Monday, February 23, 2009

Monastic Diurnal Compline. A Benedictine oblate blog


By The Wandering Angel

I used the Monastic Diurnal (info here and here) for the first time today — for Compline(1) which I finished a few minutes ago. I thought Compline would be the easiest office for starters.

Compline in the Monastic Diurnal had several words I had never heard before, like “hebdomadary,” “Confiteor,” and “Fidelium anime.” The word “collect” was also used. I know “collect” is a type of prayer, but I know there is more to it than that.

Not knowing what I am reading causes the reading to be more difficult, but I am not going to regret too much the sad state of my education! But there is so much that is new.

OK, on to an overall assessment of my first Compline from the Monastic Diurnal. I am familiar with “Benedictine Daily Prayer — A Short Breviary” and will use the BDP as the comparison.

Overall I like the Monastic Diurnal better because Compline seems a little longer than in BDP and the Monastic Diurnal seemed more monastic — spiritually prayerful and contemplative might be the core of the difference.

The Monastic Diurnal’s English translations carried more meaning than the English in BDP, and because the Monastic Diurnal also has the Latin for the offices, I was able to glance over at the Latin a couple of times to see how a particular section of Compline would be read/sung in Latin, but I glanced right back to the Engish when my head began to spin.

I know that the Nunc Dimittis(2) was not part of St. Benedict’s Compline when he wrote his Rule(3) and the Nunc Dimittis is not in the Monastic Diurnal (at least I did not spot it in my first reading of Compline), and I like that part of the Roman office added to Compline in BDP.

I especially liked the Compline hymn in the Monastic Diurnal, one line is, “To Thee, before the close of day, Creator of the world we pray...” Yes.

And in Thee may we reach the end of day — Compline — complete.



The Picture is Ethereal by The Wandering Angel.

Comparison of "Benedictine Daily Prayer" and "The Monastic Diurnal" here.

(1) Compline is part of the Divine Office.

(2) The Canticle of Simeon in St. Luke's Gospel (2:29-32)

(3) A prior blog talked about the Nunc Dimittis and the divine office.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Increasing Spiritual Desire During Lent. A Benedictine oblate blog

At the Catholic Benedictine monastery where my wife and I are oblates, each year we are asked to write the additional items of service (bona opera = good works) we intend to perform during Lent. These additional acts are in our:

  • Prayers
  • Fasting
  • Charity

We e-mail these to the monastery’s Director of Oblates for approval — I e-mailed mine today.

These Lenten practices are offerings to God "with joy of the Holy Spirit" (1 Thess. 1:6) something “above the measure required of us so that with the joy of spiritual desire we may look forward to holy Easter.”

In addition to the Lenten acts of service, the Rule of St. Benedict also directs that a book should be read during Lent. A common practice on monastic/oblate forums and message boards is for the members to write about the book they each have selected to be read during Lent. Frequently, these are books about spiritual matters.

I have not decided on a book to read during Lent, but I think I should pick one I already have, but have not yet read. I have too many of those!


The picture is by Schoschie

Here are sections from the Rule of St. Benedict about additional reading and additional service during Lent:

Additional Reading from Chapter 48:

“On the days of Lent, from morning until the end of the third hour let them apply themselves to their reading, and from then until the end of the tenth hour let them do the work assigned them. And in these days of Lent they shall each receive a book from the library, which they shall read straight through from the beginning. These books are to be given out at the beginning of Lent.”

Additional Service from Chapter 49:

“Although the life of a monk ought to have about it at all times the character of a Lenten observance, yet since few have the virtue for that, we therefore urge that during the actual days of Lent the brethren keep their lives most pure and at the same time wash away during these holy days all the negligences of other times. And this will be worthily done if we restrain ourselves from all vices and give ourselves up to prayer with tears, to reading, to compunction of heart and to abstinence.

“During these days, therefore, let us increase somewhat the usual burden of our service, as by private prayers and by abstinence in food and drink. Thus everyone of his own will may offer God "with joy of the Holy Spirit" (1 Thess. 1:6) something above the measure required of him. From his body, that is he may withhold some food, drink, sleep, talking and jesting; and with the joy of spiritual desire he may look forward to holy Easter.

“Let each one, however, suggest to his Abbot what it is that he wants to offer, and let it be done with his blessing and approval. For anything done without the permission of the spiritual father will be imputed to presumption and vainglory and will merit no reward. Therefore let everything be done with the Abbot's approval.”

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Opening the Monastic Diurnal. A Benedictine oblate blog

I looked through the “Monastic Diurnal” I received recently and had to research to discover why the office of vigils is not in the book. Thanks to Michael LoPiccolo’s excellent overview of how to use the Monastic Diurnal, I learned that the title’s usage of “Diurnal” means daytime rather than daily. I learn something everyday!

I especially like the office of vigils part of the divine office. It has lots of Psalms, readings from the Early Church Fathers, and I like to think that vigils is one of the most ancient offices — having developed out of the very earliest practices of Christians often meeting on Saturday night in preparation for Sunday. But I will continue to use "Benedictine Daily Prayer" (which has vigils) at least for the foreseeable future anyway.

In my research, I also came across a weekly Ordo (like a list or calendar for what should be prayed) by Australia Incognita.

Both of these new-to-me helps have been added as links on the right sidebar of this blog under a new section: “Monastic Diurnal Helps.”

So far I like the Monastic Diurnal and can see why it is a classic. It was originally published “in 1948 as an office book for Benedictine Sisters engaged in apostolic work away from their convents and for oblates of the Benedictine Order...”


Top picture: When it's the middle of the night and you want to pray vigils, you will need a book like "Benedictine Daily Prayer."

Friday, February 20, 2009

Monastic Diurnal. A Benedictine oblate blog

For about a year and a half I have been wanting to get a Monastic Diurnal because it was recommended by several mature oblates whose opinion I value in my baby-oblate state! I received one today for my birthday. I have yet to read anything in it and plan to begin looking at it over the weekend.

Here is the bookseller’s description of the Monastic Diurnal published by St. Michael's Abbey, Farnborough, England:

“This Benedictine breviary in parallel Latin and English is a exacting reprint of the 1963 edition. It includes the hours, as well as the feasts and seasons in the Benedictine calendar, with an updated table of moveable feasts. Gilt-edged and leather bound, this lightweight yet sturdy book was designed for traveling priests and monks. This truly beautiful book is for readers who want to draw on the inexhaustible riches of the monastic tradition. It is especially useful for those who wish to immerse themselves in rhythms of the liturgical year.”

The liturgical year they say? This could not have come at a better time.


There may be other places to get the Monastic Diurnal, mine came from the very helpful and customer-friendly and efficient Catholic Truth Society.

The picture is of St. Benedict giving his Rule to the monks of his order.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Interesting Benedictine Thing of the Day. A Benedictine oblate blog

Oblates do not make a vow when they become oblates, they make a promise. Vows are made by monks, nuns, or sisters.

The oblate promise is often written, signed, and left on the altar in a simple ceremony in the monastery church.

Here is a written example of a final oblation ceremony.

The spiritual association of the oblate with the monastery is life-long.


The photo is St. Bernard Abbey Church. Although I am not sure, I think this is the one in Cullman, Alabama, USA. The picture was taken by House of Sims.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Benedictines by the numbers. A Benedictine oblate blog

The third episode of EWTN’s Major Religious Orders of Men aired this week. Fr. Charles Connor, the excellent host of the new series, spoke on the Benedictines and will continue that focus in the fourth episode.

During the third episode, Fr. Connor gave the following summary of how the Benedictines had progressed from their beginning in about 530 AD with St. Benedict and the founding of Monte Cassino abbey about 70 miles southeast of Rome.

Here is the Benedictine Order, by the numbers, at the start of the 1300s (14th century):

The Benedictines had 37,000 monasteries in Europe. (And the population of Europe was about 25% of what it is today.)

The Benedictines had monasteries in virtually every area of Europe including Iceland and Benedictine monks had missionary outreaches to Greenland and its Eskimos.

And in the history of the Benedictine order to the beginning of the 1300s, the Benedictines had given the Church and Europe:

24 Popes
200 Cardinals
7,000 Archbishops
15,000 Bishops
1,500 canonized saints
20 emperors
10 empresses
47 Kings
50 Queens

One of the most surprising effects I have experienced after becoming a Benedictine oblate is a very different view of Europe and its history before 1500 AD.


The picture in this blog is by Moguntiner

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Benedictine Handbook. A Benedictine oblate blog

"The Benedictine Handbook" on right "Benedictine Daily Prayer" on left

[Click picture to enlarge]

An online friend recently asked about Benedictine prayer books and his question serves as a good opportunity to comment on “The Benedictine Handbook.” $25.00.

Although I recommend two other books if you have no prior knowledge of Benedictine oblates, I recommend "The Benedictine Handbook" if you are drawn to becoming an oblate and want a first book to begin a simple divine office in your home and you want to learn about the Benedictine way and its history and place in the world.


“The Benedictine Handbook” has the Rule of St. Benedict (it’s not in the translation I use, but it’s a fine translation). I like Doyle’s translation of the Rule in this beautiful publication of the Rule.

The divine office in “The Benedictine Handbook” is a simple version spanning two weeks for morning and evening offices and there are separate and very simple daytime and compline prayers. There is no vigils.

The Benedictine Handbook is packed with essential Benedictine information as you would expect in a 350-page book bearing the title “handbook.”

Of the features everyone who does not own this book will enjoy is “A Benedictine Who’s Who.” This chapter contains half page biographies of the great Benedictines throughout history — very handy.


If you want a first Benedictine prayer book giving an excellent introduction to the fullness of Benedictine life (the very best in my opinion), AND you want to start the divine office in a simple form, this is the book for you.

Then if you enjoy the structure and forms of the divine office, you will have become familiar with the very excellent overview provided by “The Benedictine Handbook” and you will have spent only $25.

When you want more Benedictine divine office, you still will be glad that you have “The Benedictine Handbook” in your library and you will not feel that you wasted your money.


After you have used “The Benedictine Handbook” for several months you will be able to make up your own mind on whether you want to spend $50 for the "Benedictine Daily Prayer" or $85 for the classic "Monastic Diurnal," or some other book.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Monks by FedEx. A Benedictine oblate blog

In the EWTN series “The Major Religious Orders of Men” (my past blog), the host Fr. Charles Connor, Ph.D., said that Eastern monasticism came to Ireland perhaps before 400 AD.

Fr. Connor did not have extensive time to explain, but mentioned that it is believed this long-distance transplanting of the austere Eastern monastic traditions to Ireland occurred by trade and commerce.

Huh? Just how does that happen?

Did the Irish say in 400 AD: "We need to adopt a severe form of bodily deprivation — let's go online and order ourselves a desert monk from Egypt. Maybe we will get free shipping if we order three."?

Or maybe a ship captain from Egypt just yelled from his boat in an Irish harbor: "Hey Irish, have you heard of the new trend sweeping the East? In Egypt and Asia Minor some Christians live in the desert in extreme asceticism, fasting, depriving themselves of sleep, enduring heat and cold with little protection — they flee the world and live in seclusion, it's very popular."

Well apparently it was not just by word of mouth. Irish monks were taught Greek (the language of the East) by Greek-speaking monks at a time when knowledge of Greek had virtually disappeared from mainland Europe.

In fact, monks in Ireland not only developed a monasticism inspired by the distant East, but the Irish also acquired ancient texts which they began copying — becoming a crucial link in the preservation of many ancient Greco-Roman documents. They must have gotten them from Cappadocia public library by Inter-library loan.(1)

By the 500s AD Irish monasteries were the most important centers of learning in Europe.

By the 600s AD the Irish monks living an Eastern monastic tradition were evangelizing mainland Europe.

"And when Charlemagne reigned (771-814 AD), Irishmen were at his court, "men incomparably skilled in human learning"." (2)

God's track record of spreading the Gospel by sending St. Paul all over the ancient world in several long missionary journeys is well known. But God's means by which austere Eastern monasticism was delivered to far away little Ireland for spreading the Gospel in Europe shows that God runs the tightest ship in the shipping business.

Eastern monks to Ireland? No problem, they will be there by 10:00 AM.


(1) Cappadocia is a part of modern Turkey and also had a strong Eastern monasticism tradition. New Advent has an excellent overview of Eastern monasticism.

(2) Quote on Charlemagne court from New Advent article on Ireland.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

EWTN Monastic Series

I have been watching the new EWTN series, “The Major Religious Orders of Men.” I just finished watching the second episode — still on Eastern monasticism and its effect on Europe.

I admire the series and actually it is the only thing I am watching, I just let it play and replay. About the fourth time through something caught my attention. In the description of Ireland (you know — it’s that island far north and really west that was never formally colonized by Rome), Father Connor said that at the same time as the earliest Christians in Ireland, there also developed a monastic tradition. That early Irish monastic tradition came from — drum roll — the East, like Egypt, or what is modern day Turkey, or perhaps Syria. That's a long way away in my view and it seems odd that Ireland's earliest Christian traditions were influenced so strongly by the Eastern monastic traditions.

The next times for the show on the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) are:

US Eastern Time:

Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2009 at 11:30 pm
Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2009 at 4:00 am
Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2009 at 11:30 pm
Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2009 at 4:00 am

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Scholastica on Study and Love. A Benedictine oblate blog

St. Scholastica’s name means “she who has leisure to devote to study.”(reference). She is most well known because God honored her love for her brother, St. Benedict, near the end of her life by bringing a severe storm that kept St. Benedict from leaving her and returning to his monastery.(1)

By tradition St. Scholastica is the twin sister of St. Benedict although Pope St. Gregory the Great’s “The Life of Our Most Holy Father Saint Benedict” does not mention that fact.

St. Scholastica’s brother, St. Benedict, founded twelve monasteries near Subiaco (about 30 miles east of Rome) beginning about 510 AD. Of those original monasteries founded by St. Benedict (before he founded Monte Cassino in about 530 AD), the only monastery that remains today is the one named Santa Scolastica, after St. Benedict’s sister (reference).

Study has been a long resident at Santa Scolastica. Its large and famous library collected over centuries also still exists. Italy’s first printing press was built at Santa Scolastica in 1463 (reference). With the Italy’s first printing press came Italy’s first printed book and the first printed Greek characters anywhere in the world. The style of the Greek font used is still called “Subiaco type” (reference).

When St. Benedict wrote his Rule for how monks should live in monasteries and be guided by an Abbot, he began the Rule with the word “Listen.” Monks, nuns, and sisters following the Rule spend several hours a day in study in their time consecrated to God. Lectio divina (divine reading) is often associated with the monastic life.

All Benedictine monasteries are established as schools for the service of the Lord — surely these most basic elements of St. Benedict’s monastic life — listening and studying in the leisure of God’s time also honor St. Scholastica’s life-long character of silent study of God’s ways and reliance on God’s love.

And could we speculate that the mild nature of the monastic life established by St. Benedict which is often credited with helping St. Benedict’s Rule becoming nearly the universal rule in the West was also influenced by his gentle sister? I like to think so.



(1) We cannot mention love and St. Scholastica without recalling the following account from St. Gregory’s “Life of St. Benedict.”

Of the miracle wrought by his sister Scholastica.


“Who was ever, Peter, in this life more sublime than Saint Paul, who, notwithstanding, three times craved of our Lord to be free from the pricks of the flesh, yet could not obtain it? To this purpose, I must tell you a passage concerning the venerable Father Benedict, that there was something he desired and was not able to accomplish.

“His sister Scholastica, who was consecrated to God from her very childhood, used to come once a year to see him; unto whom the man of god was wont to go to a house not far from the gate, within the possession of the Monastery. Thither she came one day according to her custom, and her venerable brother likewise with his disciples: where, after they had spent the whole day in the praise of God and pious discourses, the night drawing on, they took their reflection together.

“As they were yet sitting at table, and protracting the time with holy conference, the religious woman, his sister, entreated him saying: "I beseech you, leave me not this night, that we may talk until morning of the joys of the heavenly life." To whom he answered: "What is this you say, sister? by no means can I stay out of my Monastery.

“At this time the sky was serene, and not a cloud was to be seen in the air. The holy woman, therefore, hearing her brother's refusal, clasped her hands together upon the table, and bowing her head upon them she prayed to Almighty God. As she raised up her head from the table, there began such vehement lightning and thunder, with such abundance of rain, that neither venerable Benedict nor his Brethren were able to put foor out of doors. For the holy woman when she leaned her head upon her hands, poured forth a flood of tears upon the table by which she changed the fair weather into foul and rainy.

“For, immediately after her prayers, followed the inundation, and the two did so concur that, as she lifted up her head, the crack of thunder was heard, so that in one and the same instant she lifted up her head and brought down the rain.

“Then the man of god perceiving that, by reason of thunder and lightening with continual showers of rain, he could not possibly return to his monastery, was sad and began to complain, saying: "God Almighty forgive you, sister, what is this you have done?" To whom She mad answer: "I prayed you to stay and you would not hear me; I prayed to Almighty God and he heard me! Now, therefore, if you can, go forth to the Monastery and leave me." But he not able to go forth, was forced to stay against his will.

“Thus it fell out that they spent the night in watching, and received full content in spiritual discourse of heavenly matters. By this it appears, as I said before, that he desired something which he could not obtain; for if we consider the mind of the venerable man, he would, without doubt, have had the fair weather to continue in which he set out. But, contrary to what he willed, he found a miracle worked by the courage of a woman in the strength of Almighty God. And no wonder if at that time a woman were more powerful than he, considering she had long desired to see her brother. For according to the saying of Saint John: "God is charity," and with good reason she was more powerful who loved more.


“I confess that I am wonderfully pleased with that which you tell me.”

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Starting the Rule. A Benedictine oblate blog

I came across a new blog by James, a Texas blogger, Catholic, who has a blog called “God Kicks Me in the Pants . . . Often

In his February 9, 2009 blog, James comments that he has read one book about Benedictine oblates and is about to read the Rule of St. Benedict for the first time. I am excited each time I hear about someone who starts to explore whether Benedictine spirituality is right for them.

I have only my and my wife’s experience and what other new oblates have told me at one monastery, but my non-peer reviewed conclusion is that many (maybe I could say majority) of people who become oblates instantly know they have found something of God when they first visit a monastery or see the monks singing the divine office. When my wife and I first prayed with the monks we knew God had called us there.

So, I do not know where James will end up, there are many great charisms in the Catholic Church. He might like one of the other Third Orders, here are just a sampling, I like to post this list to help people who might be surfing around the Internet with a sense that they should be looking for a deeper spirituality in their lives:

Major Third orders are the:

Third Order Lay Franciscans,

Lay Carmelites - Third Order, T.O.C.s or T.O.Carm.s,

Secular Carmelites, Discalced Carmelite Secular Order, O.C.D.s, (1)

Fraternities of St. Dominic,

Carthusian Spirituality, International Fellowship of St. Bruno

Norbertine Lay Associations,

Lay Missionaries of Charity,

The Confraternity of Penitents

and my favorite group of lay associates, Benedictine oblates.

I was so impressed with the James’ new blog about the Catholic faith and another person who has opened St. Benedict’s Rule for the first time. He is following an ancient and deeply spiritual tradition of the Church.



As I find links to Third Orders since the date of this blog, I will add them to a web page on the Oblate Spring web site. For a list of all the links I have found to Third Orders and lay groups, please visit here.

Thanks to blogger Agapelife, I have added a link to the Discalced Carmelite Secular Order. There exist two traditions in the Carmelite community. The differences are described here, scroll down to the FAQs paragraph 7.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Is a new oblate an old Christian? A Benedictine oblate blog

Support Structure for Sky Ride

Busch Gardens

I like to think about the most basic elements of the monastic life. Where and how and why does the monastic life diverge from the full Christian life lived by “regular” people?

What are the spiritual, liturgical, and organizational elements that create the monastic life — and are those even the correct elements?

Equally interesting to me as an oblate is the question about how some people — those with an interest — come closer to the monastic way of life while still living in the world?

As a former evangelical Protestant, I came to the Catholic Church after a full season of life and without any prior understanding of the Church’s beauty and ancient truth.

The Catholic Church’s monastic traditions are new to me — and they appear vivid and sudden as someone walking out of a desert mirage.

The basic supporting elements and characteristics of monastic strength that came through the earliest Eastern desert Fathers are matters I think about often.

St. Benedict understood how the Eastern monastic life could be lived in the West. St. Benedict’s Rule for monks living in monasteries under the leadership of an abbot helped preserve learning and then create European civilization. I hear people say that monasteries may fill that role again.

I am interested in the societal contributions of monastic life, for example, virtually every ancient manuscript that survived to 700 AD is still available today thanks in large part to the monasteries.

But I am more interested in how a monastic-type of spirituality can be fully embraced by oblates in 2009. I think we can because at the source of the monastic way is a form of Christian life that was lived by many Christians in the 250 years before the first monks and hermits appeared in the desert.(1)


(1) The end of this recent blog on an EWTN Monastic TV series touches very briefly on this thought.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Oblate Sunday. A Benedictine oblate blog

Recently we attended “Oblate Sunday” at St. Leo Abbey in Florida. Wonderful, spiritual, renewing, but mostly humbling.

Our most recent Oblate Sunday included the once-a-year oblate ceremonies in the church. The first ceremony recognizes new oblate novices and the second ceremony is the final oblation to become oblates by men and women from all Christian backgrounds who have spent at least a year as novices.

The oblate-novice class which is usually held before lunch was not held this time because of the extra oblate ceremonies.

But after lunch we did have the regular oblate session/meeting with the abbot of the monastery — we are pleased that the abbot gives and leads the oblate program — along with a very able Oblate Coordinator and a warm and friendly monk who leads the oblate-novice classes. These are wise and spiritual people.

Oblate meetings are called chapter meetings and are lecture/question/answer meetings in a classroom-type setting — they have an initial Bible-study feel, but often we will come away from the meetings as if we had spent a quiet hour with only God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit as our focus.

Oblates can attend the novice classes and novices can attend the oblate chapter meetings. So, on most Oblate Sundays everyone can and does attend both sessions, one with the abbot (the oblate meeting) and one with a monk (the oblate novice meeting). My wife and I always attend both because of the spiritual depth apparent in all actions at the abbey. The most recent example of this also occurred on the most recent Oblate Sunday.

One of the new oblates (having been a novice for a year) is a 13-year-old girl. In modern times, oblates are usually adults, and oblate programs often have a requirement that oblates be adults.

The new 13-year-old oblate illustrates two principles at work. First, that some young people have the maturity and spiritual age that makes them more than “qualified” to be oblates. Second, that those who lead the oblate program at this abbey have the wisdom to know when suspending the literal application of a guideline is actually a more faithfully fulfillment of its purpose.

Everyone in the oblate program has known about this wonderful young girl — and during the past year I have sometimes thought that if the life and spiritual maturity of this 13-year-old had been the standard for admission to the oblate program, I would not be writing this oblate blog.

My blessing is to be associated with a monastery guided by Christ’s love. It was an Oblate Sunday to remember.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Last Christmas Present. A Benedictine oblate blog

In this year’s Advent and Christmas seasons I saw more clearly the coming of Jesus into every part of the new liturgical year than I had before.(1) The divine office helps me appreciate this truth — Jesus is the liturgical year.

As Genesis points to what comes later in the Bible, the first two liturgical seasons (Advent and Christmas) give birth to what follows in the year.

Advent and Christmas are the source of the year’s spiritual power.

The mention of Advent and Christmas’ spiritual power brings to mind the spiritual power of monasteries because the Pope said that monasteries are places of spiritual power (2).

Monasteries sing the divine office and it is not surprising that the daily divine office prayed and sung by monks, nuns, and sisters (and oblates) also contains elements from Advent and Christmas to give each day its structure — and its spiritual power.

A liturgical day in the divine office contains the Benedictus (Luke 1:68-79), the Magnificat (Canticle of Mary) (Luke 1:46-55), and Nunc dimittis (Luke 2:29-32).

These three great canticles (songs) are also known as the Evangelical Canticles because they all come from the Gospel (Evangelium) of St. Luke.

Morning: The Benedictus is part of Lauds (morning prayer).
Evening: The Magnificat is part of Vespers (evening prayer).
Night: The Nunc Dimittis is part of Compline (completion of the day and entry into the great silence).

And the Benedictus, the Magnificat, and Nunc dimittis are also associated with Advent and the traditional Christmas seasons.

The Benedictus (from its first word) is the song of prophesy and thanksgiving by Zechariah (father of John the Baptist).(3) The Benedictus rejoices in the coming of the Messiah. According to a reference in the Catholic Encyclopedia, St. Benedict, author of the famous Rule for monasteries is thought to have been the first to add the Benedictus to the daily divine office.

The Magnificat (from its first word) is the song of Mary and is part of Vespers. The Magnificat contains many phrases from the Old Testament in praise of God’s mercy and, of course, the fulfillment of the promises to Abraham: it is the “last canticle of the Old and first of the New Testament.”(4)

Nunc dimittis (from its first words)(5) is historically the last the three songs — because it was the song by Simeon in the Temple at the Presentation of the Lord ("Now thou dost dismiss thy servant, O Lord") — celebrated on February 2. Traditionally this time is also known as Candlemas because of the blessing of candles associated with the Purification of the Blessed Virgin.(6)

St. Benedict did not create Compline, but St. Benedict is thought to have given Compline its liturgical nature. However, St. Benedict did not include Nunc dimittis in his Compline and it was the Roman Rite that completed the trio of canticles by adding Nunc dimittis to Compline.

The liturgical year is born in Advent and Christmas, but in each day of praying the divine office we receive the present of the first seasons' most beautiful songs.

Simeon (Luke 2:29-32) had been told that he would not see death until he saw the Christ of the Lord. At the end of our day in Compline we may still hope our eternal rest comes with the same gift God granted to Simeon.



(1) I wrote blogs here, here, and here on Advent and Christmas.

(2) Pope Benedict XVI in 2007 at an Austrian abbey:

“And I ask you, dear members of the faithful: see your abbeys and monasteries for what they are and always wish to be: not mere strongholds of culture and tradition, or even simple business enterprises. Structure, organization and finances are necessary in the Church too, but they are not what is essential. A monastery is above all this: a place of spiritual power. Coming to one of your monasteries here in Austria, we have the same impression as when, after a strenuous hike in the Alps, we finally find refreshment at a clear mountain spring… Take advantage of these springs of God’s closeness in your country; treasure the religious communities, the monasteries and abbeys; and make use of the spiritual service that consecrated person are willing to offer you!” Source

(3) Benedictus (Luke 1:68-79)

"Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, for he has visited and brought redemption to his people. He has raised up a horn for our salvation within the house of David his servant, even as he promised through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old: salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us, to show mercy to our fathers and to be mindful of his holy covenant and of the oath he swore to Abraham our father, and to grant us that, rescued from the hand of enemies, without fear we might worship him in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. And you, child, will be called prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give his people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God by which the daybreak from on high will visit us to shine on those who sit in darkness and death's shadow, to guide our feet into the path of peace."

(4) Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55)

"My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior. For he has looked upon his handmaid's lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed. The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him. He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart. He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly. The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy, according to his promise to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever."

(5) Nunc Dimittis (Luke 2:29-32)

“Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel."

(6) "Until 1969, the ancient feast of the presentation of Our Lord, which is of Oriental origin, was known in the West as the feast of the Purification of Our Lady, and closed the Christmas season, forty days after the Lord's birth. This feast has for long been associated with many popular devotional exercises." Source Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy — Principles and Guidelines — Vatican City — December 2001

“Forty days after the birth of Christ Mary complied with this precept of the law, she redeemed her first-born from the temple (Numbers 18:15), and was purified by the prayer of Simeon the just, in the presence of Anna the prophetess (Luke 2:22 et seq.)” Source

Friday, February 6, 2009

EWTN Monastic Series. A Benedictine oblate blog

St. Anthony

Thanks to a friend’s reminder, I wanted to make sure you know about the “Major Religious Orders of Men” a new EWTN series by Father Charles Connor.

The first episode was on the history of early Eastern Monasticism, it aired this week.

The next times for the show on the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) are:

US Eastern Time on EWTN:

Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2009 at 11:30 pm
Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2009 at 11:30 pm
Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2009 at 4:00 am
Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2009 at 11:30 pm
Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2009 at 4:00 am

For anyone who saw the first episode, did you like it?

The second episode will be a continuation of the history of monasticism in the East and its effect on the development of monasticism in the West.

I liked the first episode. The show gave a fine introduction to the history of monasticism. The show’s content was similar to the material in RB 1980 on the history of monasticism in the East, which helped confirm my appreciation for the RB 1980 book as a first reference book (see previous blog) for Benedictine oblates. Father Charles Connor is a historian and the first episode contained several interesting insights.

I liked Father Connor’s statements about the ascetic and consecrated life being a part of the Church from the first century. Connor said that what was new at the beginning of the fourth century was not the monastic life, but the adaptation of the monastic life to the world in which the Christians were then living when the persecutions ended (from about 305 to 313 AD). The monks and hermits were trying to preserve intact the ideal of the Christian life as it had been lived from the very beginning.



home page.

St. Anthony the Great -- "Founder" of Eastern monasticism

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Feeling Better. A Benedictine oblate blog

Oh, boy, I have been feeling poorly, but have mostly recovered from a relapse of flu. So, I am slowly getting caught back up with all the things that I could not get to since the last blog.

During the time I was sick I deleted an e-mail from someone regarding the Oblate Spring web site and this Oblate Blog and their interests being similar to mine. So, if you e-mailed me in the middle to end of January and I have not responded, it was because I deleted your e-mail by mistake, I am very sorry. Please e-mail me again, and I am back to normal where I seldom do such things!