November 30, 2013
Welcome to the meme hosted by Colleen at Thoughts on Grace.
This week we were invited to join the home schooling family across the street for Thanksgiving cheer. Because I had already planned our dinner we agreed to come over for dessert. Being with others who are God oriented is quite peaceful as well as fun, even with 6 kids all doing their kid stuff. Most of all, the conversation and joking lead to some great laughs. Laughter is part of God’s gift to man. No other creature on earth can do it.
We got onto the subject of unwelcome telemarketing calls and how to get off somebody’s list. Roger and I are on both the federal and state no-call lists, but the brazen fraudsters all ignore it. Calls from all over the USA ring our phone for some credit card scam. Lately it’s been many calls from some medic alert people on some kind of scam. Roger and I believe that the elderly are being targeted because it’s impossible to keep oneself out of any database and the elderly are the easiest to scam. However, the homeschooling family is targeted for other scams. Most of the time neither of our families pick up the phone if we don’t know who the caller is, but occasionally somebody gets by us. For those cases we discussed some great lines to use if an actual human being is on the other end of the line and not a robot. Maybe you’ll enjoy these, too.
“Hello, caller, you’re on the air. The subject today is defrauding senior citizens.”
“Sherwood Forest, Maid Marian [Friar Tuck, Robin Hood] speaking.”
“Dexter Academy of Arts and Sciences. Please go ahead.” When the family member is asked for, the answer is, “I’m sorry, he no longer is employed here.”
The dessert was good, too. All in all, we had an enjoyable Thanksgiving with great fellowship.
Meditating on the Rule of St. Benedict
This week the subject was Chapter 47 on the Work of God, i.e. the Divine Office and how it should be celebrated. Somehow I keep forgetting what we were taught as children: before we pray we are to place ourselves in the presence of God. I think our worldly responsibilities and distractions get us into bad habits of praying just to get it over with and go on to something else. St. Benedict knew that this failing was all too common so to emphasize the importance of our dispositions when we pray he wrote:
And no one shall presume to sing or read unless he can fulfill that office in such a way as to edify the hearers. Let this function be performed with humility, gravity, and reverence, and by him whom the Abbot has appointed.
Perhaps to overcome my failings in this regard I should recall the dignity and solemnity with which the monks at Clear Creek in Oklahoma assemble and pray the Divine Office. I am always edified by them. First, each enters in silence after having been called to prayer by the monastery bell. No sound of shoes clop-clopping on the cement floor. Whatever they may have been doing before the Hour to be chanted, and whatever work clothes they may have been wearing, all appear in their habits quietly with deep recollection. After a few moments of silence the Abbot signals the beginning of the Hour.
The posture during the Office varies according to the rubrics, but one thing always impresses me: the grave bow during the singing of the “Gloria Patri”. At high Mass on Sundays I always bow during the “Gloria Patri” as part of the “Asperges me” before the Mass begins. It makes a huge difference in my disposition for the rest of the Mass.
Leonard Doyle translates Father G. A. Simon’s commentary on this section:
St. Benedict wants the liturgical Office to edify….This anxiety to edify contributes to the liturgy’s character of apostolate. And so in general, whether we take part in the office by assisting at it, or as “officers” of the choir or as celebrant, we should contribute by our deportment to that dignity of the Work of God which surrounds it as with an atmosphere of piety. Nothing so elevates the soul, nothing so invites it to prayer as an office well celebrated, in which all, assisting and officiating, seem permeated with the grandeur of the holy task they are fulfilling.
But this should be not merely an attitude. St. Benedict has already said to us, “Let our mind be in harmony with our voice.” Here our holy Father specifies the dispositions which should assure that concordance of the exterior with the inmost soul. The first is humility which consists in the secret sentiment of the unworthiness of one’s person in face of the divine majesty; the second is a certain gravity, inspired by the awareness that one is fulfilling a divine work; and the third is religious fear in seeing oneself engaged in actions which demand a holiness and a perfection we do not have. This, moreover, is what the Church makes us ask for in the preparatory prayer: “that I may worthily, attentively and devoutly recite this Office.”
I’ve read this passage several times this week and realize how far short I fall. Part of the reason is that I do not pray the office aloud nor in common with others, something I wish could be possible. But then, I should work even harder to do it well.
In monasteries and convents an Hour of the Divine Office always precedes the celebration of the conventual Mass, making the dispositions taken on for the Office carry through the Mass. I think that pastors would help the prayer life of their people by acquainting them with this part of the Holy Rule and applying it to the behavior, body postures, and disposition we ought to have at Mass as well. Quiet and recollection prior to beginning the Holy Sacrifice would draw down many more graces upon those gathered than the chatter that goes on before Mass in many parishes I’ve attended. If people assisted at Mass with the humility, gravity, and reverence called for by St. Benedict, and if priests took it seriously as well, all of us would be better armed for the battles with the principalities and powers St. Paul warns us about. In addition, the church itself would be in our minds the sacred space that it is, the space that when we enter it we are elevated into the courts of the Lord, leaving the courts of mammon behind.
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