Rule of St. Benedict: Chapter 43: On Those Who Come Late to the Work of God or to Table, November 22, 2016

March 23, July 23, November 22

Chapter 43: On Those Who Come Late to the Work of God or to Table

Anyone who does not come to table before the verse,

so that all together may say the verse and the oration

and all sit down to table at the same time —

anyone who

through his own carelessness or bad habit

does not come on time

shall be corrected for this up to the second time.

If then he does not amend,

he shall not be allowed to share in the common table,

but shall be separated from the company of all

and made to eat alone,

and his portion of wine shall be taken away from him,

until he has made satisfaction and has amended.

And let him suffer a like penalty who is not present

at the verse said after the meal.

And let no one presume

to take any food or drink

before or after the appointed time.

But if anyone is offered something by the superior

and refuses to take it,

then when the time comes

that he desires what he formerly refused

or something else,

let him receive nothing whatever

until he has made proper satisfaction.

Some Thoughts

As I read this, I am again surprised as I am every time I read it, that the usual exceptions are omitted. The one’s about guests or

whatever. Perhaps at this point, Benedict assumes it is a given that there may be exceptions. What do you think?

I daresay in Benedict’s mind as he wrote this, there were concerns for orderliness, respect to the servers, disruption of the reading that accompanies the meals. But I wonder if there is something else at work and that is the sacredness of the table.

By Benedict’s day, the Eucharist was a formal liturgy almost identical to what is used today among Roman Catholics, Anglicans and Methodists, at least. This liturgy dates back to at least 300 CE. In the earliest years, though, Jesus words to break bread, drink of the cup, remember, were incorporated into the daily meals, making them sacred acts. Of course, observant Jews of Jesus day and earlier also considered meals sacred.

I dunno where readers live, but the sacredness of mealtime is something that seems largely lost to us in the USA. I’ve known several families who get all their meals from fast food places. I know many people, women and men, who are proud to announce they can’t or will not cook. Parents of my acquaintance have bemoaned for decades that there is never even one meal a week when they are all home together.American television demonstrates children under 10 or 8 feeding themselves via the microwave and preparing Kraft macaroni and cheese or Tostinos pizza rolls.

What an appropriate reading for Thanksgiving Day, maybe one of 2 days a year (the other is Christmas) where families actually sit down and eat together. I am as bad as anyone. Most of my meals are taken alone and I bolt them. I gobble them down to get them over with so I can get back to knitting, reading, studying, the computer.

Mealtime has become a chore, not a grace. How do we take back meal as grace? Your thoughts and suggestions are most welcome.

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