Chapter 13: The Celebration of Lauds on Ordinary days

1 On ordinary weekdays, Lauds are celebrated as follows: 2 First, Psalm 66 is said without a refrain and slightly protracted as on Sunday so that everyone can be present for Psalm 50, which has a refrain. 3 Next, according to custom, two more psalms are said in the following order: 4 on Monday, Psalms 5 and 35; 5 on Tuesday, Psalms 42 and 56; 6 on Wednesday, Psalms 63 and 64; 7 on Thursday, Psalms 87 and 89; 8 on Friday, Psalms 75 and 91; 9 on Saturday, Psalm 142 and the Canticle from Deuteronomy, divided into two sections, with “Glory be to the Father” after each section. 10 On other days, however, a Canticle from the Prophets is said, according to the practice of the Roman Church. 11 Next follow Psalms 148 through 150, a reading from the Apostle recited by heart, a responsory, an Ambrosian hymn, a versicle, the Gospel Canticle, the litany and the conclusion.

Commentary by Philip Lawrence, OSB, Abbot of Christ in the Desert

Yesterday’s passage from the Holy Rule spoke about Sunday Lauds only. Today, Saint Benedict takes the same structure and uses it for Lauds on the Weekdays. This should not surprise us, since all the hours of the Divine Office tend to repeat the same structures. The only exception to that is Vigils, which changes a bit on Sundays in that a third nocturn is added and the endings are different

With regard to Lauds, the only thing that changes is the different 2 Psalms and 1 Canticle that are said each day between Psalm 50 and Psalm 148.

Is there any theology that we can gain from this very clear and straightforward structuring of Lauds on the ordinary days?

We can look at Psalm 66 and see that it is a Psalm of praise. And we end the psalmody with Psalms 148, 149 and 150, which are also Psalms of praise. At one level, whenever we pray Lauds, we need to put ourselves into this sense of praising God. Perhaps we do that anyway, but it is really important in this Office when the focus is so clearly on praise.

We can also look at Psalm 50, which is prayed every day at Lauds as well. Here we have a Psalm of repentance and it is repeated every day at Lauds. We can say, perhaps, that after praise of God, we can also put that praise into effect by repenting of our sins and thanking God for his forgiveness.

Every day we praise God and every day we repent of our sinfulness and the ways in which we have not responded to God’s love and compassion in our lives. May Lauds be one of the ways in which we renew our spiritual energies each day so that we can try to serve God more and more completely in our lives.

Chapter 13, Verses 12-14

12 Assuredly, the celebration of Lauds and Vespers must never pass by without the superior’s reciting the entire Lord’s Prayer at the end for all to hear, because thorns of contention are likely to spring up. 13 Thus warned by the pledge they make to one another in the very words of this prayer: Forgive us as we forgive (Matt 6:12), they may cleanse themselves of this kind of vice. 14 At other celebrations, only the final part of the Lord’s Prayer is said aloud, that all may reply: But deliver us from evil (Matt 6:13).

Commentary by Philip Lawrence, OSB, Abbot of Christ in the Desert

Today we have the last part of Chapter 13. This part seems more theologically focused, even though we were able to find meaning in the first part of the Chapter, just about structure.

Saint Benedict wants the superior to pray the Our Father at the end of Lauds and at the end of Vespers every day. Today this prayer is usually done by the whole community praying the Our Father together. Saint Benedict wants the superior to pray the prayer and the brothers to listen and then reply at the end: “But deliver us from evil.” The brothers are to use this prayer as a sort of examination of conscience about how they are treating one another.

Saint Benedict surely knew what community life is always like. Real community demands a daily forgiveness of one another for all the ways in which we offend one another and sometimes judge one another. We monks can easily forget that we are Christians, followers of Jesus Christ, and have the same challenge as any other Christians: living in the Lord every moment of every day.

Saint Benedict makes it clear to us here and in many places of the Rule that we must make knowing God the very center of our being, or our personalities. We are not just tepid Christians, we must be Christians who are putting all of our personal energies into this new life in Jesus Christ.

It seems so clear in the Gospels and in the New Testament: if we want God to forgive us, then we must always forgive others. Another challenge is to forgive before the sun sets. That is asking a lot from us, for sure. Many times we want to delay, we want time to get our own emotions back into order, we want time so that the other person knows that we are deeply offended, etc. Jesus Himself wants us to forgive immediately. Our forgiveness can never depend on whether the other person, the other monk, has acknowledged that he has offended us. Forgiveness must come from us immediately and without reserve–if we are truly following the Lord Jesus.

So let us pray every day, at Lauds and at Vespers, that we can have this gift of immediate forgiveness. When we read the steps of humility, we can see how this forgiveness is another aspect of humility in which we do not consider ourselves of any importance at all. But we must learn to live with our own emotions and reactions so that we can truly forgive and live always in peace and tranquility and use our energies in the love of God.