Coffee & Canticles
On Friday , during the hour of Daytime Prayer, we pray Psalm 22, which begins, My God, My God, why have you forsaken me? No psalm is more appropriate for the middle of Friday, since we commemorate the crucifixion from the hours of noon to three
Psalm 22 is of profound significance to anyone who loves the Liturgy of the Hours. Here we learn from the example of Jesus to use the psalms as our most personal prayers, to express to the Father our sorrows, our petitions, our thanks and our praise. Sacred Scripture is not just a thing to be studied, but to be prayed. That is what Jesus did; that’s what we should do.
Yet, in praying this psalm as part of the Church’s liturgy, we are doing something even greater. Acting as members of Christ’s body, we are praying this psalm through Him, with Him, and in Him. Sound familiar? Of course. Like the mass, the Liturgy of the Hours is something we join ourselves to with the Church universal. In this case we don’t offer the sacrifice of Christ’s body and blood, but we do offer the sacrifice of His–and our–praise to the Father. Our offering is imperfect, but joined to, and subsumed by, His perfect praise, it becomes a great and holy thing.
Most of us realize how mind-boggling it is for us unworthy shlubs to be able to participate in the Holy Mass. It makes no sense that Jesus wants to come to us in this way, but we’re glad that He does.…
To begin with, there are two options for the psalter of Ash Wednesday: Wednesday week IV or Friday Week III. I always go with Friday III: it is so obviously appropriate for this day,with the penitential Psalm 51–A pure heart create for me O God, put a steadfast spirit within me–and its lamentation from Jeremiah’s canticle. On the other hand, if you or your groups decides to go with Wednesday IV, you get that very stout antiphon: My heart is ready, O God, my heart is ready. A great battle cry for lent, isn’t it?
Moving ahead to the reading of morning prayer:
You are a people sacred to the Lord,your God; he has chosen you from all the nations on the face of the earth to be a people peculiarly his own.
Focus on the word “peculiar”. It has two meanings, illustrated by the following sentences:
1.Those Catholic are a little…peculiar,don’t you think?
2. It’s a species peculiar to the great Lakes.
In the reading, God is telling us we are peculiar in the second sense: uniquely belonging to him. Set apart. But in responding to God’s invitation to be his children, we will sooner or later find ourselves appearing “peculiar” to other people.…
…. during the 70s, in a neighborhood with lots of Catholics, mostly second generation Irish and Italian. And this was the week when Whatcha’ givinup for lent? opened many a conversation in the cafeteria or at the bus stop. Devout, lapsed, or somewhere in between, everyone gave up–or said they gave up–something. Top choices were chocolate, soda (we don’t have pop in New Jersey), or candy; perhaps skipping a favorite TV show such as Happy Days, The Waltons, or Mary Tyler Moore. Or maybe spending less time tuned into our favorite New York City top-40 station, 77 WABC.
Giving up stuff. Another name for fasting. The emptiness it leaves (whether in our stomachs,our schedules, or our psyches) is supposed to be filled with prayer and good works. And the money it can save should make it easier to give alms.
Today, almost forty years later, chocolate, and food in general is still on the table, so to speak, as good givinup material. Last year our family succeeded in going meatless Monday thru Friday all through lent. That imposes a triple penance on the cook: going without meat herself, coming up with creative menus, and watching the family’s reactions when they’re not quite creative enough.
TV and radio are such a small part of my pleasures these days that giving them up wouldn’t be significant penance. (Although if Downton Abbey hadn’t ended this weekend, it might have been.)
But the computer…that’s another story.…
“By the venerable tradition of the universal Church, lauds as morning prayer and vespers as evening prayer are the two hinges on which the daily office turns; hence they are to be considered as the chief hours and celebrated as such.”
That’s the reason that versions of the Liturgy of the Hours focus on Morning and Evening Prayer. If someone wants to pray the liturgical hours, these are the ones to start with. And for many laymen, these are the only ones that are ever used. (Although to take one more step and add Compline before bedtime would not be a bad idea. But I digress.)
Let’s explore this idea of “hinges”. The Latin for “hinge” is cardo. The Church’s government “hinges” upon the college of Cardinals, those bishops of elevated rank who advise the Pope and elect new popes from their ranks. Then there’s the four cardinal virtues: prudence, justice, temperance, and fortitude. These four are the virtues of natural morality. They are the natural “hinges” upon which hang the higher, theological virtues.
But hinges just aren’t for hanging things. Hinges hold a door to a building, enabling it to open and shut. I think that’s how we can appreciate morning and evening prayer—lauds and vespers—in our lives. The psalms of morning prayer open the door on our day, welcoming the rising sun as God’s daily gift, recalling the opening tomb of Easter morning, and opening our hearts to a daily new beginning.…