Let each one sleep in a separate bed. Let them receive bedding suitable to their manner of life, according to the Abbot’s directions. If possible let all sleep in one place; but if the number does not allow this, let them take their rest by tens or twenties with the seniors who have charge of them.

A candle shall be kept burning in the room until morning.

Let them sleep clothed and girded with belts or cords– but not with their knives at their sides, lest they cut themselves in their sleep– and thus be always ready to rise without delay when the signal is given and hasten to be before one another at the Work of God, yet with all gravity and decorum.

The younger shall not have beds next to one another, but among those of the older ones.

When they rise for the Work of God let them gently encourage one another, that the drowsy may have no excuse.

Today’s reading of the Holy Rule touches on sleep. For me, what jumps out of this reading is almost always the following – “[…] thus be always ready to rise without delay when the signal is given […]“. Getting up immediately has in the last couple of years become somewhat of an issue for me. While I normally spring up out of bed when I have someplace to be early (I was even able to wake up on time to be present at Matins while at Silverstream!), the rest of the time it is quite hard. As I tend to work mostly evening shifts, I don’t have to wory about getting up late for work, and so, on many days, I’ll give in to just staying in bed a little bit longer. Or maybe I’ll set the alarm thinking “No, tomorrow I’ll get up early any way”, and when it goes off I just ignore it.

sleeping-monk
“Hey brother, you rest your weary eyes – you deserve it! After all, those Vigils can really exhaust a bloke. If you don’t take care of yourself, how will you keep up? Heck, sleep in; I’m sure ol’ Abba will understand, dontcha know…”

Is there really anything wrong with sleeping in a bit more, especially if there’s nothing urgent or pressing to do? No, but I think it has to do with self-discipline, with ascesis. Why do I sleep in? While I may rationalise the fact with “I need my sleep to be rested for work”, most of the times the over sleeping will not make me feel rested or refreshed. The truth of the matter is that it is a way to pamper myself; it is self-indulgence – a catering to sensuality. The soft sheets; the warm bed; it’s cold outside; feeling a little lazy… Why not simply just get up and be done with it?

This verse reminds me of how the monastic fathers consider that one is only ready to combat spiritual vices if one has first fought the sensual ones. I look at my own life and see so many places where I give into sensuality – to just pleasing the senses – that I can only think “how little I cooperate with the graces given to me, so little are the steps taken since the day I returned; how much the body still has sway over the spiritual”…

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