St Mary in the Sabbath

Inset from the icon, “Captive Daughter of Zion” by Robert Lentz, OFM,
in the author’s icon corner and available here.

JMJ

IN THE WESTERN DAILY OFFICE and Mass there is a tradition of commemorating the Blessed Virgin on Saturdays outside of Lent. There are propers for the office as well as for votive Masses offered on these days. In the older Western Rite, this commemoration began with Vespers on Friday night with a special hymn and prayer, it included readings in the Night Office, and then special hymnody and prayer at Lauds on Saturday morning. This tradition dates back to at least the Tenth Century, but it may be earlier. A form of this may be familiar to the reader as the First Saturdays Devotion. There are a number of ideas about why Marian Saturdays might have happened and also a number of ideas about “What it means”. You can read some of them here or here. This post is only a meditation on the fittingness of the idea: I’m not being a historian here but rather meditating on Mary and the Sabbath together. BY way of warning, I’m crossing the streams again: today it’s Byzantine and Western liturgy plus the Jewishness of Mary and Jesus. (I love the icon of the Captive Daughter of Zion that heads this post: the artist has created a visual map of this meditation.)

First, it’s important to see the Sabbath clearly: it’s not just a negative prohibition against work. God rested on the Sabbath Day. The invitation is not to “don’t do that” but rather to “be like God”. In fact, if you read the Genesis account carefully Man and Woman are created on the 6th Day, God says, “your job will be as gardeners” and then Day 1 of their job is the Sabbath! Your job starts today so take a break… In very real ways, the Sabbath is not “the Weekend” for man: rather it’s the beginning. (Yes, it’s Day Seven for God.)

Far from being prohibited to “do anything”, Adam and Eve are starting from a place of trust. Humanity’s assigned place at the pinnacle of Creation begins with a resting moment of contemplation which they share with God. God is Father who provides: man needs to trust in God, not in the labor of his own hands. Yes, we have work to do but in due time, not now. Sit. Breath. Trust.

In the Liturgical East, the Great Sabbath is the day before Pascha. This also comes from Judaism where the Great Sabbath (Hebrew: Shabbat HaGadol) is the Sabbath that occurs before Passover (Hebrew: Pesach). On this day is commemorated the descent of Jesus into Hell as Jesus’ body rests in the tomb of St Joseph. It’s this resting in the tomb that’s seen as a typological fulfilment of the Sabbath.

Using the same typological reading of Sabbath rest, let’s spin the clock backward: as God-Made-Man, Jesus must recapitulate all of humanity’s journey and so – as with Adam and Eve – Jesus begins his “job” as redeemer resting in the womb of Mary for nine months. Mary is – in her very self as Mother of God – a type of the Sabbath. To commemorate Mary on the Sabbath is to commemorate the Sabbath on Sabbath! As was mentioned at the top of the post, the devotion used to begin on Friday night at Vespers (that is, sunset). It makes each “Weekend” a beginning: for to start with the Divine Rest, and then to celebrate the Resurrection on the First Day was a real beginning. As my pastor says, “I can’t think of a better way to start the week…”

Shabbat Shalom!

Seeker Vespers

JMJ

RECENTLY A FEW SOURCES (podcasts, etc) have called out that Vespers is supposed to be a part of Parish life especially on Sunday. I wondered what the source was for this claim and so I asked on Twitter. (When asking questions on Facebook one often addresses the “hive mind”. If doing so on Twitter, should one address the “Birdbrain”?) Anyway, folks on Twitter were quick to respond: it comes from the December 1963 V2 Constitution on Sacred Liturgy:

Pastors of souls should see to it that the chief hours, especially Vespers, are celebrated in common in church on Sundays and the more solemn feasts. And the laity, too, are encouraged to recite the divine office, either with the priests, or among themselves, or even individually.

Sacrosanctum Concilium ¶100

As both Sundays and “more solemn feasts” have a 1st Vespers the night preceding, it’s not totally clear from that text if “on Sundays” means Sunday night or Saturday night at the 1st Vespers. While either or both may be intended, for the purpose of this blog post I’m going to assume Saturday night, although what follows could be used Saturday or Sunday.

It seems that Vespers could be used as a very evangelical and open service: what our Protestant brothers and sisters refer to as a “Seeker Service” or a “Seeker-Friendly Service”. That is, one intended to introduce people to the faith, to draw them in and make them familiar with basic ideas.

The outline for Vespers is very much suited to this purpose. It is in the evening: one does not have to get up early in the morning for it. It has the added advantage of not being a communion service and so there is no portion of it closed to non-Catholics. VEspers does not need to be done in the Church: this is good if the “evening slot” happens to be occupied by a Saturday Vigil Mass then VEspers can be done in the parish hall or any other warm and inviting space. With the right music and atmosphere, this could even be done in the homes of parishioners. Additionally, Vespers does not require a priest so all that follows can be done by lay leadership or by a deacon. Below are two options – a “normal” Evening Prayer or Vespers and a “higher” or “fuller” version that includes Night Prayer or Compline. I have also included a third description for “At Home”. These are intended as opportunities for evangelical outreach on Sundays and Greater Feasts. There are no “smells and bells” on purpose. Everything in this post uses the available options to the fullest extent allowed by the rubrics. I have included citations from the General Instruction on the Liturgy of the Hours (GILOTH) as needed. Where I think you might need additional permission I have indicated so.

The Basic Outline of Evening Prayer

  1. Opening Versicle and Response
  2. Hymn
  3. Antiphon and 1st Psalm
  4. Antiphon and 2nd Psalm
  5. Antiphon and Canticle
  6. Reading
  7. Responsory
  8. Antiphon and Gospel Canticle: Magnificat
  9. Sufferages
  10. Our Father
  11. Prayer of the Day
  12. Blessing and Dismissal

Vespers as Seeker Service

  1. Welcome and Introduction (ad lib)
  2. Opening Versicle and Response
  3. Hymn (Worship Music, Praise Chorus, etc)
  4. Antiphon and 1st Psalm (Gregorian Chant suggested)
  5. Sacred Silence
  6. Antiphon and 2nd Psalm (Sung as responsory psalm with antiphon set to a more contemporary melody.)
    GILOTH ¶125 In addition, when the literary genre of a psalm suggests it, the divisions into strophes are marked in order that, especially when the psalm is sung in the vernacular, the antiphons may be repeated after each strophe; in this case the Glory to the Father need be said only at the end of the psalm.”
  7. Sacred Silence
  8. Antiphon and Canticle (Suggested as a third style of music four part acapella chant such as Russian or shape note.)
  9. Sacred Silence
  10. Readings from Sunday’s Office of Readings.
    GILOTH ¶44. After the psalmody there is either a short reading or a longer one.
    ¶46. Especially in a celebration with a congregation, a longer Scripture reading may be chosen either from the office of readings or the Lectionary for Mass, particularly texts that for some reason have not been used. From time to time some other more suitable reading may be used, in accordance with the rules in nos. 248-249 and 251.
  11. Sacred Silence
  12. Homily/talk
    47. In a celebration with a congregation a short homily may follow the reading to explain its meaning, as circumstances suggest.
  13. Sacred Silence
    GILOTH ¶48. After the reading or homily a period of silence may be observed.
  14. Responsory
  15. Antiphon and Gospel Canticle: Magnificat (Suggested as Gregorian Chant – perhaps some Latin?)
  16. Sufferages
  17. Personal Intercessions as Needed
  18. Our Father (chanted)
  19. Prayer of the Day
  20. Blessing and Dismissal
  21. Closing worship music

Souped Up Version

As above with Nos 1-19. Instead of a blessing and dismissal at #20 proceed as follows:

  1. Prayer of the Day
  2. Worship music while exposing the Blessed Sacrament
  3. Holy Hour/Adoration
  4. Benediction
  5. Full Office of Night Prayer in the Presence of the Blessed Sacrament Exposed
    1. Opening
    2. Confession
    3. Hymn
    4. Antiphon and Psalm as Responsory
    5. Reading
    6. Sacred Silence
    7. Responsory
    8. Antiphon and Gospel Canticle (Nunc Dimittis)
  6. Closing Prayer
  7. Antiphon to the Blessed Virgin
  8. (O Lumen Ecclesiae – b/c OP)

Vespers as Seeker Service at Home (Base Community)

At home (or in another location – eg Coffee Shop or Pub) Vespers can be celebrated as part of a base community gathering for Bible Study or faith-formation/faith sharing. In this more Domestic sort of way, it’s a good prelude to dinner. All the notes from above apply, so I’ve only added further explanations if changed.

  1. Welcome and Introduction (ad lib)
  2. Opening Versicle and Response
  3. Hymn (Worship Music, Praise Chorus, etc)
  4. Antiphon and 1st Psalm (Gregorian Chant suggested)
  5. Sacred Silence
  6. Antiphon and 2nd Psalm (Sung as responsory psalm with antiphon set to a more contemporary melody.)
  7. Sacred Silence
  8. Antiphon and Canticle (Suggested as a third style of music four part acapella chant such as Russian or shape note.)
  9. Sacred Silence
  10. Readings from Sunday’s Office of Readings.
  11. Sacred Silence
  12. Homily/talk Group Lectio
  13. Sacred Silence
  14. Responsory
  15. Antiphon and Gospel Canticle: Magnificat (Suggested as Gregorian Chant – perhaps some Latin?)
  16. Sufferages
  17. Personal Intercessions as Needed
  18. Our Father (chanted)
  19. Prayer of the Day – grace over any food…
    (Meal/Conversation/further lectio?)
  20. Blessing and Dismissal
  21. Closing worship music or – grace over any food… Meal/Conversation/further lectio?

Sheer Grace

JMJ

From a sermon by Saint Augustine, bishop
(Sermo 185: PL 38, 997-999)

Truth has arisen from the earth, and justice looked down from heaven

Awake, mankind! For your sake God has become man. Awake, you who sleep, rise up from the dead, and Christ will enlighten you. I tell you again: for your sake, God became man.

You would have suffered eternal death, had he not been born in time. Never would you have been freed from sinful flesh, had he not taken on himself the likeness of sinful flesh. You would have suffered everlasting unhappiness, had it not been for this mercy. You would never have returned to life, had he not shared your death. You would have been lost if he had not hastened to your aid. You would have perished, had he not come.

Let us then joyfully celebrate the coming of our salvation and redemption. Let us celebrate the festive day on which he who is the great and eternal day came from the great and endless day of eternity into our own short day of time.

He has become our justice, our sanctification, our redemption, so that, as it is written: Let him who glories glory in the Lord.

Truth, then, has arisen from the earth: Christ who said, I am the Truth, was born of a virgin. And justice looked down from heaven: because believing in this new-born child, man is justified not by himself but by God.

Truth has arisen from the earth: because the Word was made flesh. And justice looked down from heaven: because every good gift and every perfect gift is from above.

Truth has arisen from the earth: flesh from Mary. And justice looked down from heaven: for man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven.

Justified by faith, let us be at peace with God: for justice and peace have embraced one another. Through our Lord Jesus Christ: for Truth has arisen from the earth. Through whom we have access to that grace in which we stand, and our boast is in our hope of God’s glory. He does not say: “of our glory,” but of God’s glory: for justice has not proceeded from us but has looked down from heaven. Therefore he who glories, let him glory, not in himself, but in the Lord.

For this reason, when our Lord was born of the Virgin, the message of the angelic voices was: Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth.

For how could there be peace on earth unless Truth has arisen from the earth, that is, unless Christ, were born of our flesh? And he is our peace who made the two into one: that we might be men of good will, sweetly linked by the bond of unity.

Let us then rejoice in this grace, so that our glorying may bear witness to our good conscience by which we glory, not in ourselves, but in the Lord. That is why Scripture says: He is my glory, the one who lifts up my head. For what greater grace could God have made to dawn on us than to make his only Son become the son of man, so that a son of man might in his turn become the son of God?

Ask if this were merited; ask for its reason, for its justification, and see whether you will find any other answer but sheer grace.

(From Liturgy of the Hours, Office of Readings for 24 December.)

Preparing for Prayer

JMJ

ON THE DOMINICAN Calendar today is the Feast of St Albert the Great, Bishop and Doctor of the Church. It is ranked as a Memorial in other places. Since it is a Feast it has its own readings from the propers of the Order. The following, On preparation for prayer from the treatise On the Manner of Praying, attributed to Saint Albert the Great – seems very edifying.


   We should prepare ourselves for prayer. This preparation is of two kinds: remote and immediate.

   Similarly remote preparation is of two kinds: interior and exterior. Interior preparation consists in three things. First, there is the purification of the conscience: If our hearts do not reprove us, we have this confidence in God: that God hears us whenever we ask for anything. Secondly, there is the humbling of the mind, for the Lord hears the cry of the humble and does not spurn their petition. Thirdly, there is the forgiveness of injuries: Whenever you stand to pray, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father in heaven may in turn forgive you your trespasses.

   Exterior preparation likewise consists in three things. First, there is the fulfillment of the commandments of God, for as Saint Isidore said: “If we do what the Lord commands, we will without doubt obtain what we ask for.” Secondly, there is reconciliation with anyone we have offended: If you bring your gift to the altar and there recall that your brother or sister has anything against you, leave your gift before the altar and go; first he reconciled with your brother or sister and then come and offer your gift. Thirdly, there is the practice of fasting and almsgiving which supports prayer, for Isaiah says: Share your bread with the hungry and take the poor and homeless into your house, then when you call, the Lord will hear you.

   Immediate preparation is likewise of two kinds: again, interior and exterior. Interior preparation consists in three things. First, there is personal recollection: Whenever you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father in private. Entering into your room is that personal recollection of the heart and closing the door is the maintenance of a spirit of recollection. Personal recollection is accomplished by gathering within oneself the thoughts and emotions which have had free range.

   Secondly, we focus our attention upon the Lord. For we pray in truth when we do not think about other matters. Thus, the soul must first be purified and thoughts about temporal concerns must be set aside so that the pure eye of the heart may be directed truly and simply to the Lord. Let every carnal or worldly thought depart, lest the soul think of anything else than that alone for which it prays. The priest in proclaiming the preface prepares our hearts by saying: “Lift up your hearts,” to which we reply: “We lift them up to the  Lord.” Thus, the heart is closed to its adversary and opened to God alone, lest we have one thing in our hearts and another on our lips.

   How can you be heard by God, you ask, when you cannot hear yourself? You want the Lord to be mindful of you when you are not mindful of yourself!

   This is to offend the majesty of God by negligence in prayer. This is to watch with the eyes and sleep with the heart, while the Christian ought to be watching with the heart even while sleeping. Thirdly, there is the stirring up of devotion to God, which is brought about especially by meditating upon our miserable condition and upon the goodness and mercy of God. In meditating upon our miserable condition we learn what it is necessary to ask for, and in meditating upon the mercy of God we learn with what devotion we ought to ask.

Exterior preparation consists in three things, namely, place, appearance and gesture. With regard to place it is certain that one can pray while standing as well as sitting, or even while lying down. Nevertheless in public prayer we ought to observe the form established by the Church or by the majority of us. With regard to appearance keep in mind that a humble and abject demeanor is appropriate to prayer. With regard to gesture note that it includes genuflecting, lifting up one’s hands, striking the breast, raising or lowering the eyes and countenance, closing the lips or silencing the voice, the shedding of tears, the emitting of groans, sighing, etc.


Consider What You Say

JMJ

From the letter of Blessed Humbert of Romans On Regular Observance (Opera de Vita Regulari). This is the alternative Second Reading for the Office of Readings on the Memorial of Bl Mannes, the brother of St Dominic (18 August). This is from the Daily Office propers of the Order of Preachers.

A brother should never pass over in silence what needs to be said, nor say what should not be spoken. When a brother intends to speak, let him first consider his words in his heart that he may express honorably, moderately, truthfully and kindly what it is he wishes to say. For the tongue is deceitful, puffed up, inflamed with duplicity, and hateful to God and humankind.

Dearly beloved, consider carefully what you say, to whom, when or where, how or how much, and certainly why you say it. Otherwise, if the proper circumstances are lacking, your speech may give rise to a bad conscience in your own heart or to scandal in the heart of your hearer. You should aim for three things in your speech – gesture, voice, and meaning. Let your gestures be controlled, your voice well-modulated, your meaning always true.

Do not do battle with words, nor worry about gaining victory in disputes. Always avoid words which are damaging to the speaker or to the listener. One should keep away from speech which is not a credit to the one who speaks, or to the one who listens, or to the one about whom a person speaks.

Consider also the time for speaking, because at times one should keep silent and at other times something should be said. There is never a time when evil should be uttered; sometimes even good things should not be mentioned. When another has begun to speak, we should be silent, lest we appear to interrupt what the person has to say. When we sense that our audience is not prepared for what we have to say, we should refrain from speech. At times we should keep silence to avoid loquaciousness or because we have not yet formulated in a suitable manner what we wish to say, or even because the words that we have decided to you are no longer appropriate to the conversation.

Let the elderly speak of the wisdom of reflection, the young of a readiness for work, the wise of the mystery of the Scriptures, the simple of examples of good works, those concerned with business of the needs of the active life, those living quietly of the sweetness of the contemplative life, prelates of the management of temporal and spiritual goods, subjects of obeying commands.

When we wish to speak for our own building up, let us choose how we can bring others to Virtue, and by what teaching. When we speak for the building up of others, let us turn to those things that we hope to correct in ourselves through our exhortation. Furthermore, let our teaching tend toward this goal: to urge the timid to constancy, the proud to fear, the bold to reflection, the lukewarm to fervor, the boisterous to silence, the speechless to a word of exhortation, the impatient to gentleness, the careless to vigilance, the cruel to forbearance, the hasty and demanding to restraint.

In addition take care that when a brother speaks, he not move about inappropriately, nor destroy the charm of his speech by glancing about or making faces.

May you avoid every word that is bitter, proud, disparaging, flattering, vicious, sworn by oaths, superfluous, or careless. As you ought not speak ill of those who are absent, so you should not laugh at those who are present. Do not jest with those who are senseless, nor envy the learned.

Keep silent about trivialities; speak about what will bear fruit. In your conversation do not keep your heart on your tongue, but rather check your tongue with your heart. Surely when you come to speak, you can offer a few words that are intelligible. Love quiet reflection; flee the business of the world. Through silence the heart is quieted, pain is avoided, peace is maintained, and the mind is raised more quickly to contemplation. The more you withdraw from the noise of business, the closer will God be to you.

Sanctify Time

JMJ

MY FIRST INTRODUCTION to the Divine Office was at a very “low” Episcopal parish which did Morning Prayer three Sundays a month. For the longest time I didn’t think of it as anything other than a liturgical version of the “Hymn Sandwich” common in other Protestant communities. This was true, but not in the way I imagined: the reverse was true. Those others (Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians) had taken the Anglican service and de-liturgized it to their own ends. The Anglican practice was intended for twice-daily use every day – not just Sundays. In the Church of England, the vicar is obligated to offer both Morning and Evening Prayer as public services every day. This is not an obligation for American Episcopal clergy, but it is still common practice; and so it was at a very “high” Episcopal Parish, the Church of St Mary the Virgin in Time Square, where I first experienced the Daily Office as a daily service and also one intimately connected to the Eucharist: both services were followed by a Eucharist each day. The Episcopal Daily Office Lectionary (at least in the 1928 and 1979 Books of Common Prayer) parallels the Eucharistic Lectionary. The daily and weekly prayers (Collects) are the same. Eucharist and Office are connected in ways that only become apparent as they are both prayed together. When I left ECUSA in 2002 I brought with me all my love for the Daily Office. Everything I found and loved in the Episcopal tradition was only amplified as I moved closer to the Catholic Church. For a while, I even ran an unofficial daily office website for members of the Orthodox Church who used the Western Rite. Now, as a lay member of the Dominican family, the Office is not a part of my daily prayer but the heart of it.

Let me explain the names first. Office, Daily Office, Divine Office, and “the hours” can all be used interchangeably. “Office” comes from two Latin words, opus meaning work and facere meaning “to do”. The Daily Office is a doing, a task. St Benedict calls it the work of God. Chapter 19 of the Rule of St Benedict reads:

We believe that the divine presence is everywhere and that “the eyes of the Lord are looking on the good and the evil in every place” (Prov. 15:3). But we should believe this especially without any doubt when we are assisting at the Work of God. To that end let us be mindful always of the Prophet’s words, “Serve the Lord in fear” (Ps. 2:11) and again “Sing praises wisely” (Ps. 46[47]:8) and “In the sight of the Angels I will sing praise to You” (Ps. 13[14]7:1). Let us therefore consider how we ought to conduct ourselves in sight of the Godhead and of His Angels, and let us take part in the psalmody in such a way that our mind may be in harmony with our voice.

We will come back to that last sentence, but see how it invites us to take the Psalms and sing them in such a way that our mind enters into “harmony” with our singing and then change our lives (our conduct).

Nota Bene: There is an Eastern Orthodox and Byzantine Catholic form of the Daily Office, but while much of what I’m about to say is true of that form from a theological point of view, the experience that office for the laity in the parish is very different. The public celebration of Matins or Vespers in the liturgical East is often edited for time and even many monastic communities pare it down quite a bit. So what follows is mostly for the Western Folks.

The Prayer of Christ

The Daily Office, in the use of psalms and readings, continues the Jewish tradition of scripture meditation on a daily cycle. In one form or another, this same piety would have been shared with Jesus and his Apostles. However, that’s not how this is the prayer of Christ.

The General Instruction on the Liturgy of the Hours (GILoTH) highlights a number of ways in which this Prayer of Christ is realized: by virtue of the Incarnation, the Son’s eternal praise of the Father has become human. “Christ’s heart the praise of God assumes a human sound in words of adoration, expiation, and intercession, presented to the Father by the Head of the new humanity, the Mediator between God and his people, in the name of all and for the good of all.” As the Body of Christ in the world, the Church gives her voice in the continuation of this praise.

The Prayer of the Church

The Daily Office is the Prayer of the Church. Clerics are obligated to various parts of it (Priests and transitional Deacons to the whole office, permanent Deacons to whatever their Bishop directs). Consecrated religious communities in their 1st, 2nd, and 3rd orders are likewise committed to the daily recitation of the Office. Various devotional societies also use the office and the church counsels it for all the laity. Joining in this prayer plugs in you with everyone. Emotionally, this gives me joy in knowing I say the same prayer as XYZ persons with whom I connect on Twitter – but have never met. I know that laypeople, Fr John on Catholic Stuff You Should Know, and even the Pope are all praying the same texts I am praying. When the office points me towards a verse in 1 John for meditation, Catholics all over the world are meditating on that same text. This alone is powerful.

Let’s double down on this though: it’s more than an emotional connection. It’s spiritual warfare. Hear the promise Jesus gives us in Matthew (18:19), “Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.” (AV) The prayers we all say “touching any thing” are very powerful indeed. The intercessions and psalms each day contribute to the building up of the church and the world as the whole church, together, intercedes before God in the heart of Christ. The Kingdom of God on earth is manifesting through our prayer by its effects in our hearts and in the world.

Praying the Psalms

This is the heart of the Work of God. Yet, this part of the Office can be the most confusing to folks in our culture, not least because we are literate. Reading is seen as a utility rather than a practice – and certainly not a spiritual practice! For the early monastics, though, even through the 1700s in the west (and more recently in other parts of the world) literacy was not a given. Men coming to the communities would be taught to read if needed by their work, but they were taught the Psalms by heart through singing in the community. The melodies joined with the text, the whole thing wrapping around the heart in a great vestment of praise and intercession.

The oddity we feel arises from the idea that “text” is not praying. We think of text as only for conveying content: teaching, proclaiming. We tend to think of words on the page as only tools intended to do something else. Our culture tends to be very literal both inside and outside the church, literal and utilitarian. If do not do something with these words then I’m only reading them. Reading, though, is a type of meditation and so a type of prayer. Joseph Campbell – certainly no Christian writer! – notes that any action with text (including underlining passages as we read) can be meditation. So also the Psalms.

Today it feels odd just to read the same Psalm every day at the opening of the Office (Psalm 95) but there are stories of Saints who had memorized the entire Psalter and could recite their daily Psalms without any help. St Benedict even required the daily Bible verses in the Office (other than the Psalms) to be short and easy to memorize. Everything was intended to come in little chunks easy to digest. These made them easy to pray as well. Yes: maybe today you are not “feeling” the need to say the text of a certain Psalm. But someone, somewhere, is. If one of us is in need we are all in need in the Body of Christ. We all pray together for each other. Later, though, as these texts work themselves into your memory, if you need the Psalm it will be there for you, leaping instantly to your mind becoming your own prayer.

As with the Psalms, so with the other parts of the Office – the Canticles, the Bible readings, and even the longer texts in the Office of Readings. These are not “just” things to read, but a great bulwark of mental prayer and strength for the daily battle for sanctity.

We must not let our mere literacy (a mere ability to read) deny us this great spiritual gift! We pray the Psalms over and over daily and as we begin to comprehend them, to fill our mind and heart with them, we become conformed to them. The text changes us. We incarnate the truth that the law of prayer is the law of our belief.

Offering the Day and Ourselves

It’s not just a tedium, but rather it become the leaven in our lives. If we see it as only an obligation or, worse, only yet another obligation, it cuts into our lives, into our “me time”. Well, it’s supposed to. You can read the entire day’s cycle in about 1 hour. It’s not much time for God, actually! And the more you do it the more it will be that quality “me time” you’re craving. It will grow to be the heart of your day – even spread out over little bits, here and there.

In these ways – the prayer of the church, meditating on scripture, conforming ourselves to the texts – the Daily Office becomes in us what it is intended to be in the Church: an ongoing Eucharist (thanksgiving) made of breaking open the hours and pouring out ourselves to God. We offer the day, hour by hour, to God the Father at the hands of Christ, reaching out through our prayers united in the Spirit. The Mass in our lives (daily or weekly) becomes the Mass of our lives.

Love in the Time of Covid-19

JMJ

Dear Fathers in Christ –

Some diocese are canceling public services. Some are not. No matter where you fall on the spectrum between APOCALYPSE and TOO MUCH HYPE there is something you can do to help us all: especially the folks in the places with no Masses.

Put your Mass live on Facebook. Put your Mass live on YouTube. Do the same with your daily offices and any other devotions you offer. You can do this today, now, if you have a Facebook Page for your parish and a laptop with a camera built in. Follow these steps (I’ve marked the suggestions in italics the other steps have to be done.)

  1. Set up for Mass. (If you’re in “isolation mode” you’re probably going to want at least a server/lector with you – even a brother priest. Cantoring optional.)
  2. The Laptop needs to be somewhere the camera can “see” all the action at Mass. To be honest, you don’t need the full shebang for this. Put the laptop on your clean desk, spread a corporal and you’re off. But you can do this at a full altar as long as the camera can see everything. You don’t want to be moving the camera during Mass.
  3. Open the laptop and log in to FB. You’re going to want to have the laptop plugged in because you don’t want it to die during Mass.
  4. Make sure you and the reader (if any) are able to easily get into the line of sight. You’ll be preaching & reading from the same place.
  5. Go to your parish’s page (If you don’t have a page you should really fix that…). I would suggest adding links to the readings of the day and – if you feel like it – to any hymn texts you may want everyone to use. Keep it simple though!
  6. Click on live like in the image at the top of this post. Then you’ll go to a new page.
  7. When FB asks you to approve the use of your camera and audio say yes or there will be all kinds of problems! You’ll see your camera image appear.
  1. Make sure everything looks ok.
  2. Pick where this post will appear: it should be on your Parish’s Facebook page.
  3. Say something – here’s where to put the links for your readings, today’s Mass intentions, etc.
  4. Skip everything in this box unless you know what’s going on. It should be set correctly.
  5. A title: Mass, Vespers, etc.
  6. Click this when you’re ready!

I will help you if you’re having trouble. DM me on FB, or ping me on Twitter. Leave a comment here with a way I can get back to you online first (not via phone call until we’re both on board). With 25 years of customer and tech support, I can walk you through this! I will happily be tech support for getting your Mass online in this simple way. (There are more complex ways to do this, networked cameras, blue tooth mics… I’m not able to help with those: you’ll need someone with other skills.)

YouTube works really well, too, but accounts have to be approved to do livestreaming on YouTube: if you’re not approved this may not be the right time to go through that. If you are already approved then you know all about this. Never the less, I’ll do another post about that option later. Facebook is literally click-and-go for this.

This could work for Mass, the Daily Office, in fact for any possible set of devotions. I would advise having pictures for the Stations or Rosary. Your mileage may vary.

Although this may or may not work well for your parish (you know your people) once it’s on the internet, you’re available to anyone who has access to the internet and Facebook or YouTube. People who are panicking or stressed out because of the world situation can find your Mass and be comforted.

I would love it if there were masses everywhere all day on Facebook, and if the Daily Office were being offered all over the place.

If the Daily Office is a thing: you may want to consider setting up a Zoom account. I’ll do a post about that as well. The advantage of a Zoom (instead of FB or YT) is that your Zoom can be interactive: other folks can pray along and all participants would be able to hear and interact.

Your faithful son in Christ Jesus,

Huw (Stanley Robert), OP

Daily Readings 14 – 21 Dec AD 2013

The Daily Offices for Morning and Evening Prayer in the Rite of St Tikhon. The readings are as assigned by the Antiochian Western Rite Vicariate supplemented with other devotional material. Each MP/EP link will take you to a complete office, needing only the daily psalter or, for MP, the Martyrology link.


  1. Saturday Conception 8va (Advent Feria) – MPEP – Martyrology
  2. 3rd Sunday of Advent  (Octave Day of the Conception) – MPEPMartyrology
  3. Monday Advent Feria VI O Sapientia (St Eusebius of Vercelli, BM) – MPEP – Martyrology
  4. Tuesday Advent Feria V before Nativity O Adonai  – MPEP – Martyrology
  5. Ember Wednesday Advent Feria IV before Nativity – O Radix – MPEP – Martyrology
  6. Thursday Advent Feria III before Nativity – O ClavisMPEP – Martyrology
  7. Ember Friday Advent Feria II before Nativity – O Orient MPEP – Martyrology
  8. St Thomas the Apostle (Ember Day Advent Feria O RexMPEP – Martyrology