Friday, July 17, 2009

Rule of St Benedict Reading for July 17, 2009

March 17, July 17, November 16

Chapter 38: On the Weekly Reader

The meals of the sisters should not be without reading.
Nor should the reader be
anyone who happens to take up the book;
but there should be a reader for the whole week,
entering that office on Sunday.
Let this incoming reader,
after Mass and Communion,
ask all to pray for her
that God may keep her from the spirit of pride
And let her intone the following verse,
which shall be said three times by all in the oratory:
"O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth shall declare Your praise."
Then, having received a blessing,
let her enter on the reading.

And let absolute silence be kept at table,
so that no whispering may be heard
nor any voice except the reader's.
As to the things they need while they eat and drink,
let the sisters pass them to one another
so that no one need ask for anything.
If anything is needed, however,
let it be asked for by means of some audible sign
rather than by speech.
Nor shall anyone at table presume to ask questions
about the reading or anything else,
lest that give occasion for talking;
except that the Superior may perhaps wish
to say something briefly for the purpose of edification.

The sister who is reader for the week
shall take a little ablution before she begins to read,
on account of the Holy Communion
and lest perhaps the fast be hard for her to bear.
She shall take her meal afterwards
with the kitchen and table servers of the week.

The sisters are not to read or chant in order,
but only those who edify their hearers.

Some thoughts

Meals are a time to chat in most places. I admit, it is hard for me to comprehend the silence of the Benedictine monastery. They were not to talk at all. No friendly chit chat such as "Hey there, how's the wheat growing?" or "Were you able to accomplish as much in the Scriptorium this morning as you had hoped?" None of that.

I am told, however, that monks have worked out sign language to communicate necessary things. Br Benet Tvedten wrote The View From A Monastery: The Vowed Life and Its Cast of Many Characters. In it he described some elaborate conversations the monks would have with the sign language. At least, I think it was in that book that I read it.

So if there is to be silence and no friendly chit chat, how will the mind occupy itself? Here we have Benedict's solution: sacred reading. Gotta admit, that sure does beat eating a meal in front of the TV. I hasten to add that I myself eat my meals either in front of the computer or TV. Usually only dinner in front of the TV.

When I first visited my mother here in San Diego in 1981, some of her friends invited us to dinner. I was shocked to see the TV on while guests were in the home. It was not a practice back east.

Oh dear... I've lost my train of thought listening to KUSC play The Syncopated Clock which I have not heard for years.

Help me out, someone, please. Where was I going?

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