Archive for the ‘Liturgy of the Hours’ category

The beauty of the Liturgy of the Hours

January 14, 2011

Those who pray the Liturgy of the Hours, either regularly or occasionally, will appreciate this transcript of a talk by Fr Mark Kirby OSB.  When he says

When the psalmody of the Divine Office is executed with a gentle discipline and a joyful élan, it generates a healing experience of the tranquility of order.

it reminds me of my own similar sentiments after hearing the monks of Mount Saviour Monastery pray the Divine Office on my first visit in 1984.

The prayer of the poor in spirit

January 26, 2010

Six of the seven Offices of the Church’sLiturgy of the Hours” begin with this form of the invocation found in Psalm 70:2

God, come to my assistance;
      Lord, make haste to help me.

John Cassian, in his Conference Ten (“On Prayer”), extols the efficaciousness of this verse for our prayer life.  He begins with this:  (see the very bottom of Page 132 here)

To keep the thought of God always in your mind you must cling totally to this formula for piety: ‘Come to my help, O God; Lord, hurry to my rescue.’

It is not without good reason that this verse has been chosen from the whole of Scripture as a device.

He exposes the wealth and value of this Scriptural entreaty over the next few pages, and begins the conclusion of his consideration of this verse with these two paragraphs: (starting at the bottom of Page 135)

Our prayer for rescue in bad times and for protection against pride in good times should be founded on this verse.  The thought of this verse should be turning unceasingly in your heart.  Never cease to recite it in whatever task or service or journey you find yourself.  Think upon it as you sleep, as you eat, as you submit to the most basic demands of nature.  This heartfelt thought will prove to be a formula of salvation for you.  Not only will it protect you against all devilish attack, but it will purify you from the stain of all earthly sin and will lead you on to the contemplation of the unseen and the heavenly and to that fiery urgency of prayer which is indescribable and which is experienced by very few.  Sleep should come upon you as you meditate on this verse until as a result of your habit of resorting to its words you get in the habit of repeating them even in your slumbers.

This verse should be the first thing to occur to you when you wake up.  It should precede all your thoughts as you keep vigil.  It should take you over as you rise from your bed and go to kneel.  After this it should accompany you in all your works and deeds.  It should be at your side at all times.  Following the precept of Moses, you will think upon it ‘as you sit at home or walk along your way’ (Dt 6:7), as you sleep or when you get up.  You will write it upon the threshold and gateway of your mouth, you will place it on the wall of your house and in the inner sanctum of your heart.  It will be a continuous prayer, an endless refrain when you bow down in prostration and when you rise up to do all the necessary things of life.

Advent takeaway

December 30, 2009

During Advent I encountered this exhortation from St Anselm to take time for personal prayer:

Insignificant man, escape from your everyday business for a short while, hide for a moment from your restless thoughts.  Break off from your cares and troubles and be less concerned about your tasks and labors.  Make a little time for God and rest a while in him.

Enter into your mind’s inner chamber.  Shut out everything but God and whatever helps you to seek him; and when you have shut the door, look for him.  Speak now to God, and say with your whole heart:  I seek your face; your face, Lord, I desire.

It’s from the non-Scriptural reading in the Office of Readings for Friday of the First Week of Advent.  If it doesn’t sound familiar, it’s probably because this year it coincided with the Memorial of St John Damascene, which had its own non-Scriptural reading for the Office of Readings.  This excerpt now occupies a prominent place on my desk at home.  I may need to go further, and attach it to my computer monitor, my checkbook, my DVD player, etc., etc…..

Morning jolt

November 19, 2009

So I swore in my anger,
         “They shall not enter into my rest.”
                                                      (Psalm 95:11)

Some of the most chilling, sobering words in Sacred Scripture.  Words that you never want used in reference to you.
And the Church places them before us every morning in the Invitatory of the Liturgy of the Hours.

The Cedars of Lebanon

November 16, 2009

I was praying Psalm 29 this morning, which describes the power of the voice of the Lord:

Give to the Lord, all his children,
his glory and power,
give to the Lord the glory of his name.
Worship the Lord in holy splendour.
The voice of the Lord is heard over the waters:
the God of majesty thunders,
God above all the waters.
The voice of the Lord in his power,
the voice of the Lord in his greatness.
The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars,
the Lord breaks down the cedars of Lebanon.
The Lord makes Lebanon leap like a calf,
Sirion like a wild ox.
The voice of the Lord cuts flames in two;
the voice of the Lord beats on the desert,
the Lord stuns the desert of Kadesh.
The voice of the Lord puts the deer to flight,
it empties the thickets;
in his sanctuary, all praise his glory.
The Lord dwells above the raging flood,
he is enthroned as king for ever.
The Lord will give strength to his people,
the Lord will bless his people with peace.

One day this past summer, our family was at Lake Jean on Red Rock Mountain when a thunderstorm blew in.  While the rest of the family took refuge in the van, I took cover but remained outside, drawn to the crackling of the lightning and the blasts of thunder, because they were both so very loud!  Scriptural descriptions of the voice of the Lord came to mind.  I remember wondering: “If the lightning and thunder are that loud, what would the angry voice of the Lord sound like?”

Anyway, I made a mental note this morning to search for some pics of Lebanon cedars, as I was unsure of their size.  Finally, here at 9pm, I’ve remembered to look for them.  Imagine a voice (not a wind, but a voice!) that snaps these like twigs:

Motivating the brethren

November 1, 2009

Today’s (Solemnity of All Saints) non-scriptural selection in the Office of Readings provides us with a nice wake-up call.  Taken from a sermon by St Bernard, the 12th century Cistercian abbot first takes his brothers to task for their laziness at worst, or their lack of zeal at best:

Calling the saints to mind inspires, or rather arouses in us, above all else, a longing to enjoy their company, so desirable in itself. We long to share in the citizenship of heaven, to dwell with the spirits of the blessed, to join the assembly of patriarchs, the ranks of the prophets, the council of apostles, the great host of martyrs, the noble company of confessors and the choir of virgins. In short, we long to be united in happiness with all the saints. But our dispositions change. The Church of all the first followers of Christ awaits us, but we do nothing about it. The saints want us to be with them, and we are indifferent. The souls of the just await us, and we ignore them.

Then, he delivers a fatherly exhortation:

Come, brothers, let us at length spur ourselves on.

This reminded me of St Paul’s advice to Timothy (2 Tim 1:6-7):

Hence I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love and self-control.

Bernard continues:

We must rise again with Christ, we must seek the world which is above and set our mind on the things of heaven. Let us long for those who are longing for us, hasten to those who are waiting for us, and ask those who look for our coming to intercede for us. We should not only want to be with the saints, we should also hope to possess their happiness. While we desire to be in their company, we must also earnestly seek to share in their glory. Do not imagine that there is anything harmful in such an ambition as this; there is no danger in setting our hearts on such glory.

When did I last take time to “long for” heaven?
How frequently each day do I reflect (“set our mind”) on the things of heaven?
How “earnestly” am I “seek[ing] the world which is above”?
Is there an element of “haste[n]” or urgency in my efforts?
What can I do to strengthen my “desire” for God and for heaven?

Bernard concludes this selection with his continued exhortation and a reminder not to neglect the access to God’s heart that can be attained through the communion of saints:

Therefore, we should aim at attaining this glory with a wholehearted and prudent desire. That we may rightly hope and strive for such blessedness, we must above all seek the prayers of the saints. Thus, what is beyond our own powers to obtain will be granted through their intercession.

Power — Mercy — Transformation

August 18, 2009

A few weeks ago, on July 24th, while on vacation in northern Italy, Pope Benedict gave a homily at Vespers that is surely worthy of some lectio divina.

Following is the concluding Vespers prayer that was the subject of his homily:

Almighty and merciful God, by your will Christ your Son suffered for the salvation of the whole world.  Grant that your people may offer themselves as a living sacrifice to you and be filled to overflowing with your love.

The entire homily is well worth reading, but here are a few notable quotes:

…so that we can knock with greater force on the heart of God.

If the fundamental relationship with God is not living, is not lived, then no other relationship can find its right form.

A Roman prayer, connected with the text of the Book of Wisdom, says: “O God, show your omnipotence through pardon and mercy”. The summit of God’s power is mercy, pardon.

God, through his Son, suffered first, and he is close to us in our suffering.

To forgive is not to ignore, but to transform.

We ourselves, with our whole being, must be adoration and sacrifice, and by transforming our world, give it back to God. The role of the priesthood is to consecrate the world so that it may become a living host, a liturgy: so that the liturgy may not be something alongside the reality of the world, but that the world itself shall become a living host, a liturgy.

It certainly appears that our Holy Father’s broken wrist didn’t hinder his homiletic abilities.