Oct 6 2016

The Daily Office

Day 6 in a month-long series on Cultivating Sanctuary.

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Lord Jesus, stay with us, for evening is at hand and the day is past; be our companion in the way, kindle our hearts, and awaken hope, that we may know you as you are revealed in Scripture and the breaking of bread. Grant this for the sake of your love. Amen. – from Evening Prayer, Book of Common Prayer

Observing times of prayer through-out the day sanctifies time and daily life, and helps cultivate a place of sanctuary. It orders work around prayer, rather than prayer around work. It can help express the integration of life and prayer: all tasks, responsibilities, life itself, happens in the context of relationship with God, which is the context of prayer.

The daily office, from the Latin officium, “performance of a task,” is prayed according to an horarium, Latin for “of the hours.” This monastic daily schedule organizes the day into times of prayer, work, eating, relaxation, and rest. The office is mostly psalms, scripture readings, and intercessory prayers prayed on behalf of and for the world. Cloistered monasteries gather for prayer 7  times each day, sometimes waking briefly to gather in the middle of the night. At St John’s Abbey, where I studied, the chapel bells would ring the monks, staff, and students to prayer 3 times a day, morning, noon, and evening. Even now, the sound of church bells quickens my step and turns my heart to prayer.

In my own life, as a single person not living in community, the daily office finds different expression depending on the season. The practice is a regular part of my week, whether morning prayer, evening prayer, or compline, and sometimes all three. I don’t seek monastic consistency as an ideal. It is enough that my office book waits patiently on my kitchen table, easy to open while water boils, tea steeps, or a meal cooks.

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An extensive version of the daily office is found in the Roman Catholic tradition. In four volumes, it provides psalms and prayers 7 times each day, based upon the the church year. This version also includes daily readings from early church fathers, sermons, theological essays, and a wonderful collection of seasonally appropriate poetry. On the Protestant side, Presbyterians have the Book of Common Worship Daily Prayer (which is now an phone app as well); the Methodists have an order for daily prayer in their worship book; and the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer offers yet another version. You can also find online options of the book versions, such as the Episcopal office, or the full Catholic Liturgy of the Hours. In the past decade, many new versions of the daily office have been published by individuals or communities, such as Common Prayer, The Divine Hours, and Celtic Daily Prayer.

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While I began with the Catholic version 20 years ago, I’ve been using the Episcopal Contemporary Office Book more recently as a beautiful and simplified option. It takes the office sections from the Book of Common Prayer and makes it easier to follow. The prayers repeat more frequently, encouraging memorization, and the psalm translation is beautiful. It also includes the daily psalm & scripture readings on a two-year cycle. I supplement it with a book of Anglican daily readings called From the Fathers to the Churches. It mirrors the readings in the Catholic office, but adds Anglican saints and women’s writings.

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I am the first to admit that prayer is challenging. It is a practice that requires trust that even though it may seem that nothing is accomplished by it, and that it may feel that no One is listening, it is still enjoined upon disciples of Jesus to pray as an expression of our relationship with God.

Prayer is often the first practice to be forgotten on busy days. But God does not forget us. Finally stopping and praying the daily office on such a day is a sanctuary moment. Even as I write this, listening to the St Mark’s Cathedral Compline Choir sing night prayer, a tight place relaxes in my heart as I breathe deep for the first time since this morning.

The dailyness of the office is like a river flowing. Each time of pausing invites me to enter in. I may not choose to stop and pray, but now, after so many years marked by this practice, I know that it is an option. The river continues to flow and God’s invitation never ceases.

Maybe this is the most basic fruit of the daily office–simply remembering God is always present with us day or night so any moment can become a sanctuary of prayer.

Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love’s sake. Amen. – from Evening Prayer, Book of Common Prayer

 

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Jan 5 2016

The Epiphany Blessing: 20+C+M+B+16

Adoration of the Magi, a Beuronese painting at Conception Abbey

Adoration of the Magi, a Beuronese painting at Conception Abbey

Epiphany (Greek for epiphaneia, manifestation) is the holy day remembering Jesus Christ’s revealing to the world and has been celebrated since at least the mid-fourth century on January 6th. It remembers the revealing of Jesus as King and Messiah to the magi (and thus, to the Gentiles); the revealing of Jesus as the Son of God at his baptism; and the revealing of his ministry with his first miracle: turning water to wine at the Cana wedding.

Ethiopian Magi, Patrick Comerford

Ethiopian Magi, Patrick Comerford

Since the Middle Ages, people would go from home to home singing and enjoying each others’ hospitality. Using chalk, they would write the letters C+M+B on the doors or lintels of houses, blessing them as places of Christ’s hospitality.

CMB Epiphany

The initials represent Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar, traditionally the names of the three Magi, as well as the Latin phrase, Christus Mansionem Benedicat, May Christ bless this house. In the Anglican tradition, Epiphany begins its own season, Epiphanytide, focusing on the ways Christ is revealed to the world. The season ends on February 2nd, with the celebration of Jesus’ presentation in the Temple.

Auch diese drei Heiligen Könige sind gestern durch Sölde gezogen.

In researching the practice, I found out that there is whole tradition in Europe that celebrates Epiphany and the CMB blessing. It is called the Star Singers, or sternsinger. Over 300,000 boys and girls in Germany alone dress up as the Magi and sing from house to house raising awareness and money for issues regarding the suffering of children globally. Last year, they raised $48 million. This German movement is now in its 58th year and for 2016 is highlighting poverty in Bolivia under the motto “Respect – for you, for me, for others.”

If you are looking for a way to close the Christmas season, and look ahead into the new year, find some chalk and write the Epiphany blessing 20+C+M+B+16 above your front door as you pray for God’s blessing on your home and all who enter. Even more, gather some friends, kiddos, and family and chalk each others’ doors, praying and singing as you go! I will be inviting my seminary students to don crowns and carry stars, pray and sing, as they chalk the doors of the classrooms and offices. Maybe we can start Star Singing in our communities, bring some beauty, fun, music, and blessing, while raising awareness of the needs of children worldwide.

Adoration of the Magi, Russian icon

Adoration of the Magi, Russian icon


Feb 2 2015

Candlemas

presentation Bénédite de la Roncière

Known by a number of names, Candlemas, or the Presentation, remembers Mary and Joseph bringing Jesus to the Temple to be offered in service to the Lord as a first-born son.  In Luke’s Gospel, the family is met by Simeon and Anna, who have both longed to see the Messiah:

“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss  your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.” Luke 2:29-32

In many churches, Candlemas is when all the candles set-aside for the coming year’s worship are blessed.  At St James Cathedral, Seattle, this is taken seriously: hundreds upon hundreds of creamy beeswax candles are stacked around the baptismal font, enfolding worshippers in their delicious honey fragrance. My mouth waters with the memory.

Presentation of the Lord

But even in the midst of celebration, there is a prophecy of the coming sorrow. The church year begins to look toward Holy Week. In the scripture readings for the day, Mary is told by Simeon that “a sword will pierce her heart as well.”

Today I light my morning candles with a prayer, honoring Jesus, the Light which was foretold, birthed in the stable, held to Mary’s breast, blessed by Simeon and Anna, and presented to God in the Temple. Hope. Life. Love.

“The Word was first, the Word present to God, God present to the Word.  The Word was God, in readiness for God from day one. Everything was created through him; nothing—not one thing!— came into being without him. What came into existence was Life, and the Life was Light to live by. The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness; the darkness couldn’t put it out.” John 1:1-5

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One way to celebrate Candlemas is to light some candles for places and situations or people for whom God has called you to intercede. Where does the light of Hope and Love need to shine?

To paraphrase St Francis, “Where there is no light, place light, and there will be light.”

Candlemas Song by Simon Marshall

I was not there.
I did not dream my way
up prayer-worn Temple steps
as you did, Christ-Mother, that day.

I was not there.
I did not scan the gloom
or clutch a hand for courage
in the Temple waiting-room.

I was not there.
I did not hear the praise
which ancient ones sang of your child
at the midnight of their days.

I was not there.
I did not feel the sting
which bitter-sweet horizons
of your motherhood will bring.

But I am here.
And I would know a birth
to bring Divine Light’s love
into an aching, longing earth.

Yes, I am here.
And I would do my part.
O let a rising blade of Spring
strike fire into my heart.


Nov 9 2014

Celtic Advent: 40 Days of Joy, Love and Gratitude

Please see the 2017 updated version of the calendar here.

 Celtic Advent 2014

For each day, from November 15 until Epiphany, I’ve thought of one thing I can do to practice joy and gratitude, and to give love, putting it on a calendar that draws on ancient Advent and Christmas traditions.

In the 6th century, the Celtic Christians celebrated Advent during the 40 days before Christmas, as a mirror to the period of Lent before Easter.  In this age of  blurring of holy-days and consumerism, I like the idea of starting Advent earlier, so that Thanksgiving is included, but also so there can be a longer, more intentional preparation for Christ’s coming.

Another tradition from around the 6th century (and probably earlier) is the “O” antiphons. An antiphon, from the Latin antiphona, meaning sounding against, was a repeated line of scripture used as bookends to the psalms in daily prayer and the Eucharist. The antiphon was a prayer “sound-byte,” capturing the most important aspect of the reading, helping those gathered remember through repetition. The “O” antiphons highlight a scriptural name of Christ and offer a jumping off point for reflection. Most people would recognize a version of these antiphons as the verses of the Advent carol O Come, O Come Emmanuel. They are still prayed in many churches–as they have been for more than 1500 years–from December 17 to December 23.

Finally, Christmas seems to end abruptly on December 26th in our consumer-culture celebration. Another lost tradition marks the Twelve Days from Christmas to Epiphany.  Epiphany means appearance or manifestation and remembers the Magi visiting Jesus; Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan–the public revelation that he is God’s Son; and the first miracle at the wedding feast in Cana.  The period from December 25 to January 6th is an ideal time for reflecting on the Light that has come into the world with the birth of Christ.

Pulling these three traditions together, I’ve created a calendar of ideas for living each day intentionally and joyfully.  Here is a PDF version. Please feel free to make copies and share with your friends and church.

The ability to give and experience love and joy doesn’t just happen, it needs to be stretched and strengthened. And over time, the capacity to love and to joy increases.

Let the Holy Spirit lead!

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(a yearly updated post from the archives)

Feb 2 2014

Candlemas

Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy Word: For mine eyes have seen Thy salvation, which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people; a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel. – Luke 2:29-32

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Gloucester Cathedral Boy’s Choir – Credit unknown

I love candles, so a day on the church calendar dedicated to the blessing of candles and the celebration of Light holds a special place in my liturgical heart.

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Before there was Groundhog Day, there was (and still is) Candlemas, also known as The Presentation of Jesus (when Simeon and Anna meet Jesus in the temple, Luke 2:22-40).

presentation Bénédite de la Roncière

On the church calendar, February 2nd is 40 days after Jesus’ birth, at which time, according to the Law of Moses, a first-born son would be consecrated to God.

Presentation of the Lord

The final day of Epiphanytide, February 2nd is also the half-way point between the Winter Solstice and the beginning of Spring.

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The day receives it name because all the candles to be used in worship for the next 12 months were gathered at the church and blessed, a tradition dating back to the 11th century. This practice is still observed at St James Cathedral, Seattle, and many churches around the world.

Candle Church

Candle Church – credit unknown

Traditionally, candles are lit in the windows of homes on Candlemas evening; in France, people celebrate La Chandeleur by eating crepes by candlelight; and in Mexico, Dia de la Candaleriais celebrated with tamales and hot chocolate. Yum!

The Blessings of the Light of the World be with you today and always!


Jan 5 2014

Chalking the Door: 20+C+M+B+14

CMB Epiphany

Since the Middle Ages, it has been a tradition to bless homes on January 6th, Epiphany (Greek for epiphaneia, manifestation), the celebration of Christ’s revealing to the world. Chalk would be blessed and used to write the year and the initials CMB on the doors or lintels of houses, marking them as places of Christ’s hospitality. The initials had two meanings: the letters represent Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar, traditionally the names of the three Magi, to whom Christ was revealed; the letters also represent the Latin phrase, Christus Mansionem Benedicat, May Christ bless this house. People would go from home to home chalking doors and enjoying each others’ hospitality.

Sternsingerplakat-2014

I’ve loved this tradition since I heard about it from my friend Kimberlee. In researching the practice for this year, I found out that there is whole tradition in Germany that celebrates Epiphany and the CMB blessing. It is called the Star Singers, or sternsinger. Over half a million children dress up as the Wise Magi, boys and girls, usually 4 (since we have no idea how many there really were!) with a star on the end of broom handle. They sing from house to house raising awareness and money for issues regarding the suffering of children globally. It bring tears to my eyes each time I think about it. This movement is now in its 56th year, and this year it is highlighting the Malawi child refugees and refugee children globally. You can read more about the movement here. Their motto is Segen bringen, segen sein, Bring the blessing to be a blessing.

Sternsinger, Walburga – credit unknown

If you are looking for a way to close the Christmas season, and look ahead into the new year, find some chalk and write 20+C+M+B+14 above your front door as you pray for God’s blessing on your home and all who enter. Even more, gather some friends, kiddos, and family and chalk each others’ doors, praying and singing as you go! Maybe we can start Star Singing in our communities, bring some beauty, fun, music, and blessing, while raising awareness of the needs of children worldwide.

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