I find much opposed to myself that I enjoy reading the Divine Office. I have my boss, our pastor, to thank for this and thank him I do. He has opened up our weekly staff meetings with the brief version of the prayer of the Church for at least, the past 8 years. It was then that this interest was awakened in me.
I would like to tell you that it was because I was taken afire with love for the Psalms and the writings of the Saints. But no, it was because I became bored. We use the very small and extremely repetitive Shorter Book of Christian Prayer and after I don’t remember how long I said to myself, “Come on, there must be more to this!” God will truly use even your weakness to help you become holy. I know that there are saints days and other times of the day the monks pray that is comes from, so I wanted to experience those too. This little bit wasn’t enough. I guess I groused about it, to the effect that two very dear friends I worked with at the time, Miss Judy and Miss Kristi bought me the book of Christian Prayer : Liturgy of the Hours for my birthday. What a thoughtful gift! And probably ended my complaining : ) With God it’s often a win – win scenario. This medium-sized one volume book delighted me, giving me more of the hours and special days and my personal favorite – melody line music for the hymns it was wonderful. I immersed myself in having more access and opportunities to pray with the Church. Then, I started to pray the Office of Readings…
The book of Christian Prayer doesn’t have the individual daily liturgical and feast day readings. You pick from an assortment that would fit and repeat and repeat. Well that only lasted so long until I bored of that, no this time I realized I was missing something, there was more. And I noted that the priests and the deacons were carrying a different book, a one of four volumes book. I prayed with them a few times and I was hooked. When Jeff asked me what bling-thing I wanted for Christmas that year which theretofore I would have asked for, I said, it may sound weird, but I don’t want any bling please. He looked at me like I was a little off. I said I would like the four volume set of the Liturgy of the Hours. And like the character from one of my favorite movies I began rattling off how wonderful these books are, that you can read passages from the saints as well as more indepth Scriptures, that he could get them at the Monastery , and I know they’re expensive, so that would be all I’d want…
On Christmas Eve, I was so excited! When we were sitting around opening our gifts I picked up a particularly heavy package with my name on it. I really didn’t know that it was the set because it was bigger and heavier than it should have been or at least that I remembered when I picked it up to look at it at the Monastery. I ripped into the package and there they were all four of them! But they were large. Large print that is. Remember I’m a work in progress, especially my vanity and ego. I was thrilled that he had remembered and bought them, but also a bit insulted I was only in my late thirties, I didn’t need LARGE print. My husband thought I was old! He laughed at me and said No, he didn’t think I was old, but that when you pay that much money for a set of books you want to make sure you can use them for a very long time. When I was 80 and needing the Large print I’d be grateful. I am often amazed at Jeff’s insight, I’m only 41 and I’m starting to be grateful even now. Some of the other people I’ve prayed with have admired his wisdom as well.
I still kept my Christian Prayer book because it was a special present and has the note music that oddly enough isn’t contained in the Liturgy of the Hours volumes. But I pray the prayer of the Church from the tremendous depth of the four volume liturgical season following set. I recommend starting with the Shorter and moving to the Christian Prayer and then investing in the four volume once you get the hang of it. You can also find the Liturgy of the Hours at a site recommended to me by Deacon Bill. I find it great when it would be difficult to tote the Large print volume, the books are my preference, but even the thinnest is heavy and bulky and I would be distraught if I lost one.
Whew! This whole posting came about because today is a solemnity. A very special feast day – the Feast of all Saints. I was so excited to pray morning prayer with all it has for this great and holy day. I even typed up for you an excerpt from the Second Reading of the Office of Readings, that’s the one that’s usually from a saint or holy person of the Church. The depth and richness of these readings and of course the Scriptures calls to us from across time of experience of the Truth of God’s love. I’d like to say that I faithfully pray it each day, but it’s more catch as catch can lately. But after typing this post I know I need to renew my commitment to it. And excercise too, but that’s another post for another day. Thanks for stopping to float with me for awhile in the Big Sea! I hope you give the Divine Office a try too : )
(Sermo 2: Opera monia, Edit. Cisterc. 5 , 364-368)
Why should our praise and glorification, or even the celebration of this feast day mean anything to the saints? What do they care about earthly honors when their heavenly Father honors them by fulfilling the faithful promise of the Son? What does our commendation mean to them? The saints have no need of honor from us; neither does our devotion add the slightest thing to what is theirs. Clearly, if we venerate their memory, it serves us, not them. But I tell you, when I think of them, I feel myself inflamed by a tremendous yearning.
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 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.
Come, brothers, let us at length spur ourselves on. 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 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 we commemorate the saints we are inflamed with another yearning; That Christ our life may also appear to us as he appeared to them and that we may one day share in his glory. Until them we see him, not as he is, but as he became for our sake. He is our head, crowned, now with glory, but with the thorns of our sins. As members of that head, crowned with thorns, we should be ashamed to live in luxury; his purple robes are a mockery rather than an honor. When Christ comes again, his death shall no longer be proclaimed, and we shall know that we also have died, and that our life is hidden with him. The glorious head of the Church will appear and his glorified members will shine in splendor with him, when he forms this lowly body anew into such glory as belongs to himself, its head.
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.