Holy Rule for Nov. 29
******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,
[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,