Wednesday, December 11, 2013

CHAPTER 16: How the Work of God Is to Be Performed during the Day


The Prophet says: "Seven times a day I praise You" (Ps 118:164), and this sacred number will be fulfilled by us if we perform the duties of our service at the time of Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers, and Compline.

    Saint Benedict is careful to preserve this sacred number—seven—in the daily prayer schedule  of his monks.  In terms of structure, this allows for a morning prayer (Matins), a noon prayer (Sext) and an evening prayer (Vespers) with smaller prayers in between so that we never really stop.  Of course, the number seven has its own ancient historical and theological implications as well. In the Old Testament, seven is the perfect number because it is the number of days God took to make the cosmos.  So too, the book of Revelation uses the sacred number throughout.  Of course, there are also seven sacraments, seven deadly sins, seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, and not least of all, seven virtues.  So having seven prayers in the day makes for the “perfect” amount, theologically speaking.
    Obviously, not everyone can make time in their day to go to church this often, but what if, just as an experiment, you actually tried to say seven prayers each day?  Perhaps this would make a good exercise for Lent.  They don’t need to be big fancy prayers.  Even just an “Our Father” or a “Thank you, Jesus” should suffice.  The point is to keep interrupting yourself so that you never forget that you are in God’s presence.
     I once knew a monk who set the alarm on his digital watch to go off every thirty minutes.  Whenever he heard the alarm, he would stop what he was doing and say an Our Father.  It was actually pretty annoying, but no one could accuse him of neglecting his prayers.  To one degree or another, we must all build such reminders into our day.  Otherwise, we begin to lose track of our priorities, the first of which should be the worship of our Creator.