October 11, 2013 – Feast of the Maternity of Mary (1962 liturgical books)
The ever practical St. Benedict in Chapter 35 of his Holy Rule prescribes a ritual for the changing of kitchen servers that involves Bible prayers. In fact, upon reflecting on this practice I wished that my parents had known the Rule of St. Benedict and adapted it to our family because it likely would have prevented some very silly arguments among us children and further instilled the kind of God orientation so necessary to build the virtues of generosity, self-sacrifice, humility, and kindness. That aside, this portion of the chapter gave me the idea of integrating the same verses before and after anything I do.
Here is the portion of Chapter 35 I’m writing about:
Immediately after the Morning Office on Sunday, the incoming and outgoing servers shall prostrate themselves before all the brethren in the oratory and ask their prayers. Let the server who is ending his week say this verse: Blessed are You, O Lord God, who have helped me and comforted me” [derived from 1 Chron. 29:10 and Ps. 86:17]. When this has been said three times and the outgoing server has received his blessing [from the Abbot], then let the incoming server follow and say, “O God, come to my assistance; O Lord, make haste to help me” [Ps. 70: 1]. Let this also be repeated three times by all and having received his blessing let him enter his service.
Feeding a monastery full of monks can be compared to feeding a family. The table is often the place where complaining about food, the taste, how fast it gets to hungry people, arguments about who got a bigger share of a popular dish, etc. occurs. In the monastery the servers must be prompt, clean, observing of etiquette, and gracious because, even with silence observed during the daily readings that accompany meals, a brother can be non-verbally obnoxious if he wishes and the server must bear with it. Accidents such as spills and breakages may happen or a server may be late getting food to the table due to a problem in the kitchen. Clearly God’s assistance is needed and thankfulness is due Him when servers complete their scheduled week.
Father G.A. Simon remarks:
St. Benedict wants the monk’s whole life to be permeated with the thought of God, and he wants everything in that life to minister to sanctification and progress in charity. “A duty of a very material kind and one often grievous to nature,” remarks Dom Delatte, “was consecrated by prayer. It became from that moment a religious and meritorious work, accomplished for the glory of God.”
There is nothing in the truly Christian life, then, that escapes the supernatural spirit. It is not a life partitioned in which more or less large rooms are reserved for God. Everything is for God. The daily toil, whatever be its nature, becomes matter for humility, matter for sacrifices, matter for imitation of the Lord Jesus; it becomes a holy thing, it becomes prayer. And in this sense it is true to say: He who works, prays….
St. Benedict has the invocations repeated by the choir. The idea is that we are not isolated individuals. All those who belong to Christ, especially all those who belong to the same family in Christ, ought to help one another by prayer, call on the aid of the Most High for one another, give thanks for one another. “The prayer of all,” says Dom Étienne, “fuses with the prayer of each; and that of each, with that of all. Wonderful commerce of exchange in charity!”
Whether we are engaged in physical or intellectual labors, we, in addition to calling on our Guardian Angel, the Blessed Mother, our patron saint or whoever, may ourselves recite this phrase from Psalm 70: “O God, come to my assistance; O Lord, make haste to help me.” When we finish the job, we may recite, “Blessed art thou, O Lord God, who have helped me and comforted me.” Although we most likely won’t have an entire community to pray these words with us, in a way we are joining with Christians everywhere who recognize that nothing is possible without God and that all things are possible with Him. And are these verses not a good thing to teach our children as they approach their school lessons and chores? I can see more peace in the family and in the world by taking on this practice from the Rule of St. Benedict.
This post linked to Sunday Snippets.
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