Prayer is the foundation of our monastic life and each day in the monastery is centred around times of prayer, together and in private. The backbone of our prayer is the ‘Liturgy of Hours’ – sometimes called the ‘Divine Office’ or the ‘Work of God’ – where the monks gather in the Abbey church at appointed times to chant psalms and sing hymns to God, to listen to the Scriptures and to pray for the needs of the world. This daily round of worship consecrates the course of the day and night as the community gathers in the stillness of the morning, at the setting of the sun and at the closing of the day.
Saint Benedict reminds monks that they ought ‘to prefer nothing to the Work of God’ (RB 43) and that God is especially near during our communal times of prayer. Praying in the sight of God and the angels, monks should ensure ‘our minds are in harmony with our voices.’ (RB 19)
We leave our morning’s work to come together around God’s table at midday for the celebration of Mass. It is the high-point of our day and the source of our unity as we gather to be nourished by the Word of God and the Eucharist.
Private prayer is a crucial way for monks to deepen their relationship with God. Away from our common worship in the church, monks devote significant portions of their day to prayer in silence, to meditation or to devotions. An especially important element of monastic life is ‘Lectio Divina’, the slow and prayerful reading of the Scriptures. By reading the Scriptures in this way every day, a monk listens to the voice of God and enters into a conversation which shapes his heart and moulds his life according to the will of God.
Let us be mindful always of the Prophet’s words: ‘Serve the Lord in fear’ and again ‘Sing praises wisely’ and ‘In the sight of the Angels I will sing praise to you’. Let us therefore consider how we ought to conduct ourselves in sight of the Godhead and of his Angels, and let us take part in the psalmody in such a way that our mind may be in harmony with our voice.