ENLARGING THE HEART

UPDATE:             1ST January 2015   We now begin a new series of commentaries on the Rule of our Holy Father Saint Benedict (Series 3). We hope this will continue to be a source of spiritual nourishment for you. 


Daily readings from the Rule of Saint Benedict

By a Benedictine of Saint Cecilia's Abbey, Ryde


"... as we progress in our monastic life and in faith, our hearts

   shall be enlarged, and we shall run with unspeakable sweetness of love in the way of God's commandments." 

(From the Prologue of the Rule of Saint Benedict)



St Benedict wrote his Rule for monks some fifteen centuries ago.  Driven by his love of Christ, he wanted to establish his monastery as a "school of the Lord's service": a place where people who truly seek God could find him; places where "authentic Gospel values prevail"(1); where nothing whatever would be preferred to Christ. The Rule of St Benedict spread all over Europe, and had an enormous influence on the life and spirituality of the Latin Church.  It continues to inspire monks, nuns, and countless lay people throughout the world today.

Like many monasteries we divide the Rule into sections so that the whole Rule is covered over a period of three months. The commentaries will follow the sequence of the sections.

(1) Pope John Paul II, to Benedictine Abbots, 23 September 1996


CHAPTER 16:   HOW THE WORK OF GOD

IS TO BE CELEBRATED IN THE DAYTIME

Oct 20

As the prophet says, "Seven times in the day I have given praise to Thee," so we shall observe this sacred number of seven if at the hour of Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers, and Compline we fulfil the duties of our service.  For it was of these hours that the Prophet said: "Seven times in the day I have given praise to Thee."  Of the Night Office the same Prophet said: "At midnight I arose to give praise to Thee."  Therefore, at these times let us give praise to our Creator for the judgments of His justice: that is, at Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers, and Compline; and at night let us rise to give praise to Him.

The Office is something we do for God’s sake, to praise him: Seven times a day have I given praise to you.  This is the keynote of St Benedict's conception of the Office: it is praise and we offer this praise seven times a day and once at night: media nocte surgebam ad confitendum tibi (In the middle of the night I rose to give you praise).

Seven is the number of completeness.  In the seven days of creation, the whole of God’s work is brought to perfection; the seven sacraments impart to us the whole of God’s salvation in Christ.  Praying to God seven times a day is the expression of the dedication of the whole day to God.  Seven also means many, pushing towards infinity.  The real point of the injunction to pray seven times a day is to pray always, to support continual prayer.  For Benedictines, the Divine Office, like our interior prayer, establishes a continual relationship between the human heart and God.

CHAPTER 15:

At which times of the year Alleluia is to be said

Oct 19

From the holy feast of Easter until Pentecost, without interruption, let Alleluia be said both with the psalms and with the responsories.  But from Pentecost until the beginning of Lent, on weekdays it is to be said with the last six psalms of the Night Office only.  On all Sundays, however, outside Lent, let the canticles at Vigils and the Psalms at Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext and None be said with Alleluia; but Vespers with antiphons.  The responsories, however, are never to be said with Alleluia except from Easter to Pentecost.

One of the climaxes of the Paschal Vigil takes place when the chantress breaks into the sublime Easter Alleluia, with the choir replying; the exchange is repeated three times, each time with more joy and confidence.  The Alleluia, suspended during Lent, is now solemnly restored.  “Alleluia,” wrote the Benedictine Abbot Rupert of Deutz, “is like a stranger amidst our other words.  Its mysterious beauty is as though a drop of heaven’s overflowing joy had fallen down on our earth.”  By taking away the Alleluia during Lent, Dom Guéranger tells us, the Church is telling us that  we are in Babylon, we are pilgrims absent from our Lord, that our  hearts and lips must first be cleansed before we can take up again this “song of heaven.”  The suspension of the Alleluia, he insists, is “one of the principal and most solemn incidents” in the Church’s liturgical year (The Liturgical Year: Vol. IV, Septuagesima).