Getting ready for Lent...

As Lent starts this Wednesday I thought now might be a good time to remind you of the provisions relating to Lent in the Rule of St Benedict.  There are two key ones, relating to reading a book right through (chapter 48) and offering something by way of extra asceticism.

St Benedict, of course, wants whatever is offered to be approved by the Abbot, who also traditionally assigns the book to be read during the season.

The approval of a superior or spiritual director, though, isn't always possible these days, so you may need to be guided by general principles, such as Benedictine moderation, and the importance of picking something that you can persevere with, rather than attempting to be over-ambitious.

I will post some suggestions on books and prayers tomorrow.

CHAPTER XLIX OF THE OBSERVANCE OF LENT

THE life of a monk ought at all times to be Lenten in its character; but since few have the strength for that, we therefore urge that in these days of Lent the brethren should lead lives of great purity, and should also in this sacred season expiate the negligences of other times.

This will be worthily done if we refrain from all sin and apply ourselves to prayer with tears, to reading, to compunction of heart and to abstinence.

In these days, therefore, let us add something to the wonted measure of our service, such as private prayers and abstinence in food and drink.

Let each one, over and above the measure prescribed for him, offer to God something of his own free will in the joy of the Holy Spirit. That is to say, let him stint himself of food, drink, sleep, talk and jesting, and look forward with the joy of spiritual longing to the holy feast of Easter.

Let each one, however, tell his abbot what he is offering, and let it be done with his consent and
blessing; because what is done without the permission of the spiritual father shall be reckoned as presumption and vainglory and not as merit. Everything, therefore, is to be done with the approval of the abbot.

SACRED READING (ch 48)

...In the days of Lent let them apply themselves to their reading from the morning until the end of the third hour, and from then until the end of the tenth hour let them perform the work that is assigned to
them. In these days of Lent let them each receive a book from the library, which they shall read right through from the beginning; let these books be given out at the beginning of Lent.

Week of Quinquagesima Sunday and Ash Wednesday (Feb 26-March 4)


Sunday 26 February – Quinquagesima Sunday, Class II

Matins: Invitatory antiphon for the Sunday (Preoccupemus faciem Domini); hymn Primo dierum (from the psalter); readings, responsories and collect of the Sunday

Lauds to None: Antiphons and proper texts of Quinquagesima, MD 173* ff

Vespers: Antiphons and psalms of Sunday, the rest for the day, from MD 177* ff 

Monday 27 February – Class IV [EF: Commemoration of St Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows]

Matins: in Nocturn II, antiphons of Septuagesima; three readings of the day

Lauds to Vespers: Collect, MD 176*; Magnificat antiphon MD 179*

Tuesday 28 February - Class IV

Matins: in Nocturn II, antiphons of Septuagesima; three readings of the day

Lauds to Vespers: Collect, MD 176*; Magnificat antiphon MD 179*

Wednesday 1 March – Ash Wednesday, Class I

Matins: All as throughout the year except for Nocturn II, antiphons of Septuagesima; three readings of the day

Lauds: All as in the psalter for Wednesday throughout the year, except for the collect and Benedictus antiphon, MD 180*

Prime: Antiphon for throughout the year

Terce to None: As for throughout the week and throughout the year, with collect, MD 180*

Vespers: Vespers of Wednesday throughout the year with Magnificat antiphon and collect, MD 180-1*

Thursday 2 March – Thursday after Ash Wednesday, Class III

All as in the psalter for throughout the year, except for three readings and responsories of the day at Matins; canticle antiphons and collect, MD 181-2*

Friday 3 March – Friday after Ash Wednesday, Class III

All as in the psalter for throughout the year, except for the readings, collect and canticle antiphons, MD 182-3*

Saturday 4 March -– Saturday after Ash Wednesday, Class III

All as in the psalter for throughout the year, except for the readings, collect and Benedictus antiphon, MD 183*

I Vespers of the First Sunday of Lent: antiphons and psalms of Saturday, rest from MD 184* ff

St Matthias (Feb 24)


St Matthias was of course the apostle elected to replace Judas.  The readings for the second Nocturn, by St Augustine, go to the importance of having twelve apostles:

Reading 5: Her foundation is in the holy mountains the Lord loveth the gates of Zion. Wherefore hath the city twelve foundations, and in them the names of the Prophets and of the Apostles of the Lamb? Because their authority is the foundation whereon our weakness resteth. Wherefore are they the gates? Because through them we enter in unto the kingdom of God, since they have preached the same unto us, and when we enter in through their preaching, we enter in by Christ, Who is Himself The Door. John x. 7. And, whereas it is written that the city hath twelve gates, and, again, that Christ is the one Door, Christ is all the twelve, for He is in all the twelve and therefore were twelve Apostles chosen.

Reading 6: There lieth a great mystery in the signification of this number twelve: Ye shall sit, said the Lord upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.If then there be set there twelve thrones of judgment, Ps. cxxi. 5, Paul, in that he is the thirteenth Apostle, hath not where to sit, nor wherein to judge. Nevertheless, he hath said of himself that he will judge not men only, but angels. Know ye not, saith he, that we shall judge angels? i Cor. vi. 3, that is, the fallen angels. Then might they have answered him Wherefore boastest thou thyself to be a judge? For where is thy seat? The Lord hath said that for the twelve Apostles there shall be twelve thrones one of the twelve, even Judas, is indeed fallen, but holy Matthias is chosen into his place; for the twelve thrones there are still twelve to sit thereon first find whereon thou shalt sit, and afterward give thyself out for a judge.

Reading 7: Let us see, then, what is the meaning of these twelve thrones. By them is signified in a mystery the whole world, since the Church shall be through all the earth, whence this building is called to be built up together in Christ.Therefore is it said that there shall be twelve thrones, because from all quarters shall there come men to be judged; even as it is said that the city hath twelve gates, because from all quarters shall the nations of them which are saved, enter into it.

Reading 8: So, not the twelve only, and the Apostle Paul, but all, as many as shall judge, have part in these twelve thrones, this signifying, that they shall judge all men; even as all that enter into the city, have part in her twelve gates. For there are four quarters of the world, the East, and the West, and the North, and the South of which four quarters is mention often made in the Scriptures. From the four winds shall the elect be gathered together, as saith the Lord in the Gospel And He shall send His Angels with a great sound of a trumpet; and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. Matth. xxiv. 31. From the four winds, therefore, is the Church called together; and how are they called? Everywhere are they called in the Trinity; for they are called no otherwise than by baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Matth. xxvii. 19. Now four being multiplied by three is twelve.


Feast of the Chair of St Peter (Feb 22)



Today's feast combines what were, until 1960, two separate feasts, namely of St Peter as bishop of Antioch, and St Peter as bishop of Rome.

The readings at Matins for today's feast are as follows:

Reading 1: Lesson from the first letter of St Peter the Apostle: Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers dispersed through Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, elect. According to the foreknowledge of God the Father, unto the sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you and peace be multiplied. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to his great mercy hath regenerated us unto a lively hope, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, Unto an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that can not fade, reserved in heaven for you, Who, by the power of God, are kept by faith unto salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time.

Reading 2: Wherein you shall greatly rejoice, if now you must be for a little time made sorrowful in divers temptations: That the trial of your faith much more precious than gold which is tried by the fire) may be found unto praise and glory and honour at the appearing of Jesus Christ: Whom having not seen, you love: in whom also now, though you see him not, you believe: and believing shall rejoice with joy unspeakable and glorified; Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.

Reading 3: (Sermon of St Leo): For when the twelve Apostles, after receiving through the Holy Ghost the power of speaking with all tongues, had distributed the world into parts among themselves, and undertaken to instruct it in the Gospel, the most blessed Peter, chief of the Apostolic band, was appointed to the citadel of the Roman empire, that the light of Truth which was being displayed for the salvation of all the nations, might spread itself more effectively throughout the body of the world from the head itself. You had already taught the people, who from the number of the circumcised had believed: you had already founded the Church at Antioch, where first the dignity of the Christian name arose: you had already instructed Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, in the laws of the Gospel-message: and, without doubt as to the success of the work, with full knowledge of the short span of your life carried the trophy of Christ's cross into the citadel of Rome, whither by the Divine fore-ordaining there accompanied you the honour of great power and the glory of much suffering.

Week of Sexagesima Sunday (Feb19-25)


Sunday 19 February – Sexagesima, Class II

Matins: Invitatory antiphon for the Sunday (Preoccupemus faciem Domini); hymn Primo dierum (from the psalter); readings, responsories and collect of the Sunday

Lauds to None: Antiphons and proper texts of Sexagesima, MD 164* ff with Sunday psalms

Vespers: Antiphons and psalms of Sunday, the rest for the day, from MD 168* ff

Monday 20 February – Class IV

Matins: in Nocturn II, antiphons of Septuagesima; three readings of the day

Collect, MD 163*; Magnificat antiphon MD 170*

Tuesday 21 February – Class IV

Matins: in Nocturn II, antiphons of Septuagesima; three readings of the day

Collect, MD 163*; Magnificat antiphon MD 170*

Wednesday 22 February – Chair of St Peter, Class III

Matins: Invitatory,  hymn, three readings and responsories and chapter of the feast;antiphons and psalms of the day

Lauds to Vespers: MD [68] ff.  Note that at Lauds and Vespers the collect is said with a commemoration of St Paul under one conclusion.

Thursday 23 February - St Peter Damian, memorial [EF: Class III]

Matins: in Nocturn II, antiphons of Septuagesima; three readings of the day

Collect, MD 163*; for the commemoration at Lauds, MD [73]; Magnificat antiphon at Vespers, MD 171*

Friday 24 February - St Matthias, Class II

Matins: All from the Common of Apostles, except for the Gospel, and twelve readings and responsories of the feast

Lauds to Vespers: All as in the common of Apostles, MD (9), with collect, MD [73]

Saturday 25 February  Saturday of Our Lady (in some places St Walburga, Class I)

Matins: in Nocturn II, antiphons of Septuagesima; three readings, 1&2 (combined with 3) of the day, reading 3 is of Our Lady, Saturday 4 in February

Lauds to None: MD (129) ff

I Vespers of Quinquagesima Sunday, MD 171* ff

For St Walburga, MD 21**

St Antoinine of Sorrento OSB

Today the martyrology remembers St Antoinine, an abbot who died in 625.  He is one of those early, largely ignored, Benedictine saints who help attest to the continuity of the Order.

According to the Wikipedia, he was born at Campagna, he left his native town to become a monk at Monte Cassino.

"During that time, Italy was suffering from barbarian invasions and Antoninus was forced to leave this monastery. Monte Cassino had been plundered by the Lombards and the monks escaped to Rome to seek protection from Pope Pelagius II. Antoninus, however, headed for Campania where he ended up at Castellammare di Stabia. Here Saint Catellus (San Catello) was bishop. Catellus, wishing to become a hermit, gave up his office as bishop and entrusted Antoninus with the task of serving as the town's bishop. Catellus withdrew to Monte Aureo.

The desire to remain a hermit himself led Antoninus to convince Catellus to return to his see. Antoninus retired to Monte Aureo himself and lived in a natural grotto. However, Catellus again decided to withdraw to this mountain and dedicate himself only sporadically to the cares of his diocese.

An apparition of Saint Michael is said to have convinced the two to construct the stone church now known as Monte San Angelo or Punta San Michele.

Subsequently, Catellus was accused of witchcraft by a priest named Tibeius (Tibeio) of Stabia and was held captive at Rome until a new pope released him. Catellus returned to Stabia and dedicated himself to expanding the church that he had helped found.

Inhabitants of Sorrento, meanwhile, convinced Antoninus to settle at Sorrento. Antoninus became an abbot of the Benedictine monastery of San Agrippino, succeeding Boniface (Bonifacio) in this capacity.

A miracle attributed to Saint Antoninus states that he saved a young child from a whale after it had been swallowed up by this sea creature. The sorrentini erected a crypt and basilica in honor of Antoninus. He was credited with saving the city from many dangers: a Moorish naval invasion; the revolt of the Sorrento leader Giovanni Grillo against Spanish domination; demonic possession; bubonic plague; and cholera."

The season of Septuagesima

Septuagesima Sunday marks the start of the 'pre-Lenten' or 'Shrovetide' season.

Septuagesimatide comprises of three Sundays, named for their distance from Easter:
  • the week of Septuagesima;
  • the week of Sexagesima; and
  • Quinquagesima Sunday and the Monday and (Shrove) Tuesday before Ash Wednesday.
Septuagesimatide is a post-St Benedict addition to the calendar (one of the Gregorian reforms), hence the inconsistency between the rubrics, which banish the Alleluia for this period, and St Benedict's own prescriptions for the use of the Alleluia in the Rule in Chapter 15.

This little warm-up season is intended to help us ease us into Lenten mode, and so is a good time to start thinking about what book to choose as spiritual reading for Lent, and what penances you plan to adopt.

The key features of the Office for the Season of Septuagesimatide are:
  • the Alleluia is solemnly 'buried' with extra Alleluias added to the close of the Office of I Vespers of Septuagesima Sunday;
  • thereafter the Alleluia is no longer used in the Office - in the opening prayers of the Office it is replaced by 'Laus tibi Domine, Rex aeternae gloriae';
  • at Vespers, there are daily antiphons for the Magnificat.