Chapter Forty Two
Monks should always be given to silence, especially, however, during the hours of the night. Therefore, on every day, whether of fast or of a mid-day meal, as soon as they have risen from their evening meal, let all sit together in one place, and let one read the Conferences or the Lives of the Fathers, or something else that will edify the hearers; not, however, the Heptateuch or the Books of the Kings, because it would not be wholesome for weak minds to hear this part of the Scripture at that hour; they should, however, be read at other times. But if it was a fast-day, then, when Vespers have been said, and after a short interval, let them next come together for the reading of the Conferences, as we have said; and when the four or five pages have been read, or as much as the hour will permit, and all have assembled in one place during the time of the reading, let those also come who were perchance engaged in work enjoined on them. All, therefore, having assembled in one place, let them say Compline, and after going out from Compline, let there be no more permission from that time on for anyone to say anything.
If, however, any are found to break this rule, let them undergo heavy punishment, unless the needs of guests should arise, or the abbot or abbess should perhaps give a command to anyone. But let even this be done with the utmost gravity and moderation.
Silence is a diversity. I have heard the silence of anger burning. I have heard the silence of paralyzing fear or guilt. I have heard the silence of hopeful anticipation and the silence of green beauty. I have heard the silence of safety and contentedness in the presence of loved ones and of the Beloved.
The silence after Compline is to be a fertile silence into which are planted words of peace and gentleness from Holy Scripture. It is to be a silence of soul as well as sound, blooming with joy and love among the community.
Noise is also diverse. We are each settled upon, like many-splendored, moss-covered stones by the noises that fill the atmosphere of our lives. But we, unlike stones, are able to adjust the air in which we live. We can shut the laptop, turn off the television, put down the device.
I long for the fertile silence our Father Benedict seeks to cultivate in and among us.