Today’s post was going to be about another Ray Stevens song called The Streak, but Melanie suggested it might be oversharing. Oh well, I tried to keep it lighthearted but NOOOOOO! Apparently, no one wants to hear about my issues! Sound on, low volume.
So, first of all, thank you to Joey and Mr. Angsten for the songs and inspiration.
Ok, the thing I tried to do years ago was to get more into my Faith. This is before ALS. I was coming from a time of dryness and spiritually I was pleasantly lukewarmer than I am now. I was career focused, I was neglecting prayers and generally losing the plot, even though I was in the rules. So I experienced a reawakening, brought on by confession and a little podcast called Catholic Stuff You Should Know.
One of the things they talked about that I didn’t understand was their Office. That big book my mom read from every morning and evening. They called it the liturgy of the Church outside of the mass. Hmm, sounds interesting, let me take a look! So I took a look at a definition ;
Divine Office or Liturgy of the Hours: official prayer of the Catholic Church, constituting, along with the Mass, the Church’s liturgy. A repeating cycle of psalms, biblical readings, and other prayers, coordinated to the liturgical season and/or the feasts of the Church. The word “office” comes from a Latin word meaning “service” or “ceremony”.
Whoa, Official prayer of the Church?! Ok, I gotta take a look…
What the heck, these are the PSALMS! I thought this was Catholic liturgy! The Psalms are Old Testament, we have moved beyond that! And there are so many times a day, I don’t have time for that! So I put it aside.
Oh, but the hook was baited, and this fish couldn’t get away. Turns out that podcast is a gateway to other ones, like the Lanky Guys, who break open the context and relationships of the readings. They got me into the monthly Magnificat books, and then to getting into the four-volume Liturgy of the Hours, that my mom and in-laws use. Gateway drug indeed!
Now I have a love for the Psalms. And I hate to say this, but listening to them on Sundays with the… Syrupy sweet musical accompaniment… Is NOT going to let you in on the psalms. Yes they are meant to be sung, but not to the weak tunes we are using. Also, it’s important to read them in your home language and not the Latin. I’ll explain why later.
The Psalms are interesting because they were written way back, attributed to David, but they were sung by the Israelite community throughout the months. In fact, they knew them by heart. When Jesus is on the cross, He says a line from the Psalms! And the people around knew what He was saying and were upset by it! Boom!
But really, no one likes the psalms, do you? Reader-land, have you really been honest with yourselves about them? I thought they were boring, forever.
Anyway, why do I bring all this up? Because when I started praying the psalms and not skipping them, I realized that they are the whole history of salvation. They actually tell us about the times we live in now, the Hope of what is to come, and the whole sadness of the fall, the glory of the Resurrection and the Victory of God, and the pain we encounter trying to stay faithful to that Victory. It’s amazing, the living Word in the Bible. The Psalms aren’t about you, they are about Jesus… Then you, then… And… And…
It’s amazing. Ok, they are about praising God, because we need to, being thankful to God, because we need to, complaining to God, because we need to, asking forgiveness from God, because we need to, and asking God for His will. Adoration, contrition, thanksgiving, supplication, lamentation. What we learned in religion class! (Side note. Lamentation is not one of the forms of prayer. But it should be, because who better to turn to in need than God? And the psalms actually complain to God!!) But this is why it is important to say them in your language: to truly pray them from the heart and not recite them as memorization. I LOVE the chanted Hours, but I don’t understand what I am singing! And I took five years of Latin!
Uhm, why do I bring all this up? Well, my favorite psalm is… 51. The one David wrote after sleeping with Bathsheeba, getting her pregnant, then having her husband killed. When confronted with his actions, he made a confession, begging forgiveness. We say it every Friday morning, to commemorate that Jesus died because of our sins, on a Friday. And it is beautiful. I want this as the psalm at my funeral, got it? I’m going to put it here, and look how it goes from despair to hope!
To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet came to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.
Have mercy on me, God, in your kindness.
In your compassion blot out my offense.
O wash me more and more from my guilt
and cleanse me from my sin.
My offenses truly I know them;
my sin is always before me
Against you, you alone, have I sinned;
what is evil in your sight I have done.
That you may be justified when you give sentence
and be without reproach when you judge,
O see, in guilt I was born,
a sinner was I conceived.
Indeed you love truth in the heart;
then in the secret of my heart teach me wisdom.
O purify me, then I shall be clean;
O wash me, I shall be whiter than snow.
Make me hear rejoicing and gladness,
that the bones you have crushed may revive.
From my sins turn away your face
and blot out all my guilt.
A pure heart create for me, O God,
put a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence,
nor deprive me of your holy spirit.
Give me again the joy of your help;
with a spirit of fervor sustain me,
that I may teach transgressors your ways
and sinners may return to you.
O rescue me, God, my helper,
and my tongue shall ring out your goodness.
O Lord, open my lips
and my mouth shall declare your praise.
For in sacrifice you take no delight,
burnt offering from me you would refuse,
my sacrifice, a contrite spirit,
a humbled, contrite heart you will not spurn.
In your goodness, show favor to Zion:
rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.
Then you will be pleased with lawful sacrifice,
holocausts offered on your altar.
Ok, all this is well and good, but why bring it up now? Well, Reader-land, I think that in this time of spiritual upheaval in the church it would be good to bring back to the laity the official prayers of the church. I have fallen away from saying it myself because I can’t hold the books anymore, but thankfully they are online and on phones nowadays. What I want to see are our parishes offering these prayers in public again, as they also offer the mass. I know that is a burden on our priests and deacons, but I know there are enough people who have an obligation to say morning and evening prayers that they could lead. I think that would open up more to the divine life of the church than a family breakfast, although that is important too!
I’m going to get back to saying the Hours. If you are by yourself, seriously it’s only fifteen minutes. I’m linking websites below that explain how and why, and where you can go to say them yourself. And if the parish wanted to start doing it, I will ask Mel to help me get there. The reason being is we have to order our days rightly, and what better way than in the presence of God?
Seriously, for the novice, just say the Invitatory for a week, it’s the absolute shortest. Then work in morning prayer. You won’t regret it!
Now, would you rather have read that post, or the Streak?
Divine Office dot org. Go here to pray daily! No need to struggle with ribbons or books or calendars. If you are at home, boom, here it is.
Coffee and Canticles. Unfortunately she has stopped blogging, but Daria is the best person to dip your toes in the waters with, because she’s like you and me. She also wrote a book about it, I encourage you all to buy! She goes through the HOW to pray them, versus a holier than thou approach of angelic choir soundtracks.
Universalis An app for your phone.
1 thought on “liturgy of the hours”
Wow ! Beautifully said. I’m glad I’ve got you—thanks for the inspiration. As you can see my “depth” is a half crazed Mississippi squirrel and the streak (ok well–that inspiration is really Luke). I am definitely a novice so I will follow your instructions. Thanks for such a wonderful post.