It is important, therefore, that we protect and guard our contemplative life: we may have the work of Martha to do, but we must keep sacred the time and space to sit at the feet of the Lord with Mary and immerse ourselves in the reality of Our Blessed Lord (cf. Lk 10:48-32). The precious hours of the silentium magnum, most especially the golden hours after matins, are given to us precisely to that end.
But our Holy Mother, the Church, knows that otherwise monks – and, of course, not only monks! – can be more than busy. That is why she punctuates and permeates our day with her Sacred Liturgy. The ‘little hours’ as we call them are not so little when they recall to us, when they call us back to, when they immerse us anew in, the contemplation of, the immersion in, the saving realities of God.
There is perhaps no clearer example of this than in this coming week.
The Holy Gospel of the third Sunday after the Epiphany (Mt 8:1-13) commences with the leper coming to Our Lord and praying: “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” Without hesitation the Lord responds in one of the most tender and beautiful moments recounted in the Gospels: “I will: be thou made clean.”
We have sung this Gospel already, at matins, and listened to Saint Jerome’s homily on the same. We have sung of it in the beautiful Benedictus antiphon at lauds: “Cum autem descendísset Iesus de monte, ecce leprósus véniens adorábat eum, dicens: Dómine, si vis, potes me mundáre: et exténdens manum, tétigit eum, dicens: Volo, mundáre.” (When Jesus was come down from the mountain, * behold, there came a leper, and worshipped Him, saying: Lord, if Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean. And Jesus put forth His Hand, and touched him, saying: I will; be thou clean.)
And shall do so again at Vespers: “Dómine, si vis, potes me mundáre: et ait Iesus: Volo, mundáre.” (Lord, if Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean; and Jesus saith to him: I will; be thou clean.)
And we have prayed the collect: “Omnípotens sempitérne Deus, infirmitatem nostram propítius réspice: atque, ad protegéndum nos, déxteram tuæ maiestátis exténde.” (Almighty, eternal God, look with mercy upon our infirmities, and stretch forth the right hand of Thy majesty to protect us.)
Throughout today – throughout this week – how many times shall we pray this collect? How many times will it recall to us and recall us to the contemplation of the saving power of the Lord’s right hand? It will do so constantly.
Let it then occasion deeper and deeper contemplation of this tender reality. Let it again and again in our hearts give rise to the prayer of the leper “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” – for all the sicknesses of body, mind and soul that are ours, for all the wounds that our vices and sins have inflicted on us – for the Lord waits for us to turn to Him and to seek the healing that we need.
Let this collect be the sacred place where we put the needs, the sicknesses, the sins of others, today and throughout the coming week, that they too might be brought to this most necessary and life-giving encounter with the Lord – most especially in the Sacrament of Confession.
Let our ongoing contemplation bear the fruit that we, and that through our intercession they, may hear His saving words: “I will: be thou made clean.” +.