The Benedict Option

From Martin Thornton:

The greatest Benedictine achievement (from this point of view) is the final consolidation of the threefold Rule of prayer which is absolutely fundamental to all Catholic spirituality: the common Office (opus Dei) supporting private prayer (orationes peculiares) both of which are allied to, and consummated by, the Mass. To call this the greatest Benedictine achievement is not to exaggerate … Here is the basic Rule of the Church which, varying in detail, is common to East and West, monastic and secular, to all the individual schools without exception, and which forms the over-all structure of the Book of Common Prayer. Amongst all the tests of Catholicity or orthodoxy, it is curious that this infallible and living test, is so seldom applied. We write and argue endlessly about the apostolic tradition, about episcopacy, sacramentalism, creeds, doctrine, the Bible—all very important things—yet we fail to see that no group of Christians is true to orthodoxy if it fails to live by this Rule of trinity-in-unity: Mass-Office-devotion.

Whenever this has become unbalanced, error has arisen …

It is not always realized that a good two-thirds of the Prayer Book are concerned directly with the Mass and Office. Both exhort to private devotion, both insist on habitual reflection, neither teach any methods. The principle maintained, so obvious yet so forgotten, is that you cannot classify the unique. Private devotion can be guided by competent direction but it cannot be regimented ...

Why is this simple threefold scheme so important? The short answer is: because it effects everything that ascetical theology is supposed to effect; it provides a system of prayer which translates all the clauses of the Creed into practical terms and manifests a living faith in them. The Benedictine threefold Rule expresses faith in the Holy Trinity, in the Incarnation and Atonement, in the threefold Church and the Communion of Saints. Loyalty to this Rule also guards us from error and forms the basis of a continuous, and progressive, Christian life.


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