Prayer and Chant
Monastic life has prayer at its very heart. Perhaps a few words about the monk’s approach to prayer will be helpful; although the subject can never be exhausted by words. I learn the nature of Christian prayer by simply praying and doing so with the intention of entering here and now into a deeper and ever more real relationship with God: to place my being into his presence and abide there. Prayer does not primarily have to do with any kind of mental exchange (although that has its place) but with a proximity of hearts; in other words, with love.
Prayer does, of course, involve an intimate discourse with God by words spoken aloud whose meanings are intended; by words spoken interiorly in humility and truth; and by thoughts and ideas that reveal and submit my real self to the living God. For these ways to be efficacious, however, the whole person has to be gathered up and be made present to the whole being of God, since his integrity of self-giving (God does not give himself only partially!) calls for my own integrity of response. For this I must enter into the “inner chamber” of my being in order to encounter God deep in my interior silence. This requires that I place myself in silence and solitude to be present to God alone and to listen to God completely. It is in this way that I seek the Face of God so as to abide in his presence with the deepest part of my being.
Although prayer is often concerned with asking things from God, things for ourselves but also for others in all their multitude of needs, yet we must remember that God already knows what we need before we ask. So prayer, far from being an effort to inform God of anything he does not yet know, is the crucial entering into the lived reality of one’s trust in God, passing from a condition of incertitude, anxiety, and distrust, to a firm state of soul in which all tendency to calculate and insure one’s own welfare gradually yields to the encompassing presence of God’s providence. We gradually learn and acknowledge in our heart that good comes only from God. It is then that we can “speak” our hopes to God for it is then that they will be in accord with his divine love for us. Similarly, we are now able to bring the needs of those for whom we pray before the Face of God, utterly trusting that his love and ours will be effective in the way it should be.
When it comes to something quite essential for prayer, it would be good to remember that St. John tells us that God loved us first and from that we learn to love. Prayer, therefore, is perhaps best seen as first allowing God to speak to us and then by our making the response of communing with God with receptive hearts, minds, and emotional sensibilities. Through such times we can come to know ever more fully and intimately who God is for us. We rest in a trustful faith that grows from our ongoing prayer life. As we make our faith filled journey through life, our God fills us with a bright hope that reaches to the highest horizons. From our faith and hope, springs a love that forms us ever more to be like God is, namely, pure Love for all that exists. So we pray, Lord God.
The prayer services at the Monastery mostly consist of chanting the psalms from the Bible by virtue of an ancient practice called the Divine Office. Each service has a practice particular to itself that is comprised of hymns, psalms, prayers and scripture. These services are typically accompanied by music which has its roots in ancient liturgy. The music which we use is largely derived from the tradition of Gregorian Chant. We have adapted many of the Gregorian melodies to fit the English language, although we do retain a number of the chants with the original Latin texts. In addition to the divine Office, each day we also celebrate the Mass (the Holy Eucharist).
Click here to see our daily and Sunday schedule. For a quite thorough, extended, and in depth discussion of the theological and musicological basis for the chant content within the Divine Office, also called the opus Dei (the Work of God), click here. Additionally the entire Rule of St. Benedict along with a wonderful penetrating Commentary on the Rule for the Rt. Rev. Philip Lawrence, O.S.B., the Abbot of this Monastery may be found here.