Holy Rule for Oct. 14
Deo gratias: Don had a good CT scan result, brain looks fine, further tests to come, so contiued prayers.
Prayers for Joanne and Stewart, financial and emotional problems, making a Marriage Encounter weekend.
Prayers, please, for Craig, who had a serious fall and is awaiting surgery.
Lord, help us all as You know and will.
God's will is best. All is mercy and grace. God is never absent, praise Him!
Thanks so much. JL
February 13, June 14, October 14
Chapter 11: How the Night Office Is to Be Said on Sundays
the hour of rising for the Night Office should be earlier.
In that Office let the measure already prescribed be kept,
namely the singing of six Psalms and a verse.
Then let all be seated on the benches in their proper order
while the lessons and their responsories are read from the book,
as we said above.
These shall be four in number,
with the chanter saying the "Glory be to the Father"
in the fourth responsory only,
and all rising reverently as soon as he begins it.
After these lessons
let six more Psalms with antiphons follow in order, as before,
and a verse;
and then let four more lessons be read with their responsories
in the same way as the former.
After these let there be three canticles
from the book of the Prophets,
as the Abbot shall appoint,
and let these canticles be chanted with "Alleluia."
Then when the verse has been said
and the Abbot has given the blessing,
let four more lessons be read,
from the New Testament,
in the manner prescribed above.
After the fourth responsory
let the Abbot begin the hymn "We praise You, O God."
When this is finished
the Abbot shall read the lesson from the book of the Gospels,
while all stand in reverence and awe.
At the end let all answer "Amen,"
and let the Abbot proceed at once
to the hymn "To You be praise."
After the blessing has been given,
let them begin the Morning Office.
This order for the Night Office on Sunday
shall be observed the year around,
both summer and winter;
unless it should happen (which God forbid)
that the brethren be late in rising,
in which case the lessons or the responsories
will have to be shortened somewhat.
Let every precaution be taken, however,
against such an occurrence;
but if it does happen,
then the one through whose neglect it has come about
should make due satisfaction to God in the oratory.
The idea of Vigils has very ancient Christian roots: watching all
night in prayer, particularly before Sunday, in anticipation of the
Second Coming (that they be found waiting, with lamps trimmed,) and
from the tradition that Jesus rose from the dead at dawn. The
connections of light/darkness and Son/sun are rich. Anyone who has
ever done an all-night Vigil can tell you it is a memorable
experience. They are frequently done, even in our own day, on Mount
Athos, lasting literally all night and including the chanting of the
With all this, it's no surprise that St. Benedict adds some extra
high church length to Vigils of Sunday. He still, however, makes a
lot of allowances for the monastics, even those who (God forbid!)
oversleep!! His Vigils are long, but they are quite pointedly NOT all
night! Doing an all night vigil for Sunday and every big feast would
do in a community of farmers in short order.
Many people who cut their teeth on pre-1964 Merton works, like "The
Silent Life" or "The Waters of Siloe", might think that the
Benedictines were a rather mitigated lot and the Cistercians were the
only ones who REALLY got the Holy Rule right. Well, yes and no... We
ARE a mitigated lot, we started out that way and have continued on
that middle road. St. Benedict designed his Rule as an adaptation and
yes, mitigation, of Egyptian monastic life, suitable for European
types. And no, the Cistercians are not at all necessarily the ones
who "got it right," as their own adaptations after 1964 clearly
Our long history is one of decline and repeated reform. The reforms,
understandably enough have always been aimed at sweeping away
mitigations and laxity. Predictably, they have often swept away a
good deal of moderation in the bargain, as well! Also, predictably,
the reforms themselves decay and have to be reformed: why do you
think there are Common Observance Cistercians and Trappists- two
Merton, like any of us, changed and grew. In his later years,
questions of observance and mitigation were at least less prominent
and sometimes totally absent. Right now it is probable that BOTH
Benedictines and Cistercians are living in their most relaxed and
mitigated conditions ever. That's not all bad. History might tell us
some of it will need tinkering, tightening up, but God will send the
men and women to do that in His time.
Rather than adopt an attitude of ALL-NIGHT, ALL the time,
get-every-boot-camp-in-toughest--shape and so forth, why not bask a
bit in the fact that we were born mitigated monastics and are meant to be so?
Nothing wrong with that, so long as we don't carry it too far. In the 19th
century, Russian Orthodox Saint Ignatius Brianchaninov said that the monks
of the latter days would NOT be doing many of the great works of old, but
that the peculiar conditions of the world in which they had to live would
balance things out. The modern and post-modern monastic faces many new obstacles
of which the Fathers and Mothers of old could have at best only dimly imagined.
When I first read Merton, he had some growing ahead of him and I was
14...didn't make for a very complete grasp on my part! Now, instead
of scorning relaxed observance in horror, I welcome it. Both Merton
and I learned something on different schedules: God gives certain
monasteries their particular observances because they are the only
place in the world some people could ever become monks. And this is
as true of relaxed observance as it is of strict!
Love and prayers,
St. Mary's Monastery
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******Somehow I skipped Nov. 28 and ran the 30th yesterday, so here's the
reading for the 28th to catch up.
March 29, July 29, November 28
Chapter 48: On the Daily Manual Labor
From the Calends of October until the beginning of Lent,
let them apply themselves to reading
up to the end of the second hour.
At the second hour let Terce be said,
and then let all labor at the work assigned them until None.
At the first signal for the Hour of None
let everyone break off from her work,
and hold herself ready for the sounding of the second signal.
After the meal
let them apply themselves to their reading or to the Psalms.
On the days of Lent,
from morning until the end of the third hour
let them apply themselves to their reading,
and from then until the end of the tenth hour
let them do the work assigned them.
And in these days of Lent
they shall each receive a book from the library,
which they shall read straight through from the beginning.
These books are to be given out at the beginning of Lent.
But certainly one or two of the seniors should be deputed
to go about the monastery
at the hours when the sisters are occupied in reading
and see that there be no lazy sister
who spends her time in idleness or gossip
and does not apply herself to the reading,
so that she is not only unprofitable to herself
but also distracts others.
If such a one be found (which God forbid),
let her be corrected once and a second time;
if she does not amend,
let her undergo the punishment of the Rule
in such a way that the rest may take warning.
Moreover, one sister shall not associate with another
at inappropriate times.
Lectio divina, sacred reading, is the Benedictine form of
contemplation, more ancient than many later forms, both Carmelite and
Athonite. Being so ancient, it comes with very few directions. Much
of its "method" has been developed and handed down by monastics over
the centuries since St. Benedict.
Even in that embellished form, it remains a very, very simple and
efficient means to contemplative prayer. One simply reads Scripture
or the Fathers (or Mothers!) slowly, reflectively, ruminating (like a
cow chewing its cud!) on each word and verse. As St. Romuald later
observed, one waits like a chick for whatever its mother gives it.
One does not read to get through the book. One reads to see if and
when the Holy Spirit calls us to higher prayer with a word or phrase
that strikes the heart. At that point, one should follow one's heart
and not worry about finishing the page! Cleared for takeoff!
It is interesting that St. Benedict weaves all these schedules of
contemplative reading and prayer together with his manual labor
concerns, without any ado. There's another example of the dignity and
holiness of work in a Benedictine theology. Our work, too, is prayer.
It must be.
We must, somehow, learn to be all prayer. That same
ruminative mindfulness that colors our lectio must color our labor as
well. It is a different form of attention, a different form of
prayer, but it is prayer nonetheless! Just ask any gardener or cook
with a mystical heart or, for that matter, any toilet cleaner or
diaper changer of the same ilk!
The Carmelites prescribe mental prayer, which should, with
recollection, spread throughout one's day. The hesychasts of Mount
Athos, Romania and Russia stress the Jesus Prayer, said vocally until
it becomes automatic in the heart at all times. Both of these are
more explicit methodologies, but the Benedictine aim is the same:
prayer without ceasing, prayer in choir and garden and cell, prayer
at reading and prayer at work. Mindfulness of God at all times is the
contemplative goal of all these systems.
This is just my own opinion, but I am inclined to think that the
Dominican concept of contemplation comes closest to our own, largely
because of their love of study. Study, for the Dominican, is often
very similar to lectio in the Benedictine scheme of things. Why?
Because the Dominican seeks Truth, and Jesus said: "I am the Truth."
A Dominican could be reading virtually anything and still know that
of real, objective truth garnered from that reading would be yet
another shard, no matter how small, in the infinite mosaic of the
face of Christ. That is a mosaic none of us shall ever complete in
this life, but oh, how much more familiar He shall seem to us when we
meet Him because of it!
Maybe I'm just prejudiced, but I think that a Dominican education,
such as I had, is a wonderful preparation for Benedictine life.
Love and prayers,
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