4 Jan. 5 May. 4 Sept.
Having our loins, therefore, girded with faith and the performance of good works, let us walk in His paths by the guidance of the Gospel, that we may deserve to see Him Who hath called us to His kingdom. And if we wish to dwell in the tabernacle of His kingdom, we shall by no means reach it unless we run thither by our good deeds. But let us ask the Lord with the Prophet, saying to Him: “Lord, who shall dwell in Thy tabernacle, or who shall rest upon Thy holy hill?” After this question, brethren, let us hear the Lord answering, and shewing to us the way to His tabernacle, and saying: “He that walketh without stain and worketh justice: he that speaketh truth in his heart, that hath not done guile with his tongue: he that hath done no evil to his neighbour, and hath not taken up a reproach against his neighbour:” he that hath brought the malignant evil one to naught, casting him out of his heart with all his suggestions, and hath taken his bad thoughts, while they were yet young, and dashed them down upon the (Rock) Christ. These are they, who fearing the Lord, are not puffed up with their own good works, but knowing that the good which is in them cometh not from themselves but from the Lord, magnify the Lord Who worketh in them, saying with the Prophet: “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto Thy Name give the glory.” So the Apostle Paul imputed nothing of his preaching to himself, but said: “By the grace of God I am what I am.” And again he saith: “He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.”
This piece is the centre of the Prologue. The first line serves as a kind of hinge between the explanation of the verses of Psalm 33 that precede it and the verses of Psalm 14 that follow it. Between the two expositions of the psalms, Saint Benedict places the Holy Gospel, saying: “Let us walk in His paths by the guidance of the Gospel, that we may deserve to see Him Who hath called us to His kingdom”. The Gospel is the norm of monastic life. It is by hearing, and meditating, and praying, and abiding in the Gospel of Jesus Christ that we shall come to the vision of God in glory: “that we may deserve to see Him Who hath called us to His kingdom”. For this were we created: to see God.
When a monk opens his psalter, he does so with the expectation of seeing there, shining through the lattice–work of the sacred text, the adorable Face of Christ.
Behold he standeth behind our wall, looking through the windows, looking through the lattices. Behold my beloved speaketh to me: Arise, make haste, my love, my dove, my beautiful one, and come. (Canticle 2:9–10)
And when a monk chants the psalms, he does so, listening to the voice of Christ, and savouring the very prayer of Christ to the Father. A monk receives a great gift when Jesus, either meeting him on the road, or behind closed doors, opens his understanding that he might find in all the scriptures, as in a tabernacle, His own radiant presence.
These are the words which I spoke to you, while I was yet with you, that all things must needs be fulfilled, which are written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. Then he opened their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures. (Luke 24:44–45)
A monk lives primarily from the psalms and the Gospels. The psalms prepare one to hear the Gospel rightly; having heard the Gospel, one returns to the psalms, for the psalms are, in effect, the Gospels turned to prayer. The monk who is faithful to his psalter will have a watchful heart, and this because the psalms constantly direct his eyes, his steps, and his heart to “the things that are above; where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God” (Colossians 3:1–2).
There is a liturgical playing–out of the centrality of the Gospel in Benedictine life (Rule, Chapter XI): it occurs every Sunday at the Night Office when, after keeping watch through fourteen psalms and three canticles of the Old Testament, through a sequence of lessons and responsories, through the chant of the Te Deum Laudamus, Christ arrives in the solemn proclamation of the Gospel by the abbot. The liturgic Gospel is just this: the advent of Christ. To this mystic advent of Christ in the Gospel the monk, standing like a sentinel in the presence of his king, responds Amen. The Amen to the Gospel is more than a word; it sums up the whole monastic life: a waiting for the Gospel, marked by the recitation of the psalms, and a life of obedience to the Gospel, also marked by the recitation of the psalms.
The source and summit of obedience to the Gospel is the fulfilment of the command given by Our Lord on the night before He suffered:
And taking bread, he gave thanks, and brake; and gave to them, saying: This is my body, which is given for you. Do this for a commemoration of me. (Luke 22:19).
The weekly Psalter (all 150 psalms recited over 7 days) is the monastic way of measuring time, and all of time, according to Saint Benedict, is ordered to the vision of God in His kingdom. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the anticipation, here and now, of the vision of God in glory. “And they saw God, and they did eat and drink” (Exodus 24:11). This is why, at Silverstream (and in other Benedictine monasteries of perpetual adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament), the daily round of psalmody, and the eager hearing of the Gospel, are accompanied not only by the Holy Sacrifice offered each morning, but also by the contemplation of the Face of God veiled in the Most Holy Sacrament.
Iesu, quem velatum nunc aspicio,
Oro, fiat illud, quod tam sitio,
Ut te revelata cernens facie,
Visu sim beatus tuae gloriae.
Jesu, whom I look at shrouded here below,
I beseech thee send me what I thirst for so,
Some day to gaze on thee face to face in light
And be blest for ever with thy glory’s sight.