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?

Kingdom Walking

JMJ

IT’S A NEW GAME TO PLAY with the whole holy family: Kingdom Walking. Get outside, walk your neighborhood, and pray. Use a rosary or read a litany, say the Jesus Psalter or the Divine Mercy Chaplet. Get a prayer rope and say the Jesus Prayer. Take on the Rule of 150 Beads if you want to walk three times a day. Get out and offer it up for peace. Here are the rules:

  1. Pray for folks as you see them.
  2. Pray for peace and safety in the neighborhood.
  3. Remember when people see you they will see someone praying:
    • Share the sidewalk
    • Follow traffic rules
    • Be local
    • Share the Gospel.
  4. Don’t be surprise when homeless folks see you:
    • Carry cash
    • Give it away
    • Remember: Christ said, “As you do it to the least of these, you do it to me.”
    • Pray for them
  5. If you pass a hospital, fire house, police station (etc) pray for their safety.
  6. This is the infantry in spiritual warfare.
  7. See how many miles you can walk.

Legalism and Evangelism

JMJ

ONE OF THE more pernicious lies of American thought is that “legal” equals “moral”. Under the influence of this error folks look at what is legal (allowed if not encouraged) and say “it’s not against the law, why does the Church say I cannot do this?” In like manner many in the Church are distressed when their understanding of Christian morality is not enforced by the laws of society. They feel oppressed or persecuted.

There are some Christians who believed in a sort of theocracy. They believe that if you pass the right sort of laws everyone – Christian or not – will be forced to live in a Christian Society. They believe that with the right sort of laws Christian values will be enforced. Their hearts are in the right place: they want a certain climate, a culture founded on Christian values, and a return to tradition. They want just wages, an end to the death penalty, free medical care for all, housing, food, and peace. They believe that by enforcing these Christian values on everyone that we can finally build a just society, more to the point they believe that in passing these laws they will be building a just society on a Christian model. To this end, they believe in electing leaders whose politics, albeit secular, mirror these values in the hopes that they will pass these laws to build (unwittingly) a Christian society.

There are, of course, other Christians who also believe in a sort of theocracy. They believe if you passed the right sort of laws everyone – Christian or not – will be forced to live in a Christian Society. They believe that with the right sort of laws Christian values will be enforced. Their hearts are in the right place: they want a certain climate, a culture founded on Christian values, and a return to tradition. They want an end to abortion, a return to traditional family structures, and sexual morality. They believe by enforcing these Christian values on everyone that we can finally build a just Society, more to the point they believe that in passing these laws they will be building a just Society on a Christian model. To this end, they believe in electing leaders whose politics, albeit secular, mirror these values in the hopes that they will pass these laws to build (unwittingly) a Christian society.

In the end these Christians seem to imagine that by passing laws or having these laws passed they can make the world to be Christian. To that end they align themselves with politicians who may not be Christians at all, in the hopes that the alignment of political ends will result in a glorious goal. They seem to believe that with an appropriate veneer of Christianity applied, society will be fine.

At the beginning, though, society was unjust and immoral. Christians, somehow, found the courage not only to live just and moral lives but also to die for doing so. After 300 years or so their courage grew the Church from a few hundred to several million. They found the ability to change society entirely. The Church plays the long game for ultimately the purpose is not to change society but to change men’s souls. She seeks to wed earth to heaven – which cannot but change earth. But to do so she must wed men to God in their hearts, one by one. Heaven must first live within your soul before you can bring it to birth in your life and the lives of those around you.

“The one who starts with heaven is sensitive to those who live in the hell of this earth; whereas the one who begins with earth is blind to the situation of exploitation upon which the earth is built… For an authentic, deep sense of God is not only not opposed to a sensitivity to the poor and their social world, but is ultimately lived only in those persons and that world. ” (Fr Gustavo Gutiérrez, OP, quoted in Divine Economy: Theology and the Market by D. Stephen Long.)

This is why Jesus said go into the all the world and make Disciples of all people, and never once mentioned political endings. Laws do not make people good, laws do not save people, laws which cannot be enforced are of no value save to make some people feel good about themselves. We failed in evangelism and resorted to politics instead.

Theocracy is not the answer. People cannot be legislated into the kingdom of God. Rather, people must be wooed, enticed, evangelized. People must be shown a beauty so intense that to stay outside of it hurts. This requires relationships. Legislation does not require relationships it only requires power. But the kingdom of God is love: love and acted, most practiced, love embodied, love communicated in relationships between persons.

Theocracy can be legislated. We will damn people to do so. And we will damn ourselves. Legislation is easy, all it requires is a simple majority within a small group. Evangelism is hard it requires unanimity within the smallest group possible: you and me. It requires love, it requires patience, it requires humility, and self-emptying. It requires that one be Jesus to another, and that one see Christ in the other. It requires that both follow in a dance led by the Holy Spirit. And it requires education – properly understood from the Latin educare, meaning to draw out: to draw out of oneself a human person in full communion with God and with others. Only from this human person, formed in God’s image and living in communion, can arise actions which are performative Grace, salvation happening in their soul. Laws will not matter then.

Laws should not matter now. For forcing you to act according to my religious will will not save your soul. We know that’s from Saint Paul” the law does not save you. Yet if I win your heart for Christ you will eventually, through cooperation with his grace, build the new man in the shell of the old. It will not matter what is legal or permitted: you will do the just thing, you will be merciful, you will walk humbly with your God.

We must do the hard work of winning souls for Christ. We must start with heaven. When the society is filled with Christian love, the laws will be just, Christian values will be practiced, and the kingdom of God will be lived out.

Anagogical Kylie

JMJ

Traditional Catholic teaching says there are four senses of scripture which must all agree. This is a useful meditation tool for the Word of God. The Catechism cites this Latin Couplet to parse it out:

Lettera gesta docet,
quid credas allegoria,
moralis quid agas,
quo tendas anagogia.

The Letter speaks of deeds;
Allegory to faith;
the Moral how to act;
Anagogy our destiny.

We can read all texts, searching for truth, on each of these levels. The reader may be familiar with using this process in literature. Secular texts (even those by Catholic writers) will usually aim at one or other of these levels, but only by God’s grace would anything hit all four. Lewis’ Narnia does deeds, allegory, and morality really well. Tolkien is no fan of allegory, but he does deeds, morality, and anagogy all through Middle Earth. It is fashionable also to do this to movies as well as literature. We can also do this with secular music. Although a pop-song is not scripture and do cannot contain all four levels of meaning certainly some songs might hit some levels.

Love songs (if they are true) must have a deeper meaning. God is love, and so any true love song is a religious song in one sense or another. As love songs grow continually more and more into sex songs this may become less and less true. However, even then – since sex is a gift from God – if they are true songs then God will be in them, to one degree or another. Addressing God in terms of love is often the field of the mystic. True love songs – while devoid of actions we want to replicate as Catholics and often containing only a negative morality – may have allegorical and anagogical meaning.

Kylie Minogue’s All the Lovers seems to me one such song. It is true. Although the official video is filled with things that would make a devout Catholic shudder (if not need to go to confession) the lyrics and the music are not that way at all. Although the song is written for one voice (Kylie, of course) if the song is parsed into dialogue it’s very different. I propose that like the Song of Songs, this text is a dialogue between Jesus and the Soul and it speaks of our ultimate end:

Jesus:
Dance, it’s all I wanna do, so won’t you dance?
I’m standing here with you, why won’t you move?
I’ll get inside your groove ’cause I’m on fire, fire, fire, fire
It hurts when you get too close, but, baby, it hurts
If love is really good, you just want more
Even if it throws you to the fire, fire, fire, fire

The Soul:
All the lovers that have gone before
They don’t compare
To you
Jesus:
Don’t be frightened
Just give me a little bit more
The Soul
They don’t compare
All the lovers

Jesus:
Feel, can’t you see there’s so much here to feel?
Deep inside in your heart you know I’m real
Can’t you see that this is really higher, higher, higher, higher?
Breathe, I know you find it hard, but, baby, breathe
You’ll be next to me, it’s all you need
And I’ll take you there, I’ll take you higher, higher, higher, higher

The Soul:
All the lovers that have gone before
They don’t compare
To you
Jesus:
Don’t be frightened
Just give me a little bit more
The Soul:
They don’t compare
All the lovers

Jesus:
Dance, it’s all I wanna do, so won’t you dance?
I’m standing here with you, why won’t you move?
The Soul:
Even if it throws you to the fire, fire, fire, fire, fire, fire

The Soul:
All the lovers that have gone before
They don’t compare
To you
Jesus:
Don’t be frightened
Just give me a little bit more
The Soul:
They don’t compare
All the lovers