! Lord, help us as You know and will. God's
will is best. All is mercy and grace. God is never absent, praise Him! Thanks
so much. JL
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.
The idea of Vigils has very ancient Christian roots: watching all
night in prayer, particularly before Sunday, in anticipation of the
Second Coming (that they be found waiting, with lamps trimmed,) and
from the tradition that Jesus rose from the dead at dawn. The
connections of light/darkness and Son/sun are rich. Anyone who has
ever done an all-night Vigil can tell you it is a memorable
experience. They are frequently done, even in our own day, on Mount
Athos, lasting literally all night and including the chanting of the
ENTIRE Psalter. Remember what I said a few days ago about if liturgy
is long, it's good?
With all this, it's no surprise that St. Benedict adds some extra
high church length to Vigils of Sunday. He still, however, makes a
lot of allowances for the monastics, even those who (God forbid!)
oversleep!! His Vigils are long, but they are quite pointedly NOT all
night! Doing an all night vigil for Sunday and every big feast would
do in a community of farmers in short order.
Many people who cut their teeth on pre-1964 Merton works, like "The
Silent Life" or "The Waters of Siloe", might think that the
Benedictines were a rather mitigated lot and the Cistercians were the
only ones who REALLY got the Holy Rule right. Well, yes and no...
We ARE a mitigated lot, we started out that way and have continued on
that middle road. St. Benedict designed his Rule as an adaptation and
yes, mitigation, of Egyptian monastic life, suitable for European
types. And no, the Cistercians are not at all necessarily the ones
who "got it right," as their own adaptations after 1964 clearly
Our long history is one of decline and repeated reform. The reforms,
understandably enough have always been aimed at sweeping away
mitigations and laxity. Predictably, they have often swept away a
good deal of moderation in the bargain, as well! Also, predictably,
the reforms themselves decay and have to be reformed: why do you
think there are Common Observance Cistercians and Trappists- two
Merton, like any of us, changed and grew. In his later years,
questions of observance and mitigation were at least less prominent
and sometimes totally absent. Right now it is probable that BOTH
Benedictines and Cistercians are living in their most relaxed and
mitigated conditions ever.
That's not all bad. History might tell us some of it will need
tinkering, tightening up, but God will send the men and women to do
that in His time. Rather than adopt an attitude of ALL-NIGHT, ALL the
time, get-every-boot-camp-in-toughest-possible-shape and so forth,
why not bask a bit in the fact that we were born mitigated monastics
and are meant to be so?
When I first read Merton, he had some growing ahead of him and I was
14...didn't make for a very complete grasp on my part! Now, instead
of scorning relaxed observance in horror, I welcome it. Both Merton
and I learned something on different schedules: God gives certain
monasteries their particular observances because they are the only
place in the world some people could ever become monks. And this is
as true of relaxed observance as it is of strict!
St. Ignatius Brianchaninov of Russia said that the monks of the
latter times would NOT do the great feats of monastic asceticism and
prayer that the ancients did, but that they would have a whole
panoply of new problems all their own to wrestle with differently. He
said that in the mid to late 19th century, but it looks like he was
right on the mark!
Love and prayers,
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