Liturgy of the Hours Write-Up

One of our parishioners has asked to open up a space in our leaflet to share personal devotions used through-out the congregation. Given that the COVID-19 pandemic has kept us all apart from regular Eucharistic service, this parishioner was interested in what others have been doing in their own time to keep their spiritual lives rich. I thought this was a wonderful idea and a great chance to share my experience with the Liturgy of the Hours.

Here is my write-up that will appear in the leaflet next week.

When I had heard that there was a plan in the works for parishioners to share personal devotions in the Barnabuzz I was very excited. I have been praying the Liturgy of the Hours since I was in high school and I’ve always wanted an opportunity to share this wonderful catholic devotion with my Saint Barnabas family.

The Liturgy of the Hours bill themselves as the official corporate prayer of the church alongside the Eucharist. The Roman Catholic Church puts particular weight in the prayers because they draw a direct line to Jesus and the Apostles who prayed the psalms are various times during the day as per Jewish custom at the time. The prayers within the early Christian church grew out of monastic devotions and evolved to mark certain periods of the day. Over the centuries, their form and practice has changed and since the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s an emphasis has been made on the whole church, including laity, participating regularly in the prayers during the day. Reforms at this time made the prayers more accessible to laity (and dare I see more reformed in nature) and a wonderful English translation was produced in North America by the Catholic Publishing Company. Each Hour is typically composed of a hymn, a few psalms and cantles with antiphons, intercessions and a short reading. While each Hour is themed for a particular time of day (that aligns with the passion and death of Christ), there is absolutely no obligation to pray each Hour at a set time, although it is a useful practice. One of my favourite Hours can be prayed at any time, although it typically opens the day, called the Office of Readings. During this Hour one prays three psalms (or three parts of one larger psalm), reads an extended Old Testament reading followed by an extended reading relevant to the church season, saint day or feast from a church leader or Saint. This wonderful Office has enriched my faith and broadened my exposure to important liturgical writings and perspectives.

The mystic spirituality that surrounds the prayers are two fold. First, when we pray the Hours together and share in common prayer we join our single voices, no matter where we are and what we are doing, to the entire church and the hymn of praise which constantly rises before God. There is something tremendously powerful about praying an Hour alone but knowing that hundreds of thousands of other people are doing the same prayers with you and together you are all worshipping God. Second, we conform our own selves to the cross and die a little bit to Christ each time we engage in regular prayer especially in moments that we would otherwise give-up. These prayers are particularly powerful in sanctifying the day and reminding one of our place in the universe as a creature of God. Having the prayer book and the structure presents a form of prayer that calls out to me to engage at many moments during my day. The antiphons and prayers follow the liturgical calendar and saints and feasts are celebrated appropriately as they occur which assists greatly in living liturgically and continuing the church in our homes and lives outside of our Sunday obligation. They are particularly wonderful for communities and families because they are designed to be prayed as a group but can be prayed as couples or even alone (because you’re never alone with this prayer).

I have had a solid attachment to the Liturgy of the Hours for years particularly because they give me the words that I cannot find on my own. Regardless of how I feel in the moment, I have the prayers that I need to offer praise and thanksgiving toward God. Sometimes when I am angry with God but cannot find the words, the psalmist does it perfectly for me. Other times, when I am dry and have no words, again the psalmist fills my mouth. They have become an important aspect of my daily life, and greatly assist in my ability see Christ in all aspects of my life. I highly recommend this catholic devotion for any Anglican who is interested in living in the life the church every day and would like to clutch their prayer life into the broader catholic church. There are a slew of options to get started from apps for your phone to a single volume prayer book and a full four-volume prayer book with the entire church year. And I am always available to share my experience more and explain the Hours and the little prayer book you’ll usually see me carrying in church.

On John 16:33

"33I have said this to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” 
John 16:33

I have a confession that of the entire Bible I have a single line that I can say is my favourite line and one I find myself repeating in my head daily. It comes from my favourite Gospel, the account of Saint John the Evangelist. In the brief line, Jesus tells his disciples plainly how and why they should have peace in the world despite facing struggles. It is through Christ that we find peace and it is because he has overcome the world that this peace is possible. This is a very powerful statement and I would like to take some time to explore its meaning and context within the wider teaching moment in which it was spoken by Jesus Christ.

The line itself comes as the understood finale of the Last Supper account according to John. His account is actually the longest of all of the gospel writers and the topics over the course of the evening range from the importance of serving one and another, the details of Christ’s looming Passion and death, the establishment of the New Commandment, an exhortation of Jesus as the true vine and a closing that emphasizes the shared pain and suffering that those who believe and follow Jesus will endure as well. This is a scene we can only view through a looking glass dimly because of our separation in time and space from Christ and his disciples but it is also a moment that is vivid and very real for any follower of Christ. Indeed, it is safe to say that this whole night that Jesus eats and shares with his followers is not just for the men and women around him that evening, rather they are words and lessons directly given to all faithful of all ages of past and those to come. His words are clear and universal and plain.

21 "When a woman is in travail she has sorrow, because her hour has come; but when she is delivered of the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a child is born into the world22 So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you." 
John 16:21-22

Jesus does not mince his words when he speaks about the sorrow, pain and suffering his followers will continue to endure in the world. But these important words from Christ do not come in isolation. They come at the heels of Jesus explaining clearly the details of his Passion and death. And he does not do this to be morbid or gain their respect, he does this to demonstrate how he is going to overcome the world and why this important. Then he goes on to explain how the disciples have to comport themselves around one another and around new followers that will join their ranks in the coming era of the church. Jesus washes their feet to demonstrate unequivocally that all must serve one another. This is a clear and powerful statement. Moments after his disciples confess to him that they believe he is the Messiah and their Lord, he humbles himself and washes their feet even against the protest of some. If the Son of Man has washed the feet of his followers, how greater than we must serve our peers around us. He then institutes the New Commandment to love another another as Christ has loved us. And he stresses that there is no love greater than for a man to lay down his life for a friend. And finally, he teaches them, without fancy language, why he is the true vine and the Messiah spoken of in the prophecies. All of this leads up to a final reminder that the same pain and suffering the disciples are soon to witness with Jesus is awaiting them in the world as well. And that pain and suffering awaits us too. These are the last words of a friend to his brothers and sisters. He is making sure they have everything they need to get through the world while he is not there. The true meaning of the night will only become clear once the tomb is found empty and the triumph of the Son of Man has been completed. But these are timeless words, words that are relevant and bear great fruit for us today.

And we are to be of good cheer. Because Christ has overcome the world. Amen.

Cover photo by Jametlene Reskp on Unsplash.

Easter Sunday Mass – Live Stream – Saint Barnabas Church

Saint Barnabas Anglican Church in Victoria, British Columbia will be live-streaming their Sunday Easter Mass from 10am-12pm (PST) on Sunday, April 4, 2021. The live-stream will be available through this blog commencing at 10:15am (PST) with the service commencing at 10:30am (PST).

The holiest of holy evenings is about to commence…where will it find you?