Seven times in the day have I given praise to Thee (XVI)


CHAPTER XVI. How the Work of God is to be done in the day-time
19 Feb. 20 June. 20 Oct.
As the prophet saith: “Seven times in the day have I given praise to Thee.” And we shall observe this sacred number of seven if, at the times of Lauds, Prime, Tierce, Sext, None, Vespers and Compline, we fulfil the duties of our service. For it was of these hours of the day that he said: “Seven times in the day have I given praise to Thee”; just as the same prophet saith of the night watches: “At midnight I arose to give Thee praise.” At these times, therefore, let us sing the praises of our Creator for the judgments of His justice: that is, at Lauds, Prime, Tierce, Sext, None, Vespers and Compline; and at night let us arise to praise Him.

Already, from the time of Tertullian (Letter on Prayer, Chapter 25) and of Saint Cyprian (On the Lord’s Prayer, Chapters 34–36), the Fathers and other ecclesiastical writers set forth the Church’s Hours of Prayer and the biblical and mystical reasons for each of them. To the three original Hours of Prayer that are of Jewish origin—daybreak, midday, and sunset—Christians added the third, sixth, and ninth Hours. Later, Prime and Compline were added, giving a total of seven day Hours, in fulfilment of the Psalmist’s words, “Seven times in the day have I given praise to Thee” (Psalm 118:164). The Night Office fulfils these other words of the Psalmist: “I rose at midnight to give praise to thee; for the judgments of thy justification” (Psalm 118:62). Saint Benedict holds to the full cursus of the Hours: seven day Offices, and one nocturnal Office; the sons of Saint Benedict must hold fast to the heritage they have received.

When on March 21st, 1924, the feast of Saint Benedict, Pope Pius XI promulgated the Apostolic Letter Equidem Verba, his intention was that Benedictine monasteries should be living centres of communion with the Eastern Orthodox Churches principally by their fidelity to the traditional daily round of liturgical prayer and by their assiduous dedication to the monastic Fathers of the undivided Church and the whole patristic tradition. Our vocation to reparation extends to the great gaping wound of division among the Churches. In May 1995, Saint John Paul II wrote:

A holy nostalgia for the centuries lived in the full communion of faith and charity urges us and reproaches us for our sins and our mutual misunderstandings: we have deprived the world of a joint witness that could, perhaps, have avoided so many tragedies and even changed the course of history. (Orientale Lumen, art. 28)

Theological dialogue, if it is not grounded in the work of reparation, by which souls expose themselves to the adorable Face of Our Lord and submit to His divine operations within them, remains academic and sterile. Our adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament, in a spirit of reparation, marked by the unbroken rhythm of the Hours, is the great means by which we collaborate in repairing the unity for which Our Lord prayed in the Cenacle:

Ut omnes unum sint, sicut tu Pater in me, et ego in te, ut et ipsi in nobis unum sint: ut credat mundus, quia tu me misisti.
That they all may be one, as thou, Father, in me, and I in thee; that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. (John 17:21)

Saint John Paul II went on to say:

In addition to knowledge, I feel that meeting one another regularly is very important. In this regard, I hope that monasteries will make a particular effort, precisely because of the unique role played by monastic life within the Churches and because of the many unifying aspects of the monastic experience, and therefore of spiritual awareness, in the East and in the West. (Orientale Lumen, 25)

The presence of Orthodox guests in our monastery should make us feel a profound compunction of heart for the little ways by which we, in day to day life among ourselves, sin against charity and so inhibit the unity and the fruitfulness that Our Lord wills for us. The repairing of a broken unity begins with the brother nearest to each one. Never dwell on a suspicion. Let go of every temptation to judge, to criticize, to set oneself over and above another. Forgive without delay lest the poison of unforgiveness enter the whole community and weaken it.

You may ask why I emphasise a prayer of reparation — and of Eucharistic reparation — for the division between the Holy Roman Church and the Orthodox Churches of the East? It is because on the altars of all these churches, even in a state of impaired and imperfect communion, the same adorable Lamb is mystically immolated in the same Holy Sacrifice, at the hands of the same sacrificing priesthood transmitted from the Apostles. The same Christ who gives His adorable Body and precious Blood from the altars of Rome, and Mullingar, and Silverstream, gives Himself in like manner from the altars of a hundred thousand places in traditionally Orthodox countries. Although we cannot, and must not receive Holy Communion from one another’s altars, given the impaired and imperfect state of ecclesial communion, we must nonethless offer ourselves to be repaired by the Divine Host, the Immolated Lamb, and in so doing collaborate in an invisible but efficacious way with the repairing of the Churches. Reparation on a grand scale can appear dream–like and remote; reparation begins with the subjection of one’s own fragmented heart to the action of the Host. Mother Yvonne–Aimée’s prayer here comes into focus: “Do Thou in me whatsoever Thou desirest to find in me . . . .”

Our dedication to adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar finds its highest expression in the Opus Dei, and prolongs the Opus Dei in silence throughout the day. Tibi silentium laus (Psalm 64:1). Our perpetual adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament complements the aspiration of the Eastern hesychast fathers to a ceaseless prayer of the heart. The seven day Offices remain the heartbeat of a prayer that vitalises the whole Church. The wellspring of perpetual adoration lies in the bosom of the Father, where the Eternal Son holds Himself before the Father’s face: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1).