Wednesday, July 06, 2005

When Obligation becomes Privilege

This morning I went into our little Perpetual Adoration chapel to read my morning prayer and office of readings sometimes called Liturgy of the Hours. It occurred to me this morning that what once was a real struggle, has become such a part of my morning that I can't imagine not doing it. When did the struggle to remember recite these prayers become such a graced moment in my day?

For Priests and vowed religious this is an obligation. Each day they say the hours as generations of priests and religious have done so for a millennium. In fact my first exposure to them was in Thomas Merton's autobiography Seven Storey Mountain when he bought a set of breviary(priests prayer books) for himself before he became Catholic. This had always fascinated me. Why would anyone WANT to say the prayers that a priest HAD to say.

Then, several years ago my spiritual director had me begin to recite the Liturgy of the Hours, especially the Office of reading, as a practice of obedience. It was the one year anniversary of September 11th, and I had come to my direction appointment from a class where we used a modified form of morning prayer as our opening prayer every Wednesday. Since for that particular Wednesday the reading happened to be from Job: Naked I came from my mother's womb and naked I shall return. The Lord gives the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord." and then we recited the Canticle of Zechariah. Which all seemed so appropriate for the anniversary of 9/11 I asked Fr. Dan, my director if that was the real reading for the day or if the Priest who was teaching the class had fudged to make the readings fit the occasion.

Fr. decided that I should see for myself how awesomely the Liturgical cycle sometimes matched up with what was happening in the world and in our personal lives. He also wanted me to experience the rhythm of the daily recitation of the psalms and scripture readings and other holy readings that are built into the Liturgy of the Hours.

I wish I could say that from that moment until now I have been totally enamored of the obligation to say the daily office. I haven't. I have been very hit-and-miss at it. Lately though I have found myself craving morning prayer and the office of reading each day. It is as if I need that jump start to get my day going. And most days I find that something in the readings speaks to what is going on in my life that day. Eventually maybe I will be able to add evening prayer to that as well. Who knows.


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