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.
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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.

Reflection on a Saying of a Desert Christian: anonymous

A young monk went to consult a certain spiritual elder.

“I fulfill all of my monastic duties,” he told him, “and then some; nevertheless, my soul finds no peace. I receive no consolation from God.”

“You live according to your own will – for this reason all of these things occur to you,” the elder explained to him.

“What must I do, then, Abba, to be at peace?”

“Go find an elder having the fear of God in his soul. Surrender yourself to him in all that he wishes and let him guide you, as he sees fit, to the path of God. Then your soul will find consolation.”

The youth listened to the elder’s advice and his soul found peace.

 

This young monk has discipline and determination, make no mistake about that. His commitment is deep. Would that more of us had such commitment, determination, and discipline to embrace the journey with Christ.
 
Thing is, though, he is doing it out of his will, and not out of grace. The elder he consults recommends that the younger monk set aside his own desires, his own will to obey a more experienced abba. This frees the young monk from doing it on his own, going ti alone.
 
Now, of course, one would want to be very careful to whom one relinquishes authority. There have been very dangerous results of that. Such as Jonestown. Such as people in Garland, TX who quit their jobs, sold their homes and stood on a hilltop awaiting the Rapture which didn’t come.
 
When someone enters monastic life in a community or an order, one relinquishes responsibility for one’s spiritual growth to the monastic superior.
Outside the vowed religious life, we can seek out a spiritual director and discuss and learn from this person.
 
We can read books by the great Christian writers and be taught that way. Liturgical forms of worship are designed to be a form of spiritual direction.
 
Kenneth Leech wrote a wonderful book called Soul Friend. I highly recommend it.

Reflection on a Saying of a Desert Christian: anonymous

A certain elder, who was asked by the brothers what condemnation is and what it means to speak ill of another, gave the following explanation:

“In the case of speaking ill of someone, one reveals the hidden faults of his brother. In the case of condemnation, one censures something obvious. On the one hand, if someone were to say, for example, that such-and-such a brother is well-intentioned and kind, but lacks discretion, this would be to speak ill of him. If, however one were to say that so-and-so is greedy and miserly, this is condemnation, for in this way he censures his neighbor’s deeds. Condemnation is worse than speaking ill of another.”

 

While I agree with the abba, I would go in a different direction. To speak ill of someone is to speak ill of their behavior. To condemn a person is to make a negative comment about their identity.
 
It is one thing to say that a child acts like a naughty child. That describes the child’s behavior. It is something very different to say “You are a naughty child” because that places a negative identity upon someone.

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.”

Reflection of a Saying of a Desert Christian: anonymous

A brother went to consult a certain elder: “Is it all right, Abba, for me to keep two gold coins which are left over from my handicraft sales, so as to have them for my old age, or if I happen to get ill?”

“No, it is not at all correct for you to keep them,” the elder answered, “for in this way you learn to set your hopes on them and cease to have the protection of God.”

 

Did you have the same kneejerk reaction of “Whoa, Nellie” as I when you read this Saying? Because it sure slammed me upside the head.
 
This is so different from what we are taught, isn’t it? We certainly are not taught to 100% depend on God for everything. We are taught to be prudent, to have three months worth of salary saved up at all times, buy life insurance, buy in bulk so we are never without, and all sorts of other things.
 
Back in the days of Desert Christianity, prudence is not a value. Yes, they wove mats and baskets and sold them for a bit of food, but they were to have nothing leftover, nothing saved up but were to 100% depend upon God to provide for them.
 
Such advice is nigh impossible to follow today, but surely we can all simplify our lives if we really looked at ourselves. Do we have stuff in rented storage units we haven’t entered in a year? Do we have clothes in our closets we haven’t worn in quite a while? Do we have a garage so stuffed with stuff we can’t park the car in it? For that matter, how expensive was that car?
 
The thing is, the Abba is telling the monk that no, he can’t keep the money. But what is the monk supposed to do with it? My guess is that the Abba also told the monk to give those coins to the poor. Had the expression been around back in the Abba’s day, I am pretty sure he might have said, “Live simply so that others might simply live.”

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.