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Reconstructing Monasticism

Prayers and Rituals

The calendar of the chapter book provides the annual cycle of services and prayers. The customary gives the daily suite of prayers with some degree of detail. For example, the first lectio tells us that:

And so, as one flock, they shall, two by two (i.e. two per file), come to the church in orderly manner. And passing by the altar of the blessed Mary Magdalene, they shall bow with their hoods thrown back, as they should always do; similarly upon entering the choir they shall bow in direction of the main altar. Then they shall go one by one to the places assigned to them in accordance with the Ordo. Next, facing the altar they shall say silently and intently the four prayers, which are called the Triple prayer.

The “triple prayer” (trina oratio) mentioned in the lectio involved reciting all or some of the penitential psalms in three groups, each group followed by a prayer. The English Regularis concordia outlines the practice in detail: first the three penitential psalms (6, 31, 37) were sung, then the Lord's Prayer (Pater Noster), followed by a prayer on behalf of oneself. Then Psalms 50 and 101 were sung on behalf of the queen and her associates, again followed by a prayer. Finally, Psalms 129 and 142 were sung on behalf of the deceased faithful, concluding with a third prayer.

All of the prayers discussed in the customary are listed in order in the glossary, and explanatory links have been embedded in the customary text.

Even daily tasks were ritualized at Saint-Jean. The abbey community lined up to wash their hands in order of profession [Lectio 3], and they walked in solemn procession, even when going to visit the necessarium or toilet block [Lectio 15]. They ate in silence in their refectory, listening to scriptural readings [Lectio 11].