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,
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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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