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Thursday, August 6, 2009

RB, Chapter 10: The Arrangement of the Night Office in Summer


1From Easter until the first of November, the winter arrangement for the number of psalms is followed. 2But because summer nights are shorter, the readings from the book are omitted. In place of the three readings, one from the Old Testament is substituted. This is to be recited by heart, followed by a short responsory. 3In everything else, the winter arrangement for Vigils is kept. Thus, winter and summer, there are never fewer than twelve psalms at Vigils, not counting Psalms 3 and 94.
Reflection

In this short Chapter 10, we have an important teaching about the Divine Office as understood by Saint Benedict. In the modern age, our focus is very much on intellectual content and thus on listening to the readings. For Saint Benedict, it is clear, the psalms are the most important part of the Divine Office and so if the Divine Office has to be shorted, the readings are the first things to be omitted.
So in the summer, when the night is shorter, the three longer readings are dropped and one shorter reading from the Old Testament is substituted.

Saint Benedict is clear that he wants 12 psalms at Vigils, not counting psalms 3 and 94. The number 12 is very important in the history of monasticism because a tradition that an angel appeared to Saint Pachomius and revealed to him the importance of praying 12 psalms.
Saint Benedict is also clear, later in the Rule, that our monastic ancestors prayed all 150 psalms in one day and we can be a bit lazy and do all of them in one week. Actually Saint Benedict has almost double that number in a week in the schedule that he gives for the Divine Office.
For our own times, we must look again at the importance of memorizing passages of Scripture so that we can take the Scripture with us throughout the day. As we memorize Scriptures, they come more easily to our mind when we need them: when we want to deepen our prayer, when we want to resist temptation, when we want to ask God's help, etc.

We also can also spend time learning the psalms and Saint Benedict will mention this also in another part of the Holy Rule.

From the Chapters we have read so far concerning the Divine Office, again it is clear that Vigils is the pivotal office for the monk. Let us embrace the challenge of praying Vigils each day and ask the Lord to form us as Christians and as monks.

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