“Assuredly, the celebration of Lauds and Vespers must never pass by without the superior’s reciting the Lord’s Prayer at the end for all to hear, because thorns of contention are likely to spring up. Thus warned by the pledge they make to one another in the very words of this prayer: Forgive as we forgive (Matt 6:12), they may cleanse themselves of this kind of vice” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, pages 42-43).
St. Benedict was a very wise and practical man. He knew that there would need to be some strictness in establishing the monastery as the “school for the Lord’s service” (RB 1980, Prologue vs.48). At the same time, Benedict made provisions for human weakness to avoid the occasion of murmuring as much as possible. However much he wanted to avoid it, he also knew that a monastery with more than two Monks in it, would most likely have some kind of contention going on. It usually takes two (or more) to tango. To be sure that the members of the community kept in mind who it was that they were there to serve, he asked that the Lord’s Prayer be said during at least two of the Offices. As Episcopalians and/or Anglicans, we recite it at all four of our Offices.
I think I can speak for most people when I write that all of us know how to assert ourselves to get what we want. If you are like me, you know when to assert yourself, you just are not always good at backing off when enough is enough.
It is easy to pray the Lord’s Prayer at an Office or Mass and feel like we have done our duty. If doing our duty stops at saying the prayer itself, then, we miss the point of saying it at all. We pray the words: “Forgive as we forgive” to invoke God’s help with both in equal measure. We acknowledge our poverty of spirit in that we need the mercy of God for ourselves. Having said that, we also need to admit our poverty in spirit by asking God’s help to forgive those who hurt us. The words from The Lord’s Prayer afford us the opportunity to pray for our own healing and for the healing of others.
As Advent is drawing to its close in only five days, it is a good time to spend some time in silent prayer going through our memories of those we have injured, and asking God for the strength to forgive those who have hurt us. Do not be surprised if the “other” you need to forgive is most often, yourself. God is more than able to help you do that.
Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB