Scott points us to this wonderful reflection on the Daily Office, the BCP and a life formed in prayer. I’ve not encountered this blog before, but if Scott gives it high marks, it’s worth a read.
One tiny quibble, however. Fr. Hayes writes:
Prayer is the heart and soul of any life. Benedict was/is so correct
when he states that “To pray is to work; to work is to pray.” THAT is
why the church exists – to help people to pray.
Unless I’ve both misremembered and missed it in a quick electronic scan of the rule, Benedict doesn’t actually say this. It’s present by implication through Benedict’s practice of referring to the fixed hours of prayer as the Work of God (opus Dei). But it’s not explicit. Rather, this formula is very similar to a quotation from Cassian’s Institutes (can’t give you a citation; my Institutes are 600 miles away…) but Cassian’s intent is something different.
In this passage, he’s talking about the twinned manual labor and prayer of the Egyptian monks. In it, he marvels at how long and hard they work and wonders if it is the work that makes the prayer possible or the prayer that makes the work possible.
Don’t get me wrong–I think Fr. Hayes is absolutely right in what he’s saying about prayer being the heart and soul of life and that the great function of the Church is to connect people with the reality of the life hid in God with Christ through prayer (including the sacraments). The reason I take the trouble to bring this up is because I think fussing with this point is necessary for a healthy and helpful understanding of the priesthood of all believers, the theological vocation of those of us who are not clergy or monastics.
I’m still wrestling with what it means to fulfill the Pauline and deeply monastic command to “pray without ceasing”. On one hand, virtuous work well done can be a kinetic act of prayer for those of us who live and work in the world. On the other hand, I wonder if we sometimes let ourselves off the hook too lightly when we take that tack. I sometimes think that the manual labor jobs I’ve done in the past lend themselves more fully to a true mingling of work and prayer of the sort Cassian describes than my current forms of intellectual labor. That is, aren’t there varying levels of passive mindfulness and active prayer that can still be pursued by those in the world?
I don’t know–I’m still fussing with it. In any case, go and read the post and tell me what you think…