Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Reading for Feb 16, June 17, Oct 17

Today's reading from the Rule of St. Benedict

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:

Have you ever thought of the Lord's Prayer in this manner? As a hedge against trouble, problems, gossip? Do you, as I, tend to pray this by rote, not really thinking about the words coming out of the mouth? Are you ever startled by the content in this prayer? Sometimes a phrase leaps out at me. "Give us this day our daily bread." "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." "Lead us not into temptation." There are days when i am simply startled by these words.

To have only enough for this day? I live in a world with refrigerators and freezers, closets, bookcases, rental storage units. I have more than enough for today at least in my possessions. But have I enough grace? Humility? Courtesy? Forgiving others so that we may be forgiven? What? I am supposed to forgive the drivers who cut me off, come within inches of ramming me off the road so that I will be forgiven? Forgive others the wrongs they do me? I almost always do, but I admit it has been a struggle. And why would God, of all beings, want to lead me into temptation? Does God do that?

It hurts me, sometimes, to really think about the meaning of the phrases which roll so easily off my tongue. Sometimes it scares me how I just don't pay attention.

Insight for the Ages: A Commentary by Sr Joan Chittister

"Each of us should have two pockets," the rabbis teach. "In one should be the message, 'I am dust and ashes,' and in the other we should have written, 'For me the universe was made.'" These ideas are clearly Benedict's as well. Two things he does not want us to omit from our prayer lives, psalm 67's plea for continued blessing and psalm 51's need for continual forgiveness, a sense of God's goodness and our brokenness, a sense of God's greatness and our dependence, a sense of God's grandeur and our fragility. Prayer, for Benedict, is obviously not a routine activity. It is a journey into life, its struggles and its glories. It is sometimes difficult to remember, when days are dull and the schedule is full, that God has known the depth of my emptiness but healed this broken self regardless, which, of course, is exactly why Benedict structures prayer around psalm 67 and psalm 51. Day after day after day.

Then Benedict arranges the rest of the morning psalmody for the remainder of the week to remind us of the place God takes in human life. On Monday Benedict requires the saying of psalms 5 and 36 to remind us at the beginning of every week that God is a god who "hears the voice" of those who "at daybreak lay their case" before the holy temple and who "maintains a faithful love." On Tuesday he prescribes psalms 43 and 57 to remind us in the weight of the day that God is our hope, our joy, our defense. On Wednesday he prescribes psalms 64 and 65 to recall to us when we are tempted to give in to our lesser selves, out of fatigue, out of stress, out of the ennui of the week, that God does punish evildoers, those who "shoot at the innocent from cover," and God does indeed "calm the turmoil of the seas." On Thursday, as the week wears on, Benedict's prayer structure assures us in psalms 88 and 90 that distress is that part of life in which God is present in absence but that God "is our refuge" who each morning "fills us with faithful love" so that "we shall sing and be happy all our days." On Saturday, at the end of the week, with new lessons learned and new problems solved and new deaths survived, Benedict puts Psalm 143 and the Canticle of Deuteronomy in our hearts.

Moses reminds us by an excursion through history that God is "a trustworthy God who does no wrong." Whatever has happened to us in these days has been for our good, too, we are very subtly instructed, so that we can pray psalm 143 in confidence of the week to come: "Show me the road I must travel for you to relieve my heart."

Monastic morning prayer is not an idle ordering of psalms. It is a treatise on the monastic mindset that is to characterize those who claim to be giving their lives to God.

Finally, Benedict's prayer form requires a realistic appraisal of community life. "The celebration...must never pass by without reciting the entire Prayer of Jesus at the end for all to hear, because thorns of contention are likely to spring up." The Prayer of Jesus is designed to heal and cement and erase the pain and struggle of community life, of family life, of global life where we all live together at one another's expense.

Benedictine prayer is not an escape into a contrived or arcane life. It is prayer intended to impel us through the cold, hard, realities of life in the home, life in the community, life in the world, life with people whom we love enough to hate and whom we hate enough to dampen every other kind of love in us.

Labels: , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home