Prayer & the Rule of St. Benedict

Audio loading...

Welcome! You can log in or create an account to save favorites, edit keywords, transcripts, and more.



AI Suggested Keywords:


Part of "Prayer and the Rule of St. Benedict"

Archival Photo

AI Summary: 






Let's start with a prayer. Lord God, we desire to be prayerful people. Our prayer to flow from our awareness of your presence in our life as a constant presence, loving us, caring for us, forgiving us, supporting us. We pray that we might grow in our ability to be present to you ever more fully and ever more faithfully and completely. And we know this is only possible to the extent that we grow in our life with Christ. The one who is fully present to you in love.


We make this prayer in his name. Amen. Okay, this is kind of where we're heading. We're saying that to talk about prayer in the rule is to talk about that which happens happens when you're aware of someone there in your life. It's presence, being present to another presence. And it's what happens, it's the dynamic between that. So you said it's a recognition that someone is there and you respond. And that's obedience. That's to listen biblically. To listen is to recognize and respond. And of course disobedience, which is really what sin is, is the opposite, is adeptness, is not to recognize God's presence in your life and therefore not to respond. And that response is really wide open. So we have to think of prayer as a much broader.


It's anything that has to... If you think of your relationship with another person and how that grows, well your response to their presence is unlimited in terms of your own creativity. And we mentioned some that can be silence, can be a response to the presence of God. Tears, words, gestures, groans, many things. In that movie, The Color Purple, when Shug, you know, the speakeasy singer, and I forget the name of the character that Whoopi Goldberg played, they're going through a field of purple flowers, which is where the title comes from. And Shug says, I think it really, I won't use the expression she uses, but it really gets God angry for people to go through a field like this and not notice the color purple. She's on a deep biblical truth. And that is prayer in a way too.


Prayer is noticing. Not just the flower, but never seeing the flower separate from the Creator. That's the key thing. I think if we saw it separate, then we're just a naturalist appreciating beauty. And that's not quite, although you're in the direction. Prayer is you always acknowledge the source with the manifestation at the same moment. And you don't have to say anything. You don't, a prayer may utter on your lips. You might say, oh God, how beautiful. You might say anything, but you might just notice and cherish what you see. That's it. So I don't mean you have to be saying prayers. I think there's a variety of responses to presence. But the key thing is to recognize someone there whom we call God and to respond in some fashion. And I wouldn't say it gets God angry. I think it saddens God when we don't notice God's presence in the color purple. And so Benedict sets up his whole rule for a community to help the members grow.


Because we're so inconsistent in our presence to God and one another, as we've mentioned. And so we said a key tool he uses is scripture. And we've been mentioning the way he teaches us Lectio Divina, an approach to scripture that teaches you and works on you so that you become more present to God's presence. And then as you're listening to that scripture within a community and how they factor into it, because human beings teach you presence too. We mentioned the presence to another person is related to the presence to God. I would say, in fact, we learn about being present to God to some extent through our trial of, you know, good and successes and failures with other people. But the reverse is true. Our presence to God also teaches us how to be present to people. It's not quite that simple in one direction. That's why I said they're really interconnected. And then we mentioned the role for Benedict of silence and solitude in the monastery


to teach you presence to presence. And that's where we left off and that's the direction we're going to look at. The tail end of that and liturgical prayer, or what he means by the divine office, the hours. Okay, or I call them liturgical listening because you're still doing the same thing, listening. So the tail end of what I was saying about silence in itself is not a prayer unless I become aware someone is with me in the silence. Then it's prayer, it's a dynamic between me, it's a relationship. And words in themselves aren't prayer unless I become aware that someone is there as I use these words. And you can see in a way the danger of being taught formula words and we call them prayers. I would call them more potential prayers. There's somebody else's word from their awareness of God in their life but that's going to become mine, you know, at some point. Then it's really prayer. So I think Benedict wants us to be careful about how we use words.


And he has a lot in his rule about speaking and not speaking what kind of words and how we use silence. So that we're using them in a way that facilitates presence to presence. The ancient monks used to talk about the remembrance of God as essential for presence to presence. I cannot prayerfully respond to God's presence in my life if I forget that God is there with me. And I think we forget God when we get all caught up in ourselves or in our tasks, in our projects, or in our fears, or our worries. You know the way it is when you try to be present you stop and let's say you're going to meditate or sit in silent prayer and you try to be still and you realize it's so hard to hold your attention on the presence that you believe in faith is there around you and within you.


What starts crowding in the mind? And it's ourself, or our worries, or our projects, or our plans. It's so difficult to maintain that presence. And we lose the remembrance of God. I think part of that loss of remembrance of God that God is there is the past and the future. The role of the past and the future. See, presence has a certain immediacy about it. Presence always calls you to the present moment. But the human mind and its own willfulness, its own disobedience finds it's very difficult to stay in the present moment for too long and to be still and attentive to another. It's like it has to have its own things it'll give you a little bit of time to another person or to God but then it's going to kind of be doing its own thing.


And one of the things you've noticed, I'm sure, in your life is that the mind will flip to the past or to the future. That's how it escapes the present moment, all the time. And I think part of the reason for that is in the past you can manipulate the past as you remember something. You're in control. As we call it, selective memory. You decide what you want to remember and you can remember it the way you want to remember it. So you have kind of a control, a manipulation. And isn't the future the same? It hasn't happened yet. So I can fantasize or thinking or plan my future any way I want. I'm in complete control, even more so than the past. While the present moment, as it's unfolding, this instant at best I can respond but it's pretty hard to plan it as it unfolds instant by instant and to control it. And I don't think the mind likes that for too long a period.


And yet that's what really gives birth to prayer. It's the capacity to stay in the present moment. Now this doesn't mean we cut ourselves off from the past and the future. The past and the future have a very important role in Christianity but we must always remember the past so that I can live in the present. So I use the past to service my attentiveness in the present moment, not to escape the present moment. So I've got to know the difference between escaping into the past, a nostalgic trip, and a remembrance of the past that's a dynamic. And it's part of what tradition is, isn't it? When we read the scriptures it's all about past things but we read it for the sake of this present moment. And that's Lectio, isn't it? You read about all these things but you keep going over the text, over the text


so you realize as you're reading it is now. Now is Exodus. Now is Sinai. It's all right now. So the past is very important for teaching me and I learn the lessons and it's like standing on the shoulders, that's what tradition means, of all the people of the faith that have preceded me so that I can live more present to divine presence right now in the present moment. And the same thing with the future. For the Christian we believe the future is not something way ahead of us that we can control or manipulate but rather it's something that's breaking into my present moment. If I have the right understanding of future it'll challenge me to live my present moment in a certain way. When I know I'm going to die when I look at part of my future is mortal death if I'm aware of that in a Christian way


I will live daily life different. I'll realize the preciousness of every moment. I'll realize how important it is to drink from the very bottom of the glass of every moment of life. See that's a right way of using the future not kind of daydreaming and you know the present moment just flies by as we say killing time and it's a pretty accurate expression. Something, yes, is being killed. Something very precious. Something very important. And that is my life because that's where it is. It's right now. It's not in the future. But my future with God I'm told to keep in mind so that I will organize my life and live a certain way now. So the future is very important. The image I think of is when I was a kid the first time I climbed a tree and there were three of us, three boys and one boy propped me up and I was standing on his shoulders as I was trying to reach the first limb and an older boy was up ahead of me in the tree and he had his hand down and was pulling me up.


And that's, I think, the dynamic of time for the Christians. Standing on the shoulders of other people but our future reaches down and is pulling us. But you've got to stay right in between those. That's the present moment. You see the problem. If I escape to the guy below I'm lost, you know. Or if I try to escape to the guy above. And that's what stretches me. That's what pulls me. And life is this stretching forward and I somehow become more of a human being. A human being is always a stretching, evolving, growing phenomenon. And I kind of like that image, you know. I think that's the sense of using the past and the future not to escape the present but to inform the present moment to live in the present moment more deeply. And so Benedict through his use of scripture brings the past before us into the present as well as the future into the present. The past and the future and the present become redeemed.


See the other way they're at the service of what? Disobedience, of sin. But in Christ, because they converge in Christ past and future converge and present converge in Christ. And he redeems time. So now it's not at the service of the false self at the service of disobedience of willfulness but now it becomes at the service of the deepest self. It enables me to live in the present moment and to find God with me in the present moment. There is a strange connection between presence and time. And openness. To be open to God now


is related to my presence in the present moment. And that is related to my use and experience of time. And that shows us the cleverness when Benedict has the hours. The liturgy of the hours has something to do about the redemption of time. From one experience of time as an escape from presence to a redeemed sense of time where you use it for presence right now. And so he calls it the liturgy of the hours. Or the other word he uses is the Opus Dei, the work of God. Now originally that term meant the entire life of the monk. The whole way of life is the work of God. As God is primarily what?


Teaching me how to be present. As God is present to me. But in the rule, Benedict tends to use the term more in the sense of the time the community comes together in the chapel for liturgy. Which would be the hours and the Eucharist. But remember in the early time and when he legislated, wrote the rule, there was Eucharist once a week on Sunday. So the bulk of their liturgical experience was the hours. And nothing of the monk's life was to be seen as outside his relationship with God. And God's working in his life. And through his life for the redemption of the world. However, in the rule for beginners, Benedict realizes, well that's a nice grand idea,


but I've got to start somewhere with beginners. And he realizes if you're going to find God everywhere, you must first find God somewhere. Very practical. So he's going to teach them, well above all, if they can at least find God in the church when they come together in the chapel. He doesn't use either of those words, he uses the word oratory in his own important reason. I'll say that in a minute. And then eventually maybe that'll kind of expand through their day at work or whatever. They'll have that same awareness of presence. So we need to find God somewhere in some concrete place. And that's the oratory. The place of prayer. Oration, oratio as we say in Latin, let us pray. Oremus, let us pray in the old Latin mass. They began the prayer of the presider. So oratio, the oratory comes from that word. It's the prayer place.


They didn't use the word church as we do. The word church, ecclesia, refers to the people who assemble in the oratory. It's only later that word kind of slid and became attached to the building where the people gather. But I think it's a very important thing to keep in mind that the people are church. The Greek word ecclesia means those who gather together in worship. And that's important because the primary place to find God, to try and find God, is in the community gathered, not the building so much. That's kind of by way of second or afterthought. That flows from the place where they, or from the gathering itself and the place. But the key thing is the gathered people there in prayer. The office, as it's sometimes called, the liturgy of the hours, as you know,


consists of hymns, chanted psalms, and readings from scripture primarily, with some commentaries by the early fathers of the church, which usually were on scripture again. So it's all practically scripture. So again, it's still using his main tool, but in a certain setting and a certain structure. The outer place of prayer, the oratory, is a sign. It's meant to teach the person to enter the inner oratory of the heart, the place of the spirit, which unites us with the worshiping community with God in heaven. It's as if Benedict realizes we must pray with the body before we can discover that there exists a hidden prayer of the heart, which is simply the prayerful response of Christ to God in the spirit. It is then that we begin to realize with St. Paul that


our individual bodies are temples of the Trinity, as well as the community gathered together is a temple of Christ. Every temple is a church with the Trinity in its midst. Here, as we enter and bow to the external altar, every time we come into church, eventually we're supposed to realize that there's another altar. As we bow, we are looking down at our chest, and there's the altar of the heart, moving from the external to the internal. Remember that dynamic I've said? It's very important. And also, just as there's an outer Eucharist, the bread and the wine out there on the outer altar, through communion, we're meant to be taught there is an inner Eucharist. Or let me put it another way, there is an inner Eucharistic presence. Now, I hope I can say this right. For Benedict, of course, there was no reservation of the Blessed Sacrament.


There were no tabernacles. So, Eucharist happened at that moment, at the Eucharistic celebration. The only way that it was perpetuated was in the people who just received it. They were the only sense of tabernacles, carrying the bread, Eucharistic bread throughout the day and the week, in his case, for the week. Very important. Ongoing Eucharistic presence is only found in a person, at that time. Now, later, the reservation of the Eucharist had a lot of practical reasons for the sick and everything, but you see people started to move in the external, keeping the external focus. And Benedict starts with the external, but he wants to move you inward. And, of course, he's just following Saint Paul, who says we are temples of God. So, Eucharistic presence moves from the shared table at Mass to the people who partake of it at that moment,


and now become a walking Eucharist. The fullness of the Eucharistic development, rather, lies in the moving from the bread and wine at Mass to the people who have eaten. For within them is the living Eucharistic presence, for which the Eucharistic meal was intended. God takes up residence in us. Signs of growth in this movement would be less reliance and attachment to external signs. But they are very important for the beginner. Less reliance even on specific times and places for prayer, but those are very important for the beginner. See, in time, Benedict hoped that everything and everyone


would speak to the monk of God's presence. That the monk would begin to realize life is saturated with God's presence. It's oozing out all over with God's presence. And to pray becomes almost impossible then. It's not a problem to pray. To not pray becomes a problem, becomes an impossibility. As Saint Isaac the Syrian wrote, hasten to enter the bridal chambers of your heart. There you will find the bridal chamber of heaven. For the two chambers are but one. And through one and the same door, your gaze may penetrate both. For the latter, which links up to the kingdom, is hidden in the depths of your heart. That same awareness, this connection between the external and the internal,


and the church that is with God, those that have died and gone on before us, our intimate connection with all of those. Now, it is believed that Benedict relied primarily on the Roman cathedral office of his day. That he pretty much borrowed what he knew and probably experienced growing up from that. Now, this was an office that was participated in by the laity, as well as what they called urban monastics, who usually were housed near the cathedrals. But he did some adaptations of the cathedral office for his own purposes and the overall goal of his monastic life, which was a life of steadfast, prayerful response to God's presence. And so the office, or the hours, teach one to be more and more aware of God's presence by its very structure, let alone its scriptural content. By stopping seven times a day


and one time at night, vigils, the day is punctuated, repeatedly, interrupted, if you want to use that word. You just get started. You hear some monks in some monasteries say they just get started, we're going to stop and pray. But there's a method to Benedict's madness. Before you get too far into your project, he's reminding you about the presence of God. And he figures maybe after 10 years or 20 years, you'll get it. That there's no distinction between the oratory, the dormitory, the refectory, and the workplace. I can't think of another word for workplace that ends with the same ory. It's got to be a 24-hour ongoing relationship. Based on the biblical injunction to pray seven times a day, and of course we know that's a number that means biblically fullness, or completion,


or wholeness, or perfection. And then there's another biblical text which refers to getting up at midnight and praying. These were kind of the texts that inspired. The Psalms and Scripture and chanting were used for the reasons that I've already mentioned. Of the hours, the most important for Benedict and for us are lauds, what later began to be called morning prayer, and vespers, evening prayer. And then perhaps the next most important would be vigils. Those are the three we practice here as hermit monks. The others we practice alone in ourselves. And I want to comment on those and how they fit into Benedict's idea and redeeming time, so I don't escape to past and future, but live more in the present where God is. The beginning and the end of the day


and the preparation for the day, its anticipation, and the waiting for the day, that's all part of the vigils. And I think these have a lot to teach us as Benedict intended. Vigils teach us to seek God in the night, in darkness, which has a great deal of symbolism for human beings. We often experience the night in its darkness or use rather our experience of night in its darkness to refer to other experiences in life, don't we? That we'll say are like a dark night or black, things like sin, suffering, doubt, catastrophe. The darkness has spread over the land, confusion, dark thoughts, loneliness. Death is a darkness, is a night estrangement,


abandonment, making love, tears, fear, aloneness, evil, guilt, shame, secrecy, the unknown, the haunting, silence, the grave. I mean, I was just going on and on with this, but we use, from the experience of night and darkness, we borrow from that to describe these other experiences. It's loaded. It's loaded. And, of course, death is very important for Benedict. He tells us in Chapter 5 of the Rule, think of your death daily, but he does not want you to become a morbid type person, but rather he wants you to live in the present moment and light up the reality of your earthly death.


Vigils, I think, teaches us to find God's presence in all that we associate with night and darkness, which are usually the hardest places to find God, to believe God is there. Usually we say he's absent. Jesus, the darkness covering the land as he's on the cross, he utters that primal human experience, doesn't he? So fully does he embrace the human, my God, why have you abandoned me? That's a profound human utterance of his. That he knew to become fully human, he had to know that experience. And Benedict, through vigils and the tradition he inherits, is to teach us in that very difficult place of the dark times in our life, through vigils, how to find God there, the place we are least likely to expect God to be. When I was young, I was deathly afraid of the night and the dark,


especially when I was young and my grandmother, the red bicycle grandmother, again, used to take me downtown when she'd shop on a Saturday, and then I'd try to talk her into taking me to a movie. One time she took me to see something called The Curse of Frankenstein. I was very young, and after that, my God, the darkness was terrible. I could just see the image of Frankenstein there. So, I mean, I wouldn't go where there was dark, and that's not easy, I mean, where do you go when there's night, you know, but I would just stay away, and I remember when I'd come back from my paper out in the winter, of course it'd be dark coming home. Oh, I used to hate that. And I had to put my bike in the basement, and we had a two-story house. My dad's parents were upstairs, and then we were in the basement, and it had an outside entrance. So I used to open it and I'd just throw my bike down because it had no light switch. It had a string, you had to go down. You think I'm going to go down in the dark like this, really? So I would throw my bike down there, and I'd go up into the house,


and my mom would say, what was that bang downstairs? And I'd say, I don't know, what is this? Or if she sent me to put something in storage in the attic, that was another horrible place of darkness. And then, of course, the third terrible place was my own bedroom to go to bed at night, and the closet in the corner. I could swear I saw things there. Frankenstein, especially. And, of course, under the bed. I can remember, I shared this room for a while with my older brother, two years older than me, and we would fight as to who would shut the switch, the light switch off, which was on the wall, because you had to get out of bed. But that space from the switch to your bed, which was only about, I don't know, three leaps. It was a five-mile run to us. It was so far, and what could grab you in that short space? It was anything. So I remember, we'd try all kinds of inventive ideas, or a long stick, or something, and we'd dive in, and, of course, you couldn't have your hands hanging out,


or your legs, right? And I'd wrap myself in my blankets as a little protective cocoon. Now, something else happened in the dark, too, quite often. And I was never able to put the two together. We lived very close to my mom's mother, and she would come over quite a bit, almost every weekend. And after we were in bed a little while, and just starting in that in-between stage of sleep and wakefulness, where a lot of dreams take place, she would sneak in the room. Of course, I'm still protecting myself from the darkness. And she would come and pull the covers. She would hold my face in her hands, and I would be kind of just barely awake, and she would kiss me. I could never put those two experiences together, one which was so comforting, and one which was so fearful. And it wasn't until much later,


and doing Lectio, that I began to realize that, through my grandmother, a presence was being made known to me, without turning the light on. She was God. Coming to me in the night of my life. Most of us, I think, would want God to just turn on the switch. But that's not what God does, even for Jesus. It's how to find God kissing you in the darkness, without taking the darkness away. And for me, that's one of the powerful things of vigils, probably my favorite of the offices is vigils. I think it's very powerful in our life, and can teach us a lot, to redeem all that darkness, or all that we call dark or fearful in our life, and without changing much, to find God there. And then,


the night becomes, I suppose then, just a place for lovers. It reminds me of the wise and the foolish virgins. The bridegroom comes right at midnight. The dead of night. It's recognizing God's presence in the night. For most of us, I think at one time or another, we struggle to find God with us in the night times of our lives, and thus find it hard to pray in them and through them. And I think that's a very powerful thing. Vigils teaches us to find God there, and to respond. For me, it is personally, perhaps the most powerful of the hours. In fact, I even try to prolong it. I get up at 3.30 in the morning, and our vigils is at quarter of six, so that I can have a longer experience of the night. And that's when I do my Lectio, the scriptural text for Mass that day.


And then even after vigils, I do a half hour of silent prayer of the heart. And then it's dawn. That's my routine every day. How glorious to be in a place where I can have, what, three or four hours of darkness and prayer and listening. I think for monks everywhere, it is perhaps the most precious time to seek God, his vigils, his night. But the modern person hates the night, and so we have our artificial lights all the time. The earth is very still and quiet. And even the city is somewhat relatively quiet to what it is in the daytime at night. And at the office, the back and forth of each side of the choir teaches us about relationship, about dialogue, about listening,


about responding, about how to be face-to-face and how to bow to one another in reverence for the presence in the other and between that person and me. All of these gestures are working on us day in and day out. The vigils office is a very reflective office. We're not exactly jumping. We read meditatively and slowly. And it's the time of solemn silence from nine o'clock the previous night till dawn the next day is our time of solemn silence where we try not to break the silence unless we absolutely have to for some important message to get to someone. Now when the dawn comes, after all of that, you can imagine what that's like. You experience dawn differently. It comes in a certain way from the experience of vigils and that's what Benedict intended.


It bursts upon you with all its splendor, all its magnificence, and all its hope. It is the proverbial one candle, the sun, S-U-N and S-O-N, that does not curse the darkness but enlightens it, redeems it, transforms it, kisses it. Laws awaken in the chanter as it awakens in creation itself a burst of energy and praise to the creator. And so our hearts and voices are lifted up along with the rising sun. And we hope to rise up too along with that sun through the heavens as we go through our day. And hopefully into eternity. Usually the psalms at Lod's are a little bit shorter


and they're crisply chanted as the day now has a crispness to it. We have another day and another chance, another opportunity to find God and to prayerfully respond. We try to greet the day and receive it as a gift of God's mercy. Now for us here at the Hermitage we have the Eucharist in the middle of the day. 11.30 and it usually ends around 12.15, 12.20. So that usually by midday we're moving into the Rotunda right at that moment. And there's a reason for that. It's at the heart of the day, midday, to suggest that the Eucharist and more importantly what it's proclaiming, the Paschal Mystery, is the heart of our life. So see how the structure is teaching you all the time when we repeat that day in, day out, day in and day out. It's got to work on you.


God comes to us at each moment through Jesus Christ and we come to God at each moment in and with Jesus by the power of their Spirit. Jesus is the center of it all and our prayer can be nothing more than the prayer of Jesus ever before the Father in love who is the Spirit. And as Saint Paul puts it, every structure knit together in Christ grows into a holy temple in the Lord and you too in Him are being built up into a dwelling place of God and the Spirit. It's from Ephesians 2, verse 21 and 22. And so in the Eucharist at midday we celebrate our participation in Christ's Paschal Mystery which is what? His death and resurrection. His relationship with God. His prayerful presence to the Father. In the Eucharist we're drawn into this reality in a particularly powerful way.


And why is that? Because in the Eucharist we use sign and symbols and gestures and words and we gather as a community of faith. That's all high potency stuff. High intensity. Eucharist both expresses and effects ever more deeply what it expresses. Eucharist expresses where we are at, where I'm at and it always leads me beyond that. To something deeper. Saint Augustine put it in another way as he was holding up the Eucharistic bread before his believing community and he said be what you receive. Receive who you are. Already. By placing the Eucharistic celebration at midday it's a constant reminder


to us here at the Hermitage of what is at the heart of our Christian life. Jesus Christ and the power of his life death and resurrection to lead us before God in prayerful presence. In and with and through Christ we become a living prayer before God. That's the goal for Benedict and his rule. Eucharist at the heart of the day reminds us that it's at the heart of life and not separate from life. As scripture says in Hebrews he was obedient unto death. In Jesus we find the healing of our disobedience our deafness to God's presence in our life. In his obedience we find our own and for us there's no other way. And finally at the end of the day we have Vespers at sunset. There's a coming together


quality about Vespers. As the colors of the day come together most intensely at sunset so too does the day itself and its work etc. Nature slows down and quiets itself and we do the same. In Benedict's time bedtime was shortly after sunset. They didn't turn on the fluorescent lights. They lived a very natural life very close to nature and the hours reflect that and they have their strongest impact on a person when you can follow that as closely yourself. And so naturally when you do Vespers as it's meant to be done at the end of the day and you don't stay up till three o'clock and do all this busy stuff after then it's going to have this coming to the end of the day quality about it and the Psalms will reflect that. They tend to reflect themes like gratitude. Now if your day doesn't begin till nine o'clock at night


which some people who are night people then it's gonna it's gonna be strange to you to be praying these kind of things. I'm in bed by 8 or 8.30 so it works fine with me. So yes it reflects gratitude for the day and also assistance for the night time as it descends. Vespers brings a sense of completion to the day and wholeness. It offers a chance to reflect over the day in one's attentiveness or lack thereof to God's presence. How have I been present to the presence today? It reminds us of the transiency of all earthly life. Sunset Vespers reminds us of the reality of physical death. After all the last period in our lives is usually referred to as the sunset years. And it carries all these themes. Both Lodz and Vespers taking place at sunrise and sunset


also I think point to something very important. The mysterious connection and meeting of light and darkness. Of life and death. Of sin and grace. And all the seeming polarities of earthly life. It's interesting that we would pray then. It's at the meeting point of these polarities that something fantastic occurs and the wondrous colors of the rainbow appear in all their glory. Is this not why human beings have such a fascination for sunrises and sunsets? Why perhaps most of the photos taken in the world are of sunrises and sunsets and paintings. You go to galleries it's mostly what you see. And if you drive up Highway 1 now a little less at sunrise because people may not be up but certainly sunset how many people pull off?


How many lovers do I see arm in arm? There is something in us almost subliminally that senses an important moment in this meeting of light and darkness whether at the beginning of the day or the end of the day. Now if that weren't enough all of that is true within the human being. There is something glorious where God and the human being meet. Where spirit and matter meet. Where sin and grace in me meet. Where good and evil in me meet. Where the feminine and the masculine in me meet. Where power and powerlessness in me meet. Where emptiness and fullness in me meet. Where strength and weakness in me meet. As we look outward and see that we must take it inward


and realize it reflects an inner reality. That exact point of meeting of these opposites represented by light and darkness to me is the heart of the cross. Dead center. Who is Jesus Christ. As one song says in Jesus Christ there is no east or west. And so we are called to seek always to live at that still point that meeting place around which the entire cosmos dances. You see deep within us there is always a sunrise and a sunset occurring at the same moment. A real paradox. There is a birth and a death


going on. And so this is Benedict's liturgical round of prayer which after a number of years works on you and in you. Eventually a person might find themselves right at the moment of waking up with a line from a chant on their lips or a line from the scriptures in their head. You see it becomes your own vocabulary. Most of the words recorded in the New Testament for Jesus are paraphrases of the Psalms. It becomes your own language after time. You inhale the scriptures. The office is there as a constant support to teach you that prayerful attention to God depends less on feelings and more on regularity fidelity.


And discipline. Which in the beginner Benedict says may seem like a harsh discipline so hard to do like a narrow road or like balancing on a razor's edge. But over time it will become a broad road along which a person Benedict says actually will be able to run and with love. It's like the tightrope walker tightrope walker. I suppose any of us who are not experienced can barely even walk on it but when you see the experienced person run we're just amazed. Constancy is what is important so that prayer gains a regularity and an ordinariness a dailiness to it and not reserved for just certain segments of your life or your day. The offices and the other elements of the daily round in the monastery have a kind of rhythm to it


which at Benedict's time reflected nature and rural farming. The outer rhythms of nature and its harmony were followed and respected thereby leading a person to an inner harmony a life of balance so important to the Benedict in life. And as we chant here every Monday at Lodz I think it's at Lodz lead us O Lord to the middle way between the highs and lows. Balance and the avoidance of the extremes allows us to more readily see life as it really is God as God really is and ourselves as we really are. Life then is less my own creation or fabrication or manipulation and more a discovery of a relationship which is everything and the only thing worth living for and with and in. So I'll stop at this point


but enough to give you an idea that there's a lot to this and the point is fidelity to it over time and you don't have to know exactly how it's doing it but it really works on you and leads you into greater presence to presence and therefore a prayer for life. Any comments or questions about this or anything so far? Yes, Victor? First of all, a question. How do you keep vigil routinely? Do you invite a candlelight or do you use... No, I do light a candle


beside... I have like a nice little shrine I call it for my scriptures and I light and if it's cold I light first my fireplace my wood stove then I light the candle and then I have a reading lamp. But at some point what I like to do is the last half hour of my lecture I like to shut off the light with just the candle and with no scriptures and I go over the readings. See, memorization is a very big thing. A lot of... When Benedict says reading he means memorizing. There's at least two reasons. One is they just... Not everybody had a Bible and so you had to hear somebody reading it aloud. That's how you memorized it. So then you'd have it at your fingertips. But the other reason was to remember God so that you're working it inward. So you're working it inward. And then they're at your disposal when you spontaneously feel led to speak to God. You have this whole vocabulary this wonderful vocabulary as well as your own creative things


that's fine too but that was the idea. And again that's because Benedict saw that in the scriptures and he saw that on Jesus's lips. So I try to do that. I mean I don't remember it word for word but it's very important for later in the day for that aspect of Lectio called Ruminatio where you chew. So later in the day I always stop myself and say what's your word from the readings today? What were the key lines or words that hit me? To bring it back and I chew and I chew some more. Because it all makes me more heightened aware of God's presence with me no matter where I am. But if I don't remember the reading which often happens even 10 minutes after reading you say what was the reading? Um well I know it was about you know so that was I think it still is an important practice even though we have the text at our disposal to realize to memorize trying to memorize and then maybe not word for word but at least I can remember the key things. So I find that's most helpful


when I do it that way. Any other comments or questions? Lisa. I think from the beginning that goes back to the early desert. They used a lot of soloists in the early period and somebody who could sing and there would be a short response of the community. In fact more than we do. You did more of you know a soloist doing it and a short response but the soloist did the bulk in the early early desert period. Like I went by the plain song and the glory and chant so I thought that was the time when he was chanting so it wasn't before then. Oh yes they were chanting before that chanting and reading but it wouldn't have been the same kind of chant of course until after Gregory. That's why I think after Vatican II we tried to get back to some of these variations and how we'll have you know side to side choir


and then we use a soloist. Those all those variations and then at vigils somebody who reads a whole song and we're quiet to try to to use the many ways of varying which I think can enrich the listening. And you had a hand? I thought it was interesting what you said about the dark because I can sign backwards I was always just the opposite. What afraid of the dark? Yeah darkness for me was my brother and I just really loved that my mom and dad turned the lights out. We used to stay up you know and watch for things in the sky and of course all night watch the bed go off. And the first time I felt the divine presence was in the dark so for me it was just that. The light to me is too confusing you know there's too much going on and you know it's hard


to be silent and listen. So probably for you the other offices will be more important LODs or Vespers although it's dark now for Vespers. When you made a statement don't bypass your humanity could you stop? When did I say that? That wasn't another retreat. Don't bypass your humanity. Oh I'm just trying to think of the context I think I was talking about Christ I think and that God is present to us in and through Jesus and we are present back to God in and through Jesus precisely because Jesus is the union of God of the divine and the human in one person and that's our future. He is our future that is happening to us now. We are living as I said the future reaches into your presence


and is stretching you and so the answer is not bypassing my humanity it's right in my humanity is where I find God and God's presence because Jesus has taken on he just didn't take on one person body Jesus of Nazareth in that action he took on all of human nature all of human flesh yours and mine so he knows my humanity better than I do and he's waiting for me in the very depths of my humanity and your humanity so don't bypass it the answer is in fact our problems are never going too deep it's probably being too superficial with our humanity and we then try to escape or go beyond it or some people get into spiritualities that are that are some kind of I don't know a spiritualism you know and they don't realize for christianity we're an incarnational religion we believe that God takes matter life creation


flesh seriously enough to become flesh and make materiality part of the trinity see Jesus doesn't drop off his body when he dies and ceases to be material he remains a body person the body is brought into its fullness