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Archive for April, 2009

For the past six weeks or so I have prayed the daily office twice a day- well, at least on weekdays! The daily office- as it is called in the Anglican tradition- is a service of recited prayers, psalms and Scripture readings that change with and reflect the seasons of the Christian calendar. Think monks. But not only monks; many have found it a helpful way to stop and refocus a few times throughout the day- there are quite a few “services” you could pray as you go through the day, though the morning and evening ones are most common. I have dabbled in this sort of spiritual discipline before and am doing so again a little more rigorously for Lent. I plan to write a Part 2 to this blog looking back on Lent, but for now, below are some melodramatic thoughts culled from a little reflection I did when I tried this 4x/day for a week or for a class…

This activity of the heart is compared, not inappropriately, to that of a     mill which is activated by the circular motion of water. The mill cannot cease operations at all so long as it is driven round by the pressure of the water and it, then, becomes quite feasible for the persons in charge to decide whether he prefers wheat or barley or darnel to be ground. And one thing is clear. Only that will be ground which is fed in by the one who is in charge.” John Cassian, Conferences

For the past week and a half I have prayed through the daily office using Venite: A Book of Daily Prayer, by Robert Benson…The office became a metaphor for me, in that, as it was a challenge to map the office onto my life and as it was a challenge to attend to God through lengthy written prayers, so the life of faith is a challenge. Trite as it sounds, this is hard work, but it is a work of faith. Still, as the days went by I found that the yoke fit better and better. The office became a time of security, a time of rest. By end of the week, I began to long for the re-centering of the office and to return to the space it created in me.

How about a few ironies… Certainly, the power of the daily office is its ability to shape one’s spirit. This is ironic considering how severely one must shape one’s life in order to pray the office four times a day. The office, it seems, shapes back. The office confronts me with my weakness as I struggle to mean what I say. And the office strengthens me as I begin to become, bit by bit, what I have been saying. Thus, I am shaped by being continually reminded of who I am and compelled to become who I am invited to be.

Again, it is ironic that as I add more to my full life, the office shows me the emptiness that was there. By taking time out of my “life” to focus my attention on God through the office, I can recognize how infrequently my attention is focused before God during the rest of the day. As I work to be sincere while I am “away” praying the office, I learn to be fully present during the rest of my life.

It is not quite ironic, but it is unexpected nonetheless, that a set book of prayers would end up grounding one in a Reality much deeper than the rest of life. Perhaps it is knowing that I follow the footsteps of many thousands from over the centuries. Perhaps it is coming before God throughout the day with more than a short sentence shout-out.

These reflections feel a bit melodramatic to me. I am grasping at something I have barely begun to experience. It is a bit like describing marriage a few months after the wedding. Without question, soaking in these prayers- before God and alongside the Church- must have a profound effect on one’s soul, not least because Scripture is the best grist for the mill.

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