by Abbot Andrew Marr OSB
Worship is the most important act of Christian living. Worship keeps us in touch with God who loves us unconditionally and wills that we love Him rather than use Him for our own purposes. Worship teaches us is that we need bridges between ourselves and God and between ourselves and our neighbors, that we need to be healed and to heal others, and that we need to be fed by more than just the food we eat. It is the act of worship which is the central act of the monk.
by Andrew Marr OSB
The Passion narratives in the Gospels and the apostolic preaching in Acts tell us the story of a tension-filled society in which the various factions hated each other. Then, suddenly, a magic moment came when they united in a common cause. What they agreed on was to do away with the one person they all blamed for the tension, the one person who was “stirring up the people.” The executed person, however, did not say dead. Three days later, he was walking around Jerusalem. Fifty days later, this man’s frightened and dispersed disciples had come back together and were boldly proclaiming the innocence of this victim who had been raised him from the dead by God. This claim is summarized most succinctly in the prayer of the apostles in Acts 4. Peter and John have just been released from prison for healing a cripple and anxiety is high: “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth, the sea, and everything in them, it is you who said by the Holy Spirit through our ancestor David, your servant: ‘Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples imagine vain things? The kings of the earth took their stand and the rulers have gathered together against the Lord and against his Messiah.’ For in this city, in fact, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.” Note that the abundance of well-being offered in healing a cripple was met with an attempt to make such healing scarce.
by Andrew Marr OSB
I begin with a thought experiment. Imagine the great crowd of people in the countryside who came to listen to Jesus. It’s been a long day, and it’s getting close to dinnertime. There is a boy who has five barley loaves and two fish. Now, imagine that this boy, seeing the situation, starts to hawk his meager food supply to the highest bidders. This first century entrepreneur, will go home richer (though hungrier) than he was, but food will have been scarce. Few people would have been fed. Everybody would have been focused on each other as they fought over the bread and fish and Jesus would have been forgotten. The Gospels, however, tell us a different story. When approached by Jesus, the boy offered him the five barley loaves and two fish. When Jesus had distributed the food, there turned out to be more than enough for everyone, so much so, that there were more leftover scraps than there was food to start with.
By Abbot Andrew Marr OSB
The Rule of St. Benedict is an important document in the Catholic tradition of Christianity, a document that informs a communal tradition that remains alive today. Not only do many monks and nuns follow the Rule, but many non-monastics are today finding in the Rule fresh inspiration for living the Christian life. Given this importance, an exploration of how the Rule contributes to a vision of Catholic community in our time will be a fruitful endeavor.
Essential to a sense of Catholicity is the realization that individual contributions are part of a communal effort. This joint effort is most clearly embodied in liturgical worship where it is the actions of the whole community that comprise the liturgy, however important are the contributions of each individual. Christian writers are constantly making use of those thinkers who have gone before them in creating their personal visions of the Catholic mystery.
By Abbot Andrew Marr OSB
Benedict’s Rule: A Translation and Commentary
By Terrence G. Kardong, O.S.B. Collegeville, Minnesota:
Liturgical Press, 1996. xviii, 641p. $49.95 (cloth)
Cherish Christ above All: the Bible in the Rule of Benedict
By Demetrius Dumm, O.S.B.. Mahwah, N.J
Paulist Press, 1996. 163p. 12.95 (paper)
One can’t even glance at the text of the Rule of St. Benedict without noticing the great number of quotations from the Bible within it. In a calm, readable style, Demetrius Dumm, a monk of St. Vincent’s Archabbey in Latrobe, PA, explores Benedict’s use of the Bible with reference to standard monastic topics such as obedience, poverty and communal living. These reflections are peppered with little anecdotes from his experience of living the monastic life. Most touching of all is Dumm’s stress on the importance of love and compassion in the Rule of Benedict. For those with responsibility in the monastery, such as the abbot or the cellarer (who has charge of the goods of the monastery), compassion is particularly important. Authority exercised without love is tyrannical. Dumm says that if we attend to the importance of love, then “how a work is done is as important as that it is done.” (Dumm, p. 103) In the Christian life, informed by scripture and the Rule, Dumm says there is no room for sacrificing human beings to a task that needs to be done.
By Abbot Andrew Marr OSB
A Life of Sincere Devotion in the Rule of Benedict
The Rule of Benedict may not appear to be the most promising source for tracing the development of the meditative prayer that has led to the widespread practice of centering prayer in our own time. There are only two brief passages in the Rule that specifically touch on meditative prayer, and they both say roughly the same thing. Compared to so much rich literature elsewhere in early church writings, these chapters are rather disappointing. Or, so they seem. But if we look carefully at the Rule as a whole and the basic thrusts of its spirituality, it becomes apparent that Benedict structures the monastic life so as to create what I call a contemplative presence, a presence based on the constant remembrance of God, of constantly remembering that we live in God’s presence. A term borrowed from Buddhism but very applicable for Christians is “mindfulness.” The difference in Christianity is that in Buddhism, the noun is intransitive (if we can speak of such a thing). That is one is mindful for the sake of being mindful. In Christianity, mindfulness is transitive in that we are mindful of God and of the world God has made. When we examine the contemplative presence created by monastic practices, the brief references to meditative prayer in the Rule take on much more depth.
by Br. Martin Dally OSB
It is not uncommon for individuals to ask what breviary or prayer book we use for our daily liturgical prayer. We do not use a specific breviary. Rather, the office we pray at St. Gregory’s is one of our own making, following the guidelines of the Benedictine Thesaurus (a guide book of various ways a given Benedictine community may use to develop their own particular Daily Office). The system we use is a modern adaptation of the office as set forth in St. Benedict’s Rule.
Since so many who ask about our Daily Office are searching for a prayer book to enrich their prayer life, and since our Daily Offices are too time consuming for most people outside of a monastic context, I wish to offer some thoughts and recommendations on various office books that are available.