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Rule of St. Benedict: Chapter 15: At What Times “Alleluia” Is to Be Said, June 19, 2017

February 18, June 19, October 19
Chapter 15: At What Times “Alleluia” Is to Be Said

From holy Easter until Pentecost without interruption
let “Alleluia” be said
both in the Psalms and in the responsories.
From Pentecost to the beginning of Lent
let it be said every night
with the last six Psalms of the Night Office only.
On every Sunday, however, outside of Lent,
the canticles, the Morning Office, Prime, Terce, Sext and None
shall be said with “Alleluia,”
but Vespers with antiphons.

The responsories are never to be said with “Alleluia”
except from Easter to Pentecost.

 

Some thoughts

I love the words “alleluia” and “hallelujah”. In the original Hebrew, or so I am told, the word is best translated as “Praise Yahweh, you people”. Somehow we Christians have lost the meaning of the word as an exhortation to praise God but instead use the word to me solely “praise”.

A subtle distinction. Pedantic maybe. Perhaps even nit-picky. But I appreciate it because it reminds me praising our glorious Lord is not something I do by myself but is action common to the entire communion of saints, past, present, future. We raise our voices together with the archangels, angels, cherubim and seraphim

Alleluia! sing to Jesus! His the scepter, His the throne.

Alleluia! His the triumph, His the victory alone.

Hark! the songs of peaceful Zion thunder like a mighty flood.

Jesus out of every nation has redeemed us by His blood.

Alleluia! not as orphans are we left in sorrow now;

Alleluia! He is near us, faith believes, nor questions how;

Though the cloud from sight received Him when the forty days were o’er

Shall our hearts forget His promise, “I am with you evermore”?

Alleluia! bread of angels, Thou on earth our food, our stay;

Alleluia! here the sinful flee to Thee from day to day:

Intercessor, Friend of sinners, Earth’s Redeemer, plead for me,

Where the songs of all the sinless sweep across the crystal sea.

Alleluia! King eternal, Thee the Lord of lords we own;

Alleluia! born of Mary, Earth Thy footstool, Heav’n Thy throne:

Thou within the veil hast entered, robed in flesh our great High Priest;

Thou on earth both priest and victim in the Eucharistic feast.

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Rule of St. Benedict: Chapter 14: How the Night Office Is to Be Said on the Feasts of the Saints, June 18, 2017

February 17, June 18, October 18

Chapter 14: How the Night Office Is to Be Said on the Feasts of the Saints

On the feasts of Saints and on all festivals

let the Office be performed

as we have prescribed for Sundays,

except that the Psalms, the antiphons and the lessons

belonging to that particular day are to be said.

Their number, however, shall remain as we have specified above.

 

Some thoughts:

I am not sure when the observance of Saints’ days began. IIRC Peter Brown in _The Cult of the Saints: Its Rise and Function in Latin Christianity_ only says “late antiquity”. Since the Middle Ages started in 476 CE, St Benedict is one of the early medieval Christian writers. At any rate, the observation of Saints’ days was apparently well-established by his time.

The point I am taking my own sweet time getting to is this: I love Saints’ days. I always have. I am so grateful to the examples of the saints and martyrs. They have comforted me in distress, added to my happiness in times of joy. When we sing the Benedictus at Eucharist, I often get goosebumps as I think that the same words are constantly being sung in heaven.

Needles to say, the communion of saints, the Body of Christ, that idea that all Christians whoever were, are now or will be, are gathered together in some sacramentally mysterious way is something I love.

Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 13: How the Morning Office Is to Be Said on Weekdays, June 17, 2017

February 16, June 17, October 17
Chapter 13: How the Morning Office Is to Be Said on Weekdays

The Morning and Evening Offices
should never be allowed to pass
without the Superior saying the Lord’s Prayer
in its place at the end
so that all may hear it,
on account of the thorns of scandal which are apt to spring up.
Thus those who hear it,
being warned by the covenant which they make in that prayer
when they say, “Forgive us as we forgive,”
may cleanse themselves of faults against that covenant.

But at the other Offices
let the last part only of that prayer be said aloud,
so that all may answer, “But deliver us from evil.

 

Some thoughts:
 
I was curious about the reference to the “Superior saying the Lord’s Prayer in its place at the end so that all may hear it” so I looked it up Kardong’s Commentary. Apparently it was, in fact, a custom for the superior to pray the first part of the prayer with the congregation joining with the asking and promising forgiveness. Hence the need “so that all may hear it,” so they would know when to join in. Kardong also says that as a result of the liturgical reforms of Vatican II, singing of the entire Our Father is done by all the monks.
 
“on account of the thorns of scandal which are apt to spring up” refers to something Augustine of Hippo wrote about people omitting the forgiveness part of the Pater Noster thinking they weren’t obligated to it. As if.
 
The covenant referred to is the one of mutual asking and granting of forgiveness. So to Benedict, the asking and seeking forgiveness of the Our Father is not just something we promise to God but that we promise to each other. The monks (and us) are called together to hear God’s word which then demands that we forgive one another. In fact, that God will forgive us **only** if we forgive each other.

Rule of St. Benedict: Chapter 13: How the Morning Office Is to Be Said on Weekdays, June 16, 2017

February 15, June 16, October 16
Chapter 13: How the Morning Office Is to Be Said on Weekdays

On weekdays
the Morning Office shall be celebrated as follows.
Let Psalm 66 be said without an antiphon
and somewhat slowly,
as on Sunday,
in order that all may be in time for Psalm 50,
which is to be said with an antiphon.
After that let two other Psalms be said according to custom,
namely:
on Monday Psalms 5 and 35,
on Tuesday Psalms 42 and 56,
on Wednesday Psalms 63 and 64,
on Thursday Psalms 87 and 89,
on Friday Psalms 75 and 91,
and on Saturday Psalm 142 and the canticle from Deuteronomy,
which is to be divided into two sections
each terminated by a “Glory be to the Father.”
But on the other days let there be a canticle from the Prophets,
each on its own day as chanted by the Roman Church.
Next follow the Psalms of praise,
then a lesson of the Apostle to be recited from memory,
the responsory, the Ambrosian hymn, the verse,
the canticle from the Gospel book,
the litany, and so the end.

 

Some thoughts 

I love Psalms. I love them because they have taught there is nothing that I cannot bring to God. No matter how unworthy, ugly, sinful, nasty, it’s ok to bring it to God.

Psalms also teach me that God wants my every thought. That there is no part of me God doesn’t want.

Psalms teach me that I can learn to turn off that self-critical, self-editing voice in my mind that would tell me lies that I have to accomplish x,y,z before God wants me or become a,b,c before God wants me.

Look at what the psalmists never hesitated to say to God. Jesus tells us the truth sets us free. We see that Psalms told us this long before the Incarnation.

Rule of St. Benedict: Chapter 10: How the Night Office Is to Be Said in Summer Time, June 13, 2017

February 12, June 13, October 13
Chapter 10: How the Night Office Is to Be Said in Summer Time

From Easter until the Calends of November
let the same number of Psalms be kept as prescribed above;
but no lessons are to be read from the book,
on account of the shortness of the nights.
Instead of those three lessons
let one lesson from the Old Testament be said by heart
and followed by a short responsory.
But all the rest should be done as has been said;
that is to say that never fewer than twelve Psalms
should be said at the Night Office,
not counting Psalm 3 and Psalm 94.

Some Thoughts
 
Somewhere in the RB Benedict writes something about how nothing is to take precedence over the work of God, the opus Dei, which we also call the daily office.
 
In his monastery, they spent something like 7 hours of each day in prayer. I know very few of us can match that! Even in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer of The Episcopal Church, there are only 4 and that would be a stretch for most of us. I’m disabled and I don’t manage 4 offices every day. I’ve had to learn that caring for my mother is a substitute.
 
There are long instructions in the RB about how the offices are to be prayed. Maybe for us who are not in the monastery what we can take away from this section of the rule is the challenge to establish a committed and regular prayer life of our own.
 
When I still lived in Ipswich, MA and rode the train to and from Boston every day, I would pray morning and evening prayer on the train. In the morning, the train was emptier and quiet until we arrived in Beverly and by then I would have finished. In the evening, people were too tired or even asleep, so the train was quiet enough for evening prayer. And since I worked in Copley Square, Trinity Church was right there and I would pray noon prayers in the church. Except for the days when there was a noon Eucharist.
 
The thing is, we really will make time for what we most value.People are fond of saying “I’ll try” and if my experience is anything to go by, that is a polite fiction. Yoda evidently agrees with me because as he told Luke Skywalker, “There is not try, there is only do.”

Rule of St. Benedict: Chapter 8: On the Divine Office During the Night, June 11, 2017

February 10, June 11, October 11
Chapter 8: On the Divine Office During the Night

In the winter time,
that is from the Calends of November until Easter,
the sisters shall rise
at what is calculated to be the eighth hour of the night,
so that they may sleep somewhat longer than half the night
and rise with their rest completed.
And the time that remains after the Night Office
should be spent in study
by those sisters who need a better knowledge of the Psalter
or the lessons.

Some thoughts
 
Elsewhere in the RB, St. Benedict tells us that nothing should come between a monk and the work of God, which are the liturgical times of prayer, the Daily Office.
 
At the same time, a monastery in benedict’s day was self-sustaining and there was work to be done which needed to be done in the daylight so the monastics could see what they were doing.
 
How does Benedict balance the needs? First of all, he has everyone go to bed early in the winter. Why not? It’s cold and dark, might as well sleep and arise refreshed enough to get in some prayers before going out to tend to the fields, the animals, the grapevines, the gardens, the sick, those that need schooling.
 
Good advice for us who claim we never have any time during the day to pray. We could try going to bed earlier, getting up earlier, and devoting that precious time to our own work of God.

 

Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 7: On Humility, June 10, 2017

February 9, June 10, October 10

Chapter 7: On Humility

The twelfth degree of humility

is that a monk not only have humility in his heart

but also by his very appearance make it always manifest

to those who see him.

That is to say that whether he is at the Work of God,

in the oratory, in the monastery, in the garden, on the road,

in the fields or anywhere else,

and whether sitting, walking or standing,

he should always have his head bowed

and his eyes toward the ground.

Feeling the guilt of his sins at every moment,

he should consider himself already present at the dread Judgment

and constantly say in his heart

what the publican in the Gospel said

with his eyes fixed on the earth:

“Lord, I am a sinner and not worthy to lift up my eyes to heaven”

(Luke 18:13; Matt. 8:8);

and again with the Prophet:

“I am bowed down and humbled everywhere” (Ps. 37:7,9; 118:107).

Having climbed all these steps of humility, therefore,

the monk will presently come to that perfect love of God

which casts out fear.

And all those precepts

which formerly he had not observed without fear,

he will now begin to keep by reason of that love,

without any effort,

as though naturally and by habit.

No longer will his motive be the fear of hell,

but rather the love of Christ,

good habit

and delight in the virtues

which the Lord will deign to show forth by the Holy Spirit

in His servant now cleansed from vice and sin.

Some thoughts

Is our humility obvious in our very appearance? I can’t imagine that is that first impression I make on anyone.

I find the idea of constantly having head bowed and looking at the ground rather inconsistent with the idea of having been set free (and being set free each day from the heaviness of sin that’s promptly repented of and confessed).

I was always taught to ‘look up’ not down! – To see the wonders of God’s creation in the skies, in the countryside around me, in the faces of people met in the street. How is it edifying to gaze at a dirty pavement splattered with
trodden-in discarded chewing gum? Gazing up at the starry heavens and at all the glories of creation makes me feel humble in the presence of God.

Going round with head bowed doesn’t seem to witness to the joy and gratitude of having received salvation, grace, and endless love. Not that I want to argue with St Benedict but none of the modern Benedictine monks I’ve known have done this, nit even the three weeks I stayed in one.