When I pray the Daily Office: the diet of Morning and Evening Prayer which is required of all those in Ordained Ministry, I am filled with a sense of awe and wonder. I love the cycle of daily prayer, the immersion in the Psalms and focusing of the day in prayer: Fr George Guiver CR used to call it being pickled in the Scriptures.
But I have to be honest, getting to the point of O Lord, open our lips has always been hard. No matter how much I get out of the Office when I do it, I find that finding the enthusiasm to actually open the book much harder: at home there are many many distractions and so many meetings that want to start at the time when I should be praising God. I have also in the past found praying alone quite a drag: a spiritual desert at times.
When I appealed to the Parish for help, I have been wonderfully supported: a couple of good members of the parish now come and pray the morning office with me, five days a week. Corporately said prayer strengthens all those who take part in it, and I can see the benefit in them, as well as sense it in me. If you are in Elson and want to join us at just after 9am most mornings then you are most welcome to join us. The prayers last about 15 minutes and by placing the day into the hands of God, by bringing to mind the needs of the world and specifically our community to him in prayer, the day begins right.
After a brilliant fortnight in Walsingham for the Youth Pilgrimage, where we went back to praying in a community in a way that I havn’t done since I left Mirfield, Lou and I have been saying the Offices together, so my Evening Prayer is no longer a solitary journey. This has transformed that prayer also: it is a shared experience and a sign of our journey together. As we explore the scriptures and hear God speaking so vividly through the Psalms, new insights into our own faith journeys are happening: I havn’t felt like this for about 15 years!
I have used a variety of forms of Office over the years: Celebrating Common Prayer (which I still love), the Mirfield Office (which I still miss terribly, but you need monks to make it work), The Book of Common Prayer, Common Worship Daily Prayer and where I always return to, the Divine (Roman) Office: for all its complexity, its arcane assumptions of familiarity which make it so hard to introduce to newcomers, its non-inclusive prayers (everyone I know changes the phallocentric prayer on-the-fly), it is still the best, most beautiful, most comprehensive daily office to be found. I have produced a laminated card for Matins and Evensong which we use in the parish to support the Shorter Morning and Evening Prayer books which were cheap enough for us to buy a handful. It saves a lot of flicking back and forth in the book. You can have this for you all to borrow/adapt/steal and improve.
S. Ephraim described the Scriptures as like a fountain, a source of living water. Praying the Office can refresh and revive the parched soul. I pray that you too may find similar refreshment in the calm cycle of pouring over his Holy Word. This is what sustains the Church. This is what sustains this Priest. This is the work of the Church.
A prayer for admission to the Temple
1 Protect me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
2 I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord;
I have no good apart from you.”
3 As for the holy ones in the land, they are the noble,
in whom is all my delight.
4 Those who choose another god multiply their sorrows;
their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out
or take their names upon my lips.
5 The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup;
you hold my lot.
6 The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
I have a goodly heritage.
7 I bless the LORD who gives me counsel;
in the night also my heart instructs me.
8 I keep the LORD always before me;
because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.
9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices;
my body also rests secure.
10 For you do not give me up to Sheol,
or let your faithful one see the Pit.
11 You show me the path of life.
In your presence there is fullness of joy;
in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit
As it was in the beginning, is now, and shall be for ever, world without end. Amen