Rule of St. Benedict: Chapter 22: How the Sisters Are to Sleep, February 28, 2017

February 28, June 29, October 29
Chapter 22: How the Sisters Are to Sleep

Let each one sleep in a separate bed.
Let them receive bedding suitable to their manner of life,
according to the Abbess’s directions.
If possible let all sleep in one place;
but if the number does not allow this,
let them take their rest by tens or twenties
with the seniors who have charge of them.

A candle shall be kept burning in the room until morning.

Let them sleep clothed and girded with belts or cords —
but not with their knives at their sides,
lest they cut themselves in their sleep —
and thus be always ready to rise without delay
when the signal is given
and hasten to be before one another at the Work of God,
yet with all gravity and decorum.

The younger shall not have beds next to one another,
but among those of the older ones.

When they rise for the Work of God
let them gently encourage one another,
that the drowsy may have no excuse.

 

Some thoughts:
 
Any of us who have read in the history of monasticism know that the original monks in the Egyptian desert or in what is now Syria, had individual cells. By Benedict’s time, the norm was monastic dormitories. I’ve read that dormitories were preferred in order to stop the “abuses of private space”. One can only wonder what that charming expression means and perhaps, on the whole, it is just better not to go there.
 
I see some contrasts in this bit: dormitories; candles burning all nights; the younger monastics interspersed with the elder. Then we have attention to comfort and safety: bedding; knives. The point of both concerns is that the monastics be ready for the prayers. The Work of God is the central focus of their day and they must be ever ready to undertake it.
 
The question has to arise: what is the central focus of our days?
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