Benedict’s Rule of Order for Housewives sheltering in place- Night Office Psalms

This is a repost.
This post adapted from Benedict’s Rule of Order, chapter 9, How Many Psalms are to be said at the Night Office,, which you can read by clicking that link.

Benedict’s monks got up at orderly times and recited Psalms and prayers, listened to a benediction, as well as other readings.  He prescribed some of them, and left others up to the choice of the Abbot.

As Mothers we are often called to arise in the night hours, although with somewhat less regularity than the Monks, and the calls for us are not often calls such as permit us space and quiet for thoughtful prayer and meditation.

Nevertheless, if we make a plan for these things in advance, it is more likely to do us good and make it possible for us to use those hours for prayer and praise than if we have no plan, and no desire to use our time wisely and make the most of the time because the days are evil.

Years ago, when I was pregnant with the Equuschick, I was often up in the middle of the night in too much pain to sleep.  I have scoliosis and something about the way she was lying made it impossible for me to rest comfortably.  I spent many hours in the middle of the night praying, reading my Bible, and studying.  I was in great pain, but looking back on those hours, they are very precious to me.  I was able to put them to good use because my desire was to sit at my Savior’s feet and learn.
I was able to do this because I knew where I had put my Bible, notebook, and pen before I went to bed so I could easily find them when my back pain woke me up and drove me from my bed.

Essentially, that is how I would adapt chapter 9 for housewives, for families, for mothers in particular.

Be ready to praise the Lord, in season and out of season.  When you lie down and when you must arise in the middle of the night, do not forget the Lord your God, praise Him in prayer, song, and study. Petition Him in prayer, song, and study.

O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly;
My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You,
In a dry and weary land where there is no water.
Thus I have seen You in the sanctuary,
To see Your power and Your glory.
Because Your lovingkindness is better than life,
My lips will praise You.
So I will bless You as long as I live;
I will lift up my hands in Your name.
My soul is satisfied as with marrow and fatness,
And my mouth offers praises with joyful lips.
When I remember You on my bed,
I meditate on You in the night watches,
For You have been my help,
And in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy.
My soul clings to You;
Your right hand upholds me.
(Psalms 63:1-8)

Arrange your thoughts as well as your environment to make this more natural.  Place Psalms, Bible study materials, an any reminders you would find helpful where you are likely to see them- in the bathroom, if what is most likely to prompt you up at night will find you there. Over the changing table, rocking chair, or on a shelf by your favorite living room chair, near the rocking chair and humidifier if it is croup that is most likely to call you from your slumbers.
By ‘reminders,’ I mean things as simple as a photograph of somebody you mean to pray for, a note reminding you of your goal to praise the Lord even in the dead of night, or an index card with something like this written on it:

“O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall declare Your praise.”

But we can make it even easier on ourselves by being a little more specific and a little more organized.

Benedict recommends Psalm 3, which I imagine speaks to many of us when we are up in the dead of night.  Here are two song versions- I prefer the second, but more important than style is the substance.

There is an acapella version here.  I find it helpful to listen to it, hitting the pause button at the end of each half verse or so and then repeating it myself.  Save it to your mp3, iPod, or computer (or some other technological wonder of which I am ignorant).  The Benedictine Christian Housewife should totally have one of those.=)

Next he recommends Psalm 94.  The first half is arranged to match the tune Austria here. , and if you scroll down just a short big you will find the tune Austria here to listen to.  You may know it as the tune for Glorious Things Of Thee Are Spoken.
The second half, which says it is to the tune ‘Kingdom’ is here, , however I found it elsewhere listed as Ebeneezer, and I do think it fits Ebeneezer better. You may know Ebeneezer better as ‘Once To Every Man…’

He then says the Te Deum should follow- this is a song of praise, you can read it here, or listen to the tune by Tallis and read some of the lyrics here (there are others).

Psalm 45 would also be excellent- again I would recommend the Psalms sung here as they are particularly good for the night watches- not too jarring or disruptive of your sleeping family members, and done in such a way that all the attention is on the words, not the musical flourishes (because there are none).
Benedictine then recommends six more Psalms, a blessing from the Abbot, and three lessons ‘read from the book on the lectern by the brethren in their turn.’

If you wanted something other than the Psalms for the wee hours (and I am not sure why you would), Fanny Crosby’s hymn, Will Jesus Find Us Watching might fit your needs:

Here’s an acapella version on youtube (I know it doesn’t look like it’s going to be Acapella, but I promise, it is).

Finally, there is this new-to-me set of lyrics to the old tune of Kingsfold, adapted by Vaughn Williams:

O God the deep immutable, the changeless, wise and still,
You’re the absolute, eternal One; You wield the sovereign will.
Deep Heav’n itself and even time must bend beneath your sway.
With a whispered thought you banish night in a flash of blinding day.
The seas are boundaried by your word; great mountains heed your call.
Majestic swirls of galaxies adorn your royal hall.
The centuries are lumps of clay shaped by your strength and skill.
You mold the long millennia to the dictates of your will.
The boundless, black-robed skies proclaim your vast, astonishing might:
Their flaming jewels rejoice for you in silent shouts of light.
With sure and sovereign strokes your hands finger the cosmic strings,
And play celestial symphonies as all creation sings.
And silent now, the angels stare; stunned seraphs blush, amazed;
Great Michael sheaths the sword that at the Gate of Eden blazed.
Mighty Gabriel sets his trump aside, and listens to his Lord,
As Love incomprehensible enfleshes the Living Word.
Now space and time have cracked before the size of this event:
The Godhead shudders as the glorious Son to Hell is sent.
Though Very God of Very God, He counts it all but loss,
And comes and suffers as a man, from the manger to the Cross.

These lyr­ics may be free­ly re­pro­duced or pub­lished for Christ­ian wor­ship, pro­vid­ed
they are not al­tered, and this no­tice is on each co­py. All other rights re­served. )

It is my personal experience that the sorts of things likely to awaken me or keep me awake and sleepless in the late watches of the night are not the happiest events of my life.  I do not often find myself with burning eyes staring in the dark while I ponder over the joys of salvation, the births of our babies, the adoptions of two of our daughters, and other blessings. No, what keeps me up at night are the horrors.

The Psalms put those things in a better perspective.  Also helpful:
Colossians 1, esp verses 13-20, chapter 3, esp the first verse
Romans 8:18 (and following)
2 Corinthians 4, especially verses 7-18
Psalms 30:5– weeping may last for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.
Psalm 126:5= those that sow in tears will reap in joy.

I can say these things even through our trials and heartaches with the ups and downs of one of our grandchildren’s health, even the death sentence we lived with and loved him through over his first year (and which thankfully turned out to be a mistaken diagnosis)

I can say these things are true, even though the things we went through is first year broke my heart and brought me to my knees begging God to protect my daughter from this valley-  even if the worst had happened, or would happen, for me it is not the most agonizing grief I have ever endured.  I have another, deeper, harder, more searingly painful sorrow that I never have, and never will, explicitly blogged about.
And now I can say these things are true even through the devastating destruction of my marriage as I learned my husband’s plans to abandon me for a women he met on an airplane, of his perfidy and betrayals which stretched through the entire 37 years of marriage, through the lies he continues to tell people.
I can say these things are true, even if I do not always act like they are.

Margaret Widdemer once wrote a poem:

Pain has been, and grief enough, and bitterness and crying,
Sharp ways and stony ways I think it was she trod.
But all there is to see now is a white bird flying,
Whose blood-stained wings go circling high, circling up to God.

I think we all have blood-stained wings from one cause or another, and I do not say this in a phony, let’s be cheerful manner.  I mean we are battle hardened, limping, blood stained and weary and often in pain.  I know this.  I also know that as hard as it is, do what it takes and fix our eyes and hearts on God, and one day there will be Joy in the Morning.

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  1. Posted May 1, 2020 at 7:13 am | Permalink

    What a beautiful compilation of praise and intent whilst grappling with pain. Thank you for sharing. (Also, on a random note, Neil Barham—the author to the hymn you shared—is my Sunday School teacher. He has penned many marvelous pieces, and has a lovely voice to match.)

  2. 6 arrows
    Posted May 28, 2020 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

    I’ve been meaning to thank you for this post. It came at just the right time, earlier this month, at a critical personal juncture, proving to be a soothing balm to the soul at a difficult time.

    I bookmarked and have been listening to the unaccompanied psalms link, doing one psalm or psalm section each morning to start my day. I liked your idea of speaking the phrases in the small pauses after each of the singer’s phrases. (I’m too lazy to hit the pause button each time, though, so there tends to be overlap between my ending a phrase and his starting the next phrase.) 🙂

    After listening/chanting that way, then I play the whole recording again and simply listen (and sometimes follow along in my Bible, as I do during the first listen). A cappella psalms are a wholly peaceful way to begin the day, I’ve discovered now.

    It will be different to resume church-going and have psalms sung with instruments again. I might just have to suggest unaccompanied psalms now… there’s a beauty and simplicity there that gets somewhat shrouded among instrumentation.

    • Headmistress
      Posted June 2, 2020 at 1:01 am | Permalink

      Oh, I love this! Thank-you for telling me about how these things have encouraged you in your life. It means so much to me.

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