Rule of St. Benedict

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Rule of St. Benedict lecture series. Chapters 8, 20 and 48.

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May the outpouring of thy Holy Spirit, O Lord, cleanse our hearts and make us ready for the benedict. The subject on which I am proposing to reflect today is perhaps the most vital for any satisfactory and living reading of the Rule of Saint Benedict. I'm sorry I didn't put, remember to put the chapter references, but what I'm chiefly talking about is chapters 8 to 20 on the liturgy and chapter 48 and those chapters which are related to these in some way or another. We've seen that in the perspective suggested by its prologue, the sketches of the character monks themselves and the officials of the monastery in relation to each other, which can be gathered from various chapters in the Rule, it's evident that this Rule intends to be true to its stated purpose. It doesn't aim at establishing an institute overloaded with details of procedure. These in fact are some of the most characteristic features of the main source that Benedict


eventually cuts out, but it desires to create a dynamic school which can only come authentically into existence to the extent to which its members find and give personal responses to each other in all the situations of the daily living of a complete Christian life in a given setting. To this extent it constantly admits of comparison with the conditions for a successful Christian marriage. And it's not altogether surprising that one of the most interesting short commentaries on the Rule written in recent years is that of Esther de Waal, wife of the former dean of Canterbury, which appeared in 1984 and is called Seeking God. I've got a copy of it which was given to me from Bynum, where she and her husband are very good friends. I don't yet know whether we've got a library copy of it, but we must have it certainly in some way. It's a very, very true and very wise little book. When I say that the Rule is not overloaded with details of procedure, it's not my intention


to imply that the setting of daily living involved is more or less abandoned to perpetual improvisation or the variability of personal whim. Leaving aside for the moment the physical setting, most of which is never specified and can often only be presumed by practical indications, the Rule does lay down a distinctive pattern of daily living, which, as you might already expect, does make room for a number of options, but nevertheless establishes a rhythm of existence which, as experience invariably shows, can only be permanently tampered with at the expense of the integrity of Benedictine life. St Benedict often says rather less than we might wish about these arrangements, and sometimes nothing at all, so that it's only when we put together their total implications that we realise the spiritual and uniquely humane subtlety of it all. I wouldn't hesitate to say that the failure to grasp this sense of balance and rhythm implied


in the Rule is often the root cause of the decline of individual houses and the defection of their vocations. Thus, after chapters four to seven, which we might, I suppose, see as a kind of general spiritual oratory, which we'll be going back to next time, we abruptly come, in chapter eight, to the arrangements for the choir of duties of monks, starting with their vigils at night, the most constant and characteristic observance of monks. Apart from the eminently common-sense remarks about adequate, unbroken sleep, of course the midnight office was entirely a much later notion, Benedictine never did it, and the assurance of a sufficient pause for the necessities of nature before the office for the Lords at daybreak, apart from these two things, we notice at once that the arrangements provide for seasonal adjustments. As someone who was once able to, to some extent, to follow these during a period of


solitude in Norway, before Norway had introduced any form of so-called daylight saving, I can say how wholesome an adjustment, many of these adjustments are, both physically and spiritually, to live with. It's wonderful. I'm so grateful I did have for two or three years the real impression that one can only get if you have the impact of the seasons of the chain of life as it actually occurs in nature. My first few years in Norway I did. It's very, very wonderful indeed, because, so by following that wisdom and really adjusting as most communities can't, perhaps for practical purposes, to the time of Vespers to what was really Vesper time, there will be one point at which I've been saying Vespers as early as half past three in the north, of course Benedict wasn't thinking of climbing anywhere so far north as that when he was writing the book, he was writing it at Lindner, at the same time you can get a wonderful impression of the rhythm of the seasons, all the kind of spiritual benefit and physical benefit that comes from doing this if you're free


to follow it. There may be others, I think, who've perhaps had some of this experience, I suppose most of them would have been hermits, I certainly had one hermit friend in Sweden whom I first met in a hermitage, a very ancient hermitage in Belgium, a very dear friend of mine, originally Michael Claver, and he certainly had it. But I know of only one house, the Delightfully Happy Rotary near Fribourg in Switzerland, which I visited a good deal more than twenty years ago now, which has tempted this to some extent. I used to hear that Father Thomas had been there, how recently were you there, Thomas? About 1979. Yes. I don't know whether they were still trying to do this at that point, but certainly at an early point they did try to produce something there. It's obviously very complex to do in the modern world because everybody had to calculate the


time, the time that Benedict was writing the rule, and nowadays we're all probably driven by clocks. But I think we shall see that the fact that we cannot really return to conditions obtaining before state-adjusted clocks needn't be an obstacle to achieving the pattern of life which the chapters we shall be considering today set up. In relation to chapters 10, 9 and 10, on what happens to visuals in winter and summertime, we should for the moment particularly note the remark in chapter 9 that, besides the ensired books of the Old and New Testaments, the works of individuals should include explanations of Scripture by reputable and orthodox Catholic Fathers. As you also remember, of course, at the end of the rule itself in chapter 73, Benedict does rather make a point of being concerned that people should have a real sense of the authentic Christian tradition, the Catholic tradition, the universal church's


tradition. We'll have something perhaps to say about it a little bit next time. Here it is specifically applied to the office. Whatever arguments may be put forward for modifying the pattern of Benedict's visuals, there seems to be no good reason for treating lightly Benedict's requirement on this matter. Though, of course, the adoption of a totally vernacular liturgy has made this an ideal more difficult to achieve without a good deal of devoted labour on the part of those capable of it. Unfortunately, many passages available in print are either unsatisfactory as translations or unsuitable for public reading, because public reading does need to be borne in mind when one is translating for this purpose. It will take many years, I think, before as wide a range as is intrinsically possible can be made accessible. I suppose the main task which I've been doing steadily translating since I've been in America since 1918, for one place or another. And, of course, the thing I admit I've never really tried to tackle yet is something that


will be, first of all, from the point of view of text, is sometimes more difficult. We do need some more continuous translations of earlier commentaries on the whole book subscription and it's hardly been tackled by anybody yet. At least for public reading purposes. In Chapter 11 we shall find special instructions for visuals of Sundays throughout the year with ample provision for the lessons than on other days. In fact, it was a very big thing. Later on I'm going to mention the question of the timing of it. I remember by the Philip of Christ and Desert telling me that when they first did a full video with four lessons from the Old Testament, four from the Fathers, four from the New Testament, three canticles, twelve psalms and the gospel prayer, all of it chanted, it took them six hours. I don't think Benedict really was thinking of that sort of thing for time. But we really don't know, in fact. There are lots of things we don't know about the way the visuals and other offices were


performed at this time. I think the introduction of a third nocturne of canticles probably witnesses to Benedict's openness to the practices of popular liturgy in Jerusalem or perhaps Milan, from where it seems likely that he must have arrived at the singing of liturgical hymns, which some of you will remember had impressed the young Augustine when Ambrose was bishop there. It was one of the factors in Augustine's conversion when he went to church in Milan. He not only heard Ambrose preaching, but also had this wonderful impression that people were singing in church. And Benedict, in fact, refers to these hymns, generally speaking, not every time, but as Ambrosianum in many of his references in the room. Chapter 16 lists the complete scheme of seven hours from Lourdes to Compton during the day, the vigils making, of course, an eighth during the night. Hardly anyone anywhere observes prime.


We did introduce it again, and twice, and just before I left in 1982. The Roman office, of course, having also abandoned that particular hour in favour of the notion of Lourdes as the primary and only morning prayer. The long chapter 18, which gives the distribution of the psalms for all these hours, concludes with the following remarks. We strongly recommend that if anyone finds this distribution of psalms unsatisfactory, he should arrange whatever he judges better, provided the full complement of 150 is by all means carefully maintained every week. We do, in fact, make some attempt to do something near that, anyway, here, in our distribution of the psalms, which is, of course, not quite the same as those in the room, but at least is really taking some Benedict's option in this matter, in choosing what we find more satisfactory. Whether there are any other limitations on what monks may suitably do in the way of adapting


their office is perhaps a question best deferred until we've looked at the two short chapters which conclude this section on the divine office. First, then, chapter 19, whose title is correctly translated in RB 1918 as the discipline of psalmody, but I think justly paraphrased by Justin McCann in his little translation as the manner of saying the divine office, for its content makes it clear that it's about the way we should approach the saying of the hours in choir. It begins with a particular reinforcement of what has been said in chapter 7 under the first step of humility, that we should keep the fear or reverence of God always before our eyes and altogether shun forgetfulness, as McCann, I think, slightly more closely translates than RB1918 does, shunning forgetfulness. This idea of remembrance is, I'm sure, very important for the rule.


Like Basil, Benedict is convinced of the importance of the memory of God. One of the defects of what I'm saying to you today, which I intend to try to repair a little bit next time, is talking about what meditation means in Benedict. But certainly the rumination of things is very important for the whole atmosphere created by the rule. So as RB1918 would continue, we are to recall that we are always seen by God in heaven, that our actions everywhere are in God's sight and are reported by the angels every hour. So as chapter 19 would remind us, beyond the least doubt we should believe that it is especially true when we celebrate the divine office. Let us consider how we ought to behave in the presence of God and of his angels. Let us stand to sing the psalms in such a way that our minds are in harmony with our voices.


Of course one can't, I suppose, think of this phrase without thinking of the lovely story told in Letter of Alcuin about Bede, that when he was ill, Bede said to his young students, what will the angels think when they say, where is Bede? The true possibility of this kind of harmony of the mind and voice, we shall, I believe, see is ultimately something within which the rhythm of this school of living aims, I think, at establishing. Now in the light of the virtual assumption of more recent centuries that the saying of the divine office is a form of prayer, the next chapter, 20, may look innocent enough, at least until one looks at it more closely. It's the last two sentences that cause trouble.


Sentence 4 tells us that prayer should be brief and pure. Unless, perhaps, it's prolonged on the inspiration of divine grace. Evidently, whatever it is that is supposed to be short, is not necessarily the office. Since chapter 11 on the Sunday vigils regards as highly undesirable, this vigil should have to be shortened because anyone has risen late, and the call of the day is to make contact for it, if he does, if he's behind the door. So it would seem that the brief prayer is something of a more stricter personal kind. And this impression is confirmed by sentence 5 of chapter 20, which says, in community, however, prayer should always be brief. And when the superior gives the signal, all should rise together. If I raise this question explicitly, it's chiefly because Father de Vaugoy has tried


to make a great deal of it and be much criticized for doing so. He makes no secret of the fact that he would like to see a return to the more primitive practice of a longish silent pause after each psalm, during which what has been listened to, often of course read by a soloist, as we do on Sunday nights, is transformed into prayer in the heart. And perhaps, as was done in some places, summed up in a vocal prayer or connect. But Father de Vaugoy has to admit that it's impossible to find in the rule itself any ground for supposing this is what Benedict was really thinking of. There are pages and pages of it in de Vaugoy. He hasn't really stopped talking about it yet, I think, has he? As he says in his long chapter on this in his so-called spiritual commentary in the rule, page 148 in the English translation, it seems that the psalmody was for Benedict even more than for the master, chiefly a prayer


that if he has taken into account Cassian's recommendations to divide the psalms, nothing proves that he had rediscovered the primitive notion of psalmody as lexio or reading. The conception of psalms as worship seems therefore to prevail more and more clearly as the 6th century proceeds. This seems the only possible conclusion, I think, even though de Vaugoy carries on the discussion much further. In fact, what I have quoted from comes from what the PC had written for this book on the rule, as far as he'd got, until whole people began to publish articles about things he'd been saying. So he then takes nearly as long again to answer all the things they've said. I can't quite see why...yes? Could you say a little more about psalms as lexio versus psalms as prayer? Well, I suppose one can really say that what's at issue is that it does inform the whole


pretty clear that in the earliest times, if you've had English on a clear one sentence, a friend sent me a copy of a little letter from somebody in Egypt who'd been taught how to say the psalms just like the 4th century. Extraordinary thing, really. Learning the psalms by heart, of course, and then getting, or being able to either say them or listen to them. I think what we've really lost... May I experiment a bit when I finish this particular part? I'd like to do that. But I think one of the things we've lost, of course, which I consider troubling in general, but I find rather annoying when I see people looking at their books. Because, in fact, the whole point of having to read the psalms is that they should be listened to. We've lost all the sense of the impact of the heard word. But if I had to make a break at this point, this is only putting you off to...I promise to come back to it again presently. I would like to suggest that certainly in my own feeling, and I'm sure I'm not unique


in this, that attendance at the office is a combination, really, of lexio and prayer. Sometimes one is listening, sometimes one has to take in the thing. I think this might be a good way of solving other people's problems about the cursing psalms, for instance, to hear what's going on rather than actually try to pray, which often you can't do. But I think the missing bit in the conception of the psalms as lexio rather than prayer is the enormous importance attached to the word of the heard in those early centuries. Nobody, maybe, would actually be going to pray about it. If it really makes an impact, of course you pray. So it doesn't mean to say that nothing is going on while you're listening too. But there is obviously much more, there's a kind of equilibrium between listening and prayer, which I think although we've lost, and this was one of the vital things for the recovery of the sense of lexio divina, I think.


So I don't think, I'm sure the monks of the early centuries would have rather laughed at all our talks about these problems, because in one way they're not complicated. The only way we can talk about them, I think. And it does seem to be very odd, just to give one sort of technical point, that there's one clear case, and Father Boyd never mentions in the whole of this discussion, one clear case in chapter 17, verse 5, where the psalms of the little lads of church section known are referred to explicitly as prayer in the text of the rule by Domenic. Chapter 17, verse 5. I think R.B. in 1980 has got that one right, hasn't he? That's right, yes. That's the one case where oratio is actually identified with the saying of the psalms. Yet if what I've said is, for the moment at any rate, a correct statement of the situation,


it is then, I hope, perhaps Father Thomas will help me talk about this towards the end, as I know him as much as it does mean. If this is a correct statement of the situation, it's then evident from chapter 20 that Benedict also takes it for granted that an attentive saying of the office will often spontaneously prolong itself in a more explicitly personal prayer. I personally also feel rather strongly, in the light of his concluding statement, that Benedict would not wish this kind of prayer to become a burden on the community. Partly, perhaps, because of his conviction that this kind of lengthening of official prayer can only be justified when it results from the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, whose movements can, of course, in no way be organized. When one says that, one is surely back to one of his fundamental convictions that people are different, and that in the house of God room must be made for this, and no attempt be made to force everyone into the same spiritual pattern.


This would, I think, have been as alien in the past as I believe it is to many of us in the present. In this connection, we should also bear in mind the beautiful chapter 52 on the oratory of the monastery, especially sentences 2 to 5. After the work of God, all should leave in complete silence and with reverence for God, so that a brother who may wish to pray alone will not be disturbed by the insensitivity of another. That's a very good bit of oratory. I'll be naive. It turns out to be something clever. I think that's a very clever one, the insensitivity of another. Moreover, if at other times someone chooses to pray privately, he may simply go in and pray, not in a loud voice. Accordingly, anyone who doesn't pray in this manner is not to remain in the oratory after the work of God. It's not, of course, Benedict's intention, nor mine, to suggest that those who prefer a more demonstrative kind of prayer should not be free to make it.


There are simply other places to make it. For the commodities, they are of course their selves, provided that even there some little restraint is exercised. By way of conclusion to these summary reflections on the first of the elements of Benedict's monastic equilibrium, we must pause, I think, a moment or two on Benedict's use of the phrase, work of God, to refer to the divine office, with which the foregoing quotation from chapter 52 of the rule finishes. For in this use of the word, opus Dei, or work of God, Benedict appears to be rather unique. For Basil, this phrase, opus Dei, or work of God, refers to the whole monastic life. For Benedict, it invariably means simply the divine office. As far as I know, the first occurrence of this use in the rule is in the twelfth step of humility in chapter 7, where the signs of the integrated monk are mentioned.


You would tell, even just from looking at it in quiet, what he's like. And the last, at the beginning of the scale, in chapter 58, on the reception of novices, where one of the primary marks of authentication is said in verse 7 to be eagerness for the work of God. I think the other occurrences will suggest the character of this primacy. In chapter 22, on the sleeping arrangements, we are told in verse 6 that the monks will always be ready to arise without delay when the signal is given. Each will hasten to arrive at the work of God before the others. I remember Don David Knowles tells in a delightful memoir of his former abbot, Clutter Butter, in speaking of his extraordinary regularity, that one could almost say one was watched by the moment of his arrival in choir. I shan't be able to resist telling you at least one other story after that later on,


but in connection with the regularity, there's a lovely story of his, when once he was visited by Archbishop Davidson, Archbishop Canterbury, and he always had his bath on Saturday afternoons at a quarter to five. And although he didn't say why he was going, he excused himself at a quarter to five and went to the usual bath. Yes. Coming back to the rule. Indeed, chapter 43 speaks summarily of the habit of being late, whether for the work of God or at table, and in the often repeated verse 3, says that nothing should be preferred to the work of God. While chapter 47, on announcing the hour for the work of God, says something which applies, of course, to the whole rhythm of the rule. It makes the abbot directly responsible for the observance of the signals, though he may delegate this, so that everything may be done at the proper time, as the opening verse says.


In chapter 43, the opening verse has said, on hearing the signal for an hour of the divine office, the monk will immediately set aside what he has in hand and go with the utmost speed. Some of us, I imagine, have been so early impressed by this sentence that we will never willingly delay without a bad conscience. Of course, there are all kinds of reasons why one may be delayed, especially if one is helping somebody else and all kinds of things, but it's obviously something which the rule does take very seriously as being actually a sign of love. What is behind all this special feeling of the office, then? I'd like to quote, I think, just a sentence or two from one of the very finest of all the essays of the great Jesuit scholar, the late Father Jose, which has happily been translated into English. In fact, it's in Monastic Studies, Volume 11. It's a little bit more enjoyable if you know a word or two of Greek,


but you can get through it even if you don't. It's a splendid article. And there, at the end of it, he says, it's as a function of the primacy of humility, which is love, that we must understand the Benedictine primacy of the office day. The expression, put nothing before, occurs for three different objects in the rule. Christ in 4.21 and 72.11 4 of course is the obedience chapter and 72.11 about the mutual love of the brethren. First of all, Christ, nothing before Christ, then the work of God, as we've just been seeing in 43.3 or in 3 the commands of the abbot. That one is not quite so clear but in 71.3, just before the one about obeying each other


the rule gives a kind of priority to those who make claims on one and the abbot ought to be first. And Pius I says, the first dominates the other two. The primacy of the love of Christ is a matter of the heart. To hold nothing dear than Christ, as in 5.2 It is a supremacy which admits of no exceptions put nothing before Christ 72.11 The primacy of the prayer of the liturgy must be understood in relation to the activities which must be abandoned when the signal is given and also by the high regard one is to have for prayer and the liturgy even when one cannot participate. The only two chapters about connecting the liturgy which I haven't collected here in this very summary form are of course chapters 50 and 67 on brothers working at a distance or on a journey and those who work at a distance


to in fact say the office on the spot when it's time. Well I expect there will be lots of questions about that when we finish but I just want to come to the other two elements of Benedict's threefold rhythm We must look first at chapter 48 which although it's said to be about the daily manual labour is in fact concerned with the occupations of the monks day apart from those he says spends in the choir, at least in the general way. We may be able to gather some details from other places but our main basis for our picture of the day as a whole is to be derived from this chapter, chapter 48 It begins with an elaborative sentence idleness is the enemy of the soul Two things deserve to be said about this phrase I believe if the intent of the chapter is not to be understood I can't understand why all the commenters pass that sentence by as though it was obvious


First there can be no doubt about what it is what is at issue the Latin word Benedict uses does mean, strictly speaking, idleness or laziness Not an alternative Latin word which means leisure Otseum, it's Otseositas he's talking about Second I think anyone who compares Benedict with his source in the Rule of the Master will be rightly struck by the fact that the Master is concerned with keeping his monks busy, come what will This is not the attitude of Benedict as is made clear by the fact that he consciously leaves his monks free for Lectio Divina or holy reading at the best time of the day for doing this it's very explicitly arranged As the whole tent of the Rule about maintenance of the monastery also makes clear this is not because Benedict thinks the work of the monastery is an unimportant subject Indeed, if I may refer to the images I use


in speaking of the monastery as a school in connection with the prologue I think Benedict is entirely serious and not just duly disciplinary in saying that idleness is the enemy of the soul As chapter 7 on humility has reminded us the ladder that reaches us up to heaven has two sides our body and our soul and both need training This never means, as the prologue has told us deliberate over strain and at several points chapter 48 reinforces this among other things of course providing for an afternoon siesta in the hot days of summer to be spent as each one finds most restful whether lying flat or reading a book provided it be without the loud moan that was usual in earlier times But idleness is the enemy of the soul because body and soul need training In what I believe to be the spirit of Benedict I have myself often suggested to students they should be concerned


if they often simply find themselves lying on their beds To lie down because one has decided one needs to do so having regard to all the circumstances can be very virtuous Constantly to find oneself lying down when one is not ill can only become morally and spiritually destructive There are people like that Not to be benefited from being explicitly having this point of doubt It's evident from pondering this chapter 48 and the rule as a whole that Benedict thinks both holy reading and work, according to each one's capacity are real and permanent for permanent importance in the always ongoing formation of every mind If Benedict gives a preferential place into Lectio and talks about it as something at which one is in absorbed leisure, the Latin word for where you spend it is vacare which you can't quite give the feeling of in English but it is also what we say in Latin Psalm 45


Be still thou that I am God So it's the same word that is used about Lectio Divinum It's that kind of quiet relaxed attention which is full is involved I think this is doubtless because it's of profoundly personal importance in the way that the reading of Table provided for in Chapter 38 or before Compton as in Chapter 42 can never quite be I've discussed the whole question of the purpose and manner of making this type of reading in Chapter on Holy Reading in my Asking the Fathers at a length I shouldn't feel justified in doing in this series where I really am trying to discipline myself for talking about the rule precisely what one can clearly see in the rule but I hope that no one will think themselves dispensed from discovering the difference between this type of reading and the gathering of few comforting or pious thoughts from books of a light and popular type


which often pass as spiritual reading and fill the mind with doubtful wonders and sentimental attachments It is in no spiritual benefit that I recommend one read my own book on this subject for there is all too little about it in English that approaches its satisfaction I think It was only in the course of preparing for this paper that I met in French just been translated into French an article of Dom Jean Leclerc which was originally published in English in Worship for May 1984 which those who don't find me palatable may find rather useful I'll try and put that in the library before the middle of the day Just have a look at it I think it's in its way it's an example of how one monk has used his Lectio Divina and how he's used that time and I think in its concentration and liveliness one of the more delightful things he's written Many of us who know him very well have often said he does write very much too much and too quickly It's very impressive from this point of view


He's talking about Lectio and I think it's born out of Lectio having a right attitude towards him I'm afraid for men who will work as a forming human virtue the situation is even worse and here again I do not hesitate to ask you to ponder what I wrote on this subject and ask you the farmers Here in the rule of cause Benedict is concerned with whatever needs to be done in the maintenance of the house and property where there are no blenders or whisks in the kitchen or mechanical conveniences in the garden or on the farm where some of the work to be done would doubtless be rather heavy About all that Benedict takes a very realistic view The monks are not there to be waited on by a staff of servants and hence in chapter 35 on the kitchen service of the week


we are reminded that brothers should serve one another consequently no one will be excused from kitchen service unless he is sick or engaged in some important business of the monastery as for instance the seller often is he is the only one who is explicitly exempted for this purpose Back in chapter 48 Benedict envisions the possibility that hard or special help in the harvesting is not available thus in verse 7 of that chapter they must not become distressed if local conditions or their poverty should force them to do the harvesting themselves for then are they truly monks when they live by the labour of their hands as our fathers and the apostles did I take it that the word fathers in that verse means the monastic fathers the dead fathers Although Benedict adds at this point that all things have been done with moderation on account of the faint hearted it is doubtful I think if he would have been approved in any monastery


where at least some people never lift a finger to do any domestic work After all, were such people married they would almost certainly have to do some of them It is not then surprising that the married woman, Esther de Waal whom I mentioned earlier should have grasped the essence of the Benedictine equilibrium better than I think some monks appear to do As she says in her chapter entitled Balance Benedict insisted that since body, mind and spirit together make up the whole person the daily pattern of life in the monastery should involve time for prayer time for study and time for manual work This was to be the school of the Lord's service A balanced life based on the recognition that each of these three elements demands attention if the totality of the human person is to be acknowledged Thus, the idea of order and balance runs through the organisation of monastery so that everything may be done at the proper time


Holiness is not to become an excuse for muddle nor devotion and escape from work The right order of an institution the right handling of its possessions the right employment of time the right respect for its members are profoundly significant for this is the certain base on which the structure rests The rule is to create the favourable environment in which the balanced life may flourish And just for the sake of completing some of the firmer and better things she says in this very crude chapter let me add these from further on We need to remind ourselves of this very basic very modest fact that we are essentially rhythmic creatures that life needs this rhythm and balance if it is to be consistently good and not drain from us the precious possibility of being or becoming our whole selves For the concept of the monastic day as the rule sets it out


is not based on a succession of alternating superior and inferior events but on the continuous rhythm of equally valid ones There is no differentiation between things that matter and things that do not Instead all activities are seen as significant and are shared as far as possible by all As Mr. De Waal correctly says the day of the rule is roughly divided disregarding for the moment variations of the seasons these of course are only approximate figures into four hours of prayer four of Lectio Divina and six of manual work For anyone who is interested in more exact details carefully based on the text of the rule they will find them in the useful chapter on daily life in Don Carter Butler's eternally useful Benedictine Monarchism Let no one be so snobbish as to despise this book because the first version had to come out in 1919


For anyone who cares about the rule it is still often the easiest way to look up some detail once forgotten It is our own fault if our own reading is so narrow that we don't know what needs adjustment in light of later scholarship Alas, one wishes one could always say the same without other Benedictines who write about the rule particularly on this subject of Benedictine balance Frankly of the matters mentioned in chapter 48 of the rule and related to it it's hard to know what in later centuries has been a good deal more honoured in the preach than the observance In the first part of this talk I decided to give some contemporary examples and found them in the end so shaming I shall not even mention here where I got these ball and books Both Lectio Divina and manual work are not much favoured by those whose manner of living and thinking have gone rather long way from either of I imagine that those of us who have direct experience of what goes on in many English-speaking houses


on both sides of the Atlantic could illustrate the table without very much difficulty But one should never occupy one's mind with many negative thoughts Therefore, it is in no fair or sable spirit that I will refer you to our own command of these constitutions on some of these points At the same time, in my view as I have been in everything I have said since the beginning of these talks that the life of the rule comes into existence only when we live it Most of the points to which we have been alluding today occur in chapter 3 of our constitutions which is devoted first to the subject of prayer I would note at number 61 it says In line with the unanimous tradition to which the rule of St. Benedict gives voice monks have always considered the celebration of the praise of God to be a fundamental element in their life and the same is true for us today Particularly important in this section of chapter 3 is the section on Lectio Divina


which begins by saying The experience of God in the liturgical celebration has its necessary preparation and its natural unfolding in a life-consistent Christian commitment and in the constant encounter with the Father in silence and the reading of his word and then number 65 The Gnostic tradition considers the encounter with God's word to be fundamental to the life of the monk This is Lectio Divina meditative reading in the fullest sense of the term Lectio Divina embraces first of all Holy Scripture then the Fathers, the sources of sacred tradition and the living theological reflection of the Church Whatever a monk reads it's intended to lead him into an ever deeper understanding of the word and ever more active fulfilling of the Father's saving will Although Lectio Divina makes use of the tools provided by scientific theological and cultural scholarship


it always goes beyond these since Lectio is finally an experience of God in faith and love And finally this very comforting phrase from number 66 The community must ensure for every monk a balanced rhythm of prayer and work and indicate in its daily schedule an appropriate period of time at least one hour for Lectio Divina As you will notice, this is asking rather less than the rule provides for but I suspect a great deal more than many people in many other settings often be inclined to give Everyone, everywhere makes accuses for what they do not do so we should doubtless keep our own under regular examination Well now you all want to attack me about one thing or another I'm sure Please do Would you like me to come back to you now Father? I think I don't think our Revised Constitution is very good on those things It brings in all the things


I may say, all the things people worry about But I can see that nearly all the monks who want to write about Lectio Divina are all on tip-toe of what the exegetes are going to say about what they're going to think of it But the fact that our Constitution does just acknowledge in principle the idea of of our using the aware of what's going on One of the things I always try to do when I'm trying to prepare homilies I always see what the exegetes are going to say Sometimes it is a bit helpful even to understand what the words are about but sometimes they're only working on how their own feelings are and I have to get used to getting there but it seems to me that it is very important that in the monastic rhythm especially because there are time limitations in the Revised Life that one should make quite sure one is given a real priority to the fundamental things and know the text I remember to which time I was angry once


and I did actually do that in the first four years of my life and I think it's very, very helpful to do it so that one actually knows the text You can't have problems if you don't even know the text So that sometimes it can be interesting that with respect to what we're talking about the rule seems to treat sound as working more helpful whereas we're reading yes on the other hand Lectio Divina has made much of very little has been made of the first part so it's kind of moving in one direction It is and I think I don't feel this is also true about so much of our thought series when you're looking at these there's a problem, isn't it? How many of them actually talk directly about prayer? How many anybody? How many make half a page


on prayer? Nobody talks about it, they all do because we can't tell anybody else how to pray in one way I suppose everybody does actually make the discovery and sometimes we say things and tell them and begin to do it because perhaps the basic thing is has anybody had any experience of communication at all? One of the most interesting cases I've ever had in my life was when I received the oldest person I'd ever received in the church was a woman of 73 very gifted family very gifted musician she came from a very non-Christian very fun life very much fed and the most difficult thing after we got on the church you don't know if I've ever talked about the idea of God most books you can get on the internet anybody who comes to instruction believes in God quite clearly


and has no problem about it I should never be giving textbooks about it but the hardest thing after going to that which was that involved into mystery was it was so strange to pray and that was really quite hard work before we began to make some purpose about it but this I'm sorry if I've evaded you but I think the right thing is which in a certain way perhaps there's something about this as prayer what began to be more fascinating when we're talking about when you're living a whole day with the rhythm of the room if you're not praying there's something very strange happening it must just happen


you don't have to have time no time to pray in either form because it's assumed yes it'll go on and it's also meditatio which is one of the things I haven't picked up there just to prevent it being too complicated meditatio which of course does a pretty certain thing going over the text I've done that myself in my time I don't know if anybody else has done it I'm sorry I can interview everybody there was one case during the last war when when I was working on especially if I was working on James on Lord of the Rocks type of thing and so I was out in the open from 7am I got up at 3 that's something you do now I was out in the open there working on the stone system from 7 until about 8 until the end of the afternoon and between


so I would say about 2.30 I learned very things by heart to ruminate on it because I don't know possibly 7 or 8 and that kind of thing I presume it's the sort of thing monks have always done I don't believe it's all that but it is a very it's a very interesting kind of thing to act on in fact it was one of my problems by the time we started doing things in Masses I can hardly remember that lesson all of a sudden it was very often places in Masses well isn't this what I think this end by end talk I've said you see the whole idea is developing with lecture


if you think about them then you'll see I think you do get the things and they really are in the room I didn't want to spoil it too much that's why I didn't want to talk too much about lecture or about work which are very important subjects I think but even the end rule as soon as you ask the question can we adopt the evidence in some kind of way because even if I advise time I haven't got anything to add about this Tom do you feel very critical about Matt Thomas here I was trying to think of someone to vote away who is very critical but I think is trying to read something in the rule he's not doing what you're doing in fact he would laugh at the rule because the jurist is always violently angry because he would always begin with the premise and then prove it no matter what except he doesn't that's what I was supposed to do you mentioned the three-fold limit


and you mentioned four hours of prayer four hours of lecture six six of what oh six that's exactly this was something even in certain monasteries the house had to be run I don't want to talk about monasteries but there are some which are so big they're running a big institution they're so much rushing out of bed or meals and so on and then I think about that no I should start on 10 and a half the question I would ask you is that presumed that if Mexico would be there you mentioned four hours of prayer I know people have to pray always you have two you have eight hours of prayer if I see that yes of course if you put it in those words it's after you've seen it well that's tremendous but I'm just wondering how they what they were attempting to do with Christ


by going right on I'm not talking specifically about that I said it's quite great but that's what they thought was going to happen what they didn't really look at was the kind of thing I'm trying to talk about namely that you must be moving from one thing to another so that you're not always having extreme concentration and this is part of the function of manual work although it does any decent job does require attention concentration and so on anything does then you've got to adopt it but it's a different kind of thinking it's not in the manual we all like to do it I concentrate there's a big program I know that so I can do a lot of things but just to use the example


I guess what I'm asking is you mentioned that in Cotswolds you were in the Jesuits meditation was a strict thing it was everybody had to do that I think let's say I'd like to say just a word about this because I suppose any kind of systematic meditation such as the Jesuits I suppose they're misnomer and other people do is really I suppose an attempt to find in the more modern conditions by modern I mean the current conditions some kind of substitute for the rhythm of the active because you've got to get it all done in a period of time which is relatively unrestricted whereas on the other hand I'm not saying you can't leave the rhythm of the groove in an unrestricted way you can but with reasonable attention you'll find


what Francis says he was one who cut through the Jesuit system if you look carefully at if you look carefully at the instructions about life what Francis says he does in a mentioned form of Jesuit meditation and then he says but if you try to get your things done in meditation you fail and that's what I think most modern thought has come up with they don't need to make a meditation because they haven't been meditating I wonder if that meditation is actually just working with the text getting to know the text and saying do I really understand this which is very close to the sort of thing a chap has to do before he's able to read that that's it you know these texts you know these words and so on that kind of thing then also the images and all the rest of it if that's really going on then of course you will have meditated and it will be very different and also of course if you haven't


had to catch a bus or go on the bus or whatever it is you are more likely to these things one of the interesting things I know you'll appreciate this but it was said to me by John Clare big difference between English and German he said to me well that's what he means in the world of Fiction by which he really means you see that and I think it was that I know how deeply he studied it there's a few books in German but it's a very even if it wasn't a fundamental principle it was very much like English life I think because there the thing is living in the rhythm of country life and so on it doesn't help to have my foot falling off a tree that's why I think lecture reading is under work it is quite hard to apply yourself every day especially of course because sometimes you are in the world and you have to learn the temperament of it


in words everybody knows you know the extent of what is reading and so on but at the same time if you like what I am saying meditation as a formal thing is something that should be general is being done all the time without thinking about it so that what evolves is more contemplative rather than the kind of meditation in which it is taught is it similar to piece of that you don't push something to someone who is older or younger yes as one of the people said don't try to meditate if you find you got where meditation meant to be then you pray of course another thing about meditation I think one sentence I did on meditation


after my lecture I got a very proving knowledge from certain people because I found out how very important also is relationships are identical for compounds what they are which is the prayer which comes simply I will say the word and answer and you say it and I am breathing between so this is really another way I suppose all the methods what they all aim in the mind is extreme activity now of course one of those things is studying this is why I find the balance between reflecting next year and studying you have to do both and I am trying to find those things certainly I certainly find it very well I think


I am right I am right to say this during the prayer time because this will be very much actually anything I can say I don't think one should be afraid clearly what I am talking about is you should preach by your own way but if you are living in this framework with a sense of balance I am very driven I think so it works anybody else yes Mark I remember showing it again is this the memory of God perhaps reflecting this whole thing mind mind mind I suppose again as we got serious talking about techniques I don't suppose it means having self knowledge in mind it means specific thought


it's almost like making mind I don't know one can't be afraid of this it's something but I think it's not trying to I don't think it means having specific thought about it means giving God a rule that's near as I can understand in some way that rule I think that's very well I like that kind of thinking it's a real kind of disengagement of the mind from other things from time to time in such a way what you can learn in relation to you that you can get to know a bit about the anxiety too and about the anxiety and also about community and you and precisely in this way but one simply


makes oneself aware by by disengagement from other things I think that's a practice I think it is I think it is a meditation it isn't necessarily about a particular idea there's nothing to do with it anyway really it's just a meditation and I suppose the main problem about what the education doctor makes with the model it makes us all too busy too busy we can't even see things very well we're all so screwed up I'd just like to say a word about St. Ignatius and the exercises he wrote those exercises at the very beginning of his spiritual life he had his conversion and in Guglielmo's book The Grace of the Interior Queries there's a footnote there


where he says that the novices shouldn't spend too much time doing the exercises but he says that as quickly as possible they ought to put themselves into a simple loving regard of God by doing the interreligion queries and the exercises were just to stir up that love the same thing with St. Teresa of Avila yes of course ultimately all those people do have to say that because you know Ignatius had tremendous trouble because God sometimes made it impossible to make the exercises to pray the best thing that could happen to anyone because you can't hope that it happened over time I think so once you get to things like prayer of course, any kind of thing everybody's got a place they want to make and it's on the whole a sin to pray I think it's a very remarkable thing about being here it's so much simpler you don't have to worry about all things just get on with the thing and then of course sometimes you don't know what to do


and of course that's what the psalms are for isn't it why are you upset in your way of thought when you talk about that why do you need anything well that's all thank you