The Lord’s Prayer and the Liturgical Code in the Rule of St Benedict

Today’s feast of St Ignatius of Antioch is one I have written about many times, but I don’t think I have ever really thought about it in the context of today’s reading from the Rule of St Benedict, RB 13. 12–14, which gives the reasons for ending the offices of Lauds and Vespers with the Lord’s Prayer said or sung out loud.

Benedict was clear-eyed about community life and knows how often we offend one another. However, we make a solemn pledge in the Lord’s Prayer to forgive one another, and Benedict insists that we remind ourselves of this covenant of forgiveness frequently and always at the end of the two peak periods of the Divine Office, Lauds and Vespers. It is the superior who is to recite the prayer, not because he is set above the brethren but because he must provide the unity and leadership the community needs. We give our assent by saying Libera nos a malo – deliver us from evil.

The recitation of the Lord’s Prayer is not a mere matter of routine, the expected ending of a Christian service of worship: it goes to the heart of the monastic enterprise. We seek God in community under a rule and an abbot. That means frank acknowledgement of failure and a readiness to begin again — and allowing others to begin again, too. At the other offices, most of the prayer is said silently, except for the conclusion. For myself, I find in that a reminder that we do not always have to articulate everything, that sometimes forgiveness is better mediated through an accepting silence rather than an attempt to clear up every detail of misunderstanding and hurt.

Ignatius of Antioch left us seven letters which breathe charity and forgiveness. He remarks of the soldiers who guarded him that the better they were treated, the worse they seemed to behave; but that did not stop him trying to treat them well. He met a martyr’s death with courage. ‘I am the wheat of God and am ground by the teeth of the wild beasts, that I may be found the pure bread of Christ.’ May we too meet the challenge of being transformed by grace as he was. We can start by making the Lord’s Prayer the rhythm of our lives.

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6 thoughts on “The Lord’s Prayer and the Liturgical Code in the Rule of St Benedict”

  1. Thank you for this insight to a prayer which can seem at times an ‘add on’ to bring our time of prayer to an end. I will try to be more mindful in future rather than notice what the time is and whether my dog is getting unsettled. This has truly been a blessing thank yoi

  2. Thank you. Most helpful. Amen. Charity and Forgiveness…. prefaced by the humble phrase….’Please God, help me to do my best..’ said silently several times during each day…. Amen.

  3. I find the introduction to the Lord’s Prayer in the Mass very off-putting. One priest sometimes substitutes “we delight in saying” which seems to me much better. We are commended to say the prayer to our Father so why “dare” to say it?
    I will keep saying it for you.

    • Daring or making bold to say . . . Our Father. That is the point: to call God our Father is quite breath-taking. I can think about that for hours. But I’m very grateful that you say the Lord’s Prayer for us.

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