The Rule of St. Benedict: Chapter 47
Sr. Joan Chittister opens her commentary on Chapter 47 by describing Benedictine prayer as "regular and artistic." I find much resonance with this characterization.
Prayer in the Benedictine tradition is literally regular, in that it conforms to a rule, a regula. Its starting place is not extemporaneous, but formal. It begins with a signal and proceeds with a carefully defined series of hymns, Psalms, and readings, and it is put to the religious superior to see to it that this is so in each Benedictine community.
Along with the regulation of prayer, Chapter 47 also tasks the superior with attending to the quality of its aesthetic presentation in the community. This is the Opus Dei after all, the Work of God, and should be approached with a measure of beauty and excellence.
There are shadow sides to both of these elements that every healthy Benedictine community must acknowledge and address, however. Regulations and artistry can become idols. The sneering, upturned nose of the aesthete or the conformist's obsessive anxiety are every bit as damaging to our Father Benedict's intentions as haphazardness and ugliness. We are to strike a balance in prayer that frees our hearts from the swirling chaos of our environments without shackling them to idols made by human hands.