Seven is a definitely a blessed number in the Bible; serious numerical scholars can have that discussion, but seven is the number of times the sisters pray together in the church in a day. Now the sisters here at the Beguinage do not do Vigils, the night office before dawn. Vigils is in the quiet of the night, longing for the new day and praising God that it will come. Fortunately, St. Benedict says in his rule that adaptations for each community are permissible. With oldish nuns here at the Beguinage, me included, an uninterrupted night’s sleep is a blessing for the day ahead.
One commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict says that fixed hours for prayer are especially unfamiliar to western Christians in the 21st century; that seems an accurate assessment. For Muslims, that of course is not true. Having once visited Istanbul, I was amazed and arrested by daily calling of the bells to prayers; these bells are heard all over the city. Not a student of Islam, I think it is 5 times a day for prayer. My bells, here at the Beguinage as at my home convent, faithfully ring about 7-10 minutes before each round of prayer and chant. One sister has an alarm on her watch in case she is somewhere in the monastery where the bells can not be heard, or is on the phone … ding a ling…the alarm goes off…. 21st century bells! The bells call you from the day’s stream of activities to prayer. The prayer reminds you of the purpose for all you do is love and worship of God and also that you need God’s help in all you do. I, as a human, definitely need these reminders otherwise my own thoughts, ideas and activities definitely take priority over the Living God. How will I live in heaven unless I adjust my schedule at least a little here on earth.
Benedict’s rule is actually quite specific for monastic communities which is of course why he was writing, telling which psalm and when each should be said/sung and even when there should be alleluias. I must admit I just sort of perfunctorily said the alleluias at the end of antiphons. The whole reason is to remember the resurrection of Christ and his wonderful saving grace on the cross. I hope I will think again when I sing the alleluia.
So there are my bells, it is 10 minutes to noon. I hear them out my convent window and I rise from this computer to trek the courtyard to midday service to ask God’s help for the remainder of my day and give Him praise.