To set down roots of love (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.

The Divine presence is everywhere. What is the response of the child of God to His presence? It is a perpetual adoration. In a certain sense, a monk must make the discovery of the presence of God in the place where he finds himself, in the place where he is, in the place to which God has led him by the operations of His merciful providence. Every monk can identify with the patriarch Jacob:

And when he was come to a certain place, and would rest in it after sunset, he took of the stones that lay there, and putting under his head, slept in the same place. And he saw in his sleep a ladder standing upon the earth, and the top thereof touching heaven: the angels also of God ascending and descending by it; and the Lord leaning upon the ladder, saying to him: I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac; the land, wherein thou sleepest, I will give to thee and to thy seed. And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth: thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and thy seed all the tribes of the earth shall be blessed. And I will be thy keeper whithersoever thou goest, and will bring thee back into this land: neither will I leave thee, till I shall have accomplished all that I have said. And when Jacob awaked out of sleep, he said: Indeed the Lord is in this place, and I knew it not. And trembling he said: How terrible is this place! this is no other but the house of God, and the gate of heaven. (Genesis 28:11-17)

One of the classic temptations of monks is against the virtue and the vow of stability.Saint Anselm says:

Just as any young tree, if frequently transplanted or often disturbed by being torn up, after having recently been planted in a particular place will never be able to take root, will rapidly wither and bring no fruit to perfection, similarly an unhappy monk, if he often moves from place to place at his own whim, or remaining in one place, is frequently agitated by his hatred of it, he never achieves stability with roots of love, grows weary and does not grow rich in the fruitfulness of good works.
… Therefore anyone taking on the monastic life should strive with total application of his mind to set down roots of love in whatever monastery he made his profession.  … Let him rejoice at having at last found a place where he can stay, not unwillingly but voluntarily, for the rest of his life, and having put away all anxiety about moving from one place to another … let him resolve to devote himself assiduously to pursuing the single-minded exercise of a holy life. (Anselm of Canterbury, Epistle 37)

How often is a monk tempted to think of finding the presence of God in another place? “Ah, says Brother Agitatus, if only I were in the Abbey of Honeyspring; there the climate is milder, the architecture soaring and grand, the abbot wise, the brethren faultless, the chant impeccable, the library more interesting, the food exactly what it should be. There the monks are austere; they are men of exacting standards and flawless observance. There the doctrine is of an incomparable purity. Ah, yes, if only I were there rather than here, I should already be a saint. If only I were there rather than here, my temptations would have long vanished; my struggles would have turned to victories; my time would be my own.” Poor Brother Agitatus! The devil has lured him into the imaginary cloister of the perfect, the Port Royal of his secret ambitions. There, the devil lies in wait to bring him down by raising him up. Brother Agitatus soars high in the imaginations of his heart. His fall, when it comes, will be sudden and hard. Then will he look around and see that all his imaginings were like soap bubbles. Then, out of the depths of his humiliation, he will cry out to God and discover that God was, all along, waiting for him to recognise His adorable presence in what is. Then will he understand what Saint Benedict says: “We believe that the Divine presence is everywhere, and that the eyes of the Lord behold the good and the evil in every place.»

God is everywhere present and, therefore, God may be adored and praised at all times and in every place. Nonetheless, when a monastic family assembles in choir for the Opus Dei, the veil that separates the seen from the unseen becomes translucent. The light that shines from the Eucharistic Face of Christ, hidden in the tabernacle or exposed in the monstrance, sheds its brightness over everything. “For the glory of God hath enlightened it, and the Lamb is the lamp thereof” (Apocalypse 21:23). The light of the Divine Presence is perceptible only to the eyes of faith, but its effects are real. The Psalms disclose their secrets. The petition of a Collect becomes more penetrating. The desire for holiness is strangely quickened. And when one leaves the choir to resume the ordinary round of one’s duties, one leans more confidently on the support of the divine assistance, that is, grace.

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