Let us therefore bring our tribute of praise to our Creator "for the judgments of His. justice" (Ps. 118:164) at these times: the Morning Office, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers and Compline; and in the night let us arise to glorify Him." - Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 16.
This chapter, "How the Work of God Is to Be Performed During the Day," is, to me, the heart of Benedictine life. The rhythm of framing the day with times of prayer was a big part of my spiritual growth before and during seminary. By "spiritual growth" I don't mean I was becoming a perfect Christian; not even close. But the times of prayer did help me grow closer to God. And, now,when I am listening, they help me to discern where God calls me to go on my interim ministerial pilgrimage from congregation to congregation. Note that I said, "when I am listening." I, being somewhat hard headed at times, have not always listened. Usually not listening brings disastrous results.
As Benedict's Rule has never been followed to the letter, not all monastics pray all the offices. Benedictines are, after all, people of moderation. And Oblates, as Benedictines living in the world, find our place in life rarely allows us to do so either. In balancing all the parts of my life, I find I rarely am able to join in this work of God, other than the first morning office, called Prime or Lauds. But during this Lenten season, I am adding Vespers to my daily schedule. I hope to continue this practice beyond Lent as I am finding it does help me balance my life.
I find it interesting that Benedict called prayer "the work of God." As a Presbyterian I believe all occupations, all types of work, are equally sacred, and thus they all can be called "work of God." So why do I place so much significance on this type of God's work? For me, this work, as I mentioned above, is the lynchpin for my life. No matter how well I do at including other work, creativity, family, play, rest, etc., my life becomes out of kilter if I do not take the time to pray the hours; to connect with the One upon who, all life depends.
Apparently my lack of prayer can be instinctively felt by some other creatures. If I have been not praying the hours, my cats, believe it or not, conspicuously and nosily enter the room I use as a chapel at the time for Lauds, and sit down facing the communion table. They will stay there until I notice them, enter the chapel, and pray. They remain sitting until the final words of prayer, "and with our absent brethren," and then they resume normal cat behavior. I have found it best to heed their reminders.
Thank you Father Benedict for reminding us of the Psalmist's words and of the proper place of this most important of all the work of God.
Brother Oscar Romero