Thursday, May 18, 2006

Memorizing the Office

A Yahoo group to which I belong, IFSB (I think it stands for International Federation of Saint Bruno--Boy thats bad, when you can't remember the names of your groups! Anyhow, a group for those interested in Carthusian spirituality), has had a recent discussion of how possibly the memorization of parts of the Divine Office leads to a deeper integralization of the text, and can be an inducement to contemplation. Here is a quote from a recent posting:

"Do people here in this forum find that prayer and liturgy
learnt by heart creates a deeper internal contemplative rthymn of prayer and
if so what do you learn by heart?"

" I personally have always found this to be true, that prayer and
liturgy learnt by heart creates a deeper internal contemplative rthymn of
prayer, and I’ve been doing it since 1966 when I first entered the
Trappists. It was even more certainly true for me as a Carthusian in the
solitude of the Cell. All this has really carried me in my very active life
as a husband, father, neighbor, and clergyman with a busy social
ministry and campus ministry.

As far as a version of the Office and the Scripture is concerned, I
find it gravely difficult and disruptive to switch around translations.
Every opportunity I get to use the same standardized translations and
texts, I do. This is especially true of the Eastern Christian services
since rendering them in English is relatively new and there has been
very little universally endorsed translating of texts or authorizing of
exclusively to be used Scriptural translations. What we have is a
confusing mismash that is liturgically disruptive and uneven, and produces a
lot of unwanted gaffs and even confusion when serving/celebrating.

For the physical muscular and neurological imprinting in these
various memories of our bodies and minds to work as it worked for the Church
Fathers and the Desert Mother and Fathers, it requires a predominantly
single stable set of texts and translations. This is why the Septuagint
with the Textus-Receptus in the Greek East and the Vulgate in the Latin
West held sway for so very long as the only authorized scriptural

This imprinting allows a marvelous recall, as well as a type of
connection with everything else that has been imprinted that uses the same
words. You see this at work in some of the Latin Patristic
Commentaries, especially the monastic ones, where the use of a word in one original
text will cause the recall of all kinds of other texts with the same
word to help illuminate the meaning of the original text under

So I am a strong partisan of the position favoring stable texts and
translations. This reduces distractions from becoming flustered by the
differences in the rendering of texts and translations, which may seem
minor in scope but can produce some major disasters. It you are publicly
serving liturgically, it also helps you not to become tripped up or
confused while serving or celebrating, even if you are reading out of the
ritual book, since you are imprinted for one thing and your tripped up
by trying to read something different in place of what you are used to.
I may possibly be an old dog that can’t learn new tricks very well, but
that’s been my experience and it’s conditioned my advice, PICK WHAT

Now that particular argument for a stable translation had not really dawned on me. Imagine having such living scripture in your heart that the mere mention of a word on a passage could bring up a whole interior wealth of "crossreferences"!

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