Saturday, June 20, 2009

Rule of St Benedict Reading for June 20, 2009

February 19, June 20, October 20

Chapter 16: How the Work of God Is to Be Performed During the Day

"Seven times in the day," says the Prophet,
"I have rendered praise to You" (Ps. 118[119]:164).
Now that sacred number of seven will be fulfilled by us
if we perform the Offices of our service
at the time of the Morning Office,
of Prime, of Terce, of Sext, of None,
of Vespers and of Compline,
since it was of these day Hours that he said,
"Seven times in the day I have rendered praise to You."
For as to the Night Office the same Prophet says,
"In the middle of the night I arose to glorify You" (Ps. 118[119]:62).

Let us therefore bring our tribute of praise to our Creator
"for the judgments of His justice" (Ps. 118[119]:164)
at these times:
the Morning Office, Prime, Terce, Sext, None,
Vespers and Compline;
and in the night let us arise to glorify Him.

Some thoughts

There are modern Benedictine communities which have adapted the Daily Offices from 7 to 4 by the, conflation of Lauds, Prime and Terce into one office while still observing prayers at Sext (noon) which also combined None (mid-afternoon around 3PM) Vespers and Compline. Or as I like to call it, the nighty night prayers.

You may wonder why I have not mentioned Matins. The Offices mentioned above correspond to the prayer hours of the Temple in Jerusalem which are believed to have been observed by the Apostles who handed down the practice to their own disciples of the Sub-Apostolic Period (aka the Patristics but that is a gender exclusive term which overlooks the contributions of women) who in turn passed the tradition along.

Matins is something the Desert Christians practiced. In addition to fasting to the point of anorexia, they also courted sleep deprivation. Which is why we see the RB as somewhat revolutionary as he was concerned that monks get enough sleep. Even though he observed the practice of Matins when he said "in the night let us arise to glorify Him."

The Jews considered that there was a symbolic meaning to numbers. The number 7 was the general symbol or metaphor for all association with God. IOW, 7 is the number that represented perfection. It was the favorite religious number of Judaism, typifying the covenant of holiness and sanctification, and also all that was holy and sanctifying in purpose. The candlestick had seven lamps, and the acts of atonement and purification were accompanied by a sevenfold sprinkling. The establishment of the Sabbath, the Sabbatical year and the year of Jubilee was based on the number 7, as were the periods of purification and of mourning. The number 7 is the Divine number of completion.

In the Book of Common Prayer of the American Episcopal Church (TEC) there are 4 Daily Offices. I myself have tried to pray the 7 offices but with all our modern labor saving devices, I fear I do not get done what I think I need to through out the day when I pray all 7 offices. But I still wonder if it would not be better to let go some of what I consider priorities and replace them with the 7 sacred hours. I wonder sometimes if by replacing my priorities with Benedict's that there would be Big Changes that I could never possibly have foreseen.

What would it be like to punctuate the day with prayer? To interrupt the mundane with a rhythm of prayer that may well make the mundane something else entirely. What do you think?

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