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refectory quarr

The Refectory, Quarr Abbey, Isle of Wight, UK

Let the brethren serve one another,
and let no one be excused from the kitchen service
except by reason of sickness
or occupation in some important work.
For this service brings increase of reward and of charity…

The one who is ending his week of service
shall do the cleaning on Saturday.
He shall wash the towels
with which the brethren wipe their hands and feet;
and this server who is ending his week,
aided by the one who is about to begin,
shall wash the feet of all the brethren.
He shall return the utensils of his office to the cellarer
clean and in good condition,
and the cellarer in turn shall consign them to the incoming server,
in order that he may know
what he gives out and what he receives back.

…An hour before the meal
let the weekly servers each receive a drink and some bread
over and above the appointed allowance,
in order that at the meal time they may serve their brethren
without murmuring and without excessive fatigue…
…the incoming and outgoing servers
shall prostrate themselves before all the brethren in the oratory
and ask their prayers.
Let the server who is ending his week say this verse:
“Blessed are You, O Lord God,
who have helped me and consoled me.”
When this has been said three times
and the outgoing server has received his blessing,
then let the incoming server follow and say,
“O God, Come to my assistance;
O Lord, make haste to help me.”
Let this also be repeated three times by all,
and having received his blessing
let him enter his service.

–The Rule of St Benedict, Ch.35

Notice that the monks’ service at meal time is a reflection of their service at the altar of the Lord. Just as they bow to one another in the liturgy, so they bow to one another as they begin service in the refectory.

At the beginning of the office they recite,

“O God Come to  my Assistance. O Lord make haste to help me”

Thus service at the table is made holy and the whole of life is sanctified.

The lesson? We should take more care and concern for serving one another in our daily meals. We should take time to really pray and thank God and love one another through the simple service of meal time.

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