Wednesday, May 18, 2011


(Note to patrons:  There will be no intermission in this performance.)

At Morning Prayer last Wednesday, one of the Sisters kindly asked how I am doing after a full year of more-than-usual challenges in work, family and other miscellaneous matters.   In the joy of that glorious Spring day and after the uplifting of common prayer, I replied that despite the rough patches it had been a year of great blessings and I wouldn’t change a thing.
            But maybe that response—heartfelt as it was—was not quite accurate.  It was a year of great blessings, but there are a few things from the past twelve months that I wouldn’t mind blotting out with a cosmic Magic Erase sponge, especially those moments when I saw the road sign that read “Christian Perfection This Way” and I chose to turn around and go That Way instead.  And as much as I rejoice over his entry into eternal bliss, I would dearly love to have a little (or a lot) more time with my friend and Abba.  That’s the way it is this side of Eden, though.  A lot of life happens between the Incarnation and the Resurrection—as in Jesus’ history, so in ours, as well.

            Still in all, I am a grateful and happy camper—feeling closer to Christ than ever I have before, trusting in the Loving Hand of God more than I ever have before and rejoicing in the strong bonds of our monastic community on a very daily basis.  Given the sum of these things, one could hardly keep from shouting a loud Alleluia!

Brother Mani lets his Alleluia spirit soar!
Which brings us to the topic du jour:   Alleluias in the Rule of Saint Benedict.
Chapters 8 through 20 of the Rule are commonly referred to as its “Liturgical Code.” This section follows directly after Benedict’s invitation to and explanation of the foundational virtues and practices of monasticism.  He sets the table and then brings on the meal with its various courses, textures and delights.  He gives us plenty of fiber but some tasty treats, as well.
Within the chapters on the liturgy of hours (the opus Dei or “work of God,” as Benedict calls it), we are provided with enough detail to make a non-liturgist’s head spin over what to say when, who goes where and how to do most everything at the common prayers.  He gives us instructions about praying at morning, praying during the day, praying at night, praying in the middle of the night, praying on ordinary days, praying on special days and anniversaries, how many psalms to pray and in what order to pray them, the proper attitude to carry in prayer, and yes, a chapter dedicated solely to instructions on praying the Alleluias.[i]
The version of the Rule that we in Saint Brigid’s Monastery use most regularly—RB 1980—begins chapter 15 this way:  “From the holy feast of Easter until Pentecost, ‘alleluia’ is always said with both the psalms and the responsories.” “Always” is a translation of the Latin term sine intermissione.  It is probably accurate to Benedict’s intent but, as is often the case, a different translation caused me to think differently about the passage:  “From holy Easter until Pentecost let the Alleluia be said without intermission, both with the psalms and with the responsories.”[ii]
What if we were to accept this more literal translation and adopt it as our Easter People motto, both in and out of the oratory?  “From holy Easter until Pentecost let the Alleluia be said without intermission!”  How would our prayers be changed?  How might we come to view the world differently?  And how would our everyday interactions with other children of God be affected?  Would they not be radically altered?  Imagine the most usual of greetings—“How’s it going?”—being met with a response—“Alleluia!”—that rocketed our perspective out of the daily mire into the truer Reality of God’s eternal embrace!
In the comings and goings and plodding and sameness of our days it is easy to lose sight of the fact that Jesus Christ in his loving self-sacrifice and triumphant defeat over the power of sin and death, changed not only our eternal prospects but our daily ones, as well.

“..the snare is broken,
          and we have escaped.
Our help is in the name of the Lord,
          who made heaven and earth.”
                                       Ps 124:7b-8
  So, my beloved, let us take Benedict’s encouragement to heart.  Let us claim the great gift of our deliverance from all that detracts from our imago Dei-ness.  And let the grateful Alleluias sound from our lips sine intermissione! [iii]
Grace and much Resurrection Joy be with you all,

[i] Note: Benedict did not write in chapter and verse; these demarcations were the work of later editors.  Nonetheless, it is significant that he gave Alleluias their own special treatment.
[ii] Translation by Boniface Verheyen, OSB; Abbey Student Press of Saint Benedict’s College, Atchison, Kansas, 1923.
[iii] In case you feel like singing a few choruses, here are two videos to get the Alleluia juices flowing:; and