Ardent prayers, please, for Sr. Lany Jo and for her Mom, who is
dying. Prayers, too, for Pam, the ICU patient for whom we prayed and
for her family. She has died. God's will is best. All is mercy and
grace. Thanks so much! NRN JL
January 2, May 3, September 2
Let us arise, then, at last,
for the Scripture stirs us up, saying,
"Now is the hour for us to rise from sleep" (Rom. 18:11).
Let us open our eyes to the deifying light,
let us hear with attentive ears
the warning which the divine voice cries daily to us,
"Today if you hear His voice,
harden not your hearts" (Ps. 94:8).
"Whoever has ears to hear,
hear what the Spirit says to the churches" (Matt. 11-15; Apoc. 2:7).
And what does He say?
"Come, My children, listen to Me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord" (Ps. 33:12).
"Run while you have the light of life,
lest the darkness of death overtake you" (John 12:35).
Check out the similarities of this section, at the beginning of the
Holy Rule, and the readings of early Lent, which stress that "now is
the acceptable time." It brings to mind St. Benedict's later chapter
which says that the monastic life ought always to have some semblance
That perpetual Lent chapter is the source of a lot of grumbling about
austerity from one camp and cheering about it from another. Both may
have missed a salient point. Perhaps the greatest element of
perpetual Lent has less to do with austerity- even the monastic fast
did not last all year. What IS perpetually in style is wakefulness
Monastic life withers in either smugness or a rut. What St. Benedict
wants us to do is always to try and stay at that serious moment of
taking inventory that many of us feel at Lent's beginning. We need to
always be checking what needs to be cleaned up and we need to be
prepared, even a bit eager, to start working on it. This is why a
daily examination of conscience is so necessary. Compline, the
traditional liturgical place for such examens, is a very apt place
for same. As we prepare for sleep, which prefigures death, we prepare
also for death, by examining our faults and asking forgiveness.
The Holy Rule, like Lent, is by no means the gateway to an easier
life, but to a holier one. As we actually grow in holiness much of it
will become easier, more natural to us. But until that time, it is a
struggle and, in unconquered areas, it remains something of a
struggle for all of our lives. What's hard about that struggle isn't
fasting or penance, but changing ourselves. Austere practices are
just a means to that end, not ends in themselves.
The whole idea of Lent and the Holy Rule is lasting change for the
better. Lent is a seasonal construct to get us to begin anew, the
Holy Rule says that beginning anew must be a daily thing. Lent is an
attempt to get us to do for forty days what we ought to have been
doing all year. The Holy Rule is a way to do what we ought to do all
year, every day.
"Let us arise..." Not by accident does St. Benedict use the metaphor
of sleep in this passage. While it should be a real no-brainer that
one has to be awake to listen, this speaks directly to a necessary
condition of the Benedictine listener: profound change at the very
beginning of listening.
Ever wake from a sleep so deep (and refreshing!) that you had to
start by remembering your name, let alone what day it was? Ever find
yourself, upon waking, in a vague twilight zone that only slowly
sifts through the restless or frightening dreams that have passed and
the truth of reality that surrounds you? It is of just such an
awakening that St. Benedict speaks. When our ears finally open and
our eyes light upon the Holy Rule, even the difference at the start
in us is as great as that between night and day, as between the
phantasms of sleep and the light of day.
Three times a year the Holy Rule bids us to wake up, get out of bed
and listen. Each time should be a daybreak for all of us, from the
rankest postulant to the oldest jubilarian. We should come to welcome
those awakenings, realizing that sometimes awaking from dreams is a
tremendous relief! Think of the times a horrible nightmare has left
you utterly ecstatic at waking to learn its falsity!
Sleep prefigures death, as the most casual perusal of Compline's
prayers will demonstrate. St Benedict and Christ place before us
death and life, phantasm and reality, confused darkness and deifying
daybreak. Choose life, choose light, choose truth. They are better
than the very best of dreams, because Jesus said: "I am the Truth"
and "I am the Light."
Love and prayers,