I’ve been reading an article from “The Abbey Letter (Easter 2009)” from St. Gregory’s Abbey in Three Rivers Michigan.  It’s called “Seven Times A Day I Praise You” by Brother Martin.  He talks about various books you can use to say the Daily Office, including The Book of Common Prayer (from the Episcopal Church), A Monastic Breviary (from the Order of the Holy Cross), The St. Helena Breviary (from the Order of St. Helena), Celebrating Common Prayer (from the Anglican Franciscans in England, which is what I’m using for Morning Prayer these days), Common Worship:  Daily Prayer (from the Church of England), Take Our Moments and Our Days:  An Anabaptist Prayerbook (from the Mennonites) and Benedictine Daily Prayer:  A Short Breviary (an adaptation of the office as set down in the Rule of St. Benedict).  It’s a useful review of what you can find in each one of them, and there is information about ordering the books at the end of the article.

Besides using Celebrating Common Prayer for Morning Prayer, I’m using a form of the Anglican Rosary I’ve adopted from the BCP service of Compline before bed.  For me, this is an effort to incorporate a bit of reflective time in the context of using the offices.  I’ve been somewhat irregular in my practice of late, and I’m trying to work myself back into shape this Lent.

I guess the question people have about using the Office is “Why would you want to do this?”  And the traditional answer is that it has to do with the sanctification of our time.  God is always with us.  But in the course of our daily lives, we are all prone to forgetting that presence.  The basic idea is that by regularly interupting the daily course of our lives to spend time with our God, we become more aware of God’s presence.  We also learn more about God and our relationship with God through regular, disciplined reading of scripture (in the case of the offices, particularly our reading of the psalms).  We bring more to the table, and we get more out of our Sunday worship as a result.  Our lives start to be shaped by our practice.

There are many ways to spend regular time with God, of course.  I had a classmate in seminary who ran marathons.  He spent much of his training time in contemplation.  I had another friend who sang hymns at the beginning of each day.  I know people with a regular (twice daily) practice of contemplative prayer.  Some people spend time in nature (or with animals) specifically to be in God’s presence.

As with any regular discipline, there are going to be times that seem more fruitful and times that seem less fruitful.  There are going to be times when you feel it, and times when you don’t.  Brother Martin offers a useful reminder when we experience these drier times:

Finally, it is crucial to be faithful in praying the office. There will be times when you will feel you are not getting anything out of the practice of the Daily Office, or that you are not as focused as you should be. Don’t be too worried about that. There is more going on than meets the eye. Over time you will have
found that you have absorbed more than you thought you were. Praying a Daily Office is bound to become routine and at times thoughtless. This is unavoidable. Remain faithful in the practice anyway. You’ll be thankful that you did.

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