Kirkepiscatoid

Random and not so random musings from a 5th generation NE Missourian who became a 1st generation Episcopalian. Let the good times roll!

I get a daily e-mail with a portion of the Rule of St. Benedict in my inbox. I like how the translation I get, on the even numbered chapters, it's in the female gender, and on the odd numbered chapters, it's in the male gender. Feels very "fair" that way, you know?

But the one I got for July 28 gave me pause:

March 28, July 28, November 27
Chapter 48: On the Daily Manual Labor

Idleness is the enemy of the soul.
Therefore the sisters should be occupied
at certain times in manual labor,
and again at fixed hours in sacred reading.
To that end
we think that the times for each may be prescribed as follows.

From Easter until the Calends of October,
when they come out from Prime in the morning
let them labor at whatever is necessary
until about the fourth hour,
and from the fourth hour until about the sixth
let them apply themselves to reading.
After the sixth hour,
having left the table,
let them rest on their beds in perfect silence;
or if anyone may perhaps want to read,
let her read to herself
in such a way as not to disturb anyone else.
Let None be said rather early,
at the middle of the eighth hour,
and let them again do what work has to be done until Vespers.

And if the circumstances of the place or their poverty
should require that they themselves
do the work of gathering the harvest,
let them not be discontented;
for then are they truly monastics
when they live by the labor of their hands,
as did our Fathers and the Apostles.
Let all things be done with moderation, however,
for the sake of the faint-hearted.

Hmmm. Did I hear that right? After the sixth hour, having left the table, let them rest on their beds in perfect silence; or if anyone may perhaps want to read, let her read to herself in such a way as not to disturb anyone else. "Rest on their beds?" Like a nap?

I tend to think of monastic communities to be centered around two things: Prayer and work. That "nap" thing seems a little out of place. But let's explore that further.

One of the things that set St. Benedict apart from the more ascetic brands of monasticism was his emphasis on moderation and balance. Although he thought of the monastery as being the best place for his teachings, he fully expected many of his followers to be "out in the world." His rule promoted a balance that could be followed by the lay people, despite living in a cluttered, active world.

So in that context, "napping" does not seem counterproductive. It is part of balance.

Or, if one in the monastery doesn't feel like napping when others are napping, it isn't like kindergarten where you were forced to lie still on your mat during "nap time", you can get up and read, as long as you are being quiet.

Fifteen hundred years ago, Benedict understood a certain aspect of human nature, and a certain aspect of human nature to go against itself.

I was thinking about this in terms of my kindergarten "nap time" of so long ago. When we are five, we are told we MUST nap. But the very next year, in first grade, when we are six, we are told we must NOT nap. Somehow, going from five to six, we magically did not need naps? Hardly!

Now, most of my friends like to think that I never sleep. Several have remarked how they got an e-mail from me at 1:30 a.m. and one at 6 a.m. with the same date. There is no doubt that I am more active than most. I am pretty sure I am one of those people the neurologists call a "natural short sleeper." My grandmother was very similar to me, when I think about it. If I go to bed at a "normal" time, it's a pretty good clue I'm situationally depressed, and I almost always will wake up somewhere between 3 and 4 a.m. as a result of it.

Yet as middle age approaches, I occasionally DO take naps. Often it is after a physical activity, or right after a meal. They tend to be fairly refreshing, but sometimes I sleep just deep enough to be confused for a brief time upon awakening.

More often, I "nap with my eyes open." Perhaps it's just sitting in the yard being contemplative. Maybe it's lying in bed awake with my brain disengaged and exploring whatever thought pops in. Maybe it's reading a couple lines of Scripture and just pondering it in a rough "lectio divina" style. But in those moments, I have taught myself to do exactly what St. Benedict has instructed his monks.

Five years ago, I would never have allowed myself to do these things; I would have chided myself for being "non-productive." I would have filled every idle hour I could with "something", and felt empty and alone if I had not--I would have "failed."

The other thing I have noticed is that married friends of single people tend to want to see that you fill those hours. They become concerned that "you're just sitting home alone, brooding." They don't always believe you when you say you are NOT "brooding."

I was asked a very interesting spiritual question by one of my friends the other day. It kind of seemed from the standpoint of asking how to get something she felt she didn't have from someone who she thought "had it." I spent about two and a half days thinking that one over off and on. I found myself thinking about it when "taking those naps with my eyes open." I mostly had to admit that I didn't "have it" as much as she might have thought, but that when I felt like I DID, it came out in these times of "napping with my eyes open."

Perhaps that is the sacramental nature of the nap, whether it is a truly sleeping nap, or one with eyes open. In these quiet moments alone, the possibility of serving God in community comes up, and we figure out how to do it despite all our foibles and quirks. Thanks be to God!

6 comments:

The nap, or any form of ¨letting go¨ is holy to me too...I was unable to stop ¨doing¨ until I was smacked into silence after ¨trying too hard¨ to do something that couldn´t be done...sort of like sprinting into a cement wall. Got my attention just fine...wow, to not think is such a wonderous thing...to realize the world is a huge wide screen and not a peephole...it took trust in God (complete) for me to see better and let go and nap without my brain driving me nuts (literally)...lol

Great to see you. I was in the U.S. visiting lots of unstoppables for three weeks...it was almost a overwhelming experience like Rip Van had just emerged...life is so different there.

I see you are well. Good!

Abrazos,
Len

I am a firm believer in naps. One of my favorite nap times since high school years is Sunday afternoon, especially after a good meal. This is a habit I rarely miss.

Wonderful comments from both of you. Leonardo, you must have felt in an even bigger way the way I feel when I go back to Columbia, MO (where I lived for 14 years) and is now over 100K people. I almost get a panic attack from all the look-alike stores, cars, and suburbanites. I am always glad to be home to my quiet pasture!

Yes, it´s the same. Right now the colorful tropical birds are chirping, the Sun beaming, the 4doggies snoozing, the two Lop Earned Bunnies considering more fresh veggies recently provided...not a Outback Steakhouse in site nor a Macy´s...it´s heaven under the volcano (we´re both invisible I think...that is when we want to be).

I think I´ll take one of MotherAmelias Sunday afternoon naps (just had a great egg salad lunch).

Happy Daze...

When I was a university student back in the early 60's most of us returned to the library after lunch, put our heads down on the desk and had a nap. I missed this for my 45 years of teaching except during holidays. Now that I have retired I love my nap after lunch. However I still get a good 8-9hours sleep at night.

When I was about 4, I announced to my mother that I was a big girl now and didn't need to nap. And even though she made me lie down, I kept myself awake by twitching one finger. (It drove her crazy.) Even now, I have trouble napping even when I'm sick. I'd like to learn how. I think it would be good for me.

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Kirksville, Missouri, United States
I'm a longtime area resident of that quirky and wonderful place called Kirksville, MO and am wondering what God has hiding round the next corner in my life.

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