Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Reading for Nov 20

Today's reading from the Rule of St. Benedict

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:

I cannot tell you how comforting I find it that Benedict also had problems with the Books of Joshua, Judges and Kings because I certainly do. I appreciate his "let them be read at other times" because, of course, even if we may not care for what's in the Bible, it's there and we must deal with it. Benedict teaches us that we can choose appropriate tiems for dealing with the troubling bits.

Ah, silence! How I cherish it. How I long for it. I simply don't understand why there must be so much noise. Several years ago, I spent 6 weeks trying to track down the City Engineer of the town i lived in. They had installed an audible device on the stop lights so that the seeing impaired could hear when it was theoretically safe to cross the street. Whoever installed it set it as the highest possible volume. It made a sound like the cuckoo from the clock and could be heard 1000 feet away. While I certainly want the blind to cross the street in safety, I thought a compromise in the volume could be reached.

Do you feel as I? That people are afraid of silence? That it has to be filled up so they don't have to face up to what is going on inside of them? Or am I being judgmental? For that matter, I simply don't understand why machinery has to be so loud. Surely it could be manufactured to be work more quietly?

I love that that the exceptions to the rule of silence are hospitality first and the orders of the monastic superior second.

Insight for the Ages: A Commentary by Sr Joan Chittister

Silence has two functions. The first effect of exterior silence is to develop a sense of interior peace. The second value of silence is that it provides the stillness that enables the ear of the heart to hear the God who is "not in the whirlwind."

The constantly blaring record player, the slammed door, the ceaseless, empty chatter in the hall, the constantly harsh voice, all break the peace of the heart and agitate the soul. Day after day, month after month of them thickens the walls of the mind until it becomes impossible to hear the talk within us that shows us our pain and opens our mind to the truths of life and the presence of God.

Silence is not enough, however. Benedict wants night to rest our spirits as well as our bodies. He wants to send us to bed with instruction on the gentle Word of God, not on the scriptural history narratives with their blood and struggles, so that the stresses of the day can be softened by the thoughts of something beyond them.

We live with noise pollution now and find silence a great burden, a frightening possibility. Muzak fills our elevators and radios are set into wrist watches and TV's blare from every room in the house from morning till night. We say we do not have the time to think but what we actually lack is the quiet to think. Yet, until we are able to have at least a little silence every day, both outside and in, both inside and out, we have no hope of coming to know either God or ourselves very well.

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