Daily Readings from the Rule of Benedict  

Posted by Joe Rawls

I've recently resumed the practice of reading a short excerpt from St Benedict's monastic Rule every day. I don't read the whole thing, just those parts I think are most relevant to a married Anglican layperson living in the so-called real world. So, for example, I skip Chapter 9, which deals with the arrangement of the Night Office (Vigils). The Book of Common Prayer makes no provision for a Night Office, and if it did, I wouldn't get up to do it anyway. But if you ever visit a monastery where it is done, by all means go to it, even if just for one time. The trauma of getting up at such a Godly hour shocks the psyche into being more receptive to the message of the psalms and canticles than it might otherwise be on a full night's sleep.

But I digress. The suggested readings below are based on the RB 1980, published in the same year by the Liturgical Press. This edition of the Rule contains the original Latin text, an excellent English translation on the facing page, and enough critical apparatus to keep a graduate student amused for years. IMHO, this is the gold standard for English-language critical editions of the Rule. The numbers in the citations refer to the versification in this edition. So, good reading and Pax et bonum.

Day 1 Prologue: 1-20

Day 2 Prologue: 21-38

Day 3 Prologue: 39-end

Day 4 Chapter 2 : 1-22

Day 5 Chapter 2 : 23-end

Day 6 Chapter 3

Day 7 Chapter 4: 1-43

Day 8 Chapter 4: 44-end

Day 9 Chapter 5

Day 10 Chapter 6

Day 11 Chapter 7 : 1-30

Day 12 Chapter 7: 31-43

Day 13 Chapter 7: 44-54

Day 14 Chapter 7: 55-end

Day 15 Chapters 19 and 20

Day 16 Chapter 27

Day 17 Chapter 31

Day 18 Chapters 33 and 34

Day 19 Chapter 36

Day 20 Chapter 48: 1-13

Day 21 Chapter 48: 14-end

Day 22 Chapter 49

Day 23 Chapter 52

Day 24 Chapter 53

Day 25 Chapter 57

Day 26 Chapter 58

Day 27 Chapter 62

Day 28 Chapter 68

Day 29 Chapter 71

Day 30 Chapter 72

Day 31 Chapter 73

St Ignatius Brianchaninov on the Jesus Prayer  

Posted by Joe Rawls

Ignatius lived from 1807 to 1867. He was born into a noble landowning Russian family. After study at a military academy at St Petersburg he received a commission in the Tsar's army as an engineer. A few years later he resigned due to illness, and after recovering his health became a monk. He was soon recognized for his piety and became abbot of a monastery near St Petersburg when he was only 26. At the age of 50 he was consecrated a bishop but quite sensibly resigned his bishopric after only four years to become a hermit (Anglican bishops take note). He spent the remainder of his life as a spiritual father, often guiding his directees by means of letter-writing. He was canonized by the Russian Church in 1988. Here are two of his comments on the Jesus Prayer:

The name of our Lord Jesus Christ is a divine name. The power and effect of that name are divine, omnipotent and salvific, and transcend our ability to comprehend it. With faith therefore, with confidence and sincerity, and with great piety and fear ought we proceed to the doing of the great work which God has entrusted to us: to train ourselves in prayer by using the name of our Lord Jesus Christ...

Novices need more time in order to train themselves in prayer. It is impossible to teach this supreme virtue shortly after entering the monastery of following the first few steps in asceticism. Asceticism needs both time and gradual progress, so that the ascetic can mature for prayer in every respect. In order that a flower might bloom or the fruit grow on a tree, the tree must first be planted and left to develop; thus also does prayer grow out of the soil of the other virtues and nowhere else. The monk will not quickly gain mastery of his mind, nor will he in a short time accustom it to abide in the words of the prayer as if enclosed in a prison. Pulled hither and thither by its acquired predilections, impressions, memories and worries, the novice's mind constantly breaks its salvific chains and strays from the narrow to the wide path. It prefers to wander freely...to stray aimlessly and mindlessly over great expanses, though this be damaging to him and cause him great loss. The passions, those moral infirmities of human nature, are the principal cause of inattentiveness and absentmindedness in prayer...The passions are brought under control and mortified little by little by means of true obedience, as well as by self-reproach and humility--these are the virtues upon which successful prayer is built. Concentration, which is accessible to man, is granted by God in good time to every struggler in piety and asceticism who by persistence and ardor proves the sincerity of his desire to acquire prayer.

Animal Saints  

Posted by Joe Rawls

Here are some excerpts from a great post published today by Christopher on his site at http://thanksgivinginallthings.blogspot.com/. The title is "Creation laughs back: animals, theology and animal saints".

I now know what others must feel, after having been laughed at for mentioning animal theology in a conversation. I have long heard others talk about derisive and dismissive encounters with "serious" theologians and scholars when the topic of animal theology is mentioned.

Considering animals in relationship to God is not something extra or foreign to Christianity. In my opinion, a serious doctrine of Creation cannot ignore the rest of the living world and the Creation as a whole and finally be Christian. Even rocks glorify God. And frankly, neither can a complete doctrine of Redemption or Sanctification. Indeed, to set up one's "serious" theology in such a way that one can ignore, dismiss, or deride creatures great and small, organic and inorganic, is a sign of the Fall and the effects of sin, alienation, and division. The rest of Creation pays dearly and regularly for our lack of relational recognition and failures in thankfulness...

When I'm driving and I notice a dead deer, raccoon, seagull, squirrel, or the like, I offer a prayer of thanks to God for the life of this creature and that God will greet him or her in His Kingdom...

I am part of a strand of tradition, the Benedictine, that honors this connection to the rest of Creation and is not threatened by the suggestion that God cares for each creature. A raven, after all, is God's messenger to Abba Benedict in his early monastic life and is often shown in iconography as friend and companion. We may not know the name of that raven, but given the desert penchant to understand that Christian life was to be lived in return to the Garden, I can imagine that Abba Benedict gave the raven a name. And as the icon shows, I'm certainly within tradition to imagine that not only Abba Benedict, but also the raven is raised up, is a saint.

Eucharistic Quotes: Roman Catholic  

Posted by Joe Rawls

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274)

This is what happens by divine power in this sacrament; for the whole substance of bread is converted into the whole substance of the body of Christ, and the whole substance of wine into the whole substance of the blood of Christ. Hence this conversion is not formal, but substantial; nor is it contained within the categories of natural motion, but may be called by its proper name, transubstantiation.

Teresa of Avila (1515-1582)

In the presence of Jesus in the Holy Sacrament we ought to be like the Blessed in heaven before the Divine Essence.

Odo Casel (1886-1948)

When we go with Christ in his way he becomes contemporary with us. He is neither past nor to come but present to us; he is always with us. And not only his person but also his saving act belongs to this present. There can be no deeper communion of living than that we should share the essential life and action of another.

Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (Vatican II)

...the liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the fountain from which all her power flows.

Catechism of the Catholic Church

1325. The Eucharist is the efficacious sign and sublime cause of that communion in the divine life and that unity of the People of God by which the church is kept in being. It is the culmination both of God's action sanctifying the world in Christ and of the worship men offer to Christ and through him to the Father in the Holy Spirit.
1396. Those who receive the Eucharist are united more closely to Christ. Through it Christ unites them to all the faithful in one body--the Church. Communion renews, strengthens, and deepens this incorporation into the Church, already achieved by Baptism. In Baptism we have been called to form but one body. The Eucharist fulfills this call: "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread" (1 Cor 10: 16-17).
1404. The Church knows that the Lord comes even now in his Eucharist and that he is there in our midst. However, his presence is veiled. Therefore we celebrate the Eucharist "awaiting the blessed hope and the coming of our savior, Jesus Christ, asking to share in your glory when every tear will be wiped away. On that day we shall see you, our God, as you are. We shall become like you and praise you forever through Christ our Lord.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta (1910-1997)

The humility of Jesus can be seen in the crib, in the exile of Jesus, in the inability to make people understand him, in the desertion of his apostles, in the hatred of his persecutors, in all the terrible suffering and death of his passion, and now in his permanent state of humility in the tabernacle, where he has reduced himself to such a small particle of bread that the priest can hold him with two fingers. The more we empty ourselves, the more room we give God to fill us.

When you look at the crucifix, you understand how much Jesus loved you then. When you look at the Sacred Host you understand how much Jesus loves you now.