That the monks should partake of the Mysteries of Christ each day (XIX)

CHAPTER XIX. Of the Discipline of saying the Divine Office
24 Feb. 26 June. 26 Oct.
We believe that the Divine presence is everywhere, and that the eyes of the Lord behold the good and the evil in every place. Especially should we believe this, without any doubt, when we are assisting at the Work of God. Let us, then, ever remember what the prophet saith: “Serve the Lord in fear”; and again, “Sing ye wisely” and, “In the sight of the angels I will sing praises unto Thee.” Therefore let us consider how we ought to behave ourselves in the presence of God and of His angels, and so assist at the Divine Office, that our mind and our voice may accord together.

With Chapters XIX and XX we come to the end of Saint Benedict’s exhaustive treatment of the Opus Dei. Saint Benedict teaches us to pray by giving us the Opus Dei. What are Chapters VIII through XX of the Holy Rule if not Saint Benedict’s doctrine and way of prayer? The monk who is faithful to the Opus Dei will pray in all of life and will be drawn by grace to prepare and to prolong his choral prayer by seeking and by contemplating the Heart of Christ and the Face of Christ in his solitary scrutiny of the Sacred Scriptures and in his watches of adoration, and love, and reparation before the Most Blessed Sacrament. Even the prayer of the rosary will become like a garland woven around and about the Opus Dei. Although Saint Benedict speaks only obliquely—one might say hardly at all—of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the organic development of the service of the Divine Majesty came, very early on, to include the solemn daily celebration of the Conventual Mass. In the East, as well as in the West, we encounter this dedication to the daily celebration of the Holy Sacrifice. Saint Gregory the Great, in Book IV of the Dialogues, relates the devotion of Saint Cassius of Narni (+558) to the daily celebration of the Holy Sacrifice:

Cassius, Bishop of Narni, a man of holy life, who did usually every day offer sacrifice unto God (and whiles he was at the mysteries of those sacrifices, did also immolate himself in tears), received from our Lord this message by one of his Priests. “Do that thou doest: work that thou workest: let not thy foot cease, let not thy hand cease, upon the nativity of the Apostles thou shalt come unto me, and I will give thee thy reward.” And so, seven years after, upon that very day of the Apostles, after he had ended the solemnity of Mass and received the mysteries of the sacred communion, he departed this life. (Saint Gregory, Dialogues, Book IV, Chapter 56).

Saint Euthymios the Great (377–473) was seen enveloped in a great sheet of flame while offering the Holy Sacrifice. We read in his life that when the number of brethren in his monastery had reached fifty, for each of them a cell was built, and the Divine Mystagogy was offered on a daily basis. Saint Athanasius, for his part, in his Paradise of the Holy Fathers recounts the Eucharistic piety and teaching of Abba Apollos in the Egyptian Thebaid:

Now the brethren who were with him did not approach their food straightway, but they first of all partook of the Eucharist of Christ together; and they used to do this daily at the season of prayer at the ninth hour, and afterwards they ate their meal; whilst they were sitting at meat they learned his commandments until the time for sleep, and afterwards some of them would go forth into the desert and repeat the Scriptures by heart, the whole night long, whilst others would take their meal with him and would glorify God until the morning. And we ourselves saw that such men began to sing the Psalms and hymns of praise in the evening, and that they continued to sing them until the day broke. Now many of them used to come down at the time of the ninth hour and receive the Eucharist, and then return to their places, and the spiritual food alone would be sufficient for them till the ninth hour on the day following; even thus did they, and many of them would continue to do thus, and remain without [ordinary] food for several days at a time, even from one Sunday to another.

Saint Athanasius further relates the teaching of Abba Apollos:

And if it be possible it is fitting that the monks should partake of the Mysteries of Christ each day, and whosoever shall make himself to be remote from them shall remove himself from God; and whosoever shall do this shall receive our Redeemer always. For the voice of our Life-giver saith thus, ‘He who eateth My Body, and drinketh My Blood, remaineth in Me and I in him,’ and it is very helpful to monks to remember the Passion of our Redeemer at all times, because by the remembrance thereof which we thus keep we become worthy of the forgiveness of our sins always. Therefore it is right that we should always make ourselves worthy to receive the holy Mysteries of our Redeemer.

The immersion of a monk in the daily round of the Opus Dei causes him, almost imperceptibly, to live in the Divine Presence that radiates from the altar of the monastery. One who believes in the Divine Presence necessarily lives in a state of perpetual adoration, not by dint of a fatiguing effort of the will, but by a gentle yielding to the presence of God at every moment.

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