Prayers, please for Johanna, undergoing delicate eye surgery, and for
Judith, her concerned Mom. Also for Mrs. Hazlett, Mary's Mom, who
suffered a stroke on Wednesday. friday is her 50th Wedding
anniversary. Prayers for all the family. God's will is best. NRN JL
February 26, June 27, October 27
Chapter 20: On Reverence in Prayer
When we wish to suggest our wants to persons of high station,
we do not presume to do so
except with humility and reverence.
How much the more, then,
are complete humility and pure devotion necessary
in supplication of the Lord who is God of the universe!
And let us be assured
that it is not in saying a great deal that we shall be heard (Matt
but in purity of heart and in tears of compunction.
Our prayer, therefore, ought to be short and pure,
unless it happens to be prolonged
by an inspiration of divine grace.
In community, however, let prayer be very short,
and when the Superior gives the signal let all rise together.
There is a necessary tension in Benedictine prayer, both public and
private, between the awesome majesty and otherness of God and His
infinite closeness and approachability. God is among us. He is not
the guy next door, but neither is He some untouchable, easily
offended emperor or sultan. Both these truths must be addressed in
order to maintain a correct balance.
God doesn't need ceremony, He doesn't need anything. All the high
church in the world might (or might not...) tickle His fancy, but it
does not one whit for Him personally. The rub here is that WE need
what we offer to God, and that has been all too often forgotten in
the last 40 years or so. In a very real and subtle sense, we BECOME
what we offer to God, often quite unnoticed by ourselves. The upshot
of all this is clear: offer God the lowest possible common
denominator and that is what those offering will become; offer Him
empty and presumptuous high church and be not surprised when those
offering such things become rather pathetically silly themselves. In
fact, sad fact, either extreme will make people pathetically silly
and spiritually impoverished besides.
Balance, always balance! The Holy Rule says "our prayer should short
and pure." Fine, but the last part of that phrase has often gotten
lost in the struggles of reform. Just plain short doesn't get it. God
doesn't care about short, except insofar as it cheats us, those He
loves. The balance of short AND pure will feed a normal soul well.
Hence, if you find liturgy in any given place leaves you at least
hungry and maybe starving, it's a safe guess that something might be
wrong. God is still served, but His people often are not. That should
upset both God and us.
Many of those who tinkered with the Office in some of our monasteries
were neither mystics nor liturgists. One hopes that, even though
foolish at some extremes, they were at least well-intentioned,
however, having lived with some of them, that is a difficult ruse of
charity for me to maintain. Many who tinkered at Saint Leo, the
monastery of my youth, are now seeking their fulfillment elsewhere,
with partners of either gender. Much of their tinkering was done in
the midst of their worst vocational crises, with predictable results.
The problem is that at any monastery, such things have a dreadful way
of outliving their progenitors. Monastics have a tendency to leave
things in place, not always wisely, by any stretch.
I can only speak of the guys I knew personally, but many of them had
a seriously deficient sense of history AND liturgy, not that either
were paramount concerns in their eyes. The very 60's name of the game
was a tragically appropriate line (from Laugh-In, yet!!) of "What's
Happening NOW!" Whoops...not precisely the way the Council put it.
They eagerly dismantled and reassembled monastic liturgy as if it had
all the excesses of 11th century Cluny in 1964. It didn't. It needed
work, but it wasn't Cluny. In many cases, they reduced liturgy to
less than the historical reaction to Cluny of Citeaux and the first
Cistercians in 1098. Hey, if they didn't have Cluny in the first
place, going to more starkly bare liturgy than Citeaux was a bit of
an over-reaction... Especially if the people involved were not
Cistercian mystics, and let us be frank, they were not.
This mess, and it is just that in some cases, will not end in my
lifetime. I long hoped that it would. I longed to live again in a
church where it was otherwise. Ain't gonna happen, and that is hard
to accept. Sigh... What an odd sense of humor God has in creating us
when He does, at times that seem so out of sync, but somehow must not
Love and prayers,
jeromeleo@... St. Mary's Monastery