Monday, June 20, 2011

Healthy Sleeping, Moderate Eating

“We will not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning them that are asleep” (I Thess. iv, 12a): this being the counsel of the Apostle, I cannot but continue to spread the spread the good news about that most noble Order of Canons Regular, the Dormitionist: indeed, woe is me, if I do not.  For if to convert one sinner be a most worthy deed, what must it be to turn man’s mind to holy religion, toward embracing an utterly contemplative live, wholly oriented toward Him Who is the true East, the Eschaton, being both Alpha and Omega, by even now striving to sleep the sleep of the just, just as all the blessed do sleep in the Lord?

(Any inquiries may be left in the comment box.)

The bed, the prie-dieu, the study-desk, the dining-table...
all important facets of the Dormitionist charism.

These redoubtable religious sleepers-in-Christ, having chosen the better part (cf. St Luke x, 42), shall have a premier place and part in the Kingdom: for we, at “the coming of the Lord, shall not prevent them who have slept” (I Thess. iv, 14b): no, as is only right, those who have striven to practise in this life what they hope to do for all eternity, shall by no means be the last and least to enter heaven.  If to desire a bishoprick is to desire a good work (I Tim. iii, 1), how much greater must it be to desire to be a holy religious? – indeed, a greater work in truth, since the religious life is the state of acquiring perfection, whereas the fulness of the priesthood is the state of acquired perfection (cf. St Thomas Aquinas, S.T., II-II, 184, 7).

Furthermore, as the Dormitionists in all humility cannot forebear to point out, their Order is clearly foretold in Holy Writ under the figure of Israel, and indeed most commended therein: “Lying down he hath slept as a lion, and as a lioness, whom none shall dare to rouse.” And Balaam was constrained by the Spirit of the Lord to continue, and to declare, “He that blesseth thee, shall also himself be blessed: he that curseth thee shall be reckoned accursed.” (Numbers xxiv, 9.)  Yea and amen, just as the Dormitionist Fathers are most potent sleepers-in-Christ, and thus deserving of all praise for fulfilling this meditative office vicariously on behalf of the whole Church, so those scoffing worldlings who would say unto them – as once the pagan sailor to Jonas, himself a type of the sleeping Christ (Jonas i, 6) – “Why art thou fast asleep?” do but risk the divine displeasure.

An inability “rightly to divide the word of truth” (II Tim. ii, 15) may be the fault that binds men in ignorance: for, while lazy slug-a-beds are rightly castigated, even in the very Scriptures, such carnal, fleshly slumber is utterly different from godly sleep, as is indicated in the parable of the wise and foolish virgins: “for all slumbered and slept” (St Matthew xxv, 5), the five wise and five foolish, and the different verbs distinguish the two – the former slept prepared for the Eschaton, that is, the Advent of the Bridegroom; while the latter did not.  This is plainly declared in the second Book of the Machabees: “they who [have] fallen asleep with godliness, [have] great grace laid up for them” (cf. xii, 45b).


Now, in order that the Dormitionist in his cell within his Dorter (Dormitory) may say with the Patriarch, “I awoke, and then fell asleep again” (Genesis xli, 21b), and dream sacred dreams, the better to fulfil his elected avocation, he ought most carefully maintain a proper diet.  It is known that the Apostle instructed Timothy, his fellow bishop, to take a little wine for his stomach and his debilities (I Tim. v, 23); and for utterly the same reason, some wine or beer, a hemina or so (howsoever much that is) as St Benedict suggests (cf. his Rule, chapter 40), should be imbibed to ensure placid slumbers.  Likewise, decent sleep requires, not a stodgy meal or gluttonous feast, but a temperate supper – else the overstuffed flesh will give rise to uneasy dreams.  Christus Somnifer, Christ the Bringer of Sleep and Sacred Dreams, visits not the couch of the intemperate.

For this reason, ere he sup within his cell on the meal passed through the trap-door (for the Dormitionists do not dine in a common refectory, only coming together in the church for their evening vigil Mass and Compline), it is the custom in the Order to read over again every time the following passage from Ecclesiasticus xxxi, 22-25:
Quam sufficiens est homini eruditio vinum exiguum! et in dormiendo non laborabis ab illo, et non senties dolorem. Vigilia, cholera et tortura viro infrunito, somnus sanitatis in homine parco: dormiet usque mane, et anima illius cum ipso delectabitur. Et si coactus fueris in edendo multum, surge e medio, evome, et refrigerabit te, et non adduces corpori tuo infirmitatem.
(How sufficient is a little wine for a man well taught, and in sleeping thou shalt not be uneasy with it, and thou shalt feel no pain. Watching, and choler, and gripes, are with an intemperate man: sound and wholesome sleep with a moderate man: he shall sleep till morning, and his soul shall be delighted with him. And if thou hast been forced to eat much, arise, go out, and vomit: and it shall refresh thee, and thou shalt not bring sickness upon thy body.)
The reader will be unsurprised to learn that, consequent upon the sage advice of this sapiential pericope, each cell has an attached vomitorium after the Roman mode (the ancients, they thought of everything).  Any errors in diet may thus decently be corrected, lest the Dormitionist charism be impeded.  How the wise Founders of the Order thought of everything!


(Photographs in this article are of Carthusian Charterhouses, sincee the Dormitionists do not yet permit photography, or "the production for pious ends of daguerreotypes and the like" – only two General Chapters, those of 1855 and 1931, have so far approved of this novelty; it is expected that the forthcoming General Chapter will give the necessary third approval.)

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