Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Chapter 14: The celebration of Vigils on feasts of saints

On the feasts of saints and on all other solemnities Vigils should follow the order laid down for the celebration of Sunday except that the psalms, antiphons and readings that are appropriate to the day should be recited; the order of the liturgy itself remains the same as that described for Sunday. (Ch. 14 of Saint Benedict's Rule, trans. by Patrick Barry, OSB, 1997.)

Benedict dignifies the feasts of saints as solemnities, but for me any saint's day -- any day -- can remind me what I have experienced through meditation -- that the "communion of saints" is not theoretical, but real, and is right now, within us and among us, a limitless, joyful, cosmic community of being.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Chapter 13: Lauds on ordinary days (paragraph 2)

It is important that the celebration of Lauds and Vespers should never be concluded without the recitation by the superior of the whole of the Lord's prayer so that all may hear and attend to it. This is because of the harm that is often done in a community by the thorns of conflict which can arise. Bound by the very word of that prayer 'forgive us as we also forgive' they will be cleansed from the stain of such evil. (From para. 2 of Ch. 13 of Saint Benedict's Rule, trans. by Patrick Barry, OSB, 1997.)

Seeing another's point of view, compassion, selflessness -- these, for me, are some of the rigorous components of forgiveness. Forgiveness is made especially hard when the weaknesses of my own ego still want to wreak havoc in a situation. And, at the same time, I certainly have more to learn about setting healthy boundaries in problematic relationships. But these rigorous ingredients of forgiveness, as well as transformation of the ego, are something I could never concoct on my own -- they are fruits of meditation.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Chapter 13: Lauds on ordinary days (paragraph 1)

On ordinary days Lauds should be celebrated like this: the sixty sixth psalm should be said with its antiphon but rather slowly, as on Sunday, to make sure that all are present for the fiftieth psalm which is said with its antiphon. (From para. 1 of Ch. 13 of Saint Benedict's Rule, trans. by Patrick Barry, OSB, 1997.)

Rather slowly -- those are the words I respond to here. "Run while you have the light of life!" is one of Benedict's admonitions. Yet he also understands that those of us who would be ardent are often simply absent. I so often take my time to get ready. I run late. And yet, all of this experience can be blessed, too, if I remember what Fr. John teaches, that the purpose of time is to learn patience. To learn patience with myself, to learn patience with others. To truly learn patience paradoxically dissolves the concept of time, I believe, so that I could always live ready, always at one, always in the moment.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Chapter 12: The celebration of solemn Lauds

Then come the hundred and seventeenth psalm and the sixty second followed by the Benedicite and Laudate psalms, a reading from the book of the Apocalypse recited by heart, the responsory, an Ambrosian hymn, a versicle, the Benedictus, litany and conclusion. (From Ch. 12 of Saint Benedict's Rule, trans. by Patrick Barry, OSB, 1997.)

Time and again I find Benedict telling his monks to recite prayers or whole readings from the Bible as part of saying the daily hours. Or, telling them to recite from heart if they are out in the fields and unable to come to the oratory. What is it that I can recite from heart? A few poems, a few prayers, some lyrics to hymns or popular songs? It's not an impressive inventory. I must take to heart that memorizing sacred text is the right use of my mind, and a shield against trivial distractions.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Chapter 11: Vigils or night office on Sunday

In these Vigils the arrangement should be that six psalms and a verse should be chanted, as described above, and then, when everyone has sat down in an orderly way on the benches, four lessons should be read from the book on the lectern with their responsories. (From Ch. 11 of Saint Benedict's Rule, trans. by Patrick Barry, OSB, 1997.)

I'm touched by St Benedict's observation that there should be a pause until every has sat down in an orderly way on the benches. He also observes twice at other points that all should rise as a sign of profound reverence. Benedict takes the trouble to consider the body at prayer, its orderliness -- being "gathered" as an individual and within the community, and the power of posture to produce praise. This "gathering" means much to me as I sit to meditate, as I prepare my body to find integration in my heart. And, also, in ending meditation with a deep bow, putting my head below my heart -- to teach me reverence and right order.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Chapter 10: The night office in summertime

Apart from that the arrangements for winter are followed exactly so that never less than twelve psalms should be recited at Vigils, not counting the third and ninety fourth psalms. (From Ch. 10 of Saint Benedict's Rule, trans. by Patrick Barry, OSB, 1997.)

Starting with the night office -- the prayers the monks arise for to begin their day -- Benedict establishes a vibrant rhythm, a predictable pattern of prayer, moving like a river of praise with a well-defined course. Surely, it seems to me, this repetition, like the repetition of the mantra, is the practice of obedience, fidelity, and immersion in the Other.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Chapter 9: The number of psalms at the night office

During this winter season the office of vigils begins with this verse recited three times; Lord, open my lips and my mouth will declare your praise. (From Ch. 9 of Saint Benedict's Rule, trans. by Patrick Barry, OSB, 1997.)

After so many passages in the chapter on humility counseling me to guard my silence, my speech and my laughter, St. Benedict calls upon me figuratively, to arise, to emerge -- in the darkest part of the day, and the coldest part of the year -- and to ask God to open my mouth, like I am being newly born into a universe of praise.