Holy Rule for Oct. 25/26
This is the reading for Oct. 25, I accidentally sent out Oct. 26 yesterday, so
this is trying to catch up and remedy the error. JL
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 24, June 25, October 25
Chapter 18: In What Order the Psalms Are to Be Said
The order of psalmody for the day Hours being thus arranged, let
all the remaining Psalms be equally distributed among the seven
Night Offices by dividing the longer Psalms among them and
assigning twelve Psalms to each night.
We strongly recommend, however, that if this distribution of the
Psalms is displeasing to anyone, she should arrange them otherwise,
in whatever way she considers better,
but taking care in any case that the Psalter with its full number
of 150 Psalms be chanted every week and begun again every Sunday at
the Night Office. For those monastics show themselves too lazy in
the service to which they are vowed, who chant less than the
Psalter with the customary canticles in the course of a week,
whereas we read that our holy Fathers strenuously fulfilled that
task in a single day. May we, lukewarm that we are, perform it at
least in a whole week!
I am going to begin this by reprinting two paragraphs of very
important qualifications from the last post on this chapter, in
"I hasten to add a word of caution to Oblates here: the Holy Rule
is referring to choral Office in monasteries. To undertake for
oneself such an Office could well be unwise, and sometimes, even
wrong. The conditions of one's state in life come first. Oblates who
are parents or married have kept Vigils and Nocturns with sick children
or spouses of which professed monastics would never dream. Don't get
hung up on this one. SHARE the Office all you can, but tend first
to the responsibilities of your state in life.
Before I became a monk I used to OCCASIONALLY do all 150 Psalms
alone. There were two things worthy of mention here: I was a single
man with one (very loving!) cat, and I recited them. Even at that,
I can assure you it took up a chunk of time. Hence, Oblates should
take great care that they don't obsess on this notion. Do what you
can and rest assured that your community, and the Order and the
whole praying Church is "making up" whatever you can't offer."
A couple of years ago, the guesthouse well died (temporarily,
thanks be to God!) We had to gather 10 gallon plastic buckets for
each bathroom, haul them down the hill to the monastery in the
station wagon, fill them and bring them back. What a hassle! We
also had to caution the guests rather indelicately about no
unnecessary flushes. Even more recently, a storm left us without
electricity for several hours. Afraid to open the fridge too much
and with no oven, we ordered pizza in Athol for the guesthouse.
Both of these things were tough, but neither were anything compared
to the amount of labor required to maintain life in the first
centuries of the Order's existence. Neither were there lay
brothers to do all that work in those days, since they were a much
later development. No electricity, no indoor plumbing, no running
water, no phones, no Athol House of Pizza to call and no car to pick
it up in. (OK aqueducts in some places, but you get the picture...)
In the midst of a life that we would find crushingly different, St.
Benedict insisted on the weekly 150. Hmmmm......
We live in a world where countless labor-saving devices and perks
give us far more time than anyone in history has ever had. Are we
always good stewards of that abundance? Heaven knows, I don't want
to give up those modern advantages, look at how hooked on computers
I am. But what do we do with all that time? How much of the time we
save goes to prayer? How much goes to mindless stuff we could well
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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