Pentecost 15/Trinity 14/Ordinary Time 20 – Wednesday
Anglican & Roman Catholic feast day in memorial of St. Bernard of Clairvaux (O.Cist), Cistercian abbot of the Abbey of Clairvaux, Doctor of the Church
Love is sufficient of itself, it gives pleasure by itself and because of itself. It is its own merit, its own reward. Love looks for no cause outside itself, no effect beyond itself. Its profit lies in its practice. I love because I love, I love that I may love. Love is a great thing so long as it continually returns to its fountainhead, flows back to its source, always drawing from there the water which constantly replenishes it. Of all the movements, sensations and feelings of the soul, love is the only one in which the creature can respond to the Creator and make some sort of similar return however unequal though it be. For when God loves, all he desires is to be loved in return; the sole purpose of his love is to be loved, in the knowledge that those who love him are made happy by their love of him. – From the second reading of Vigils for St. Bernard’s feast day today.
The Cistercians and Trappists today would be having a feast day today. But the monastic descendants of the Abbey of Clairvaux (wherever they are today) might also see today as a solemnity as well. Us lay & professed Benedictines also honor St. Bernard as well. His sermons on the Song of Songs are stirring reading as meditations on the “steamiest” book of Holy Scripture at anytime. Make sure to have ice-cold water nearby to cool yourself off as you go through Scripture with St. Bernard in these sermons.
“We believe that the divine presence is everywhere. . . . But beyond the least doubt we should believe this to be especially true when we celebrate the divine office.” —The Rule of St. Benedict
“Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find your souls.” —The prophet Jeremiah, Jeremiah 6:16
“Say the words of the ancient prayer, and listen for the prayer of God that rises in your heart.” —Fr. Edward J. Farrell
“Accept the willing tribute of our lips and teach us your ways.” —The Psalter, Psalm 118:108
“Those who have been sent on a journey are not to omit the prescribed hours but to observe them as best as they can, not neglecting their measure of service.” —The Rule of St. Benedict
“Let yourselves be build, as living stones, into a spiritual temple for the holy work of offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God.” —St. Peter, 1 Peter 2:5
“The surrendering of ourselves to a life hidden in Christ . . . can be nothing other than the participation of our whole being in the work of God.” —The Rule of Taizé
“In the regularity of the office, the love of Jesus springs up within us, we know not how.” —The Rule of Taizé
“The Divine Hours are prayers of praise offered as a sacrifice of thanksgiving and faith to God . . . To offer them . . . is to assume the ‘office’ of attendant upon the Divine.” —Phyllis Tickle
“Go into your closet and pray.” —Jesus of Nazareth, Matthew 6:6
“There will be days when the office is a burden for you.” —The Rule of Taizé
“Is anyone among you in trouble? They should turn to prayer. Is anyone among you in good heart? They should sing praises.” —St. James, James 5:13
“Let us be attentive to enter into the meaning of liturgical action; let us seek to perceive something of the invisible reality of the kingdom.” —The Rule of Taizé
“I started to sense that words not only convey something, but are something; that words have color, depth, texture of their own, and the power to evoke vastly more than they mean . . . to make things happen inside the one who reads or hears them.” —Frederick Buechner
“Things are so serious now—and values so completely cock-eyed—that it seems to me to be of the highest moment to get even one individual to make one more act of his free will, directing it to God in love and faith. . . . Everything—the whole history of our world—is hanging on such acts.” —Thomas Merton (O.C.S.O.) [typical candor from my favorite Trappist—he was right in the 50s and 60s and his words still are applicable to us in today]
You can gather from the above quotes what the other thought for today is. For the love of God that a child of God has for their Creator, can only express itself in prayer and praise. And given that it’s St. Bernard’s feast day, here’s something regarding the place of “the Work of God” as the Benedictine Rule, that Benedictines, Cistercians and Trappists use, puts it.
A selection taken from one of the books on my most recent reading list. I hope these words below, as Robert Benson puts more eloquently than I could ever hope to achieve, stimulates you to reflect on your own prayer life as it did my own when I read them.
And I thoroughly recommend adding this to your library/reading list. *Disclaimer: I am not being paid by Thomas Nelson to say this!!!*
One of the reasons it’s hard for us to say the daily office is that on most days, prayer is more like weeding a flower bed for the third time this month than it is some divine and mystical experience. The truth is that for most of the time—for all time, according to the ones who have gone before us—the office has a kind of mundane, everyday sort of feeling. There is a blessed ordinariness to it. The daily office is not called daily for nothing, you know.
There is a temptation for all of us to feel as though worship is not really worth much unless we are personally moved by it. If we are not somehow emotionally touched, then our worship does not seem spiritual to us. It helps to remember that liturgy is the work of the people, not the magic wand of God.
To say the office is to say that I am going to keep doing my chores. I am going to keep raking the leaves or mowing the grass or pulling up the weeds, even if it is a long time until the roses bloom. I will keep saying these psalms until the prayer of God rises in my heart. I will offer my thanksgivings even when I am not very thankful. I will offer my prayer and praise on the days when I am tired or distracted or busy or lost. This sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving is not only reasonable, but in the end, it may even make me lively somehow. Maybe even fully alive.
Sometimes it is hard to persevere in saying the office, because there is no immediate sense that anything is happening when we do. I only know this: if you want some roses to bloom, then you have to do some raking and some mulching and some weeding and some pruning and some waiting. I also know that some evening in May, when I come around the corner at dusk to check to see if the front gate is locked for the night, the breeze will be just right, and I will be paying attention enough to smell them, and the moment will be as holy as any prayer that ever rose as incense to the One who made us.
From time to time, something fine may well happen to me while I am saying the morning or evening prayer. But not if I do not make my office with great care, my “daily offering of fresh flowers to the Beloved Spouse,” as Charles de Foucauld once put it. Not if I do not say my prayers.
It is not easy to say the prayers when nothing much seems to come from it each day. Is that really a good reason not to do the work of God?
Personal prayer does not dispense us from corporate prayer. The one sustains the other. Our ongoing conversation with Christ does not excuse us from the call to share in the ongoing praise and worship that is to be offered up by the body of Christ.
The prayer of the office can teach me that the world of prayer is much larger than just my own sweet personal self. I may well discover that prayer is not actually even for me.
If I say the words of the divine office often enough and carefully enough and faithfully enough, I may well find a pearl of great price.
Here is the pearl: the world is not my personal oyster.
– Robert Benson, extracted from “Chapter 4 – Praying Upside Down”, In Constant Prayer – The Ancient Practices Series (2008: Thomas Nelson, Nashville) pp. 56-58.
+ Pax Christi,