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Mar 22

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  • russophile2002
    +PAX March 22, July 22, November 21 Chapter 43: On Those Who Come Late to the Work of God or to Table At the hour for the Divine Office, as soon as the signal
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 22, 2003
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      March 22, July 22, November 21
      Chapter 43: On Those Who Come Late to the Work of God or to Table

      At the hour for the Divine Office,
      as soon as the signal is heard,
      let them abandon whatever they may have in hand
      and hasten with the greatest speed,
      yet with seriousness, so that there is no excuse for levity.
      Let nothing, therefore, be put before the Work of God.

      If at the Night Office
      anyone arrives after the "Glory be to the Father" of Psalm 94 --
      which Psalm for this reason we wish to be said
      very slowly and protractedly --
      let him not stand in his usual place in the choir;
      but let him stand last of all,
      or in a place set aside by the Abbot for such negligent ones
      in order that they may be seen by him and by all.
      He shall remain there until the Work of God has been completed,
      and then do penance by a public satisfaction.
      the reason why we have judged it fitting
      for them so stand in the last place or in a place apart
      is that,
      being seen by all,
      they may amend for very shame.
      For if they remain outside of the oratory,
      there will perhaps be someone who will go back to bed and sleep
      or at least seat himself outside and indulge in idle talk,
      and thus an occasion will be provided for the evil one.
      But let them go inside,
      that they many not lose the whole Office,
      and may amend for the future.

      At the day Hours
      anyone who does not arrive at the Work of God
      until after the verse
      and the "Glory be to the Father" for the first Psalm following it
      shall stand in the last place,
      according to our ruling above.
      Nor shall he presume to join the choir in their chanting
      until he has made satisfaction,
      unless the Abbot should pardon him and give him permission;
      but even then the offender must make satisfaction for his fault.


      For too many years, I have read this chapter as just one more outline
      of punishments for offenses. I missed completely the message to be
      found in its title and I suspect many others have, too. The Work of
      God and Table are lumped together. They are not exactly equal, but
      they have many similarities and are, in some instances, nearly equal.

      Now, this is not something most people would have guessed, especially
      with all the details about times of fasting and amounts of food and
      drink, but it is true nonetheless. St. Benedict links the places and
      times where body and soul are nourished because he esteems both. Like
      any truly orthodox monastic, he escapes the heretical trap of making
      body and matter evil and spirit alone good. Because we sometimes
      unconsciously fall into that trap ourselves, it is easy to misread

      Neither St. Benedict nor monastic life itself hates the body. Both
      wish to discipline and control it, to remove the obstacles it
      presents to our spirits, but neither can hate the body, because God
      created it and God Himself assumed it. Talk all you will of bodily
      mortifications, but the bottom line is that nobody (quite
      literally, "no body",)is getting to the spiritual banquet without a
      truck to take them and that truck is the body. Kill it and you will
      not only have no means of allowing the soul to grow in time, but may
      well have violated the 5th commandment, as well, thereby fouling up
      your total efforts rather messily. Wow! What poor God has to untangle
      in His insistent love and will to save some of us!

      Monastic reforms over the centuries have frequently proclaimed a
      return to the "full rigor of the Rule." Whoops! Missed something
      there, folks. The Rule ain't rigorous. Says so himself, right in the
      Prologue: "...nothing harsh or burdensome." Being observant is one
      thing, but rigorous is quite another. To go beyond the Holy Rule in
      laxity OR austerity is a perilous mistake. Our Rule is balance and
      moderation. Take those away and the critter you are left with is no
      longer Benedictine.

      Rather than alienate the entire camp of those with Cistercian
      leanings in one fell swoop, I will give examples of failure on this
      count on BOTH sides at the time of the Cistercian reform in 1098.
      Cluny, remembered by some Benedictine historians with a bit of pride
      that is embarrassing, was WAY off the mark liturgically. Geegaws and
      doo-dads and little Offices and devotions for days. Ruined the
      balance. One abbot over literally hundreds of daughter houses and
      thousands of monks. Ruined local autonomy. Not surprisingly, a lot of
      other unlovely stuff crept in. Given the lack of Benedictine balance
      to hone their vision, the fact that they overlooked the mess they
      were in is hardly shocking. Lots of pruning was in order.

      Along come the first Cistercians who point out (maybe a teeny bit
      self-righteously?) that those slimy Benedictines are not only failing
      to abstain from "the flesh of four-footed animals," but are dining
      quite nicely on just about anything within reach. Well, there is a
      point there, then and now! But there is a point against the reforms
      of Citeaux and La Grande Trappe, too. Want to get literalist? The
      Holy Rule says meat from quadrupeds. If it meant all meat, period,
      that would have been easier to say; it would have even saved some ink
      and parchment, in an age when neither were that easy to come by. But
      it didn't say that. That left fish and poultry wide open. The
      Trappists didn't think so: meat, fish, eggs, milk and cheese ALL got
      banned. Okaaay..... But if you have only one oar in the water, you
      are quite likely to wind up going in circles...

      If the literal Rule is what you want, then take it, but always,
      always remember that the literal Rule cuts a LOT of slack and demands
      a lot of balance. Miss that and you might miss the boat entirely.

      Love and prayers,
      Jerome, OSB
      Petersham, MA
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