Monday, March 7, 2011

Cruising through today's Liturgy - March 7th

Monday morning. The kids have left on the school bus. Time to pull out the breviary...let's see. I could go with Monday Week I, but I do have the choice of the memorial of Sts. Perpatua and Felicity. I like these girls a lot, so I will go with their  Office. This means using the Common of Several Martyrs. Commons can be thought of as generic offices for saints grouped by their category, for example, martyrs, holy men, holy women, pastors, virgins, apostles, religious. If you were martyred in a group rather than individually, you fall into the Common of Several Martyrs.

Every feast and solemnity  has the same morning prayer psalms--those of Sunday Week I. I love this, because these are beautiful psalms:
Oh God you are my God, for you I long, for you my soul is thirsting...I gaze on you in the sanctuary to see your strength and your glory....for your love is better than life...in your name I will lift up my hands...my soul shall be filled as with a banquet... Psalm 63 is at once so Hebrew and so Eucharistic that to me it is the perfect and greatest example of why praying the psalms is such a privilege, and so worth doing the work of getting comfortable  praying them.  If I were a saint I'd probably go into ecstasy every time I read this psalm, it is so beautiful.

From there we go to the next psalm, which is not a psalm but a Canticle. It's from the book of Daniel, a long litany where we ask every created thing--angels, ice, rain, snow, stars, mountains, lightning, dolphins, and men to "praise and exalt Him above all forever." The poor Protestants count this canticle as "apocryphal" -- one more thing for which to pity them.

Moving on to Psalm 149, where it says of us faithful, Let the praise of God be on their lips and a two-edged sword in their hand.  Some people don't like the violence of the psalms.  I just tell them to apply it to a desire to  kill off their own sinful inclinations. Whack!  It works for me. In addition, I can never recite this line without thinking of the Riders of Rohan who "sang as they slew, for the joy of battle was upon them". (Sorry. Major Tolkien geek here.)

If I have time for the Office of Readings today, I get to read an eyewitness account of the martyrdom of Perpetua and Felicity. Perpetua actually had to guide "the shaking hand of the inexperienced gladiator to her throat. Such a woman...could perhaps herself not been killed, had she herself not willed it."

When I was a romantic and ignorant adolescent, I used to ask God to grant me the grace of  martyrdom. I have since told him  that I take it back. I worry about this from time to time, since who knows which prayer He will grant?  Evening Prayer for the Common of Martyrs consoles me with Psalm 116, one of the many psalms with the God-will-get-me-through-this-and-eventually-I'll-be-glad-it-happened theme. I was helpless so he saved me...I trusted even when I said: 'I am sorely afflicted'...the cup of salvation I will raise; I will call ont he Lord's name...I will walk in the presence of the Lord in the land of the living." Besides applying this psalm to my silly fears, I can also pray it in solidarity with  real martyrs in places like India, Sudan, Egypt, and Iraq.

So that's my Office for the day.

By the way, do you ever wonder why its called the Office? Maybe I'll talk about that next time. It will be a much shorter post than this one.




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