Today, the Feast of the Presentation of Mary in the Temple, is
very special feast day for Oblates, rather like the day that
Mary "made her
Oblation", if you will. Even if your religious tradition does not
approve of prayers to Mary, please use today in a special way for
all of us Oblates to pray for each other and all Oblates throughout
time. It has been a favorite Oblate feast for many, many years!
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
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.
First, an aside. The signal to get moving, whatever it may be, is
usually a bell or something like it. Our modern age looks at any
request or command we don't like as a time to start negotiations, not
to obey. We may euphemize this with terms like "dialogue" but the
bottom line is finding a graceful way to say either "Hell, NO!" or
considerably less than "Yes!" or "OK, fine!"
Bells, however, are inexorable and there is no point in arguing with
them. Their stoic silence will win every time! It is worth
remembering that, in the old days, the bell was known as the "vox
Dei," the voice of God. It is further worth recalling that arguing
with God isn't usually very successful, either!
There is a gem buried here that gets lost in the wash of
being late or being on time or kneeling out or not. That treasure
is: "Let nothing, therefore, be put before the Work of God." (Older
translations had: "let nothing be preferred to the Work of God." This
has usually been cited, quite rightly, a a basis for the centrality
of liturgy in Benedictine life, but that is an incomplete view, one
which leaves riches beyond telling unmined.The full sense of this
goes well beyond liturgy.
For the monastic, EVERYTHING holy obedience asks of us is in some
way the work of God. ALL of God's will for us becomes our priority.
what our commitment means. Monastic struggle sacralizes every jot
tittle. In one sense, there is no small stuff anymore. (That can be
a trap for the
scrupulous if over-applied, so watch out, folks! Balance, always
The distinction between sacred and profane is all but obliterated.
Our life is
of a whole, and that holistic life is most often informed of God's
wishes for us
That can require tremendous faith and trust in God, but God does
reward such trust richly beyond our dreams. Contemporary attempts by
some to reduce all Benedictine obedience to a process of dialogue or
negotiation, or to make it a communal affair or a consensual one are
terribly far off the mark. The textual evidence of the Holy Rule, as
well as historical and traditional evidence simply do not support
The Rule speaks of dialogue only when one is commanded to do the
impossible, not the merely unpalatable! Even then, if the superior
insists, one must trust and obey. Tough saying, but obedience works
best when it isn't a lot of fun...
But back to priorities. Surely the Office comes first before lesser
obediences. Being late because one finished something that could wait
is a poor excuse, because it shows what is valued most- one's own
will. On the other hand, when one is tormented with pain that
perceptive superiors will notice, perhaps being late is the best one
can do, and that matters, too. We often judge without considering the
heroism required of some to make even an incomplete effort.
Love and prayers,
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