Daily Meditations on the Rule of Saint Benedict: Chapter 38

To be read: March 17, July 17, November 17

Reading must always accompany the meals of the brothers.  The reader should not be anyone who may by chance take up the book, but one who will read for the whole week, beginning that office on Sunday. 2After Mass and Communion let him ask all to pray for him that God may shield him from the spirit of pride.  3And let the following verse be said three times by all in the oratory, with him beginning it: “O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall proclaim Your praise”(Ps 50[51]:15)4And when he has received the blessing, let him begin his reading for the week.  5Let there be profound silence during the reading that no whispering or speaking be heard, except that of the reader alone. 6But let the brothers serve each other, so that what is needed for eating and drinking may be provided without asking.  7If, however, anything should be needed, it should be requested by means of a sign rather than a sound.  8And no one should presume to ask any questions either about the book or anything else, in order that “no opportunity be given [to the devil]”(Eph 4:27; 1 Tm 5:14)9The Superior, however, may wish to say a few words for edification.  10The brother who is reader for the week may take a little bread and wine before he begins to read, on account of Holy Communion and because the fast may be too long for him.   11Afterward, however, let him take his meal in the kitchen with the weekly servers and the waiters. 12The brothers will not read or sing in order of their rank, but only those who edify their hearers. 

Though most of us seldom have opportunity to take meditative time at meals, listening to someone read to us from sacred texts, we can make those meals eucharistic (communal meals of thanksgiving) by acknowledging the others with whom we are dining by turning off electronic devices and focusing our attention on the family and friends present with us.  We can then begin to see the others as Christ and our time together as a sacred opportunity, a divine encounter.  And if there are periods of silence, resist the urge to fill those gaps in conversation; rather embrace the silence, communing with the other in that sacred, silent space.  If you are single, or have occasion to dine alone, rather than fill the room with sound from the TV, internet, or other electronic device, relish the silence, acknowledge your unseen guest, and enjoy communion with Him.

Meals are always communal affairs, even when we are dining alone—for we are never alone if we are in Christ.  Much of the ministry I do is done over meals or a cup of coffee.  Animals eat, humans dine.  There is a reason that God created us with a reverence for mealtimes.  It is a sad commentary on our culture that the family meal is losing ground quickly to the harried pace of our multi-tasking world.  How often do we see a couple dining together in a restaurant, only to witness them more engrossed in their phone than in one another?  You do realize, do you not, that it is not necessary to post a picture of your meal on your social media account of choice to make it real?  Just relish the great gift that God has given you to sit down with Him and with whomever you have chosen to dine.  And serve one another with engaging conversation, or even with profound silence, enjoying the gift of one another’s company.

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