Tag Archives: Morning Prayer

Truly yours when it impels you to action

Therefore contemplation, even at its highest, dearest, and most intimate, is not to be for you an end in itself. It shall only be truly yours when it impels you to action: when the double movement of Transcendent Love, drawing inwards to unity and fruition, and rushing out again to creative acts, is realised [sic] in you. You are to be a living, ardent tool with which the Supreme Artist works: one of the instruments of His self-manifestation, the perpetual process by which His Reality is brought into concrete expression.

This week, I am attending the Tri-History Conference on historical encounters between the Episcopal and Anglican Church and indigenous people, being held at Oneida (Green Bay) in the Diocese of Fond du Lac.

At the end of the Eucharist last night at Church of the Holy Apostles (pictured) we stood to sing the Te Deum in the Oneida language, a practice predating their arrival in Wisconsin in the 1820s.

At Morning Prayer today we commemorated Evelyn Underhill, the English writer and mystic whose book Practical Mysticism was published at the beginning of World War I.

The excerpt above, which we read during the office, really struck me for two reasons.

Not an end in itself

Perhaps responding to the charge that promoting contemplation in time of war would lead people to quietism, Underhill writes that “contemplation, even at its highest, dearest, and most intimate, is not to be for you an end in itself.”

Various presenters at the conference noted the strong tradition of hymn-singing among the Iroquois, and the Oneida Singers graced us with several lovely hymns.

Dean Stephen Peay of Nashotah House says that French Jesuits noted the singing of the Iroquois predating their arrival. Laurence Hauptman (citing Michael McNally’s book on Ojibwe singing) suggests perhaps 80% of the Oneida were baptized because of the hymn-singing even more than the claims of the institutional church.

Our praise of God is not for ourselves alone. We sing the Lord’s song in order to draw others not only into the worship and praise of God, but also into the life and ministry of the Body of Christ.

A living, ardent tool

Underhill writes, “You are to be a living, ardent tool with which the Supreme Artist works.”

Discipleship is about modeling our lives on the life of Jesus, becoming what Underhill describes as an “instrument of God’s self-manifestation.”

That “perpetual process” of becoming a disciple is renewed every day as we pray that we may be clothed in Jesus’ spirit, “reaching forth our hands in love” (BCP 100).

The specific shape of our discipleship will take many forms — from collecting oral histories to maintaining archives to serving at a meal program or coordinating disaster relief. Some will serve in public ways or in church settings, others in private or at home.

At all times, though, our work is best done with a song in our hearts.

A Prayer for Mission

Almighty and everlasting God, by whose Spirit the whole body of your faithful people is governed and sanctified: Receive our supplications and prayers which we offer before you for all members of your holy Church, that in their vocation and ministry they may truly and devoutly serve you; through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

A kingdom of priests in the meantime

But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ– by grace you have been saved– and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God– not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life. (Ephesians 2:4-10)

We are what he has made us

In the Daily Office is we read the Scriptures and respond to them. We do not simply listen to the words of God day after day; we speak back to God in words spoken by Christians over the centuries.

So this morning we do not just read Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, where he reminds them that they are “alive together with Christ,” a new creation in Christ by God’s grace.

We also respond to God, saying “Splendor and honor and kingly power are yours by right, O Lord our God.”

That response is in Canticle 18, one of the two appointed for Friday mornings, and it helps us understand why we offer praise.

  • God created everything that is
  • By his will they continue to exist
  • Christ — the Lamb that was slain — has redeemed us for God
  • That redemption is for all people on earth, who rightly offer to God “worship and praise, dominion and splendor, for ever and for evermore.”

We come to understand that through God’s grace we are now the “kingdom of priests” that the Revelation to John describes (Rev. 5:9-13).

Created in Christ Jesus for good works

But we exercise our royal priesthood not just by praising God in the Daily Office, or at the Eucharist, or in our private prayers.

We are a kingdom of priests “created in Christ Jesus for good works.”

Whatever those good works may be, from organized programs to individual acts of charity and kindness, we Christians offer them to people in order to communicate hope.

Our Christian hope comes in large part from knowing that we fit into a larger story of meaning and purpose — what the Collect for Fridays calls “none other than the way of life and peace” (BCP 99).

We serve those who are suffering by entering with them into their experience, and we remind them by our actions that their “way of the cross” is not the end of the story. This is the wisdom of recovery work, for example. We witness to God’s power in our lives by the example of our own suffering and healing.

We serve those who struggle by helping them see how everything is shot through with God’s presence, even when it seems darkest and even if the glimpse we offer is faint.

In the meantime

Ascensiontide, as the Church calls the time between Ascension Day and Pentecost, is an “in-between time” for the first disciples.

Jesus has left them — he “ascended far above the heavens that he might fill all things” (BCP 226) — but it’s not the Day of Pentecost yet, and the disciples haven’t yet received the power of the Holy Spirit that he promised.

Many people around us live in that “in-between time” all the time.

They have lost a spouse or a friend or a job, or they themselves feel lost, and they cannot imagine life any differently. They may have no sense of promise for new relationships or they may feel powerless over their circumstances; they have lost hope.

Like Jesus, we minister most effectively when we enter into people’s lives and show them what transformation can look like. In his incarnation Jesus entered into our human lives, and by his dying and rising he shows us the divine life we are created for.

We are a kingdom of priests in the meantime. We praise God for keeping his promise and we perform the good works we are created for in order to give God’s people (that is, all people) the promise of hope.

Almighty God, whose blessed Son our Savior Jesus Christ ascended far above all heavens that he might fill all things: Mercifully give us faith to perceive that, according to his promise, he abides with his Church on earth, even to the end of the ages; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen. (BCP 226)

From envy, hatred, and malice

Again [Jesus] entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand. They watched him to see whether he would cure him on the sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man who had the withered hand, “Come forward.” Then he said to them, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. He looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately conspired with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him. (Mark 3:1-6)

Green-eyed envy

“They watched him … so that they might accuse him.”

Each year, as Lent approaches, many acquaintances and friends announce that they will leave Facebook and Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat. They plan to take a social media fast.

Though I do not choose to do that myself, I can certainly understand the appeal.

Too often, and especially (it seems to me) among religious types, social media turns into a platform from which to pounce on people’s “mistakes” and “errors” — the things others believe or do that go against the grain.

The Rev. Scott Gunn, executive director of Forward Movement and cofounder of Lent Madness, wrote a poignant post this week titled Practicing Our Faith Online, in the wake of many toxic responses to the news of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s death.

He muses, “Maybe we Christians can, and must, do a better job of practicing our faith online. Sometimes I’m the one who needs the reminder that Jesus calls me to practice a love that is not always easy.”

How easy it was for the Pharisees to “watch Jesus … so that they might accuse him,” rather than looking for ways to help their neighbor who suffered.

How easy for us to do the same, unless we soften our gaze (and our hearts).

Hardness of heart

“They were silent.”

Even (perhaps especially) when Jesus draws their attention to the man with the withered hand, the Pharisees refuse to see anything but Jesus’ error.

They won’t even entertain the spiritual question he poses — “is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?” — because they are sure he is wrong.

“The opposite of faith,” says former Bishop of Edinburgh Richard Holloway, “is not doubt, it is certainty.”

What are you so certain about that you refuse to see another point of view?

What or who are you certain God hates?

Malice in the palace

“The Pharisees went out and immediately conspired with the Herodians against him,
how to destroy him.”

What are you willing to do when you are secure in the knowledge that you’re right?

The Pharisees, who taught religious purity and scrupulous adherence to the Law, went out and made common cause with the supporters of the puppet king Herod (and by extension, the Roman colonizers who kept him in political power).

This week, we saw another spectacle unfolding online — Liberty University president Jerry Falwell, Jr. taking the side of a political candidate and speaking out against the very simple statement of Pope Francis in response to a reporter’s question:

A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not in the Gospel. As far as what you said about whether I would advise to vote or not to vote, I am not going to get involved in that. I say only that this man is not Christian if he says things like that. We must see if he said things in that way and in this I give the benefit of the doubt.

As James Martin, SJ writes in the Washington Post, the Pope’s remarks were quickly misinterpreted, not least by the chattering hordes on social media but by Christian leaders like Falwell.

The New York Times reported that:

Jerry Falwell Jr., the president of Liberty University and a supporter of Mr. Trump, said that the pope had crossed a line.

“Jesus never intended to give instructions to political leaders on how to run a country,” Mr. Falwell told CNN.

Jesus did not give instructions to political leaders; that’s certainly true.

What he did was announce the kingdom of God, heal on the sabbath, and turn religious people’s certainty upside down. He made them so angry that they couldn’t see straight.

And that’s what we Christians are called to do, too, if we are to be Jesus’ followers.

We shouldn’t be surprised, though, if we get into trouble, first with the religious people around us and then with others who are certain that we are wrong to do good, to save life, to heal.

Good Lord, deliver us

Was it only a week ago — the First Sunday in Lent — that we chanted the Great Litany before the Eucharist?

From all blindness of heart; from pride, vainglory, and hypocrisy; from envy, hatred, and malice; and from all want of charity,
Good Lord, deliver us.

From all inordinate and sinful affections; and from all the deceits of the world, the flesh, and the devil,
Good Lord, deliver us.

From all false doctrine, heresy, and schism; from hardness of heart, and contempt of thy Word and commandment,
Good Lord, deliver us.

Jesus stands before us in the assembly, about to do something inappropriate and upsetting.

How soft is our gaze? How hard is our heart?

Are we reaching toward his healing power — actually doing something to help the hurting people around us — or turning our backs, putting up a wall between us and Jesus’ obvious error?

From envy, hatred, and malice … Good Lord, deliver us.

 

Daily Office Basics – The Prayers

In the final video in the series, we look at the various prayers which conclude the offices of Morning or Evening Prayer. (If you’re like Fr. Ralph Osborne, the rector of my parish, you’ll also be glad to know you can now binge-watch the whole series.)

For Christians, the Lord’s Prayer holds pride of place as the prayer that Jesus himself taught his disciples, so the third section of the office starts there.

Suffrages, which are sort of like miniature Prayers of the People, remind us to pray for “the needs, concerns, and hopes of the world.”

Then a series of three collects forms the most distinctive part of this section — a Collect of the Day (the Sunday or feast day we celebrate), a Collect of the Day of the Week, and a Prayer for Mission.

The collects, like the sentences at the beginning of the office and the antiphons for the Invitatory Psalm, also serve to give a seasonal flavor to the office, which is otherwise very much the same every day.

The Daily Office is the public prayer of the Church, so the suffrages and collects are a bit formal, but they give us language to speak to God day by day, week by week, season by season.

Finally, we give voice to our own personal intercessions and thanksgivings, and we can choose from a number of lovely prayers and closing sentences to use at the end of the office.

+ + + + +

I hope this series of Daily Office Basics videos has been helpful to you, and I welcome your comments and suggestions if there are things you’d like to learn more about in future offerings.

The series will reside at dailyofficebasics.graceabounds.online, where you will also find the downloadable resources mentioned in the second video.

I am grateful to the Ven. Michele Whitford, content manager of Grace Abounds, and to Zachary and Nicholas Whitford, who filmed and edited the videos. I also commend the Theodicy Jazz Collective for their lovely album Vespers; their music is a prayer in itself.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be wth us all evermore. Amen.

 

Daily Office Basics – Lessons and Canticles

Today’s video is number four in the Daily Office Basics series.

We have looked at the origins of daily prayer in the Christian church, spent a few minutes finding our place, and begun praying the office by reciting Psalms.

Here we turn to the second part of the office, the Lessons and Canticles.

In the Episcopal Church, the schedule of readings for the Daily Office has you do a lot of course reading. That is, you will often read a “chapter” (a short selection) of the same book in the Bible day after day until you’re through with that book.

Over the two-year lectionary cycle, you basically read the majority of the Old Testament once, the whole New Testament twice, and the Psalms every seven weeks.

Separate from any other studying I’ve done, that means that by praying the Daily Office for just over 23 years now I have read the Old Testament about 23 times, the New Testament 46 times, and each of the Psalms about 171 times.

Today we try to demystify the Daily Office lectionary and this middle portion of the office so that you feel more comfortable soaking yourself in Scripture in the context of daily prayer.

The last video in this series will look at the specific Prayers that conclude the office.

All of the videos, as well as the downloadable resources, will make their home at dailyofficebasics.graceabounds.online.

 

Daily Office Basics – The Psalms

Today’s installment of Daily Office Basics could also be called “Beginning the Office,” as we consider the various ways to begin Morning or Evening Prayer.

The Daily Office is the public prayer of the Church, not just prayers for us to say at home, so the opening sentences are options to give a seasonal flavor to the service.

The Confession of Sin is optional, too. Some people choose to say it only occasionally, others once a day at Evening Prayer. For me, the Confession is not optional but critical, so I say it every time I pray the office.

The introduction to the Confession in Morning Prayer contains a perfect little statement about what we are doing when we pray the Daily Office:

Dearly beloved, we have come together in the presence of Almighty God our heavenly Father, to set forth his praise, to hear his holy Word, and to ask, for ourselves and on behalf of others, those things that are necessary for our life and our salvation. (BCP 79)

Once we’ve looked at the opening sentences and the Confession of Sin in this video, we get to the proper start of the office, the Psalms with which we “set forth God’s praise.”

In the next two installments, we’ll look at the Lessons and Canticles in which we “hear God’s holy Word,” and then we’ll talk about the Prayers in which we “ask, for ourselves, and on behalf of others, those things that are necessary for our life and salvation.”

 

Daily Office Basics – Finding Your Place

In this installment of Daily Office Basics, we get down to specifics:

How do I know what page I’m supposed to be on in the Book of Common Prayer?

What Bible lesson am I supposed to read this morning? This evening?

How do I remember where I am when I keep flipping back and forth in the book?

All of these questions (and more) will be answered here.

As you watch the video, you’ll see that we are preparing you to start praying the offices next week, starting on the Monday after the First Sunday in Lent.

Also, we have provided nifty bookmarks for your prayer book and Bible, as well as a guide called “Praying the Daily Offices.”

All of them are free to download at dailyofficebasics.graceabounds.online.

Praying the Daily Office is simple, but it’s not self-explanatory. I hope this video will help you find your place and feel more ready to begin.