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Chapter VII.

Of their Method of Praying.

These aforesaid prayers, then, they begin and finish in such a way that when the Psalm is ended they do not hurry at once to kneel down, as some of us do in this country, who, before 208the Psalm is fairly ended, make haste to prostrate themselves for prayer, in their hurry to finish the service693693    Ad celeritatem missæ. The word “missa” is here used for the breaking up of the congregation after service, as it is again in Book III. c. vii., where Cassian says that one who came late for prayer had to wait, standing before the door, for the “missa” of the whole assembly. Cf. III. c. viii., “post vigiliarum missam,” and the rule of S. Benedict (c. xvii.): “After the three Psalms are finished let one lesson be read, a verse, and Kyrie Eleison: et missæ fiant.” A full account of the various meanings given to the word will be found in the Dictionary of Christian Antiquities, Vol. II. p. 1193 sq. as quickly as possible. For though we have chosen to exceed the limit which was anciently fixed by our predecessors, supplying the number of the remaining Psalms, we are anxious to get to the end of the service, thinking of the refreshment of the wearied body rather than looking for profit and benefit from the prayer. Among them, therefore, it is not so, but before they bend their knees they pray for a few moments, and while they are standing up spend the greater part of the time in prayer. And so after this, for the briefest space of time, they prostrate themselves to the ground, as if but adoring the Divine Mercy, and as soon as possible rise up, and again standing erect with outspread hands—just as they had been standing to pray before—remain with thoughts intent upon their prayers. For when you lie prostrate for any length of time upon the ground you are more open to an attack, they say, not only of wandering thoughts but also slumber. And would that we too did not know the truth of this by experience and daily practice—we who when prostrating ourselves on the ground too often wish for this attitude to be prolonged for some time, not for the sake of our prayer so much as for the sake of resting. But when he who is to “collect” the prayer694694    Colligere orationem. The phrase corresponds to the Greek συνάπτειν, but Ducange gives but few instances of its use in Latin. It is found, however, in Canon xxx. of the Council of Agde. “Plebs collecta oratione ad vesperam ab Episcopo cum benedictione dimittatur.” rises from the ground they all start up at once, so that no one would venture to bend the knee before he bows down, nor to delay when he has risen from the ground, lest it should be thought that he has offered his own prayer independently instead of following the leader to the close.

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