A School of the Lord's Service

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Prologue of Our Most Holy Father Benedict to His Rule
7 Jan. 8 May. 7 Sept.
We have, therefore, to establish a school of the Lord's service, in the setting forth of which we hope to order nothing that is harsh or rigorous. But if anything be somewhat strictly laid down, according to the dictates of sound reason, for the amendment of vices or the preservation of charity, do not therefore fly in dismay from the way of salvation, whose beginning cannot but be strait and difficult. But as we go forward in our life and in faith, we shall with hearts enlarged and unspeakable sweetness of love run in the way of God's commandments; so that never departing from His guidance, but persevering in His teaching in the monastery until death, we may by patience share in the sufferings of Christ, that we may deserve to be partakers of His kingdom. Amen.

Adoration in Spirit and in Truth

In writing his Rule, Saint Benedict seeks only to establish a school of the Lord's service, that is to say, a school of adoration in spirit and in truth. A man enters the monastery to learn how to adore God as God seeks to be adored.

The hour cometh, and now is, when the true adorers shall adore the Father in spirit and in truth. For the Father also seeketh such to adore him. God is a spirit; and they that adore him, must adore him in spirit and in truth. (John 4:23-24)

Men Who Have Their Gaze Directed to God

The Father seeks men who will adore Him in the Holy Spirit and in union with the Son. He seeks men who will adore Him as the Son adores Him, that is, perpetually. The school of the Lord's service is a school of perpetual adoration. Perpetual adoration does not imply that a monk be, at every moment, kneeling before the Sacred Host; it means, rather, that the compass of his heart is oriented steadily and unswervingly ad Patrem: towards the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit. It was to this that Pope Benedict XVI referred in his discourse at Subiaco, the cradle of Benedictine life, in April 2005, only days before his election: "We need men who have their gaze directed to God."

Come to the Father

In the school of the Lord's service a man learns, through obedience, silence, and humility, to surrender to the mysterious operations of the Holy Ghost by which his spirit enters the rhythm of a ceaseless return to the Father through the Son, in filial love and in sacerdotal offering. He begins, over time, to hear what Saint Ignatius of Antioch describes in his Epistle to the Romans: "There is within me a water that lives and speaks, saying to me inwardly, Come to the Father."

Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmity. For we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit himself asketh for us with unspeakable groanings. And he that searcheth the hearts, knoweth what the Spirit desireth; because he asketh for the saints according to God. (Romans 8:26-27)

The Sacred Liturgy

Nowhere does the Holy Spirit help our infirmity more powerfully than in the sacred liturgy of the Church: "the foremost and indispensable font of the Christian spirit" (Saint Pius X, Tra le sollecitudini). Saint Benedict's school of the Lord's service gives absolute primacy to the Opus Dei (the Work of God, i.e. the Divine Office) because it is there that the Holy Spirit descends mightily and sweetly to succour our weakness, praying for us and in us with unspeakable groanings. Father Augustine Baker's disciple, the English Benedictine mystic, Dame Gertrude More wrote:

The Divine Office is such a heavenly thing that in it we find whatsoever we can desire: for sometimes in it we address ourselves to Thee for help and pardon for our sins; and sometimes Thou speakest to us, so that it pierceth and woundeth with desire of Thee the very bottom of our souls; and sometimes Thou teachest a soul to understand more in it of the knowledge of Thee and of herself than ever could have been by all the teaching in the world showed to a soul in five hundred years; for Thy words are works.

The Holy Spirit, labouring in us through the Divine Office, obtains all that the Father, in His wisdom and love, desires to bestow upon the saints, that is, upon the Body of the Church, the Bride of Christ. Thus does the monastery's stable rhythm of choral prayer refresh the Church with wave upon wave of divine life.

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About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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