Blogging Benedict: Sleep with your clothes on

In chapter 22 of the Rule of St Benedict, the monks are commanded to sleep with their clothes on. Why? This way they have no excuse for being late for their middle-of-the-night and early morning prayers. They can jump up from bed and go straight to the oratory. In fact, many Benedictine monasteries have a staircase descending straight down from the dormitory into the chapel.

Benedictines pray a lot. The round of prayers is the focus of many chapters of the Rule, as discussed already, and the adaptation of the office for eleventh-century purposes takes up one half of Lanfranc’s constitutions (my review here). They pray Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers, Compline, and Matins/Vigils/Nocturns. Two of these occur immediately upon rising. So they have no time for dilly-dallying in bed.

Off the top of my head, here’s a (post)modern takeaway:

Do we lounge around ‘in bed’, as it were, instead of sinking to our knees in prayer?

By ‘in bed’, besides actually lounging in bed, I mean sitting in front of the TV or computer or whatever other entertainment we have, and dulling our senses to the spiritual realities all around us, realities to which God is calling us, realities accessible to us through prayer?

Maybe we should be quick to pray, always ready at any moment to enter into communion with God.

Let’s sleep with our clothes on.

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