March 21, July 21, November 20
Chapter 42: That No One Speak After Compline
Monastics ought to be zealous for silence at all times,
but especially during the hours of the night.
For every season, therefore,
whether there be fasting or two meals,
let the program be as follows:
If it be a season when there are two meals,
then as soon as they have risen from supper
they shall all sit together,
and one of them shall read the Conferences
or the Lives of the Fathers
or something else that may edify the hearers;
not the Heptateuch or the Books of Kings, however,
because it will not be expedient for weak minds
to hear those parts of Scripture at that hour;
but they shall be read at other times.
If it be a day of fast,
then having allowed a short interval after Vespers
they shall proceed at once to the reading of the Conferences,
as prescribed above;
four or five pages being read, or as much as time permits,
so that during the delay provided by this reading
all may come together,
including those who may have been occupied
in some work assigned them.
When all, therefore, are gathered together,
let them say Compline;
and when they come out from Compline,
no one shall be allowed to say anything from that time on.
And if anyone should be found evading this rule of silence,
let her undergo severe punishment.
An exception shall be made
if the need of speaking to guests should arise
or if the Abbess should give someone an order.
But even this should be done with the utmost gravity
and the most becoming restraint.
The Hepateuch, just in case you are wondering, is the first seven books of the Hebrew Scriptures, Genesis through Judges. I cannot tell you how comforting I find it that Benedict also had problems with the Books of Joshua, Judges and Kings because I certainly do. The reading Benedict discusses above could, if one felt like being silly as I often do, be considered the monastics/ bedtime story and The events chronicled in Joshua and judges, in particluar are not conducive to pleasant dreams.
I appreciate his “let them be read at other times” because, of course, even if we may not care for what’s in the Bible, it’s there and we must deal with it. Benedict teaches us that we can choose appropriate tiems for dealing with the troubling bits.
Ah, silence! How I cherish it. How I long for it. I simply don’t understand why there must be so much noise. Several years ago, I spent 6 weeks trying to track down the City Engineer of the town I lived in. They had installed an audible device on the stop lights so that the vision impaired could hear when it was theoretically safe to cross the street. Whoever installed it set it as the highest possible volume. Every time it was safe to cross the street, it made a sound like the cuckoo from the clock and could be heard 1000 feet away. While I certainly want the blind to cross the street in safety, I thought a compromise in the volume could be reached.
Do you feel as I? That people are afraid of silence? That it has to be filled up so they don’t have to face up to what is going on inside of them? Or am I being judgmental? For that matter, I simply don’t understand why machinery has to be so loud. Surely it could be manufactured to be work more quietly?
I love that that the exceptions to the rule of silence are hospitality first and the orders of the monastic superior second.