"Search the Scriptures," adjured the Soporific Fathers, Founders under God of the Canons Regular of the Dormition of the Blessed Virgin Mary, "for in them you will find eternal life – and rest." This advice (itself so very Scriptural, referring to the words and promises of Our Blessed Lord) is implemented by their sons the Dormitionists (and by their daughters in Christ, the Dormitionistines) daily: for it is an important precept within that Order to undertake lectio divina whenever not deeply asleep nor otherwise engaged, meditating on the law of the Lord day and night, just as the Lord once commanded Josue (Josue i, 8).
These retiring Canons particularly love the more rhythmic, soporific passages of Scripture, pregnant with allegorical significance in proportion to what scoffing worldlings would call their lack of immediate accessibility to the questing mind (for the Scriptures are as a deep well and a fathomless mine to be patiently worked for the getting of wisdom, as Job xxviii doth portray), such as the mysterious and therefore doubtless mystical nine chapters at the outset of I Paralipomenon (Chronicles to Protestants and moderns). The very Genealogies of Christ are present in the Gospels to insinuate their mystic potency, not as dry lists to be endured, but as inspirations to the restless mind, to calm and peaceful rest.
Take for example an earlier genealogy – that of the antediluvian Patriarchs in Genesis v, Hic est liber generationis Adam. Adam, Seth, Enos, Cainan, Malaleel, Jared, Henoch (who walked with God), Mathusala, Lamech... of eight of these 'tis said "and he died", that is, "fell asleep" as the New Testament prefers to put it. Now eight is the number of the Resurrection, and thus this pericope intimates that through Christ's Victory they, and all who live as they did, shall have eternal rest in Him. As for Henoch, who "was seen no more: because God took him", being the ninth Patriarch, he stands for the angels (of whom it is not written that they ever sleep), particularly as he abideth still in the Earthly Paradise, whence he and Elias his companion shall come again to preach as messengers or angels of the Lord just before the world's End, as the Apocalypse teaches us: they shall both be martyred for the Faith, and thus at last enter into eternal rest, once their angelic mission is complete.
By the time a Dormitionist (or any man for that matter) has mulled over all this, sucking the marrow and fatness from the bone as it were, ruminating upon Holy Writ, repeating the words till they sink into memory, then he shall be ready for a rest; as is the peculiar charism of the Order.
Since such purposeful lectio divina, involving a measured reading, marking, learning, and inward digestion of God's word, is thus a serious part of the Dormitionist calling, the O.Dorm.'s seek to read over the whole of the Bible as bees seeking nectar for the making honey in the honeycomb (that is, for storing up merit in heaven). It will then be unsurprising that the Breviary proper to the Order has a much-abbreviated lectionary, even compared to post-Tridentine Breviaries whether Monastic, Roman or other, since the Hours are not for instruction but for prayer (as was long ago stated by a Dominican theologian at Trent, when inveighing against the dreadful innovation that was the Breviary of the Holy Cross compiled by Cardinal Quiñones), and so are no substitute for serious Scripture study.
In place of the expected Scriptural lessons on ferias, the Dormitionist Breviary instead very properly proposes three extracts from among the writings of the Fathers and approved authors, with apposite responsories; in the earlier days of the Soporific Canons, the passage from St Augustine was read as one Lesson, and for the first two Lessons Scriptural passages were still retained, but then a most blessed fruit of the devotio moderna provided a glorious prayer with which to accompany it (itself divided in twain), which by the authority of three successive General Chapters (those of 1492, 1555 and 1636) was inserted into the Office, and the Scriptures reserved for study in the cell at other times.
For the interest of liturgical persons, herewith from the Breviarium O. Dorm. I present the ferial Lessons and Responsories for Matins:
Lectio beati Augustini Episcopi.
Conf. 13,35,50a; 13,36,51
Domine Deus, pacem da nobis (omnia enim praestitisti nobis), pacem quietis, pacem sabbati, pacem sine vespera. Dies autem septimus sine vespera est nec habet occasum, quia sanctificasti eum ad permansionem sempiternam, ut id, quod tu post opera tua bona valde, quamvis ea quietus feceris, requievisti septimo die, hoc praeloquatur nobis vox libri tui, quod et nos post opera nostra ideo bona valde, quia tu nobis ea donasti, sabbato vitae aeternae requiescamus in te.
(O Lord God, grant us thy peace – for thou hast given us all things. Grant us the peace of quietness, the peace of the Sabbath, the peace without an evening. But the seventh day is without an evening, and it has no setting, for thou hast sanctified it with an everlasting duration. After all thy works of creation, which were very good, thou didst rest on the seventh day, although thou hadst created them all in unbroken rest – and this so that the voice of thy Book might speak to us, with the prior assurance that after our works – and they also are very good because thou hast given them to us – we may find our rest in thee in the Sabbath of life eternal.)
Conf. 1,1,1; 1,5,5
R/. Fecisti nos ad te, Domine, et * Inquietum est cor nostrum donec requiescat in te. V/. Quis mihi dabit adquiescere in te? * Inquietum est cor nostrum donec requiescat in te.
(R/. For thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and * Our hearts are restless until they rest in thee. V/. Who will grant to me to rest in thee? * Our hearts are restless until they rest in thee.)
Etiam tunc enim sic requiesces in nobis, quemadmodum nunc operaris in nobis, et ita erit illa requies tua per nos, quemadmodum sunt ista opera tua per nos. Tu autem, Domine, semper operaris et semper requiescis. Et sunt quaedam bona opera nostra ex munere quidem tuo, sed non sempiterna: post illa nos requieturos in tua grandi sanctificatione speramus. Tu autem bonum nullo indigens bono semper quietus es, quoniam tua quies tu ipse es.
(For then also thou shalt so rest in us as now thou workest in us; and, thus, that will be thy rest through us, as these are thy works through us. But thou, O Lord, workest evermore and art always at rest. And of thy gift we have some good works, but not everlasting: after them we hope to rest in thy great sanctification. But thou art the Good, and needest no rest, and art always at rest, because thou thyself art thy own rest.)
Conf. 13, 9, 10
R/. Domine, in dono tuo requiescimus: * Ibi te fruimur. V/. Requies nostra locus noster. * Ibi te fruimur.
(R/. O Lord, it is in thy gift that we rest: * It is there that we enjoy thee. V/. Our rest is our place. * It is there that we enjoy thee.)
Lectio Imitationis Christi.
Im. Xpi III,21,2a.3b.5; III, 15, 20-22.
Da mihi in te super omnem creaturam requiescere, et super omne, Deus meus, quod tu non es: quoniam quidem non potest cor meum veraciter requiescere nec totaliter contentari, nisi in te requiescat et omnia dona omnemque creaturam transcendat. Da mihi super omnia desiderata in te quiescere et cor meum in te pacificare. Tu vera pax cordis, tu sola requies. Extra te omnia sunt dura et inquieta. In hac pace, in idipsum, hoc est in te, uno et summo et æterno bono, dormiam et requiescam. Amen.
(Grant to me to rest in thee above every creature; and above everything that is not thee, my God: for my heart is not able truly to rest nor to be fully contented unless it rest in thee, and transcend all gifts and every created thing. Give me above all desires the desire to rest in thee, and in thee let my heart have peace. Thou art true peace of heart. Thou alone art its rest. Without thee all things are difficult and troubled. In this peace, the selfsame that is in thee, the Most High, the everlasting Good, I will sleep and take my rest. Amen.)
Im. Xpi. II,1,2; III,23,7
R/. Converte te ex toto corde tuo ad Dominum et relinque hunc miserum mundum, * Et inveniet anima tua requiem. V/. Ecce talis homo ingreditur fines pacis et quietis. * Et inveniet anima tua requiem. Gloria Patri et Filio et Spiritui Sancto. * Et inveniet anima tua requiem.
(R/. Convert thyself with thy whole heart to the Lord and forsake this wretched world * And thy soul shall find rest. V/. Behold, such a man will enter into the realm of peace and rest. * And thy soul shall find rest. Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost. * And thy soul shall find rest.)
It will be seen how excellent these are, and I recommend them to all who wish more deeply to drink of the Dormitionist charism – which, as all will recognize, is far more widespread through Holy Church than would naïvely be expected for so retiring and hidden an Order.