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Reconstructing Monasticism


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The monastic experience of time is shaped by the cyclical liturgical year, as well as by the notion of linear historical progress. For a community dedicated to the opus dei (or service to God), the majority of time at Saint-Jean was dedicated to the monastic hours (see chart). The customary makes clear that the time from dawn to dusk was spent largely in prayer. Thus monastic time, dedicated to the monastic hours and to Mass, was organized cyclically according to the liturgical calendar. Unlike the modern year, beginning January 1, the liturgical year focused on Christís life (see liturgical year circle). The calendar contained in the chapter book adds specific, and often local feasts to this cycle.

The cyclical nature of liturgical time was reinforced naturally in the cyclical recurrence of night and day and the cycle of the seasons. Yet monks and canons also experienced the linear succession of events. This sense of time was built into the Christian understanding of divine dispensation as the Old Testament was succeeded by the New. The brothers were aware of the succession of years, decades, centuries and millennia, noting the reigns of kings and popes in their charters, even if these were not often recorded numerically as they are today.