Sunday, December 4, 2011

Kudos to the Monks!

About two years ago I put the Divine Office app on my iPhone. Now I have it on my iPad, too. This app allows you to participate in praying the Liturgy of the Hours. It’s pretty cool - like attending a church service. The scriptures and prayers are read by the narrator and you can join in with the group in giving the responsive readings. The music adds a lot. There is always a hymn, sung by a soloist or a choir. Sometimes there is music playing quietly in the background.

Since buying this app, I’ve developed the habit of praying the Morning Prayer or Prime and the Night Prayer or Compline. I confess that often the Night prayer is said after I’m in bed, and it’s not unheard of for me to drop off to sleep before I finish.

The app is based on the daytime Canonical Hours - 6:00 a.m. is Prime (the first hour), 9:00 a.m. is Terse (the third hour), noon is Sext (the sixth hour), 3:00 p.m. is None (the ninth hour), 6:00 p.m. or sunset is Vespers, and 9:00 p.m. or bedtime is Compline. Medieval monks prayed every three hours, round the clock - day and night - so I guess they never got a full night’s sleep.

I decided I would try to expand my participation in the Liturgy of the Hours by praying at all the Canonical Hours during this Christmas season. I started on December 1. It has been an interesting exercise and has taught me a thing or two about myself. By the way, it helps that I am currently reading The Pillars of the Earth, set in a monastery in medieval times.  Those monks prayed 24 hours a day.  Surely I can do the Liturgy of the Hours 12 hours a day.

I saw immediately that actually staying with the clock was going to be a challenge. Sometimes I’m not up at 6:00 a.m. I know what you’re thinking. If I was really dedicated, I’d set an alarm to be sure I’m up at 6:00. But don’t be too hard on me - I’m trying to ease into this. I decided to do Prime when I get up, which is usually not later than 7:00 a.m. The other hours could follow, roughly three hours apart.

I usually get off to a good start with Prime first thing in the morning. But on the very first day of December, it was almost noon when I realized I hadn’t done Terse. "Why?" I asked myself. "Oh, yeah." I thought, "You were on the phone, having that long conversation with so-and-so." Oh well, nobody’s perfect. I did manage to get in the Sext prayers right after lunch.

After that, I'm sorry to say, the Liturgy of the Hours didn’t cross my mind again until bedtime. I reviewed my day and remembered that I was on Facebook when I should have been praying the None prayers, and I was watching TV at Vespers. OK, three out of six is not too bad for the first day. I did the Compline prayers and went to bed, resolving to do better the next day.

But the next two days weren’t much better. I did manage to get in four of the six Canonical Hours on the third day. Today I managed Prime, Terce, Sext, and Vespers. I was at a memorial service at the None hour - certainly a good reason for missing an hour. Even the monks were allowed to miss an hour for a good reason.

I think I’m making progress, but three hours passes pretty quickly when you're busy. Sometimes what makes me forget to pray is more worthy than Facebook or TV. Sometimes I’m washing dishes or doing the laundry or balancing the check book. Even though these things must be done, I’m already seeing that taking ten or twenty minutes of scripture reading and prayer at regular intervals during the day is an enriching experience. But it’s not as easy as I thought it would be. Kudos to those medieval monks!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dear Judith,

As this is my first comment I would like to start saying that I am very impressed by your blogs! We definitely seem to have things in common!

My personal way of praying is rather primitive. I pray when I'm walking to the train to work. I then pray; Glory to..., Our Father and then a cycle of prayers for family and friends.
As an old shortwave listener I try to listen to Mass in Latin from the Vatican Radio, when I work away from home I listen to/pray Laudes, Vesper and Compieta on demand from the Vatican Radio internet-site.