Daily Reading for November 26
Mindfulness and awareness, though the essential foundation of a life of prayer, are not in themselves sufficient. There must be some structure and framework, regular times for prayer, particularly shared prayer, and it is these that Benedict is establishing here [in Chapter 8 of the Rule]. Prayer is never taken out of the natural flow of life itself. It is firmly inserted within the rhythm of the changing seasons, of winter and summer, of day and night, and not least of the rhythm of my own body. In a world in which the techniques of prayer are widely discussed and so many varying techniques seem to be offered, it is rather startling to have the subjects of sleep, digestion, and making time to go to the lavatory introduced into this short chapter. This, however, at once makes it clear that the daily office is tailored to suit the needs of the monks, rather than according to some idealized blueprint or an abstract principle. Benedict respects our total humanity—body, mind, and spirit—and recognizes that balance here: praying is disassociated neither from a gentle handling of bodily needs, nor from intellectual demand. The gap between the first two offices of the day is to be used for reading and for study, for memorizing the psalms in order to make them one’s own, “to possess the psalms and be possessed by them.”
From A Life-Giving Way: A Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict by Esther de Waal (Liturgical Press, 1995).