Daily Meditations on the Rule of Saint Benedict: Chapter 11

To be read: February 13, June 13-14, October 16

For Vigils on Sunday the monks should rise earlier.  2At this office let the following order be observed: after six psalms and the versicle have been sung, and all have been properly seated on the benches in their order, let four lessons with their responsories be read from the book. 3In the fourth responsory only, let the Gloria be said by the chanter, and as soon as he begins to sing let all rise with reverence. 4After these lessons let six other psalms with antiphons and the versicle follow in order as before, 5and four more lessons with their responsories as above. 6After these let there be said three canticles from the Prophets, selected by the Abbot, and chanted with Alleluia. 7After the versicle and the Abbot’s blessing, let four other lessons from the New Testament be read in the order as above. 8But after the fourth responsory let the Abbot begin the hymn Te Deum laudamus (O God, we praise you). 9When this has been sung, let the Abbot read the lesson from the Gospel, all standing with reverence and awe. 10When the Gospel concludes let all answer Amen, and immediately the Abbot will follow up with the hymn Te decet laus (To You be praise).  After a final blessing, Lauds will begin. 11Let this order of Vigils be observed on Sunday the same way in summer as well as in winter, 12unless (God forbid) the monks should rise too late. If that were to happen, part of the lessons or the responsories would have to be shortened. 13Let every precaution be taken that this does not occur. If it should happen, let him through whose neglect it came about make due satisfaction for it to God in the oratory. 

Sunday is always a feast of the Resurrection of our Lord.  It is a day of praise.  There is to be no studying, no labor, and the morning hours are to be spent in psalms of praise and attention to the Word.  Special attention is given to the Good News.  As Benedict instructs, “the Abbot [will] read the lesson from the Gospel, all standing with reverence and awe.”  

Some, in our modern society, might complain that no one should tell them what to read, or how many prayers to pray, or how long we need worship.  And yet, the wisdom and direction of those who are practiced in the faith, who have developed a closer walk and more intimate relationship with the Lord, have much to teach us.  Left to our own devices, most of us would default to old habits and familiar patterns of reading Scripture.  We would inevitably avoid those Psalms which are uncomfortable for us, and the Scriptures that are peculiarly foreign to our modern ear.  We would inevitably skip the longer Psalms (e.g. 105, 106, 119), and the more tedious portions of the Old Testament (e.g. Leviticus).  

Benedict is laying a foundation for his disciples which will encourage a pattern of behavior that, once it becomes second nature, will help the follower become more complete in his or her worship and reception of the Word.  The emphasis of this chapter not only focuses on the primacy of Vigils as a service of praise, but of Sunday as being a celebratory day.

Benedict begins the conclusion of this section by saying that “this order of Vigils be observed on Sunday the same way in summer as well as in winter.”  This directive has implications for us about how to live a life of faith.  If we are to keep an order of worship which focuses on praise in both summer and winter, and if we are to “at all times and in all places give thanks” as commended in the Great Thanksgiving of the Eucharist, then we need to develop an attitude not only of gratitude, but of adoration as well.  To live a life of faith is to live at all times in praise and thanksgiving.

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