Coffee & Canticles
Today’s second reading from the Office of Readings is a sermon from “an ancient author”. I always find these anonymous selections a bit frustrating, because there is no way to find out how ancient. When it’s Chrysostom, Melito of Sardis, or Fulgentius, it only takes a few clicks to find out what century the author in question came from. But Ancient Author? The breviary gives a very unhelpful string of numbers from some sort of arcane reference book, and even lets us know that it’s the 1879 edition of “PL 17″. Undoubtedly the more scholarly types among the clergy know exactly what all this means. The rest of us, not so much. One of my fantasies for that new edition/translation of the breviary that is supposed to happen someday is that it will include the approximate dates of the author by each reading in the OOR.
But little as we know about Ancient Author, it’s easy to see we psalm-sayers have something in common with him: the liturgy of the Easter season. For all the change in the Mass and the Hours over the years, the liturgy has retained its essential nature, and, shall we say, it’s “flavor”. Ancient Author mentions in his sermon that at Easter, the Christian community, together with the prophet sings the psalm which belongs to this yearly festival: ”This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.” (from Ps.118)
This very line is an antiphon we use every day this week both at Morning and Evening Prayer, as the responsory to the reading, plus the entire psalm 118 appears in the psalter several times during the octave.…
Whenever the Office of Readings gives us a passage from St. Augustine’s Commentary on the Psalms, it’s really a good idea to sit up and take notice. Because this commentary, besides illuminating the truths of our faith as do all the other readings, will usually give us valuable insights into, and additional motivation for, praying the Liturgy of the Hours. This past Wednesday, Augustine again hit it right out of the ball park as he explained succinctly what the Church has been telling us about Christ in the psalms. He is there as the God to whom we pray, the Savior praying for us, and our divine Head praying with us. Here’s a few salient excerpts, but it’s worth looking up in your breviary to read the entire thing: :… it is the one Savior of his body, our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who prays for us and in us and is himself the object of our prayers…
He prays for us as our priest, he prays in us as our head, he is the object of our prayers as our God….Let us then recognize both our voice in his, and his voice in ours.
We pray to him as God, he prays for us as a servant. In the first case he is the Creator, in the second a creature. Himself unchanged, he took to himself our created nature in order to change it, and made us one man with himself, head and body.…
It’s pretty hit-or-miss whether I remember to start the Divine Mercy novena on time each year. I mean, day one is Good Friday. The typical busy Catholic mother has spent the day in a combination of hard-core prayer and frantic domestic preparations for Easter: spring cleaning, food shopping, putting together decent Easter outfits for the children. At my house, when we get back from Good Friday liturgy, we build a sort of Calvary/tomb tableau with rocks, moss, and flowers from the garden. This takes time. Then, having served that one full meal of the day to the ravenous fasting hordes around there, I start baking the required Easter pastries, and making a list of needed items (wine, egg dyes, dress shoes that fit the boy who just outgrew the pair I bought him last month) for a last minute Holy Saturday shopping trip. So is it any wonder that on Good Friday night I’m likely as not to fall into bed, exhausted and having totally forgotten to start the Divine Mercy novena? I ask you!
But not this year. To my rescue comes John-Paul Deddens, my novena knight in shining armor. I’ve signed up with his wonderful Pray More Novenas website, and if I manage to check my email even once on Good Friday, I’ll receive a reminder to start the novena, AND the prayers will be there right on the email. (No more hunting around for those old-fashioned novena pamphlets!…
Today’s Liturgy of the Hours, like much of the liturgy throughout lent, seems tailor-made for applying the rising attack on Christianity by the forces of atheism, secularism, and recently, the United States government. With these psalms, we can complain and state our problem to God:
Lord, why do you stand far off and hide yourself in time of distress?…for the wicked man boasts of his heart’s desires…in his pride the wicked says: “he will not punish. There is no God.” such are his thoughts…mischief and deceit under his tongue, he lies in wait among the reeds; the innocent he murders in secret. (Office of Readings)
How long shall my enemy prevail? Look at me, answer me, Lord God! (Daytime Prayer)
Yet at the same time the psalms help us keep things in perspective, remember that God is always with us, and that we must trust and rejoice in all circumstances:
But you have seen the trouble and sorrow, you note it, you take it in hand…it is you, O Lord, who will take us in your care and protect us for ever from this generation. (Office of Readings)
In the land of my exile I will praise him and show his power and majesty to a sinful generation.
Our soul is waiting for the Lord. The Lord is our help and our shield.(Morning Prayer)
Finally, Evening Prayer points us in the direction of hope and ultimate victory:
God singled out the weak of this world to shame the strong.…
Early last week, the redoubtable Simcha Fisher of the National Catholic Register made some predictions about what we could all expect at the national wide rallies for religious freedom on Friday, March 23rd. I agreed totally when she said there would be tons of young, attractively dressed women with clever slogans on their signs, who would be totally ignored by the press in favor of the
”… as many as four counter-protesters, who’ve been using state-funded contraceptives for so long that they’re suffering from estrogen dementia—hence their conviction that “rosaries” rhymes with ‘ovaries,’…”
But I thought to myself , “Oh, surely not!” when she went on to predict, “There will also be one fat guy with greasy, grey hair and a scaly neck and his shirt buttoned wrong, kneeling on the sidewalk and wearing a sign that says “PRASERVE THE PATRIARCKY” on one side and “COMMUNION ON THE TONGUE” on the other side. The Huffington Post will take so many pictures of him, their camera batteries will fall out.”
Well, I should have trusted Simcha. Although the guy I saw was the thinner, better-groomed, and better-spelling cousin of the fellow she describes.And his sign stated that the US Bishops, through their unwillingness to speak out frequently against contraception these last 45 years, and because they instituted the Novus Ordo, are the ones that have brought the whole HHS mandate down upon our heads. And unfortunately, he didn’t just kneel. Instead he paraded back and forth at the edge of the crowd, shouting his ideas into a personal amplifier, such that it was difficult to hear all the legitimate event speakers, including the president of Franciscan University, the founder of the 40 Days for Life movement, and others. …
I hate leaving my middle-of-nowhere farmhouse and schlepping down to Pittsburgh. I have to when a family member needs to see a medical specialist,airport runs, and then maybe once more per year to the zoo or museum. Interstates–yuck! Parking garages–ouch! My city aversion even trumps my love of fashion, so the J.C.Penney at our tiny local mall is about as high end as my shopping sprees get.
But tomorrow I’ll be doing a four-hour round trip on the horrible highways to join the (hopefully) thousands at the Stand Up for Religious Freedom Rally. Besides getting mad, sad, and scared at what is happening in this country, there is not much else we can do besides signing every petition in sight, contacting our congressmen, and praying like crazy. So, big pain in the neck as it is, it seems necessary to at least help to swell the crowds that are gathering everywhere tomorrow.
Here’s the details:
Concerned citizens in Pittsburgh are joining others all over the Country in staging a STAND UP FOR RELIGIOUS FREEDOM RALLY at Noon on Friday, March 23.
The Pittsburgh rally will be held at:
The Federal Building, 1000 Liberty Ave., Pittsburgh, PA
(setup at corner of Liberty Ave., 10th St and Wm Penn Pl.)
on Friday, March 23 from Noon to 1PM
Parking available in garage at 55 11th St. (Liberty & Penn Aves & 12th St)
One block from the Federal Building
This peaceful rally will include guest speakers, print signs and handouts.…
…in my opinion, and maybe that of the diocese of Allentown, PA, which just sent 1000 pages of preliminary testimony on the life of Father Walter Ciszek to Rome.
Father Ciszek was an American Jesuit who spent 20 years in the Soviet gulag–accused as a “Vatican Spy”. He continued to pursue his priestly ministry both in the labor camp, and after he was freed and living in Siberia. After his return to the United States in 1963 he wrote two best selling books, With God in Russia and He Leadeth Me . Until the end of his life in 1984 he lived a hidden life in the Bronx, counselling and directing all who came to him, from priests to the Bronx homeless to an engaged couple named Daria and Bill. We were incredibly honored when Fr. Ciszek agreed to officiate at our wedding in 1980.
One of these days I’ll scan those old wedding photos and put them up here.…
This will be a really boring post for anyone who is not actually trying to learn the Divine Office.Or for anyone who prays the Liturgy of the Hours online or with a mobile app, since it’s mainly about learning to navigate a printed breviary. But if this is what you are trying to do, then you’ll be edified, instructed, and even entertained. So give it a try.
In the previous “Boot Camp” post I suggested that rank beginners would do well to start with a week or two of Night Prayer, in order to get a feel for praying the Office without the worry of flipping around in the breviary. After a few weeks of Night Prayer, you should be ready to add Morning Prayer or Evening Prayer to your repertoire. Maybe both. But for starters, choose the one that best fits your available time.
Let’s take a look at Morning Prayer. Find the week in the psalter that we should be on. At the moment, being in the fourth week of lent, we are also in week four of the psalter.
Technically, if Morning Prayer is the first hour of the day that you pray, you aren’t supposed to begin with “O God, Come to my assistance, etc” Instead,you should begin with the Invitatory psalm. The psalter gives you the invitatory antiphon for the day. Use this with Psalm 95, which you will find on page 688 in the one-volume Catholic Book Publishing Co. …
When it comes to lenten observance, our family belongs to the takes-it-seriously- but- looks- for- every legitimate- excuse-to-not-take-it-seriously- category. For example, we go without meat every day except Sunday, and for us Sunday starts with its vigil on Saturday night. Yet somehow, Sunday night is not the vigil of Monday. (you know, like Sunday Evenng prayer I and II. They’re both Sunday, right?) So that’s two meaty dinners per week. And we also break out the pop, chips, video games, or whatever else was given up each Saturday night thru Sunday as well.
In addition, children brought up with this sort of lent become very aware of the liturgical calendar. They know what a solemnity means: another day to relax from lent for 24 hours. They also know about the significance of Laetare Sunday as a mid-lenten pause to rejoice that the season of penance is more than halfway through. So this year, we had the rare conjunction of three celebrations: St. Patrick on Saturday, Laetare Sunday yesterday, and today, the solemnity of St. Joseph. (Although good St. Pat is technically only a memorial, he is one of our diocesan patrons, and we have just enough Irish blood here to justify making a big deal out of March 17th).
So tonight will have us dining on roast pork rather than tuna noodle delight, and enjoying some cream puffs for dessert. I’m still figuring out what prayers we’ll use to honor St.…
It’s weekly Q&A time.
Anything that has you scratching your head, frowing, or slamming your breviary on the table and saying, “I just don’t get it” should be shared here. I’ll do my best to figure it out for you.
This week I’ve done some head-scratching myself over what it means in the book of Exodus (which is playing all through lent in the Office of Readings) when it refers to “seeing God”. On Monday, Moses plus the seventy elders “beheld the God of Israel” and “He did not smite them. after gazing on God they could still eat and drink.”
Then yesterday, it says “the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as one man speaks to another.” Yet in the same reading, Moses asks to see God’s glory, and God gives a very conditional Yes: “but my face you cannot see, for no man sees me and lives.”
So I guess speaking to God face to face is NOT the same as seeing his glory face to face. But I really wish I could read Hebrew.
Got any questions about the Divine Office? Leave them in comments.…