This is the weekend when we set our clocks back – and that hour that was stripped away from us last spring, leaving us feeling jet-lagged and disoriented, is mercifully restored to us. I have heard that this weekend is the worst weekend of the year for bartenders – but a blessed time indeed if you’re a monk. Monks are gifted with an extra hour of holy slumber or prayer.
According to the Rule of St. Benedict, monks gather for prayer seven times a day. They arise while it is still dark for an hour of Vigil. Heavy with sleep the monks pray this night-watch, in silence and stillness, waiting and watching for Christ to come – in time and in their hearts. The monks gather again at the pointe vierge, the virginal point of the day, for Lauds – to praise the dawn that drives away the darkness.
After being nourished at the Eucharist with food for the journey the monks take up again the sacred rhythm of prayer for three, more brief, “little hours” – Terce, Sext, and None. These midday moments of prayer give the monks the opportunity to pause and to reflect and to ask the Sun of Justice to cast light on their thoughts and actions regarding what they have offered thus far and to illuminate the way that lies ahead.
At Vespers, as the daylight begins to fade, the monks retreat from their chores and their active work. All that has been done this day is now commended to God in thanksgiving and the monks begin to descend again into stillness.
Finally, longing for the balm of sleep, the weary monks end their day with the prayer of Compline. They surrender to sleep – knowing that asleep they have no control or awareness of what is happening around them, no control even of what they dream. They let go and prepare trustingly for the sleep of death – and into God’s hands they commend their spirits.
I confess. I, at times, am a monk-wanna-be. We all should seek a holy rhythm and strive to consecrate the work and the varied moments of our days to God in prayer. We all should strive to order our lives according to God’s plan and purpose.
As Daylight Savings Time comes to an end people also are encouraged to change the batteries in their smoke detectors. At my previous parish I also had one additional chore. I had to attend to the belfry (there’s another Catholic word I love). I would get up early and adjust the timer for the bells in our bell tower – so that the bells would ring in sync with the clock changes.
I wish we had a belfry here at Nativity of Mary – with clear gonging bells to call all of Bloomington to prayer. Until then we have to develop good inner spiritual clocks, and compasses, to keep our hearts and our lives directed toward God. Blessed waking and slumbering!