22 June 2010

Totally Absorbed in God

Peter the Venerable, imaged here with Our Blessed Lady and her Divine Son, was a twelfth-century abbot of the Benedictine abbey of Cluny, who described the Carthusian Order in its infancy in his book, ‘De miraculis’. Here’s an excerpt:

Among all the European forms of our monastic foundations in the region of Burgundy, there is one that surpasses many of the others in holiness and spiritual valour. It was founded in our own time by some Fathers, wise and holy men of great courage: namely, master Bruno of Cologne, master Landuino of Italy, and some others, fine men, as I said, and God fearing.

They fast almost continuously. Like the Egyptian monks of old, they dedicate themselves constantly to silence, reading, prayer, and manual labour, especially copying books.

In their cells, at the sound of the church bell, they pray part of the canonical Hours: namely, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, and Compline. For Vespers and Matins they all assemble in the church.

They change the daily routine on certain feast days, when they take two meals and, like the monks who are coenobites rather than hermits, they sing all of the Hours in the church and all without exception go to the refectory for their meals: one after Sext, then again after Vespers.

They remain very recollected. They recite the Office with their eyes cast down toward the ground and their heart fixed upon heaven. By the gravity of their demeanour, the sound of their voice, and the expression on their faces they show they are totally – interiorly as well as exteriorly – absorbed in God.

The Carthusians practise great detachment, wishing to have nothing except what is prescribed.

According to what is written in the ‘Customs’ by Guigo, there is one error in Peter the Venerable’s account: On certain feast days the Carthusians sing all the Hours in the church with the exception of Compline. Guigo wrote that ‘we always say Compline in our cell’.