Prayers, please, for Ann Murray, terminal liver and pancreatic cancer
and for Ethan O'Brien, 18 months, cerebral plasy and now blind, may
never walk, also for both their families and all who bear these
crosses with them. God's will is best! Thanks so much. NRN JL
February 17, June 18, October 18
Chapter 14: How the Night Office Is to Be Said on the Feasts of the
On the feasts of Saints and on all festivals
let the Office be performed
as we have prescribed for Sundays,
except that the Psalms, the antiphons and the lessons
belonging to that particular day are to be said.
Their number, however, shall remain as we have specified above.
Every love life needs a bit of variety now and then, even the
monogamous ones, even the celibate ones, and, let us face it, our
prayer is (or ought to be!)a love life. Without marking certain days
as special, our Office would quickly become a bland and tedious bore.
On the other hand, mark too much as special and people soon get worn
out. Variety itself becomes boring and a chore. What sane married
couple would insist on spending every night in a different motel? One
or both would quickly tire of that and it would destroy the very
unity it was aiming to protect.
Having lived in a monastery for part of the 1960's and 70's where the
liturgy became the sad equivalent of a revolving door, changing often
and not often well, I can speak from experience. It became dreadful
to wonder what would happen next. It pulled out the necessary
underpinnings of a certain stability (gasp!) and changelessness that
a Benedictine life of prayer requires.
Ah, but in the quest for simplicity carried to unfortunate extremes,
it did, at times, become UTTERLY changeless. Same old same old, every
single day with nothing different but the prayer at the end, if that.
("Oh boy, it must be Tuesday again....!") No antiphons, just psalms
and canticles. No music other than the hymn, same seven each week for
each hour, a few good, many bad.... No Glory be between Psalms, just
one at the end. It was dull and gave even more of an impression
of "let's just get this over with" than the old Office did at its
very worst. One often wondered why we still bothered to go to choir.
A balance between variety and stability is where the virtue truly
lies. I have never heard anyone complain about singing or saying the
same unchanging parts of the Mass every day, because they are set in
the midst of elements that DO change every day. The same must be true
of the Office to a certain extent. When SO much changes at feasts
that one longs and pines for a weekday with one book and NOTHING
special, that balance has been missed. On the other hand, the
changeless mundane misses the balance as well. One should never have
to come out of a "simple" Office and think quietly: "Wow, that was
dumb...." (But I often have.)
St. Benedict built the necessary change right into his Office for
monasteries. Ignore his bottom line or extend it unduly and you get
into trouble. In this instance, as in so many, he was far wiser than
we are, than people of any age are.
Love and prayers,
jeromeleo@... St. Mary's Monastery