Daily Meditations on the Rule of Saint Benedict: Chapter 45

To be read: March 27, July 27, November 26

If anyone makes a mistake while reciting a psalm, a responsory, an antiphon, or while reading a lesson, and does not humble himself at that time before all by making satisfaction, let him receive a greater punishment, 2because he would not correct by humility what he did amiss through negligence. 3But let children be beaten for such a fault. 

Benedict begins this section of his Rule, on dealing with wrongs, with the words, “Indeed, nothing is to be preferred to the Work of God” (43:3).  And here in chapter 45 he addresses mistakes made in the Divine Office, when we are doing the Work of God.  Again, the matter comes back to the inner life of the individual.  If a mistake is made, Benedict prescribes that “he must make satisfaction there before all”.  This directive is designed to keep the members of the community humble before one another, to keep their heart right before God and each other.  What he is prescribing is not a prolonged apology to the community.  The admission of error should be a simple acknowledgement, a simple “please forgive me”, nothing that will draw undue attention to the reader.  The sense of Benedict’s word is that when a mistake is made in reading, the reader should pause, apologize, and move on.  Not acknowledging the mistake reveals a prideful heart.  A simple apology is a humble gesture. 

The point of all of these disciplines is straightforward: the Work of God is to be preferred above all. Discipline is designed to be restorative, not punitive, nor to bring attention to the mistakes or those who make them.  The idea behind this discipline is an effort to facilitate good liturgy, and that the liturgy may be well led.  This type of discipline encourages preparation.  If I know that I need to read a lesson, chant a psalm, or participate in any way in the liturgy, I should practice.  If I know I will be held accountable for my part in the liturgy, I will be more likely to take my role seriously.  The ultimate goal of this discipline is that all in community may have a right heart and a right spirit about the Work of God, and to draw closer to God through the healthiness of the community and their worship together. 

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