Monday, October 22, 2007

Reading for Feb 21, June 22, Oct 22

Today's reading from the Rule of St. Benedict

February 21, June 22, October 22
Chapter 18: In What Order the Psalms Are to Be Said

Let this verse be said:
"Incline unto my aid, O God;
O Lord, make haste to help me,"
and the "Glory be to the Father"
then the hymn proper to each Hour.

Then at Prime on Sunday
four sections of Psalm 118 are to be said;
and at each of the remaining Hours,
that is Terce, Sext and None,
three sections of the same Psalm 118.

At Prime on Monday let three Psalms be said,
namely Psalms 1, 2 and 6.
And so each day at Prime until Sunday
let three Psalms be said in numerical order, to Psalm 19,
but with Psalms 9 and 17 each divided into two parts.
Thus it comes about that the Night Office on Sunday
always begins with Psalm 20.

As I write this, uncontrolled wildfires are burning in the County and city of San Diego. In the background the TV news dominates. 100% of the firefigthers are at work fighting 7 fires. 100% of all the police cars in the City are in use to evacuate elderly from a retirement home. A major hospital has been evacuated. Winds are at 60 mph pushing the fires west. The firefighters are worried that they will all join up and burn through to the coast, taking out all of San Diego. And here I am, thoroughly distracted, trying to gather my thoughts about this section of the RB.

On the face of it, these details seem to be irrelevant given the conditions in the City. But they are not. As the song says "If we ever needed the Lord before, we sure do need Him now". I have sections of Psalms, the Eucharistic service of the Episcopal Church, hymns running through my head this morning. This is what I can take with me from today's reading: that which I have happened to have memorized is here for me as I pray to the Lord about the catastrophe devastating the countryside where i live.

Insight for the Ages: A Commentary by Sr Joan Chittister

Perhaps the most important point to be made about the structure of prayer during the day hours, during the periods of distraction and the times of work is simply this. Even then, prayer is to be prayer, not a glancing thought, not a shrug or a gesture or a mindless moment of empty daydreaming. It is to be brief, yes. It is not, however, to be superficial. Benedict wants us to pray the psalms. His own monks, many of them illiterate and all of them without manuscripts, memorized the psalms of the day hours so that they could be prayed in the fields as well as in the prayer place.

This chapter, consequently, of all the chapters in the Rule on prayer is a real challenge to a modern society. What psalm prayers can we say without reading? What prayers ring in our hearts? What do we think about when we're not thinking about anything special? Do we ever simply stop the work we are doing during the day, look straight ahead and pray? What memorized material does run through our minds and why do we memorize what we do but not our prayers?

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