Daily Meditations on the Rule of Saint Benedict: Chapter 19

To be read: February 24, June 26, October 27

We believe that God is present everywhere and that “the eyes of the Lord behold the good and the bad in every place” (cf Prov 15:3).  2And it is important for us to firmly believe this, especially when we take part in the Work of God, the Divine Office.  3Therefore, always remember what the Prophet says, “Serve the Lord with fear” (Ps 2:11); 4and again, “Sing praise wisely” (Ps 46[47]:8);5and, “I will sing praise to You in the sight of the angels” (Ps 137[138]:1).  6Therefore, let us consider how we ought to behave in the sight of God and His angels, 7and so, let us stand to sing the psalms so that our minds may be in harmony with our voices. 

The key to this chapter is found in the final verse: “let us stand that our minds may be in harmony with our voices.”  A common objection to liturgical worship is the fear that our prayers will become rote and meaningless through familiarity and repetition.  Benedict would, undoubtedly, be aware of such accusation and share the concern.  He, therefore, combats these objections by commanding diligence in prayer and directs that our physical posture assist us in maintaining attention to prayer and the Word.

Growing up in the Episcopal Church, I was taught that “we sit to listen to the Word, stand to praise the Lord, and kneel to say our prayers.”  Holy Scripture does not dictate specific postures for our various forms of worship.  We read that prayers were said standing, kneeling, or even fully prostrate.  Whatever position works best for you at any given moment is right.  Kneeling can be hard for me, as my knees are weak and it pains me to kneel for any length of time.  It would be very hard for me to focus on the Lord if I were distracted by discomfort in my joints.  Thus, I usually sit to say my private prayers.  I do not think that this dishonors God and it certainly helps to keep my mind “in harmony with my voice.”  Let the Lord direct you in the most reverent posture for prayer.  But set aside a place that you can reliably offer your prayers without distraction.  If it requires you to sit, do not be dismayed.  Sit.  Pray.  Encounter the Lord.

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