|The rule of Saint Benedict was written sometime in the sixth century, likely by Saint Benedict, the founder of the monastery of Monte Cassino. While the original manuscript has been lost, scholars have recourse to a number of early manuscripts, notably one from the ninth century currently housed at St. Gall in Switzerland. Benedict's rule itself is not an entirely original one, but rather depicts the general norms of monasticism as they were known from the fifth century to the time of its writing. In a prologue and 73 chapters, Benedict provides teachings on the proper functioning of a monastery, from the food to the order of prayer and proper ritual at the various canonical hours, to the sleeping habits of the monks. The Rule of Saint Benedict is still in use today in some monasteries.|
Listen, O my son, to the precepts of thy master, and incline the ear of thy heart, and cheerfully receive and faithfully execute the admonitions of thy loving Father, that by the toil of obedience thou mayest return to Him from whom by the sloth of disobedience thou hast gone away.....
It is well known that there are four kinds of monks. The first kind is that of Cenobites, that is, the monastic, who live under a rule and an Abbot.
The second kind is that of Anchorites, or Hermits, that is, of those who, no longer in the first fervor of their conversion, but taught by long monastic practice and the help of many brethren, have already learned to fight against the devil; and going forth from the rank of their brethren well trained for single combat in the desert, they are able, with the help of God, to cope single-handed without the help of others, against the vices of the flesh and evil thoughts.
But a third and most vile class of monks is that of Sarabaites, who have been tried by no rule under the hand of a master, as gold is tried in the fire (cf Prov 27:21); but, soft as lead, and still keeping faith with the world by their works, they are known to belie God by their tonsure. Living in two's and three's, or even singly, without a shepherd, enclosed, not in the Lord's sheepfold, but in their own, the gratification of their desires is law unto them; because what they choose to do they call holy, but what they dislike they hold to be unlawful.
But the fourth class of monks is that called Landlopers, who keep going their whole life long from one province to another, staying three or four days at a time in different cells as guests. Always roving and never settled, they indulge their passions and the cravings of their appetite, and are in every way worse than the Sarabaites. It is better to pass all these over in silence than to speak of their most wretched life.
Therefore, passing these over, let us go on with the help of God to lay down a rule for that most valiant kind of monks, the Cenobites.
As the Prophet saith: "Seven times a day I have given praise to Thee" (Ps 118:164), this sacred sevenfold number will be fulfilled by us in this wise if we perform the duties of our service at the time of Lauds, Prime, Tierce, Sext, None, Vespers, and Complin; because it was of these day hours that he hath said: "Seven times a day I have given praise to Thee" (Ps 118:164). For the same Prophet saith of the night watches: "At midnight I arose to confess to Thee" (Ps 118:62). At these times, therefore, let us offer praise to our Creator "for the judgments of His justice;" namely, at Lauds, Prime, Tierce, Sext, None, Vespers, and Complin; and let us rise at night to praise Him (cf Ps 118:164, 62).Benedict is here refering to the seven canonical hours of medieval Christianity. Distinct from the Mass, which was also celebrated daily, each of these mini-services had their own prescribed liturgy and song. Two of these offices were celebrated during the night: Matins and Lauds, while the rest were spread throughout the day.
Making due allowance for circumstances, the brethren will rise during the winter season, that is, from the calends of November till Easter, at the eighth hour of the night; so that, having rested till a little after midnight, they may rise refreshed. The time, however, which remains over after the night office (Matins) will be employed in study by those of the brethren who still have some parts of the psalms and the lessons to learn.
But from Easter to the aforesaid calends, let the hour for celebrating the night office (Matins) be so arranged, that after a very short interval, during which the brethren may go out for the necessities of nature, the morning office (Lauds), which is to be said at the break of day, may follow presently.
During the winter season, having in the first place said the verse: Deus, in adjutorium meum intende; Domine, ad adjuvandum me festina, there is next to be said three times, Domine, labia mea aperies, et os meum annuntiabit laudem tuam (Ps 50:17). To this the third psalm and the Gloria are to be added. After this the 94th psalm with its antiphon is to be said or chanted. Hereupon let a hymn follow, and after that six psalms with antiphons. When these and the verse have been said, let the Abbot give the blessing. All being seated on the benches, let three lessons be read alternately by the brethren from the book on the reading stand, between which let three responsories be said. Let two of the responsories be said without the Gloria, but after the third lesson, let him who is chanting say the Gloria. When the cantor beginneth to sing it, let all rise at once from their seats in honor and reverence of the Blessed Trinity.
Let the inspired books of both the Old and the New Testaments be read at the night offices, as also the expositions of them which have been made by the most eminent orthodox and Catholic Fathers.
After these three lessons with their responsories, let six other psalms follow, to be sung with Alleluia. After these let the lessons from the Apostle follow, to be said by heart, then the verse, the invocation of the litany, that is, Kyrie eleison. And thus let the night office come to an end.
From Easter till the calends of November let the whole psalmody, as explained above, be said, except that on account of the shortness of the nights, no lessons are read from the book; but instead of these three lessons, let one from the Old Testament be said from memory. Let a short responsory follow this, and let all the rest be performed as was said; namely, that never fewer than twelve psalms be said at the night office, exclusive of the third and the 94th psalm.
For the night office on Sunday the monks should rise earlier. At this office let the following regulations be observed, namely: after six psalms and the verse have been sung, as we arranged above, and all have been properly seated on the benches in their order, let four lessons with their responsories be read from the book, as we said above. In the fourth responsory only, let the Gloria be said by the chanter, and as soon as he beginneth it let all presently rise with reverence.
After these lessons let six other psalms with antiphons and the verse follow in order as before. After these let there be said three canticles from the Prophets, selected by the Abbot, and chanted with Alleluia. When the verse also hath been said and the Abbot hath given the blessing, let four other lessons from the New Testament be read in the order above mentioned. But after the fourth responsory let the Abbot intone the hymn Te Deum laudamus. When this hath been said, let the Abbot read the lesson from the Gospel, all standing with reverence and awe. When the Gospel hath been read let all answer Amen, and immediately the Abbot will follow up with the hymn Te decet laus, and when he hath given the blessing Lauds will begin.
Let this order of the night office be observed on Sunday the same way in all seasons, in summer as well as in winter, unless perchance (which God forbid) the brethren should rise too late and part of the lessons or the responsories would have to be shortened. Let every precaution be taken that this does not occur. If it should happen, let him through whose neglect it came about make due satisfaction for it to God in the oratory.
At Lauds on Sunday, let the 66th psalm be said first simply, without an antiphon. After that let the 50th psalm be said with Alleluia; after this let the 117th and the 62d be said; then the blessing and the praises, one lesson from the Apocalypse, said by heart, a responsory, the Ambrosian hymn, the verse and the canticle from the Gospel, the litany, and it is finished.Many similar chapters follow detailing what should be sung at the various other daily offices. For the complete Rule click here