Saturday, 18 June 2011

Divine Office & Liturgy - from a Benedictine monk and a Benedictine Oblate

I suscribe to two e-mail feeds which have a commentary on the rule of the day. Today's is on the details of the office, whcih both have led both to reflect on the Office and Liturgy generally, interesting thoughts... the white highlighted bit is not highlighted by me or author, just a blip from cut and paste!


February 17, June 18, October 18
Chapter 14: How the Night Office Is to Be Said on the Feasts of the

On the feasts of Saints and on all festivals
let the Office be performed
as we have prescribed for Sundays,
except that the Psalms, the antiphons and the lessons
belonging to that particular day are to be said.
Their number, however, shall remain as we have specified above.


Without marking certain days
as special, our Office would quickly become a bland and tedious bore.
On the other hand, mark too much as special and people soon get worn
out. Variety itself becomes boring and a chore.

Having lived in a monastery for part of the 1960's and 70's where the
liturgy became the sad equivalent of a revolving door, changing often
and not often well, I can speak from experience. It became dreadful
to wonder what would happen next. It pulled out the necessary
underpinnings of a certain stability (gasp!) and changelessness that
a Benedictine life of prayer requires.

Ah, but in the quest for simplicity carried to unfortunate extremes,
it did, at times, become UTTERLY changeless. Same old same old, every
single day with nothing different but the prayer at the end, if that.
("Oh boy, it must be Tuesday again....!") No antiphons, just psalms
and canticles. No music other than the hymn, same seven each week for
each hour, a few good, many bad.... No Glory be between Psalms, just
one at the end. It was dull and gave even more of an impression
of "let's just get this over with" than the old Office did at its
very worst. One often wondered why we still bothered to go to choir.

A balance between variety and stability is where the virtue truly
lies. I have never heard anyone complain about singing or saying the
same unchanging parts of the Mass every day, because they are set in
the midst of elements that DO change. The same must be true
of the Office to a certain extent. When SO much changes at feasts, as
it did in former days of many octaves and tons of commemorations,
that one longs and pines for a weekday with one book and NOTHING
special, that balance has been missed. On the other hand, the
changeless mundane misses the balance as well. One should never have
to come out of a "simple" Office and think quietly: "Wow, that was
dumb...." (But I'm afraid I have.)

St. Benedict built the necessary change right into his Office for
monasteries. Ignore his bottom line or extend it unduly and you get
into trouble. In this instance, as in so many, he was far wiser than
we are, than people of any age are.

Love and prayers,
Jerome, OSB

Petersham, MA

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Divine Mercy will shine upon all those who have taken their
own lives. Please pray that Divine Mercy will end the murder of babies by abortion in America and around the world.+

Chapter 14: How the Night Office Is to Be Said on the Feasts of the Saints
Feb. 17 - June 18 -
Oct. 18
On the feasts of Saints and on all festivals
let the Office be performed
as we have prescribed for Sundays,
except that the Psalms, the antiphons and the lessons
belonging to that particular day are to be said.
Their number, however, shall remain as we have specified above.


As an enthusiast of the Monastic Diurnal (St. Michael's Edition) I can certainly
vouch for the fact that it is NOT one of the Offices that is changeless! Oh yes,
Little Hours are fairly repetitive as are the vast majority of other Offices
(I can't honestly think of one that has a lot of variety in the Little Hours)
but the
Benedictine Calendar offers a rich variety of Saints and celebrations
that a soul not familiar with the MD is probably not aware of or might possibly
have forgotten in the world's rush to embrace
Political Correctness... which in
total religious hegemony. Political Correctness (P.C.) in its beginnings served
a useful purpose and undoubtedly served to make us more sensitive to the feeling of others.
But Political Correctness has now morphed into Political Censorship and is paralyzing us at best and enabling those who have evil intentions for us at worst.

To turn a blind eye to the looming and very real danger posed by those
whose goal in life is to destroy Western Civilization does a disservice to the
original purpose of Political Correctness. Those who chose to ignore this threat out
of a belief in Moral Equivalency or an exaggerated sense of Political Correctness (Political Censorship) display a masochistic tendency as they glide along blissfully in the false belief that
there are no evil intentions working against us. It is quite possible, some might
even say probable, that someday we could be put to that same test that Christians have had to
make several times over the centuries: deny Christ or die. Pray God will give us the strength of Final Perseverance for whatever end He has in store for us!

A short reading from the Martyrology (a couple of paragraphs) normally follows
the Hour of Prime each day. Some have erroneously stated that Vatican II
suppressed the Hour of Prime and the readings from the Martyrology but that is
NOT the fact. Prime was suppressed only in the Roman Office not in the Monastic
Office of which the Monastic Diurnal is a part. The Benedictine Monastic Diurnal
is one of the few remaining Offices of a
Religious Order in use. It is possible
Offices of ancient usage will become more accepted due to the Holy Father's Motu Proprio.
Time will tell.

Most Orders have opted for a more P.C. approach (to much more than just the
Divine Office unfortunately). As a matter of fact very many Benedictine Houses
have also chosen more modern Offices but there seems to be a growing
resurgence, a yearning for more
traditional Works of God in some Monasteries and
especially among Oblates.

Please notice St. Benedict's Instruction (repeated yet again) in the final
sentence of the Instruction that the number of psalms "shall" be maintained to
ensure the completion of the entire
Psalter each week. Even when it is impossible to
pray the whole Hour of Matins one can still pray those specific psalms which
comprise each day's Matins selection.

Once again I must state that obviously not all souls will share my love for the
Monastic Diurnal. And that's fine! And it is certainly no excuse for one to
ignore making some Divine Office (or some part of one) an integral part of one's
Personal Prayer Rule. And if are an
Oblate or a Lover of the Holy Rule that is
doubly true.

You Who are All, have given me All, whereas I who am nothing, can give you only nothing! Yet, how slow, indolent and miserly I am in giving you this nothing, how much I try to spare
myself, to give myself with prudence... (Father Gabriel O.C.D.)

Father of Truth, behold Your Son, a sacrifice pleasing to You, accept the offering of Him who died for me... (Saint Charbel Makhlouf)

God is a fire that warms and kindles the heart and inward parts. Hence, if we feel in our hearts the cold which comes from the devil--for the devil is cold--let us call on the Lord. He will come to warm our hearts with perfect love, not only for Him, but also for our neighbor. (Saint Seraphim of Sarov)

Much Love and Many Prayers.....michael...oblate

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