Saturday, March 28, 2015

Devotional Collects and Texts for Palm and Passion Sunday

The following Collects and Devotional Texts are provided as an aid to worship as we enter into Holy Week. I am struck by the wonder of the Incarnation and its implications as we meditate on the work of Christ Jesus on our behalf. It is absolutely amazing that God the Word became flesh, bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh; He stooped to me and heard my cry” [Psalm 40:1].Why should the LORD of Lords be born for me? How can I not serve Him?

The Creed of St. Athanasius
“Furthermore, it is necessary to everlasting salvation that he also believe rightly the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. For the right Faith is, that we believe and confess, that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and Man; God, of the Substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds; and Man, of the Substance of his Mother, born in the world; Perfect God and perfect Man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting; Equal to the Father, as touching his Godhead; and inferior to the Father, as touching his Manhood. Who although he be God and Man, yet he is not two, but one Christ; One, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh, but by taking of the Manhood into God.”[i]

St. Andrew of Crete
“In his humility Christ entered the dark regions of our fallen world and he is glad that he became so humble for our sake, glad that he came and lived among us and shared in our nature in order to raise us up again to himself. And even though we are told that he has now ascended above the highest heavens – the proof, surely, of his power and godhead – his love for man will never rest until he has raised our earthbound nature from glory to glory, and made it one with his own in heaven.”[ii]

Collect for the Palm Sunday Procession                             
Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord. Amen.[iii]

Collect for Passion Sunday                        
Almighty and everliving God, in your tender love for the human race you sent your Son our Savior Jesus Christ to take upon him our nature, and to suffer death upon the cross, giving us the example of his great humility: Mercifully grant that we may walk in the way of his suffering, and also share in his resurrection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.[iv]

Collect for Mission                                          
Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace: So clothe us in your Spirit that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those who do not know you to the knowledge and love of you; for the honor of your Name. Amen.[v]

Anima Christi[vi]

Soul of Christ, sanctify me.
Body of Christ, save me.
Blood of Christ, inebriate me.
Water from the side of Christ, wash me.
Passion of Christ, strengthen me.
O good Jesus, hear me.
Within Thy wounds hide me.
Suffer me not to be separated from Thee.
From the malignant enemy, defend me.
In the hour of my death, call me.
And bid me come to Thee.
That with Thy saints I may praise Thee
Forever and ever. Amen

Anima Christi

Anima Christi, sanctifica me.
Corpus Christi, salva me.
Sanguis Christi, inebria me.
Aqua lateris Christi, lava me.
Passio Christi, conforta me.
O bone Jesu, exaudi me.
Intra tua vulnera absconde me.
Ne permittas me separari a te.
Ab hoste maligno defende me.
In hora mortis meae voca me.
Et iube me venire ad te,
Ut cum Sanctis tuis laudem te.
   In saecula saeculorum. Amen

St. Richard of Chichester 
“Thanks be to thee, my Lord Jesus Christ, for all the benefits thou hast given me, for all the pains and insults thou hast borne for me. O most merciful redeemer, friend and brother, may I know thee more clearly, love thee more dearly and follow thee more nearly, day by day.”[vii]

The Cross is the Abyss of Wonders[viii] 

The Cross is
the abyss of wonders,
the center of desires,
the school of virtues,
the throne of love,
the theater of joys,
and the place of sorrows.
It is the root of happiness, and the gate of heaven.
Of all things in heaven and earth it is the most singular.
It is the most exalted of all objects. It is a banner lifted up
for all nations, to it shall the Gentiles come,
His rest shall be glorious;
the dispersed of Judah shall be gathered to it
from the four corners of the earth.
If love be the weight
 of the soul,
and its object
the center,
all eyes and hearts
may convert and turn
unto this object.
Cleave unto this center.
The Cross is a tree
set on fire
with invisible flame,
that illuminates
all the world.
The flame is love:
the love in His bosom who died on it.

Thomas Traherne, Centuries of Meditations, 17 c.  edit by Dom. Anselm + Obl OSB

[i] The Book of Common Prayer, p. 865
[iii] BCP p. 99 &  272
[iv] BCP p. 219
[v] BCP p. 101
[vi] 14th C
[vii] The Diocese of Chichester, The Church of England: file:///C:/Users/Owner/Downloads/PrayerRichard.pdf
[viii] Thomas Traherne, 17th C

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

A Rule of Life for Oblates

St. Scholastica and Saint Benedict

St. Anthony of the Desert Benedictine Fellowship

You are invited to grow in grace with our Benedictine Chapter, St. Anthony of the Desert.

St. Anthony of the Desert is an Oblate Chapter of St. Scholastica Monastery, Fort Smith, AR. We meet one Sunday a month at St. Matthew’s Cathedral. While many of us are associated with St. Scholastica Monastery in Fort Smith, Arkansas, the Chapter is open to Oblates of other Monasteries and to any others who wish to deepen their experience in the Life of Prayer. 

The Chapter Meeting includes the singing of the Benedictine Prayer Offices and a Meditation on various aspects of the Life of Prayer. Each meeting is preceded by a cold collation. A cold collation is a light meal that does not entail cooking.

Saint Benedict invites us into a school of prayer; a school that gives “the strong something to yearn for, and the weak nothing to run from”. He reminds us that God is ever present with us, and tells us to "Prefer Nothing Whatever to Christ". Benedictines balance work and prayer, and aspire to live a life of stability and obedience.

Oblate Rule of Life
The call to make an Oblation of their lives in a specific Benedictine Monastery comes to those who by necessity live their lives in the midst of the world of family and business.  Oblates are conscious of the principle of St. Benedict that Prayer and Work must be balanced in their experience.  The Oblates Rule of Life is regarded more as aspiration rather than obligation, yet it provides a guide that calls us to gentle accountability. 

The Rule of Life
  1. To pray at least one Office a day.
  2. To attend Eucharist on Sundays and where possible on Feast Days.
  3. To pray daily for the Monastery, including our fellow Oblates.
  4. To spend some time daily, however short, in Lectio Divina.  Lectio Divina has four steps: Reading Scripture, Reflection, Response in Prayer, and Resting in the Presence of God.
  5. To read the daily reading from the Rule of St. Benedict.
  6. To wear the Medal of St. Benedict.
  7. To make, in so far as possible, an annual retreat at the Monastery.
  8. To support the work of the Monastery financially and in other tangible ways.
  9. To be flexible and governed by love and common sense in the carrying out of the Rule of Life.

Oblates make their oblation, or renew it, at an annual retreat at St. Scholastica Monastery or at their Oblate Chapter Meeting by arrangement with the Chapter Director of Oblates.  There will be a formal interview with the Chapter Oblate Director prior to admission as an Oblate.

The Oblation, although not a calling to be a monk or nun, is nevertheless made in the context of The Rule of St. Benedict who said, “Let him who is to be received make before all, in the Oratory, a promise of STABILITY, CONVERSION OF LIFE, and OBEDIENCE, in the presence of God and of his saints.” [1]  Our call as Oblates equips us to live a balanced life in the midst of our too often very busy and demanding schedules, rather than in retirement from the world.

Oblate Vestments

Oblates may wear a black cassock with a plain black leather belt, and a black scapula. The scapula is a black knee-length overpiece that protects the cassock and is a symbol of the twin Benedictine values of Work and Prayer. Oblates are not monks or nuns, and may not wear a cassock with a hood, or a veil, or a cornette. Out of respect, that is reserved for those who have made a life commitment to Christ in the Monastery. Visitors and guests may wear street clothes.

During the year between enrolling as a candidate to become an Oblate and making a full Oblation, those who attend the Chapter of St. Anthony of the Desert may wear a black cassock and belt without the scapula, or they may wear street clothes. The scapula is presented when one has made a full oblation.

The Oblates of our Monastery, St. Scholastica, do not customarily wear Oblate Vestments, but Oblates affiliated with our Chapter have permission from the Prioress of St. Scholastica to wear Oblate Vestments at our Chapter Meetings, but not at the Monastery.

Small Benedictine Medals and Crosses may be worn by all those who honor St. Benedict. Oblates in our Chapter may wear the larger Benedictine Medal and Crosses. The Larger medals or crosses are presented at the time one has made a full oblation.

With the permission of their parish priest, Oblates who are members of our Chapter, may wear their Oblate Vestments when serving in their home parish.

The Order of St. Benedict:
St. Scholastica Monastery:
We are glad to provide the following link to our blog:  

For further information and meeting times contact Dom Anselm [The Rev. Canon Dr. Rob Smith Oblate OSB] at

1.  D. Oswald Hunter Blair, trans. The Rule of St. Benedict, (Fort Augustus: The Abbey Press, 1934), p. 155

Saturday, March 14, 2015

The Variegated Beauty of the Treasure

The Great “I AM”
~ St. Simeon the New Theologian, 10th C, edited by Dom Anselm+

“Christ Jesus
who Himself is the Treasure hidden in the field
has said, and still says:
I am the Word,
I am the Light of the world,
I am the Lamb of God,
I am the Lion of Judah,
I am the Ladder ascending into heaven,
I am the Mustard Seed,
I am the Seed sown by the sower,
I am the Pearl of great cost
I am the Door of the sheep,
I am the Good Shepherd,
I am the true Bread of Life,
I am the Resurrection and the Life,
I am the true Vine,
I am He who makes the lame to walk
and the blind to see,
I am the Kingdom of Heaven
that is hidden in your midst,
I am the Kingdom to Come,
I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life,
I am He who takes the place of the physical Paradise,
I become the spiritual Paradise for My servants,
I am in all who believe in Me and are born again,
I am stronger than all,
I am that I am,
I am the God who sees, and
I am seen by the eyes of the soul,
I am seen by those who have sought and found me,
I am shining even now,
I cannot be contained,
Though I am invisible I become visible,
I remain entire while I am being seen,
I am the leaven that the soul receives,
I am the luminous source
of the immortal stream and river,
I am the sun who rises in them as in the morning,
I am seen by the mind,
just as in times past I manifested
myself in the prophets
When they saw me
they sang My praise and called on Me,”
As the sweet psalmist of Israel says,
“In the morning hear my voice,
in the morning I shall stand before Thee,
and Thou wilt look upon me” (Ps. 5:3 LXX).

Sunday, March 8, 2015

The Workshop of Holiness

            After recounting The Tools for Good Works in Chapter 4 of the Rule, St. Benedict tells his monks: “The workshop where we are to toil faithfully at all these tasks is the enclosure of the monastery and stability of our community” (RB Ch. 4:78). 

            At first sight this does not seem to apply very well to Oblates who live in the hustle and bustle of the world, but on closer inspection it really does.  The Monastery of our Oblation, and our Oblate Chapter, provide an anchor, a place of stability and a micro-community where we can work out the call to become like Christ Jesus as we gather together for fellowship around the table, as we pray the offices together, and as we study and meditate on Scripture, the Rule, and the Life of Prayer. 

            Even though we may experience instability within denominational structures and sometimes within parishes, the fellowship of the Rule and our Benedictine heritage goes back for centuries through St. Benedict and the hills of Monte Cassino in southern Italy to the hills of Galilee where Jesus taught his first disciples to pray.  

            This place of stability is not to be found in the grounds of the monastery, but in the gathered community of monastics, who have taken seriously their vows of stability, conversion of life, and obedience. That community goes back in unbroken continuity to the first Benedictine community in Monte Cassino where St. Benedict wrote his Rule.

            The stability that created joy for the monks of St. Benedict creates joy for us now as Oblates and Companions of St. Benedict and St. Scholastica. This stability goes beyond our transitory experience to the heart of Christian fellowship as it was expressed by John the Apostle:  “That which we have seen and heard we proclaim to you, so that you may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ” (I John 1:3).

Sunday, March 1, 2015


Of Humility: Degrees Two through Five. [The text of the Rule is in black, the commentary in blue]

Edited by Dom Anselm for St. Anthony of Egypt,   Oblate Chapter of St. Scholastica Monastery

Humility is not an emotional state, but a life orientation; an attitude enfleshed in the service of others.

The Second Degree of Humility is that a man loves not his own will, nor is pleased to fulfill his own desires but by his deeds carries out that word of the Lord which says: "I came not to do My own will but the will of Him that sent Me" (John 6:38). It is likewise said: "Self-will has its punishment, but constraint wins the crown."[i]

This is the core of the issue. The surrender of the will is a difficult challenge, and that surrender has to be carried over into action, into concrete deeds. Surrender is not a mere passive giving up, but a surrender into obedient action. We are to do the will of Him who sends us, not just verbalize about it. That will inevitably lead us into proclamation and the service of others.

Further St. Benedict tells us that ‘Self-will has its punishment.” There is a very practical point here. Most of the trouble we get ourselves into is the result of a bull-headed ploughing ahead and stubbornly doing our own thing. We need to accept constraints on our wilfulness and on our actions. The surrender of the will entails limitations on our will, and our acknowledgement that we are willing to accept those limitations.

The Third Degree of Humility is, that for the love of God a man submits himself to a Superior in all obedience, imitating the Lord, of whom the Apostle says: "He became obedient unto death" (Phil 2:8).

Surrender and humility are not lived out in a comfortable vacuum. Each of us is accountable to someone else, whether or not we like the idea. In the context of the Monastery or the Abbey it is the Prioress or the Abbot; but Oblates also are accountable. We are accountable to each other, to our bosses, to our parish priest, to our bishop. In a very practical way husbands are accountable to their wives, and wives are accountable to their husbands. Without accountability there is no true community.

The attitude of humility and its complex relationships to those in authority is clearly revealed in St. Benedict’s Chapter, ‘The Assignment of Impossible Tasks to a Brother’.

“If it happens that difficult or impossible tasks are laid on a brother, let him nevertheless receive the order of the one in authority with all meekness and obedience. But if he sees that the weight of the burden altogether exceeds the limit of his strength, let him submit the reasons for his inability to the one who is over him in a quiet way and at an opportune time, without pride, resistance, or contradiction.  And if after these representations the Superior still persists in his decision and command, let the subject know that this is for his good, and let him obey out of love, trusting in the help of God.” [ii]

The Fourth Degree of Humility is that if hard and distasteful things are commanded, even if suffering is involved, he accepts these things with patience and even temper, and does not grow weary or give up, but holds out, as the Scripture says: "He that perseveres to the end shall be saved" (Mt 10:22). And again: "Let your heart take courage, and wait for the Lord" (Ps 27:14).

What kind of hard and distasteful things might a monk be commanded to do? Everything from cleaning the bathroom, to mucking out the stable. All of us have things in our homes and in our jobs that are both necessary and unpleasant; but we are to accept these things with patience, even if they entail a little suffering on our part. I suspect that many of the sufferings we endure in such circumstances have to do more with pride, than hard work.

The surrender of the will is easy when there are no immediate circumstances that overwhelm either the Monastic or the Oblate.  It is difficult for the Oblate, very difficult, in the midst of impending conflicts, where the desires and pressure of the world around him call for a surrender of one’s material possessions, pride, and relationships.  The Monastic at least theoretically has already surrendered such things in taking his final vows.

And another passage shows that a faithful man should even bear every disagreeable thing for the Lord, saying with the voice of those who suffer: "For Your sake we suffer death all the day long; we are counted as sheep for the slaughter" (Rom 8:36; Ps 44:22). And secure in the hope of the divine reward, they go on joyfully, saying: "But in all these things we overcome because of Him that who loved us" (Rom 8:37).

In whatever suffering we endure, even in laboring at unpleasant mundane tasks; we have the unique privilege of uniting our small sufferings with the suffering of Christ on our behalf. St. Paul well understood the principle saying, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church” [Colossians 1:24]. While we may not be called to Paul’s ministry, the same principle holds true in the everyday sufferings that many Christians have on behalf of their own families, parishes, and in their places of employment. 

And likewise in another place the Scripture says: "You, O God, have proved us; You have tried us by fire as silver is tried; You have brought us into a net, You have laid afflictions on our back" (Ps 66: 10-11).

Human relationships are the crucible in which Christian personality is shaped. Charles Williams tells us one of the important facets of love,

Christian lovers, who have considered within themselves the nature of Love, will have known from the beginning that there is another side to the early delight.  To them it is a place of purgation as well as joy; it is in truth a little universe of place and time, of earth, of purgatory, of heaven or hell.  The companion in this experience is to him or to her the instrument of fire which shall burn away his corrupt part. . .
Love is Holiness and Divine Indignation; the placidity of an ordinary married life is the veil of a spiritual passage into profound things.  Nor is this all; the lover knows himself also to be the cross upon which the Beloved is to be stretched, and so she also of her lover.[iii]
Christian Marriage is a Covenant relationship that is grounded on the Biblical principles governing that relationship. Marriage is a Covenant, a commitment that we intend to carry out through life. All relationships have their ups and downs. The Covenant is a three-fold commitment; a commitment to each other, and a commitment to God whose love informs and strengthens our relationship and commitment. This not only true of marriage, it is in large part also true of all relationships. Even friends suffer with friends, and suffer for friends, and ultimately count it a joy.

And to show us that we ought to be under a Superior, the Psalmist continues, saying: "You have set men over our heads" (Ps 66:12). And those who are patient under hardships and unjust treatment are fulfilling the command of the Lord by patience also in adversities and injuries. When struck on the one cheek they turn also the other; the despoiler of their coat they give their cloak also; and when forced to go one mile they go two (Mt 5:39-41); with the Apostle Paul they bear with false brethren and "bless those who curse them" (Luke 6:28; Romans 12:14).

St. Benedict returns to the theme of obedience to a Superior; in this case obedience to a Superior who might even increase our adversities and injuries. Not all the men, or all women, who have been set over our heads, are pleasant people. How we treat them while they are our Superiors is important. To return abuse for abuse is not what St. Benedict has in mind. Quite the opposite! He does not speak of the options people may have in changing jobs. That is another issue.

The Fifth Degree of Humility is, that one does not hide from his Abbot any of the evil thoughts which rise in his heart, or the evils committed by him in secret, but humbly confesses them. Concerning this the Scripture exhorts us, saying: "Commit your way to the Lord and trust in Him" (Ps 37:5). And it says further: "Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His mercy endures forever" (Ps 106: 1; Ps 118:1). And the Prophet likewise says: “I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the LORD," and you forgave the iniquity of my sin” (Ps 32:5).

In tight monastic communities everyone is theoretically heading in the same direction, towards Christ and towards transformation into His image; at least that is the expectation. Oblates cannot always make that assumption in parish Churches, or on the job, or in families; so Oblates have a challenge that has to be tailored to their particular calling.

First, it is important not to have secrets that you have never shared with someone who is trustworthy. The Book of Common Prayer recommends that we find “a wise and understanding priest,” The qualification in interesting because the implication is that not all priests are necessarily wise and understanding. Humility requires that we have a place of openness. Hiddenness leads to hiding our flaws beneath unwarranted pride. From “An Exhortation” in the Book of Common Prayer,

And if, in your preparation, you need help and counsel, then go and open your grief to a discreet and understanding priest, and confess your sins, that you may receive the benefit of absolution, and spiritual counsel and advice; to the removal of scruple and doubt, the assurance of pardon, and the strengthening of your faith.[iv]

Second, humility is: “Knowing who you are before God, and knowing your place in His world.”[v] Self-knowledge is a fundamental part of humility; but so also is the acceptance that comes from knowing that you are neither better or worse than any other Christian. One of the features of Confession and Absolution is, that at the end of the Confession the Priest says, “Go in peace, and pray for me a sinner.”[vi]

[i] Acta Martyrum
[ii] The Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 68
[iii]   Charles Williams, Outlines of Romantic Theology, ed. Alice Mary Hatfield, (Berkeley, CA: The Apocryphile Press,  2005), p. 23. 
[iv] The Book of Common Prayer, p. 317
[v] The wit and wisdom of Sister Bede
[vi] BCP p. 448