Monday, February 28, 2011

Lent in the Rule of St Benedict, Part I - Sacred Reading

Lent is rapidly approaching, so I thought I'd post the relevant sections of the Rule to aid preparation for it! The Benedictine Rule has three main sections dealing with the Lenten discipline:
  • Chapter 48, which prescribes extra time for lectio divina, involving reading an assigned book through from beginning to end;
  • Chapter 49, which sets out some guidelines for ascetic practices during Lent; and
  • Chapter 41 on the Lenten fast.
So today, the section on the book.

Lectio Divina for Lent

Chapter 48 says:

"In the days of Lent let them apply themselves to their reading from the morning until the end of the third hour, and from then until the end of the tenth hour let them per­form the work that is assigned to them. In these days of Lent let them each receive a book from the library, which they shall read through consecutively; let these books be given out at the beginning of Lent." (trans J McCann)

Thus, St Benedict adds around an extra hour to the amount of time devoted to sacred reading each day, and also asks that a book be read from cover to cover over the six week period, rather than just dipped in and out of.

Note that the book was assigned to the monk, not chosen by the individual

Adapting to our own regime

The idea of forgoing some of our normal leisure time and using it for holy reading is obviously a good spiritual practice that all of us can probably find time for - even if we have to choose a relatively short book to make it work

So ideally our Lenten book should be assigned to us by our spiritual director.  That is not always possible though, but one can pray over the possible choices for guidance....

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