Friday, February 1, 2008

Two Tables in the House of God: Reflecting on RB 43

It's the first day of February...we'll be home exactly four weeks from today! Sister Aquinata is encouraging us to stay steady with our studies. (It can be tempting in the second half to pull back the throttle and coast.) Sister even added to our collection of papers this morning lest we run out of work to do in the course of the weekend. (Not a chance!) The good news is I am nowhere near the state of uselessness we monastics refer to as acedia. I'm not bored or sad and, mercifully, the homesickness has subsided with the bad germ that caught hold of my body. Even though there is an incredible amount to absorb - an "all you can eat" monastic buffet - something always jumps out at me. Today's lecture was no exception.

In RB 43 Saint Benedict addresses the issue of lateness. On hearing the signal for the divine office, the monastic will immediately set aside what she has in hand and go with utmost speed. RB 43:1 (emphasis my own) Translation: When the bell rings MOVE! Intensive study of the Holy Rule offers me the opportunity to examine my own monastic observance - lukewarm as it is (RB 18:25). This is actually a very challenging practice. How difficult it is to abandon a task before it is finished. How tempting it is to take just a couple more minutes and then slide into choir, like a runner on third base, just as the match is struck. I think my Lenten efforts are being shaped here...

The real brilliance of this chapter is Benedict's link between the oratory and the refectory (dining room). Keeping in mind that Benedict's monks probably had no daily Eucharist, but a distribution of Communion every day but Sunday, it is notable that being late to one table was as serious as being late to the other. Like the Master before him, Benedict knew that what happens around the altar has everything to do with what happens in the refectory. Conversely, what happens at the dining room table, has a palpable ripple effect in the quality of our prayer. Monastics eat from two tables and BOTH will sanctify us if we reverence them properly. Wow! Another good Lenten list grows longer by the day here. And, I am grateful for the hunger I still feel in my heart for the wisdom of Benedict. T-minus 28 days and counting!

Blessings and love to you all... - Sister Vicki