Have been doing the Offices for about a decade now. That’s (conservatively) 3000+ hours of daily reciting/chanting the psalms. How has it affected my speech? How has it changed my heart?
The louder voice claims “It has changed nothing! You still snap. You still cuss. You still are mean and cold and argumentative. You speak thoughtlessly. You are, in fact, no better than almost a decade ago.”
The voice haunts and harasses, a harpy. But there have been moments. Yes, there have been moments. A glimpse of the chatter of life as psalmody, of repetitive songs of pain and frustration, over and over. Or the occasional new song to be thankful for.
I meant to say “Have been a monk for almost a decade now”, but decided against it. I do not know what a “monk” is, so how could I say that I was one? And after all these retreats, all these conversations, I have yet to meet one which will match…the archetype. In a sense, in a real sense, most of those I meet in this calling live under the shadow of the archetype. Perhaps that is the best we can all hope for. Is it a shadow? Or are we the ones casting shadows on this earth, under the bright archetype?
I do not know – so it is perhaps best to avoid going there. Instead: focus on actual behavior, on actual practice, on actual work done. And work, yes, it is work. The boredom, the wordiness, the silences, the voice which goes out into the morning, into the night. The occasional feeling of…worth? Yes, worth. Of value to the universe. Dawns when the light from my reading desk, with the Breviary propped against a Bible for easier reading, echoes in windows across the neighborhood, slowly returning white, flourescent, the color of clean suburban kitchens waking up, coffee makers grumbling to work as if they were not morning persons.
Perhaps there are parts of me which have assumed more life under the archetype. There are certainly parts which conflict with my beliefs. Some of these are benevolent doubts, but not all. Not all – some are downright malevolent. Is it part of my need to find that cooperation of the many parts? I think of peace as that: cooperation. How old was I (?) when I saw, when I realized, that the whole of Reality is one cooperative creature. All stars and all spaces, vacuum and plenum, living things, and things whose life we cannot prove – intelligences, thrones, dominions and powers, all cooperate, in a creatively tense dance of interdependence. Occasionally I let this fact slip into the background, and I see and live in conflict. But then, just as occasionally, the reality, The Reality, slips into the foreground, unannounced and uninvited, assuming precedence.
As I think about my vocation, and as I have tried to explain it before to other I see my call as unfolding in a straight line (which may or may not spiral into ever greater depths, or expand in an ever more encompassing route – I cannot tell because I travel only the line before me and do not possess the capacity to change my point of view): from the vows of confirmation of baptism (as I call it), to the marriage vows, to the re-confirmation of my vows with the baptism of my first child, to my Benedictine vows. All these vows are the same vow! They are all the baptismal vows, one could say, applied to specific relationships. The baptismal vows are applied to all relationships, be it to other people or to God or to creation.
The marriage and Benedictine vows are the baptismal vows applied to an exclusive relationship. It sets aside (consecrates!) my time and my energies for specific godly acts. One can think of the marriage and Benedictine vows as the horizontal and vertical components of relationships, which in turn frame all other relationships.
Example: the Benedictine vow of stability is very much the echo of the marriage vow to “love her, comfort her, honor and keep her, in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all others, be faithful to her as long as you both shall live.” Both of these vows of stability are found in the baptismal one: “Will you be responsible for seeing that the child you present
is brought up in the Christian faith and life?” and also on “Do you promise to follow and obey him as your Lord?” (notice the implied, “forsaking all others”!).
Another example: the vow of “conversion of life” is the same vow as the blessing sought by the priest for the married couple “Give them grace, when they hurt each other, to recognize and acknowledge their fault, and to seek each other’s forgiveness and yours.” And both are witnesses to the big renunciations of the baptismal promise (of Satan, wickedness, evil powers fo the world and sinful desires) and then the Big Turning: “Do you turn to Jesus Christ and accept him as your Savior?”
I find that I spend a lot of time thinking on these things, and really seeking to develop, uncover, deploy and employ a more natural Office – one that is inclusive to all my callings, not just this or that. One that can redeem my lunch hour as much as my time of lectio.