Rule of St. Benedict: Chapter 42: That No One Speak After Compline, March 21, 2017

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.


Some Thoughts:
One might be forgiven for thinking this section really ought to be called “What to read in the evenings” as more attention seems to be given to that than silence, as the chapter says. Seems to me, though, the importance of the selection of reading materials is very much linked to what is or is not conducive to silence.
The Hepateuch, the 1st 7 books of the Bible, Genesis through Judges, is fraught, at least for me, with some of the most challenging passages in all of Scripture. Ditto Kings. For that matter, 1st and 2nd Samuel also, which Benedict did not specify.
Perhaps Benedict knew far earlier than most that what we put into our minds just before bedtime will have repercussions on our sleep, our ability to find repose in God and therefore affect us the next day.
I find myself wondering how many people would have fewer nightmares, anxieties, insomnia etc if they did not use the 11 PM news as their bedtime story.

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