Former Octave day of St Benedict

Lorenzo Monaco, The Death of Saint Benedict. 1409, London NG.jpg
Lorenzo Monaco
UK National Gallery

In the old Octave of St Benedict, the first Nocturn readings were as for the feast.  The third Nocturn readings wee a sermon of St John Chrysostom on Romans.  The second Nocturn readings continued the reading of St Gregory's Dialogues book II, and were from chapters 35 and 37.

Reading 5: The man of God, Benedict, being diligent in watching, rose early before the time of matins (his monks being yet at rest) and came to the window of his chamber where he offered up Manuscript illustrationhis prayers to almighty God. Standing there, all of a sudden in the dead of the night, as he looked forth, he saw a light that banished away the darkness of the night and glittered with such brightness that the light which shone in the midst of darkness was far more clear than the light of the day.

During this vision a marvelously strange thing followed, for, as he himself afterward reported, the whole world, gathered together, as it were, under one beam of the sun, was presented before his eyes. While the venerable father stood attentively beholding the brightness of that glittering light, he saw the soul of Germanus, Bishop of Capua, in a fiery globe, carried up by Angels into heaven.

Reading 6: Then, desiring to have some witness of this notable miracle, he called Servandus the Deacon with a very loud voice two or three times by his name. Servandus, troubled at such an unusual crying out by the man of God, went up in all haste.  Looking out the window he saw nothing else but a little remnant of the light, but he wondered at so great a miracle.

The man of God told him all that he had seen in due order. In the the town of Cassino, he commanded the religious man, Theoprobus, to dispatch someone that night to the city of Capua, to learn what had become of Germanus their Bishop. This being done, the messenger learned that the reverent prelate had departed this life. Enquiring curiously the time, the messenger discovered that he died at the very instant in which the man of God beheld him ascending up to heaven.

Reading 7: In the year that was to be his last, the man of God foretold the day of his holy death to a number of his disciples. In mentioning it to some who were with him in the monastery, he bound them to strict secrecy. Some others, however, who were stationed elsewhere he only informed of the special sign they would receive at the time of his death.

Six days before he died, he gave orders for his tomb to be opened. Almost immediately he was seized with a violent fever that rapidly wasted his remaining energy. Each day his condition grew worse until finally, on the sixth day, he had his disciples carry him into the chapel where he received the Body and Blood of our Lord to gain strength for his approaching end. Then, supporting his weakend body on the arms of his brethren, he stood with his hands raised to heaven and, as he prayed, breathed his last.

Reading 8: That day two monks, one of them at the monastery, the other some distance away, received the very same revelation.  They both saw a magnificent road covered with rich carpeting and glittering with thousands of lights. From his monastery it stretched eastward in a straight line until it reached up into heaven. And there in the brightness stood a man of majestic appearance, who asked them, "Do you know who passed this way?"

"No," they replied.

"This, he told them, is the road taken by blessed Benedict, the Lord's beloved, when he went to heaven."

Thus, while the brethren who were with Benedict witnessed his death, those who were absent knew about it through the sign he had promised them. His body was laid to rest in the Chapel of St. John the Baptist, which he had built to replace the altar of Apollo.

That cave in which he first dwelled [at Subiaco], even to this very time, works miracles, if the faith of those that pray there requires the same.

Seventh day in the former Octave of St Benedict

Ebersmunster Abbatiale236.JPG
Alsace, Bas-Rhin, Église abbatiale Saint-Maurice d'Ebersmunster
Photo credit: Ralph Hammann

The readings for the old Octave for March 27 were from chapter 21 and 32 of St Gregory's Life of St Benedict.

Reading 1: At another time, there was a great dearth in the same country of Campania: so that all kind of people tasted of the misery: and all the wheat of Benedict's monastery was spent, and likewise all the bread, so that there remained no more than five loaves for dinner. The venerable man, beholding the monks sad, both rebuked them modestly for their pusillanimity, and again comforted them with a promise. "Why," said he, "are you so grieved in your minds for lack of bread? Indeed, today there is some want, but tomorrow you shall have plenty."

And so it fell out, for the next day two hundred bushels of meal were found in sacks before his cell door, which almighty God sent them: but by whom, or what means, that is unknown to this very day: which miracle when the monks saw, they gave God thanks, and by this learned in want, not to make any doubt of plenty.

Reading 2: Being on a day gone out with his monks to work in the field, a country man carrying the corpse of his dead son came to the gate of the Abbey, lamenting the loss of his child: and inquiring for holy Benedict, they told him that he was abroad with his monks in the field. Down at the gate he laid the dead body, and with great sorrow of soul ran in haste to seek out the venerable father. At the same time, the man of God was returning homeward from work with his monks: whom so soon as he saw, he [the country man] began to cry out: "Give me my son, give me my son!"

The man of God, amazed at these words, stood still, and said: "What, have I taken away your son?" "No, no," said the sorrowful father, " but he is dead: come for Christ Jesus' sake and restore him to life."

The servant of God, hearing him speak in that manner, and seeing his monks on compassion to solicit the poor man's suit, with great sorrow of mind he said: "Away, my good brethren, away: such miracles are not for us to work, but for the blessed Apostles: why will you lay such a burden on me, as my weakness cannot bear?" But the poor man, whom excessive grief enforced, would not give over his petition, but swore that he would never depart, except he raisee up his son.

"Where is he, then?" said God's servant.

He answered that his body lay at the gate of the Abbey: to which place when the man of God came with his monks, he kneeled down and lay on the body of the little child, and rising, he held up his hands towards heaven, and said: "Behold not, O Lord, my sins, but the faith of this man, that desires to have his son raised to life, and restore that soul to the body, which you have taken away."

He had scarce spoken these words, and behold the soul returned again, and therewith the child's body began to tremble in such sort that all which were present beheld it in strange manner to pant and shake. Then he took it by the hand and gave it to his father, but alive and in health. 

Readings for day six in the former Octave of St Benedict

As I've noted previously, prior to the 1911 breviary reforms the feast of St Benedict on March 21 had a privileged octave.  It was only a commemoration on March 25 due to the feast of the Annunciation, but the readings for March 26 were from Chapters 8&11 of St Gregory's Life of the saint.

The readings

Reading 1: The holy man, changing his place, not for all that changed his enemy. For afterward he endured so much the more grievous battles, by how much he had now the master of all wickedness fighting openly against him. For the town, which is called Cassino, stands on the side of a high mountain, which contains, as it were in the lap thereof, the foresaid town, and afterward so rises in height the space of three miles, that the top thereof seems to touch the very heavens.

In this place there was an ancient chapel in which the foolish and simple country people, according to the custom of the old gentiles, worshipped the god Apollo. Round about it likewise on all sides, there were woods for the service of the devils, in which even to that very time, the mad multitude of infidels offered most wicked sacrifice. The man of God coming there, beat the idol into pieces, overthrew the altar, set fire to the woods, and in the temple of Apollo, he built the oratory of St. Martin, and where the altar of the same Apollo was, he made an oratory of St. John.  By his continual preaching, he brought the people dwelling in those parts to embrace the faith of Christ.

The old enemy of mankind, not taking this in good spirit, presented himself to the eyes of that holy father, not privately or in a dream, but in open sight. With great outcries the devil complained that Benedict had offered him violence.

The noise which he made, the monks heard, but the enemy they could not see. The venerable father told them he appeared visibly to him most foul and cruel, and as though, with his fiery mouth and flaming eyes, he would have torn him in pieces.  What the devil said to him, all the monks heard; for first he would call him by his name, and because the man of God did not answer him, then would he fall reviling and railing at him.  When he cried out, calling him "Blessed Benedict," and yet found that he gave him no answer, immediately he would turn his tune, and say: "Cursed Benedict, and not blessed: what have you to do with me? and why do you thus persecute me?"

Wherefore new battles of the old enemy against the servant of God are to be looked for, against whom willingly he made war, but, against his will, he gave him occasion of many notable victories.

Reading 2: Again, as the monks were making of a certain wall somewhat higher, because that was requisite, the man of God in the meantime was in his cell at his prayers. To whom the old enemy appeared in an insulting manner, telling him, that he was now going to his monks, that were at work: whereof the man of God, in all haste, gave them warning, wishing them to look to themselves, because the devil was at that time coming among them. The message was scarce delivered, when as the wicked spirit overthrew the new wall which they were a building, and with the fall slew a little young child, a monk, who was the son of a certain courtier.

At which pitiful chance all were passing sorry and exceedingly grieved, not so much for the loss of the wall, as for the death of their brother: and in all haste they sent this heavy news to the venerable man Benedict; who commanded them to bring to him the young boy, mangled and maimed as he was, which they did, but yet they could not carry him any otherwise than in a sack: for the stones of the wall had not only broken his limbs, but also his very bones.

Being in that manner brought to the man of God, he bid them to lay him in his cell, and in that place on which he used to pray; and then, putting them all forth, he shut the door, and fell more instantly to his prayers than he used at other times. And O strange miracle! for the very same hour he made him sound, and as lively as ever he was before; and sent him again to his former work, that he also might help the monks to make an end of that wall, of whose death the old serpent thought he should have insulted over Benedict, and greatly triumphed.

Ordo for the fourth week of Lent (March 26-1 April)

For those saying Matins, you can find notes on where to find the texts and chants, as well as a translation of the readings and responsories here (note that where I publish more detailed notes on Matins on the Benedictine Matins blog, I will try and so so a week in advance so you have time to find and practice the chants).

If you are new to the Office, check out the more detailed notes on the Benedictine Office on this page.

Sunday 26 March – Fourth Sunday of Lent (Laetare Sunday), Class I

Matins: Invitatory (Non sit vobis), hymn (Ex more), readings and responsories of the Sunday

Lauds: Antiphons etc, MD 223* ff with psalm scheme 1 (Ps 50, 117, 62)

Prime to None: Antiphons (and chapter verses etc), MD 226-7*

Vespers: Psalms and antiphons of Sunday; chapter, hymn as per I Vespers; versicle and Magnificat antiphon MD 227*

Monday 27 March - Monday in the fourth week of Lent, Class III; St John Damascene, Memorial

Matins: Ordinary of Lent; three readings

Lauds to Vespers: Ordinary of Lent, MD 190*; canticle antiphons and collects, MD 227-8*; for the commemoration at Lauds, MD [106-7]

Tuesday 28 March –- Tuesday in the fourth week of Lent, Class III

Matins: Ordinary of Lent; three readings

Lauds to Vespers: Ordinary of Lent, MD 190*; canticle antiphons and collects, MD 228-9*

Wednesday 29 March –- Wednesday in the fourth week of Lent, Class III

Matins: Ordinary of Lent; three readings

Lauds to Vespers: Ordinary of Lent, MD 190*; canticle antiphons and collects, MD 229-30*

Thursday 30 March –- Thursday in the fourth week of Lent, Class III

Matins: Ordinary of Lent; three readings

Lauds to Vespers: Ordinary of Lent, MD 190*; canticle antiphons and collects, MD 230*

Friday 31 March - Friday in the fourth week of Lent, Class III

Matins: Ordinary of Lent; three readings

Lauds to Vespers: Ordinary of Lent, MD 190*; canticle antiphons and collects, MD 230-1*

 Saturday 1 April - Saturday in the fourth week of Lent, Class III

Matins: Ordinary of Lent; three readings

Lauds to None: Ordinary of Lent, MD 190*; canticle antiphons and collects, MD 231-2*

Vespers: I Vespers of First Passion Sunday, MD 232*ff

The Feast of the Annunciation

c. 1420, Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya, Barcelona
Those looking for the texts and chants of Matins for the feast of the Annunciation can find sources for them, along with the texts of the readings and responsories, at the Benedictine Matins blog.

In the meantime, enjoy one of the responsories for the feast sung by the monks of Norcia.

Readings for the fourth day in the Octave of St Benedict

The readings for March 24 in the former Octave of St Benedict come from chapter 6 of Book II of St Gregory's Dialogues:

Reading 1: At another time, a certain Goth, poor of spirit, that gave over the world, was received by the man of God; whom on a day he commanded to take a bill, and to cleanse a certain plot of ground from briers, for the making of a garden, which ground was by the side of a lake. The Goth as he was there laboring, by chance the head of the bill slipped off, and fell into the water, which was so deep, that there was no hope ever to get it again.

Reading 2: The poor Goth, in great fear, ran to Maurus and told him what he had lost, confessing his own fault and negligence: Maurus forthwith went to the servant of God, giving him to understand thereof, who came immediately to the lake: and took the handle out of the Goth's hand, and put it into the water, and the iron head by and by ascended from the bottom and entered again into the handle of the bill, which he delivered to the Goth, saying: "Behold here is thy bill again, work on, and be sad no more."

Readings for the Third day in the Octave of St Benedict

Sacro Speco, Subiaco  — The cave in which Saint Benedict lived
Subiaco, the holy cave

Continuing my little series posting the readings from what was once the Octave of St Benedict, here are the readings, taken from chapters 1&3 of Book II of St Gregory's Dialogues, for the third day of the Octave at Matins.

Reading 1: But Benedict, desiring rather the miseries of the world than the praises of men: rather to be wearied with labor for God's sake, than to be exalted with transitory commendation: fled privately from his nurse, and went into a desert place called Subiaco, distant almost forty miles from Rome: in which there was a fountain springing forth cool and clear water; the abundance whereof does first in a broad place make a lake, and afterward running forward, comes to be a river. As he was travelling to this place, a certain monk called Romanus met him, and demanded whither he went, and understanding his purpose, he both kept it close, furnished him what he might, vested him with the habit of holy conversation, and as he could, ministered and served him.

The man of God, Benedict, coming to this foresaid place, lived there in a narrow cave, where he continued three years unknown to all men, except to Romanus.  He lived not far off, under the rule of Abbot Theodacus, and very virtuously stole certain hours, and likewise sometime a loaf given for his own provision, which he carried to Benedict.

And because from Romanus' cell to that cave there was not any way, by reason of a high rock which hung over it, Romanus, from the top thereof, on a long rope, let down the loaf, on which also with a band he tied a little bell, that by the ringing of it the man of God might know when he came with his bread, and so be ready to take it. But the old enemy of mankind, envious of the charity of the one and the refection of the other, seeing a loaf on a certain day let down, threw a stone and broke the bell. Yet, for all that, Romanus did not cease to serve Benedict by all the possible means he could.

Reading 2: As God's servant daily increased in virtue and became continually more famous for miracles, many were led by him to the service of almighty God in the same place. By Christ's assistance he built there twelve Abbeys; over which he appointed governors, and in each of them placed twelve monks. A few he kept with himself; namely, those he thought would gain more profit and be better instructed by his own presence.

At that time also many noble and religious men of Rome came to him, and committed their children to be brought up under him for the service of God. Evitius delivered Maurus to him, and Tertullius, the Senator, brought Placidus. These were their sons of great hope and promise: of the two, Maurus, growing to great virtue, began to be his master's helper; but Placidus, as yet, was but a boy of tender years.