Daily Meditations on the Rule of Saint Benedict: Chapter 8

To be read: February 10, June 10, October 12-13

The brothers will rise during the winter season, that is, from the first day of November until Easter, making due allowance for circumstances, at the eighth hour of the night; 2so that, having slept until a little after midnight, they may rise refreshed. 3The time, however, which remains after Vigils will be used for study by those of the brothers who still have some parts of the psalms and the lessons to learn.  4But from Easter to the first of November mentioned above, let the hour for celebrating Vigils be arranged so that a very short interval be provided the brothers that they may take care of the necessities of nature. Then Lauds, which is to be said at daybreak, may follow immediately. 

Having dealt with the spiritual life of the community in the first seven chapters of the Rule, Benedict now begins his teaching on the practical aspects of living life in community by addressing the discipline of communal prayer.  Chapters eight through twenty deal with the practice of the Divine Office.  The clear message in this transition from the spiritual to the practice of prayer is that everything done in community must flow from the common prayer of the Divine Office.  We begin and end each day in prayer and praise, and pause throughout the hours of our workday to offer to God our selves in prayerful unity with our brothers and sisters in Christ.  This discipline of prayer is essential to sustaining our communal life whether we live in an enclosed community or in the secular world.  We need to nurture the discipline of prayer.  In the same way as making habits of the steps of humility, so we make habits of the hours of prayer until the habit becomes part of the natural rhythm of life and we find that we are praying constantly.

It is daunting at first to consider the possibility of rising in the middle of the night on a daily basis to pray.  After we were first married, Miranda wanted me to change my pattern of sleep to a more “normal” routine.  But “normal” is what is prescribed as the norm for the community in which you live.  The norms of the world are far different than the norms of the disciplined spiritual life.  Over the four decades that we have been together, Miranda has come to accept, and I believe respect, my somewhat strange sleep schedule in making time for prayer.

It is not mandatory for us, as Benedict instructs, to “rise during the winter season…at the eighth hour of the night”, which is 2:00 AM.  Even Benedict recognizes the need for “making due allowance for circumstances.”  But rising in the quiet, dark hours of the night, or the early morning before our day is upon us, offers opportunity to bore into the silence of the night and close out the distractions of the world.  The removal of the world’s demands gives us the freedom to enter the day in closer communion with God, and to tune into His still, small voice speaking to us through the quiet of our stilled hearts and minds.  This may not work for everyone, but “due allowance for circumstances” is acceptable.  Nevertheless, if your circumstances do allow for pre-dawn prayers, you might want to give it a try. 

Note:  This meditation is designated for both October 12 and 13.  There will be no posting tomorrow.


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