Bowed in Prayer – 20 August 2018
Here monks are bowed in prayer, as they say the words: ‘Glory to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit’, at the end of a psalm or a canticle. The habit of prayer shapes the response in their bodies, but also in their whole lives, as they bend body, will, mind and heart towards God.
They are engaged in the Divine Office, the pattern of prayer that is at the heart of the monastic life. Their living to a fixed pattern of work and prayer stands as a contrast and sign for those caught up by busy secular lives. Stop and pray, the image suggests, make time, bend towards the God whose Glory overshadows all things.
Two Monks Bowing in Prayer, 1979, is conserved in the National Gallery of Art, Washington. Stanley Roseman drew this spiritual work of art at the Divine Office at the Abbey of Solesmes.
Today we commemorate Bernard of Clairvaux (1090 – 1153), forty years a monk. He was a leader in the reform of the Benedictine Movement, a monk at the monastery at Citeaux, from which the Cistercians take their name. He moved to found the monastery at Clairvaux. He was a gifted leader, theologian and preacher, having immense influence in his own times and beyond. In his sermons and writings he had much to say about the centrality in the Christian life of loving God.
Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”
Jesus, the very thought of Thee
With sweetness fills the breast;
But sweeter far Thy face to see,
And in Thy presence rest.
Nor voice can sing, nor heart can frame,
Nor can the mem’ry find
A sweeter sound than Thy blest name,
O Saviour of mankind!
O hope of every contrite heart,
O joy of all the meek,
To those who fall, how kind Thou art!
How good to those who seek!
All those who find Thee find a bliss
Nor tongue nor pen can show;
The love of Jesus, what it is,
None but His loved ones know.
Jesus, our only joy be Thou,
As Thou our prize will be;
Jesus, be Thou our glory now,
And through eternity.
Attributed to Bernard of Clairvaux
tr by Edward Caswell, pub.1849