Harden not your hearts

Let us then rise at length, since the Scripture arouseth us, saying: “It is now the hour for us to rise from sleep” (Rom. 13:11); and having opened our eyes to the deifying light, let us hear with awestruck ears what the divine voice, crying out daily, doth admonish us, saying: “Today, if you shall hear his voice, harden not your hearts” (Ps. 95:8).    -Rule of Benedict, Prologue

St. Benedict begins his Rule by inviting his monks to listen for the voice of God and not to harden their hearts to what God is doing in their lives.

His wise advice has endured for the last 1500 years.

Our own Anglican/Episcopal spirituality has roots in the orderliness and balance of Benedict’s Rule, in the notion of a way of life that prescribes “nothing harsh, nothing burdensome” but which is also pursued as “a school of the Lord’s service.”

The pattern of our Daily Office definitely bears traces of Benedict’s hand, especially visible in our saying the Venite (Ps. 95:1-7) as an Invitatory Psalm nearly every day.

That’s just as Benedict prescribed in the way he laid out the 150 Psalms to be recited by his monks during the Daily Office every week.

Our Old Testament reading today tells the backstory to Psalm 95. The Israelites are groaning that Moses has brought them into the desert to die. “Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?” (Exod. 17:3).

After God has him strike the rock and causes water to flow, Moses calls the place Massah and Meribah (Test and Quarrel) because of the Israelites’ complaining.

The full text of Psalm 95, including the last few verses, is appointed to be read on Friday mornings during Lent as a special reminder of our tendency to grumble that the Lord is not giving us what we want — a complaint that flies in the face of the water flowing from the rock right in front of us.

“Today, if you shall hear his voice, harden not your hearts.”

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