Saturday, November 21, 2015

Let nothing be put before the Work of God.

At the hour for the Divine Office,
as soon as the signal is heard,
let them abandon whatever they may have in hand
and hasten with the greatest speed,
yet with seriousness, so that there is no excuse for levity.
Let nothing, therefore, be put before the Work of God.
from Chapter 43 of The Rule of Benedict

There is much those in the world can learn from what was written here for those leading the monastic life. It can be very easy to let the cares of the world come between us and our prayers, not to mention the temptations. How often I have myself thought to myself that I'll just get this small piece of work done before saying the morning office; before I know it I'm beavering away and it's noon or one and I'm startled and ashamed to realise that my prayers have gone unsaid (of course, I then say the office then - but it is hardly in the spirit of things to say one's morning prayers at lunchtime!).

I try to learn from such experiences. However much the work is calling to me, how urgent it seems, I try to push it to one side and focus on my prayers instead (from that arises another problem - the thought of the work waiting to be done serving as a distraction during prayers ... alas, I'm not very good at mindfulness! But that is an issue for another day). Setting a routine and having the self-discipline to stick to it are required. 

Still, it can be a struggle and I do struggle with it. Mainly, of course, because like everyone else these days I have a million things I need to do. And this is where the words of St Benedict, I believe, can be such a help: 
Let nothing, therefore, be put before the Work of God. They help put things into their true context: which is that our prayers are not on the same level as all the other work we must do; they are the work of God, not to be neglected so that email may be sent out five minutes earlier than it would have been, that letter finished, that phone call made, not even that sermon written. 

If people were to take St Benedict's words to heart, that they should put nothing before the work of God, their prayer life would, I think, most certainly be improved. It would help them to let nothing come between them and their morning and evening prayers, or their obligation to keep holy the Lord's Day through their worship of Him in his own House. Right now, I know I am thinking that keeping that line in mind will be of great help to me.

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