Sunday, September 2, 2012

Book Update and OOR Thought



"Perhaps we should stop seeing the office of readings as “that really long liturgical hour with those two long readings” and start thinking of it as “that really compact, efficient daily prayer & study time that makes it possible for me to pray, read scripture, and read the best of the writings of the saints, all in less than half and hour”. Because that it what it is. Perhaps, looking at it this way, more people would be eager to try it. "
-from The Everyday Catholic's Guide to the Liturgy of the Hours 

Time for one of my (mercifully) infrequent posts on the progress of The Book. Chapter 5 had discussed every individual element of the LOTH, from antiphon to psalm to reading  to canticle, etc. Now I'm finishing up chapter 6, which discusses the unique character or personality of each of the hours. E.g. I pointed out how all the psalms that talk about morning and sunrise appear in morning prayer,and  how  daytime prayer is about taking a short rest from our daily duties and gathering the grace to see them to completion. 
I got a little stuck on the office of readings, since it doesn't have that specific "time of day" character. It's middle of the night in monasteries but can be any time for the rest of us. Could be a vigil on the previous evening. Could be the prelude to morning prayer. Could be any time at all. 
So I'm describing it as the "wisdom" hour. The only hour where praise (psalmody) is not the main event, but the warm up act. The main event is to drink deeply from the well of the Word,and then to sit at the feet of our elder brothers and sisters in the faith as their  disciples. 

If you are a fan of the office of readings, please share your enthusiasm in the comment box below.Tell me why you really like it.  You might remind me of some angle on the OOR that I should mention in the book. This is the chapter where I hope readers will be persuaded to go beyond that one-volume Christian Prayer. Any and all insights would be appreciated!



23 comments:

  1. I'm always amazed at how the readings almost always relate in some way to not just my life but what is going on in the wider world. I've always remembered the readings during the week of 9/11, which included the feast of the Triumph of the Cross.

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  2. This is where I begin to burble incoherently.

    It's NOT long. It goes by quickly.

    First, you get three more Psalms to your day. Psalms are good. Psalms are VERY good.

    Second, you can tack it onto the front of Morning Prayer very conveniently, so you get a big slug of Psalms to start your day.

    Third, I have yet to come across a reading that is less than very interesting -- though sometimes the translations of Scripture give me the heebie-jeebies. The readings from fathers and the other documents are the creme de la creme.

    I'm sure nearly everyone has had the experience of reading the Scriptures and coming across a verse that 'had their name on it.' It was the verse you needed to read that day, that spoke to your heart where it was.

    It's somewhat like that with the second reading -- somewhat. An idea gets articulated exactly as you need it to be. A metaphor clarifies an entire murky problem. A saint leaves you dazed with the "beauty of holiness". The dross around a tricky argument is burned away, leaving the shining structure and framework.

    Maybe the right way to begin would be to promise yourself to pray the OOR on the memorials of saints who mean a lot to you. But the rewards lie, I think, in praying more often.

    Some are reasonably concerned because of the cost of the LOTH. But now that the Divine Office is on line, that's no longer an insurmountable problem.

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  3. I love the Office of Readings. Even though I only have the one Volume "Christian Prayer," I still use the Office of Readings abbreviated form that's in the back. I wish breviaries were not so costly because i would like to actually have a hard copy without having to go online to pray the exact readings. However, I am not sure when the new translation of the LOTH will come out. If it is coming out in a year or so, then there is no point of buying it now. I wish the USCCB could release a letter saying that they are still in the process of getting the exact Latin translation for the prayers and readings; this could be helpful to me so I know when a convenient time is to buy a set of the volume versions.

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    1. Matt, I can assure you that it will definitely be more than a year before we get a new translation of the LOTH. I'm guessing at least five, others say more like ten. If I were you I'b buy a set of the current edition if you don't like going online for the readings. One way to do this on a budget is to purchase one volume at time. Right now you'd need volume IV, for the remaining weeks of ordinary time. Or else start with volume I when Advent begins.

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  4. It's my favorite office. I do wish the Scripture translations were more graceful -- they are sometimes clunky. But I like the way they are NOT broken up into chapters and verses, so that I read the passages as the full chunks of thought they are meant to be.

    But it's the second readings that I really enjoy best. I wouldn't know where to start reading the Fathers, and this way I have a place to just jump in. Sometimes on saint's days, I "cheat" and read the regular second reading AND the reading for the feast, because I don't want to miss anything. It does amaze me how a pre-set cycle of readings for the universal Church always has something in it to "speak to my condition," to steal the Quaker phrase, if I am paying even the slightest bit of attention.

    (Mini - intro: I think it's important to say that I don't so much pray the Office as read it, though I do try to pray. I started reading the hours after I had begun riding the bus on my commute. I found struggling with malfunctioning wheelchair lifts and mysteriously "too full" buses made me so edgy I'd snarl and snap, and it would make the drivers even LESS helpful in a vicious cycle. I realized that I'd feel EVEN WORSE if I snapped at people when I had just finished reading Scripture. And that is my ignoble motivation for starting a practice that has continued and grown to encompass hours other than Morning and Evening and to include Saturdays and Sundays.)

    Question: If I pray the Office of Readings on the previous calendar day, do I save the Invitatory of the day for Morning Prayer? Thanks.

    PS: Hi, Deacon Mike. Fancy seeing you here! :)

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    1. The OOR has always been my favorite office. Why? Because following it during the course of the year you get to read most of the bible and if you include the daily mass readings you have read a huge chunk of the Holy Book. I consider the scriptural reading as the best of the bible---books that we should be familiar with.It is after all our life's story and its continuing to develop as we grow in our life with the Lord. The readings from the fathers from my point of view are not only complimentary to the chapters being read on a particular day but they offer a continuos education of our faith. We have readings on the meanings of our faith---why the Birth of Our Lord---the Fathers in the Advent volume inform us. Same goes for Lent, Easter and even Ordinary Time. To think that these faith revelations have been consistent for centuries just boggles one's mind. Reading and reflecting on the office is not only a spiritual exercise but a great learning tool. To think the church has organized and given all its members this wonderful tool---The Liturgy of the Hours---and within the OOR the Church has given us the best of the best both from the bible and from the fathers. Its amzing not more Catholics are taking advantage of this beautiful tool.

      Lenny V.

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    2. Naomi,
      You are right about the invitatory. Use it before the first hour of the morning, whatever that may be.
      May I quote from what you wrote above in my book? I'm adding a little section that says "ordinary Catholics rave about the OOR" I just wanted to add the sentence that says "I wouldn't know where to start reading the Fathers and this way I have a place to jump right in." Is that all right with you?
      PS I like your blog.

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  5. Lenny V. with Part 2 of my love of the OOR.
    As the bible is presentedI always found it challenging to read the bible within a year. Using the office has helped me read more of the bible than I would have on my own. As the Spirit moves me I may read the chapters prior and after (from the bible) the assigned daily reading. I also use the recently published Catholic Prayer Bible: Lectio Divina Edition. After reading the assiged scripture I look up the reading in the bible and using the suggested meditations and thoughts meditate on the reading and hoping to apply it to my life. I have also used a study bible so as to get the context of what is being said. To try and keep this fresh I alternate between the prayer bible and a study bible from one month to the next. One is never finished reading the bible---its a lifelong process so I never feel the need to do it all in a given period of time.

    Hope my replies were not too long----

    Lenny V.

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    1. Not too long at all. may I quote you in my book?

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    2. Daria---yes, feel free to quote my responses above. Am praying that your book gains new users and prayers of the LOH.

      Lenny V.

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    3. I am new to the LOTH, but I share Lenny and Naomi's enthusiasm for the OOR. Actually, I didn't even realize that it was not a temporally fixed hour--which seems to bind it ever more deliciously to eternity. I'm completely hooked on the Fathers; how beautiful to hear St. Anthony or Jerome roaring out of the desert. I often find that it is these passages that speak to me the most in whatever desert I might be inhabiting at the moment.
      Why, I wonder, are most of the patristic commentaries found inthe OOR instead of being distributed thoughout the other temporal hours? Actually I did end up reading the OOR for St. Gregory on the night before his feast day and was greatly moved to think I had the privilege to stand in the spirit with such as these to lift up the shepherds of the church while crouched right there by the eerie light of my smart phone...

      - Susan M.

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    4. Thanks for you thoughts, Susan. I think the patristic readings are confined to the OOR because that's where they belong. The OOR is the hour set aside for these wonderful lessons. The other hours maintain focus on praise and petition.
      I like to imagine what these mighty Christian teachers of old are thinking or saying about us, reading their words on smart phones and the like.

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    5. I should fear to know what they might think.
      True, the OOR is not simply a recepticle for material that "does not fit" in the other hours, and it is good to be reminded of this. It has its own identity, and I also love your phrase, "the wisdom hour."

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  6. Daria,
    Your term "the wisdom hour" is a good one, I think.
    Reasons to love the hour:
    (1) Continual revisiting of historical persons and their thinking in the context of reflection on scripture: that is THE way to come to understand Church as Church in the full and orthodox Body of Christ sense. For here is an experience of communion--a meeting of minds that comes of a stretching of minds--minds reaching to grasp the mysteries of faith hidden and revealed in scripture and minds reaching out to touch one another--both to give and to receive wisdom. In the readings I "get to know" the thoughts of Pope Saint Gregory, Origen, Saint John Chrysostom, Saint Ambrose, et cetera, in a spirit of prayerful reflection and in the context of shared struggle--for I and they together are trying to do the same thing: bring to fruition in ourselves and in our lives the growing seed of the word of God.

    So...communion...the age of ages...catholicism...made real and present, personal and vital and relevant to the now.

    Good luck with the book.

    And thanks for legitimating the occasional consumption of coffee whilst praying the canticles--I often do that and find it works...but sometimes feel a deep pang at how very un-monkish it seems.

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    1. There's an old Jesuit joke about a novice who asked if it was okay to smoke while you are praying. The answer was smoking while you prayed was not quite right, but praying while you smoked was just fine.

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    2. Oh, what a beautiful definition of communion. I think I can only weep to read what you have written there: "a meeting of minds that comes of a stretching of minds reaching up to grasp the mysteries of faith hidden and revealed in scripture...". What you seem to say is that the Spirit of Revelation hidden in the Fathers, say, brings our limited minds to a greater comprehension of God's knowledge of Himself in the trinity.

      thank you.

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    3. That Jesuit joke gets the balance exactly right: No...not quite "legitimation" of consumption during prayer--but affirmation that prayer under any circumstances is always preferrable to skipping the prayer.

      The Jesuits really have their own peculiar and charismatic style of wisdom, haven't they?

      Thank you, Susan, for reading and commenting...yes, that deeply felt and known communion does tend to make us weep for sheer joy. God is inutterably good.

      Yours in Christ.

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    4. I've seen that joke told in different ways. In some versions it's two different monks from different orders asking permission to pray and smoke at the same time. I've heard it with a Dominican and a Jesuit. In that version, told by a Dominican, the one who asks to pray while he smokes, obviously the more clever fellow, is of course the Dominican.

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  7. Oh, and as to time of day...I like to tackle the OOR first thing, directly after/coupled with the Invitatory, which is too short to count for an hour by itself.

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  8. I pray the OOR before Morning Prayer. It's like curling up with a good book in a way since I know I will be in the rocking chair for a bit praying both OOR and Morning Prayer. I have the one volume Christian Prayer but am blessed to be able to access Ibreviary on my Kindle with the OOR of the day. I love how the psalms, scripture and writings from one of the Fathers all tie in with a single theme, especially if it is a particular Feast Day we are celebrating liturgically. These are readings I, most likely, wouldn't have discovered on my own and I always find a nice verse to ponder on through the day.

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  9. It was the OOR that got me to make the leap from Christian Prayer to the 4 volume LOTH. I was reading the optional reading for Holy Saturday, which is included in Christian Prayer and which is still one of my favorites of all time. Raving about it to my dad, he used it as a wedge to get me into the LOTH, which arrived in the mail shortly thereafter.

    Also, this year during Easter I was mostly listening the the OOR on the Divine Office podcasts. Isabella, 6, decided she loved the Book of Revelation and would stop what she was doing and come to listen every day to the full reading. i'm not sure why she loves Revelation. She has a great devotion to St John the Evangelist, who she calls one of her favorite saints-- she got so excited when we passed a St John the Evangelist parish yesterday. Anyway, the format can win over even young Catholics.

    And I love the Te Deum at the end of the OOR on Sundays and feasts. So beautiful!

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  10. What a remarkable child! Revelation is such a difficult book to make sense of, and so much of it not pleasant reading besides. Interesting, but not pleasant.
    Have you and Isabella seen the dvd St. John in Exile? It's a wonderful one-man show by actor of 1960s Disney fame, Dean Jones.

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  11. I'm still scratching my head over it. I suspect most of it is totally over her head and she just likes the sound of the words. But I really don't know most times what's going on in her head.

    I haven't seen the DVD, no. But it looks like something we might want to look up.

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