Holy Rule for Oct. 23
Prayers, please, for the eternal rest of James, on the anniversary of his death, and for all who mourn him.
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 22, June 23, October 23
Chapter 18: In What Order the Psalms Are to Be Said
At Terce, Sext and None on Monday let the nine remaining sections
of Psalm 118 be said,
three at each of these Hours.
Psalm 118 having been completed, therefore, on two days, Sunday and
Monday, let the nine Psalms from Psalm 119 to Psalm 127 be said at
Terce, Sext and None, three at each Hour, beginning with Tuesday.
And let these same Psalms be repeated every day until Sunday at the
same Hours, while the arrangement of hymns, lessons and verses is
kept the same on all days; and thus Prime on Sunday will always
begin with Psalm 118.
Running psalmody, that is, reciting the Psalms in numerical order,
no matter what came next, was a very common ancient monastic
practice. Since one of the principles behind the Psalter was to "get
it all in" in the space of a week, that running psalmody was a
consequence. St. Benedict obviously had some of that on his mind:
he goes from detailed directions about the spacing of the longest
Psalm, 118, right into assigning the next 9 to the minor hours
which are repeated throughout the week from Tuesday to Saturday.
As a result, one could safely say that there is nothing specific to
the time of day as such about these Psalms, but that is not
entirely correct. These nine Psalms from 119-127 are gradual
Psalms, pilgrimage songs. They were sung by the Jews as they were
to Jerusalem. They are filled with the tension of anticipation and
possession of God's Temple and His blessings, they are songs
of "already" and "not yet".
The gradual Psalms are short, compact units, easily memorized.
Since memory is one thing the Holy Rule no doubt was providing for-
these Offices frequently had to be said on the spot, in the fields-
it is very likely that this group were quite deliberately chosen.
No one in their right mind would suggest some of the longer Psalms
for easy memorization!!
Regardless of what St. Benedict may or may not have had in mind,
the Holy Spirit can use all of us, even St. Benedict, in ways we do
not realize. Read through these Psalms and picture yourself saying
them in a distant field, with the Abbey in view, but far away. Get
idea? The pilgrim songs that speak of already AND not yet were the
perfect thing for monastics to say in such circumstances.
Jerusalem, the House of God, was both a distant view and a complete
possession, since ALL of the monastery is the House of God.
It is easy, terribly easy, to forget that we live "in the House of
God." We do, all monastics do, Oblates do, everyone does. It IS
God's world. Being reminded of this by those Psalms of journeying
is a great idea. Our feet really are "standing within your gates, O
Jerusalem!" yet we also see it as from a distance. We look from
afar and see that Jerusalem is a city compact, a unity of peace and
order. Who has seen a monastery on a hill and not had similar
Even the accidental end of the sequence (which continues in
Vespers,) has a wonderful application. "Blessed are those who fear
the Lord, who walk in His ways!" It recounts the joys and
protections of a life lived for God and ends with the plea: "On
Israel, peace!" Just
picture yourself saying that at the end of a hard day's work in the
field, looking at back Abbey Church, the safe home of gathered
family and choir. Not shabby!
Love and prayers,
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
Prayers for all Canadians celebrating Thanksgiving, and special prayers for Mary and her sisters, on the first Thanksgiving after their Mom’s death. Prayers, too, for the eternal rest of Margaret, their Mom.
Prayers for our monks and nuns of Petersham, we are having our annual retreat this week. Prayers, too, for Abbot Matthew, former abbot of St. Anselm’s in Manchester, New Hampshire, who is our retreatmaster. May the Holy Spirit fill us all.
Deo gratias and prayers of thanks, Johnny, for whom we prayed before his quadruple bypass surgery, has gone home from the hospital and all is well.
Prayers for Anneclaire, for healing of damage done by violent abuse in her past which is hurting her relationships today. May God heal all the wounds of her past.
Prayers for Jenny R., just diagnosed with malignant nodular melanoma, a very aggressive form of skin cancer. She will find out what stage it is and if its spread to other parts of her body soon. Prayers that it hasn’t spread and that it can be treated successfully.
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
[This portion seems to beg for division into two parts, so I have done
that in the reflection.]
February 9, June 10, October 10
Chapter 7: On Humility
The twelfth degree of humility
is that a monk not only have humility in his heart
but also by his very appearance make it always manifest
to those who see him.
That is to say that whether he is at the Work of God,
in the oratory, in the monastery, in the garden, on the road,
in the fields or anywhere else,
and whether sitting, walking or standing,
he should always have his head bowed
and his eyes toward the ground.
Feeling the guilt of his sins at every moment,
he should consider himself already present at the dread Judgment
and constantly say in his heart
what the publican in the Gospel said
with his eyes fixed on the earth:
"Lord, I am a sinner and not worthy to lift up my eyes to heaven"
(Luke 18:13; Matt. 8:8);
and again with the Prophet:
"I am bowed down and humbled everywhere" (Ps. 37:7,9; 118:107).
Alcoholics Anonymous jokes about what they call "Two-steppers," that
is, people who decide to jump right from Step 1, acknowledging their
problem, to Step 12, carrying the message to others, with nothing in
between! Wrong! Doesn't work that way...
We sometimes see a similar mistake in folks and humility.
Bingo, they go right to the twelfth degree with nothing to build
their external humility on but the images of Hollywood. Such
individuals are usually well-intentioned enough, but one look at
their demeanor will tell one that there is probably a very badly worn
tape of "The Nun's Story"!
I'm not knocking the film, I loved it, too! But it WAS Hollywood and it
is not real life! Monastic life will do a lot of things but sorry, it will
you Audrey Hepburn!
People who learn that have a chance to stay, people who don't often
leave because no monastery fits the Hollywood model, though they
often keep looking for one that does!
Second Section of the Reading:
Having climbed all these steps of humility, therefore,
the monk will presently come to that perfect love of God
which casts out fear.
And all those precepts
which formerly he had not observed without fear,
he will now begin to keep by reason of that love,
without any effort,
as though naturally and by habit.
No longer will his motive be the fear of hell,
but rather the love of Christ,
and delight in the virtues
which the Lord will deign to show forth by the Holy Spirit
in His servant now cleansed from vice and sin.
This crucially important second part is why none of those Hollywood
roles quite make it AND why the first section is spared from
Jansenism. (Jansenism, you may recall, was a heresy which held that
we could NEVER be worthy, NEVER do enough penance and so forth. In
its sad extremes, it harked to a sort of Pelagian attitude, implying
that we might be able to do something if we did enough harsh stuff!
But, of course, even that would never be enough. It was a rather mean
idea of God.)
Humility is NOT affected, not presupposing, hence efforts to LOOK
humble when one is not so will fall woefully short of the mark. No
Academy Awards for this one! When they call for the envelope, it will
Genuine humility is the most unself-conscious thing in the
world. It produces the external demeanor without any further ado,
because the person actually (and usually unwittingly!) BECOMES the
truth they are striving to live. Humility shows up in the face, in
everything, just as years of bitterness or years of love often do.
You couldn't hide humility if you wanted to, but you don't need to,
because the true humility is rarely even noticed and those who are
less humble tend to discount the really humble as nobodies. In one
sense, they are quite right! Both would agree on that!
If one never gets to the joy and love of the end of this passage,
there will be no reason not to look artificially rather glum over
sins that one probably doesn't believe at heart are that great anyhow.
This is where some folks miss the mark. They can stop at the
perpetual gloom and dread point, without realizing the contemplative
joy and love beyond that.
Monasticism is true, but the Gospel is more so. Neither Jansenism nor
perpetual gloom would play very well with Matthew, Mark, Luke or
John. That means they wouldn't play well with St. Benedict, either,
as his second portion surely guarantees. Love and joy and humility
are an inseparable trio! When fear is cast out, gloom goes right
along with it!
Love and prayers,