Daily Meditations on the Rule of Saint Benedict: Chapter 50

To be read: April 1, August 1, December 1

The brothers who work too far away, and cannot come to the oratory at the appointed time—2and the Abbot has assured himself that such is the case—3should perform the Work of God where they are working, kneeling out of reverence for God. 4In the same way let those who are sent on a journey not omit the appointed hours, but say the office by themselves as best they can, and not neglect to fulfill their obligation of divine service. 

In this chapter, and the one to follow, Benedict presses forward with specific guidelines for maintaining faithfulness to the Work of God, even when we are away from home.  These chapters address how to pray in various situations, at work, or on the road, and how to set aside sacred time and sacred space wherever you are.  

Benedict instructs that when you find yourself in unusual surroundings you must not neglect the Work of God, but make sacred time and space for the Divine Office regardless of the circumstances.  This can be difficult.  Often when I am traveling for Church related business, I have no control over my schedule.  I must fit the hours in around conferences, council meetings, etc.  But, if, as we saw in chapter 43, that nothing is to be preferred to the Work of God, then even when schedules are disrupted by travel, sickness, or other unforeseen impingement on our time and routine, we are to “perform the Work of God where [we] are, kneeling out of reverence for God.”  Benedict directs the act of kneeling as it temporarily recreates whatever space we have available for prayer into sacred space.  But, as we observed in the meditation on chapter 19, Holy Scripture does not dictate specific postures for our various forms of worship.  The primary concern of St. Benedict was not the physical posture, but the “reverence for God”.  For example, sitting on the couch in a hotel room, if our undivided attention is directed toward God, can be a reverent posture and create sacred space.

Benedict recognized that there are going to be those times when outside forces can negatively impact the our efforts to keep the holy hours.  He says “let those who are sent on a journey not omit the appointed hours, but say the office by themselves as best they can, and not neglect to fulfill their obligation of divine service” (emphasis added).  The Lord knows our heart (Psalm 44:21).  If the desire of our heart is to honor the Lord and to worship Him, He will be glorified.  The Lord says, “those who honor me I will honor” (1 Sam. 2:30), and “he who brings thanksgiving as his sacrifice honors me” (Psalm 50:23).  So whether we are kneeling, standing, or sitting, and no matter where we are, “at all times, and in all places, give thanks” to the Lord (BCP p. 333). 

One final thought on this topic.  I encourage my parishioners to bring me a signed bulletin from churches they visit while traveling.  I joke that I want it signed to confirm that they actually went to worship there and didn’t just bop into the narthex and grab a bulletin.  And when they do bring a bulletin to me, I acknowledge that at the announcements on Sunday morning.  But the idea in asking them to bring a bulletin is two-fold.  I like to know what other churches are doing, and I want to encourage my parishioners to attend worship when they are away from their parish home.  We are never on vacation from God.  We worship Him “at all times, and in all places!”  We need to encourage one another in that discipline.

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