I. The Psalms: Why You Should Pray Them
+ The Divine Office: Sacrament of Time + “Learn to sing psalms, and thou shalt see the delightfulness of the employment. For they who sing psalms are filled with the Holy Spirit” ~ St. John Chrysostom
1. Inspiration in Paschaltide
Recently, as I prayed Lauds during Bright Week, I was inspired by the profound beauty of these ancient prayers. The paschal hymn in particular, overwhelmed me with the grace of Pascha, the grace of the Resurrection. Over the past several days, I have been moved beyond words with gratitude for the Divine Office. Without it, I feel that the weight of Pascha and Bright Week would have completely passed me by. Why shouldn’t other’s know this wonderful secret? How can our parish enter more deeply into this treasure of the Church, into the Sacrament of Time, the Grace of the Liturgical Year? With this on my heart, I have decided to begin this series on praying the Divine Office. 2. What is the Divine Office and Why I Should Care
The Divine Office is the “Handmaid of the Mass”. It is the Holy Spirit’s breath in the Church’s experience of God in time. Together, the Mass and Divine Office are the height of human prayer. Moreso, these liturgies are the height of human experience, and neither is complete without the other. Why should I care to pray the Divine Office? It’s psalms, antiphons, and hymns, weaving together the Holy Scriptures and the Ecclesiastical Calendar, infiltrate and transform all our human experiences, schedules, concerns, habits, and loves. While the Divine Office can feel intimidating and even dry at times, with a little work and patience, one quickly discovers these prayers to be the greatest joy in the day and purpose in one’s life. The prayers wash over our souls, renew them, open our eyes to God’s beauty in the world, and form within us souls that our heavenly-minded and Christ-centered. 3. From a Worldly Mind to a Heavenly Mind St. Paul wrote to the Romans: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (12:2). What do you think it is that conforms our souls to the “pattern of this world”? Obviously, we are shaped and influenced by all kinds of forces in the world around us. Our go-to-television shows, favorite newsreports, political speakers, childhood educators, and the millions of advertisements flashing in our faces have far more impact on our souls than we would ever dare to imagine. We soak in the spirit of times like a frog in water. It is unavoidable. On top of the “brainwashing” of our modern lives, we are simply busy and anxious. ‘Modern life’ has become synonymous with overwhelming schedules, mindnumbing stimulus, and endless anxiety. Taking a solid look at the world’s messages and busyness, this “pattern of the world,” we get a picture of the real gravity of St. Paul’s words. The idea of being freed from the “pattern of the world” is gigantuous. This is where the Divine Office comes in. The Divine Office is the key to becoming heavenly minded. This is a big claim, but I should emphasize, these prayers are not man-made. They are the voice of God in the universal Church, drawing from living testimony ofOld and New Testament saints. One can achieve holiness and wholesomeness without ever discovering the Divine Office, yet it is rare and more difficult. The prayers arranged in this Office are the same prayers prayed by thousands of saints, monastics, clergy, and laity over the span of Christian history. These prayers teach us how to pray and what to pray, how to think, how to relate to the world, how to remember Christ unceasinly, and what it means to be human. 4. What Are These Prayers? The Divine Office is sometimes known as the Liturgy of the Hours. These are the prayers of the Church (liturgy: “work of the people) for each and every day of the year, following along with the Church calendar. Historically, the Office has been prayed to its entirety by the monastics. However, it has always been practiced and encouraged, to some extent at least, for non-monastic clergy and laity. At a bare minimum, laity should endeavor to attend all Saturday Vespers and Sunday Matins services, and pray morning and evening prayers (a splash of the Divine Office). As Christians, we should all have the goal to continually dip deeper into the fullness of the Divine Office. We must never become stagnant or content in our prayer life. We should also not undertake more than we can manage practically. Yet, we ca allways do a little more than we are in the present. Our Western-rite Orthodox tradition draws from two sources, the rich liturgical lives of historical Roman Catholicism and Anglicanism. Both liturgical sources are profoundly Orthodox and are blessed and encouraged by our Orthodox hierarchs. Here at St. Benedict Orthodox Church, I will be teaching primarily from the Roman rite, that is, from the Benedictine version of the Divine Office. In particular, I recommend purchasing (and using) the Divine Office made available in the “Monastic Diurnal” published by Lancelot Andrewes press. This is the most ancient form and has undergone no influence from the Protestant Reformation. The Roman rite is richer and fuller in its antiphons and celebration of the Church calendar. Furthermore, it is the set of prayers handed down to us by the person of St. Benedict himself. Having dedicated ourselves, as a parish family, to the guidance of St. Benedict, it is fitting to follow his rule and spiritual life. 5. “I’ll Make Him An Offer He Can’t Refuse” If you endeavor to learn to pray the Divine Office, one step at a time, you will discover spiritual gems that you could never have imagined beforehand. You find that Time, your morning, afternoon, evening, and all the inbetween moments, become charged with meaning. Time is no longer dead and natural. It is sanctified as bread and wine become sanctified in to the Body and Blood of Christ. Praying the Office changes the way we look at the world. It helps us to see trees, clouds, earth, and people as no longer mere matter and molecules, but vessel’s of God’s grace and part of the cosmic worship of God. It allows our spirits to tap into that cosmic worship, our natural state of being. It helps us to learn to channel all our human emotions, thoughts, and affections towards Christ.