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She is attentive to the power of words, and writes like a poet. Each reflection is prefaced by an excerpt from one of the Rule's seventy-three chapters, and explores the Benedictine themes of humility, prayer, community, compassion, justice, hospitality, moderation, and reverance. Srubas also offers insights for those interested in incorporating into their prayer lives the Benedictine practice of lectio divina (sacred reading) and related contemplative writing disciplines. Personal, accessible, and deeply relevant, the prayers offered here invite readers to make their own thoughtful reflections on the timeless principles found in Benedict's Rule and how they may be applied in concrete ways in everyday life.
Rachel M. Srubas is a Benedictine oblate and Presbyterian clergywoman whose writings have appeared in The Christian Century, American and The Best American Poetry, among other publications. She is also a spiritual director, retreat leader, preacher, and teacher, and lives in Tucson, Arizona with her husband, Ken S. McAllister.
Number of Pages: 128
Vendor: Paraclete Press
Publication Date: 2006
|Dimensions: 8 X 5.38 (inches)|
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I first read Oblation: Mediations on St. Benedict’s Rule by Rachel Srubas wedged into a crowded Greyhound bus on a rainy Easter Sunday afternoon. Though that may not have been the ideal setting for a good spiritual read (nor probably where the author anticipated it would be read), it was actually quite lovely. It is advantageous, when reading this text, to have time to look off and think, and to be surrounded by very human faces about which to ponder. Come to think of it, that may be exactly what the author intended.
In this small volume Srubas presents the reader with the resuits of her scriptio divina”: poem-meditations on most of the chapters of the Rule of Benedict. She calls it, in the preface, a cliary of Benedictine prayers” composed in response to her reading of the Rule. The oblation” of the title refers not to the liturgical act of oblation (though Srubas is an oblate of the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in Tucson and a Presbyterian clergy. woman) but to her concept of these prayers as an offering to God and to the wider Christian community. A preface and introduction explain both the writer’s personal history and the process through which the book came to be. Each reflection roots itself in a chapter from the Rule, specifically a verse or two from Patrick Barry’s translation. Understandably some chapters are combined (e.g., 23.30 on the penal code) and some are expanded (each step of humility merits its own poem).
The book possesses several strengths. Srubas’ idea of writing as a valuable tool in engaging with sacred texts could easily be a jumping-off place for monastic ongoing formation committees, oblate groups, or parish adult education programs. Her articulation that her poems are responses to” the Rule, not translations of,” is appreciated for its respect for Benedict’s text and the tradition of scholarly interpretation.
And, most importantly, some of the poems hit those truths about how God is, and how we door do notrespond. Her reflection on chapter 43, Lateness for the Work of God or in the Refectory,” packs a delicious moment of self-recognition for most of us. I think:
A singular, demanding note,
the bell of disciplined devotion,
intervenes in the day. Didn’t I already pray?
What more is there to say, so soon?
As poetry, the pieces are somewhat uneven, and not all may ring true to experiences of Benedictine life. But, of course, they’re not meant to. They are one person’s meditations. One of the gifts of the text may be to drive the reader to pick up pencil and paper and name her or his response to the particular chapter, especially if it’s significantly different from the author’s.
So whether one picks up Oblation: Meditations on St. Benedzct’s Rule on a Greyhound bus or in a choir stall, in solitude or the company of others, it is a worthwhile endeavor. The book is yet another vehicle on the ever-expanding landscape of ways to encounter the Rule of Benedict.
Susan Quaintance, O.S.B., St. Seholastica Monastery, Chicago, IL
St. Anthony's Messanger November 1, 2006 t
This tiny book is a collection of prayers, in the form of poems, based on the rule of St. Benedict, whose 1500-year-old guide to a faithful life is used today in a variety of prayer communities. The author, Presbyterian minister Rachel Srubas, is an oblate-a member of the community of the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration-who considers Benedict's teachings to be "the practical wisdom of the Christian gospel-" Srubas introduces us to contemplative prayer. Already a practitioner of lectio divina, which she calls "listening to the gospel with the ears of the heart," she was led to lectio scriptio, the writing of prayers. The strength of these prayers is in their everyday-ness, in their use of images taken from the common objects and struggles we all confront. The poems are both adventuresome and quieting as they focus on the smallest moments of our humanity and life of the spirit. As poetry these pieces are the work of an accomplished, compelling voice. They draw from spiritual hunger, joy, discipline and silence. Oblation is also the remarkable story of a spiritual journey. As such it is a welcome traveling companion for solitary personal reflections or for small groups which are engaged in a communal walk of faith. This tiny book of prayers is a welcome traveling companion for groups and individuals engaged in a walk of faith.