By one of those celestial co-incidences that are so helpful to the monastic blogger, today we celebrate the holy abbots of Cluny and reach the point in our novena when we pray for the gift of piety. Odo, Maiolus, Odilo, Hugh, and Peter the Venerable exemplify what we used to call ‘love of holy religion’. Their work for the beauty of the liturgy and everything pertaining to it is well-known (though I am not sure how many know that Peter ordered the Koran to be translated into Latin, so that Islam could be studied from its original sources). They were truly pious. Unfortunately, that word has become endowed with less truthful and less desirable attributes. Piety for some has become almost synonymous with hypocrisy. Those of us who recall the exploits of ‘pius Aeneas’ in the pages of Vergil have to struggle with his trickery and hardness of heart. It all adds up to a rather confused picture.
The Church, however, has always been very clear what she means by piety. It is the instinctive love and reverence for God that makes us want to worship him and do his will. It is analogous to the love of a child for a parent or of two spouses for one another. It is not, and cannot be, forced. It is the Holy Spirit working within us, drawing us to prayer and service. It makes us want to be reverent; makes us want to be pleasing to God. It is thus the gift that makes the practice of our religion easy. As we ask for this grace, let us pray the collect of the day, with its echoes of the Rule of St Benedict and its encouragement that we shall attain what we ask:
O God, refuge and surpassing reward
of those who walk blamelessly in your presence,
perfect in us, we beseech you,
the love of holy religion,
that by the example and intercession of the blessed Abbots of Cluny
we may run with dilated hearts along the way of charity.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.