Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Divine liturgy is, well, Divine.

A friend suggested I pray the daily office.  (If you must know, it was my spiritual director.  About 10 years ago.)

As an Episcopalian, I found it a bit complicated.  I had an Book of Common Prayer, but it didn't actually contain the readings for the office... so you had to look them up in the bible, flipping back and forth.  It was a pain, frankly.  There were versions online that had all the readings, but I just never found reading the office on the computer screen that satisfying.  So, I stuck with the psalms.  In my most impoverished period I was squeaking by with one psalm a day.  Pathetic, I know.

A year ago, I began to thirst.  As a deer longs for the brook, so my soul longed for scripture.  I began to read the bible every day, vaguely following a 'read the bible in a year' schedule.  It broke down to 2  chapters of old testament, 1 psalm, 1 section of proverbs and 1 chapter of the New Testament every day.  I began this in November, so I just started where I was.  Come January, I found myself at the beginning of the bible and have been reading through ever since.  In the summer I finished the New Testament, so at that point I started to read the Deutero Canonical texts instead.

My same spiritual director suggested that maybe this year, I start reading the bible by praying the Divine Office instead.  As Advent is approaching, I thought I would give it a try.  This time, I ordered the books that actually contain the readings.  By now I am a Catholic, so I ordered the Catholic version.  While waiting for them to arrive, I found an app for my phone.  For the last few mornings, I have been reading my 2 chapters of Jeremiah and then moving on to the Daily Office, which is 4 psalm sections and a chapter or so of scripture and then a part of a homily or writing of a saint or some section of one of the councils all tied together with some beautiful prayers.  It is a lot of reading, but it still only takes about 30 minutes or so.

The full liturgy can be as much as 7 times of prayer a day.  I have found myself, over the last couple of days, reading the prayers whenever I have a free moment.  Yesterday, I read the prayers 5 times.  Today it was 3 and I am going to read compline before bed.

I found out that priests in the Roman Catholic Church are required, by canon law, to pray the entire liturgy of the hours every day.  This amazes me, frankly.  Amazes and awes me.  (I find the priesthood pretty awesome, to be honest.)  That means that every parish priest is spending about 2 hours a day in prayer.

As a lay person we are not required to pray the hours, but even just in the last couple of days, I have gotten a tiny taste of what it must be like to order your life around regular prayer.  And the fact that you are praying with every priest, monk and nun on the planet is genuinely humbling.  For me, that this has been going on for over 1000 years just adds to it's power.

I hope that this becomes a regular part of my daily life.






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