Prayers for Ian and Dana, custody mess today, also for Peg, sick
while travleing in Europe, for all those in war zones and for peace
in all hearts! Thanks so much. God's will be done! NRN jl
March 31, July 31, November 30
Chapter 49: On the Observance of Lent
Although the life of a monk
ought to have about it at all times
the character of a Lenten observance,
yet since few have the virtue for that,
we therefore urge that during the actual days of Lent
the brethren keep their lives most pure
and at the same time wash away during these holy days
all the negligences of other times.
And this will be worthily done
if we restrain ourselves from all vices
and give ourselves up to prayer with tears,
to reading, to compunction of heart and to abstinence.
During these days, therefore,
let us increase somewhat the usual burden of our service,
as by private prayers and by abstinence in food and drink.
Thus everyone of his own will may offer God
"with joy of the Holy Spirit" (1 Thess. 1:6)
something above the measure required of him.
From his body, that is
he may withold some food, drink, sleep, talking and jesting;
and with the joy of spiritual desire
he may look forward to holy Easter.
Let each one, however, suggest to his Abbot
what it is that he wants to offer,
and let it be done with his blessing and approval.
For anything done without the permission of the spiritual father
will be imputed to presumption and vainglory
and will merit no reward.
Therefore let everything be done with the Abbot's approval.
What does this idea of a perpetual Lent mean? Wow! There's a real
party animal life! Yecch! (Which is exactly how St. Benedict knew
that most of us would react: "...few have the virtue for that...")
Well, for one thing, let us look closely at Lent as a time of special
spiritual effort and striving. That is a prime example of the sort of
perpetual Lent we, who seek the wisdom of St. Benedict's Holy Rule,
ought always to keep. It is intimately tied to our Benedictine vow of
conversatio morum, change of our way of life, which demands that we
never altogether stop trying to be better.
Listen, beloveds, I hope none of us who have put our hands to the
plough ever turn back, but get real! Many of us take all the bathroom
breaks we can! So human, so easy to forget that! But, in my own
experience, it is also easy (embarrassingly easy sometimes!) to keep
trying, in even the most token of ways.
Bear in mind that I am light years away from being the best
housekeeper, of my soul or my room. When a really bad depression
strikes, I manage to put one foot in front of the other and function,
for the most part. But my living space, on which I can lock the door,
suffers sorely. With a long experience, I know that this can feed the
depression: now, cyclically on top of everything else, one lives in a
growing dump. Sigh...
Here's what I have done, at least some of the time. I resolve to make
three things about my room better. I know myself fairly well, so I
set the standards for that REALLY low. It may be as simple as moving
a stamp that I have left somewhere. Sometimes it seems totally
insignificant, sometimes its only value is a token effort. But it
keeps me going and it keeps me trying and I can assure you, it is
I tell you this because we can do the same sort of thing with our
souls on days when nothing in the world makes us want to change our
minds about not trying at all. Do three tiny things, even tiniest
things. Anyone can usually pull that off. Sometimes, as my dear amma
Pauline had said, "the only way to stay married is not to leave."
That will often be true of all of our monastic struggles. Sometimes
the best we can do is not to leave, not to quit. God, Who made us,
perfectly understands that and smiles warmly at our pathetic human
efforts. His Mercy is infinitely closer to us at such down times than
we could ever imagine. We are never, never alone. But we must learn
to act as if we beleive that!
Love and prayers,
St. Mary's Monastery Petersham, MA