Friday, December 30, 2011

7 Quick Takes- best posts of 2011

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Okay. Lots of people are listing some of the most popular posts from their blogs during 2011, so I'll do the same. But My Soul Isn't Filled with Evils!  was written shortly after this blog began. It explained what to do with a  sorrowing psalm when your personal life has you feeling deliriously happy.
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Maybe it was just the clever, nostalgic title, but when this post said that Night Prayer was like Goodnight, Moon for Grownups, everyone went to look at it.
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One of my better ventures into apologetics was Talk About Graven Images!
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It's a little disconcerting when I get tons of  pageviews for posts that have nothing whatsoever to do with the Divine Office. But this minimalist birthday cake that I made for my son must have inspired lots of moms out there to get in touch with their inner Lazy Homemaker.
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Sometimes we don't even know where to get started with basic petitionary prayers. This post explains how the Holy Spirit helps us out with that. Another Pentecost-related post got lots of traffic because I mentioned Charlotte's Web in the title.
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My personal experience and  reflections on Padre Pio, done for his feastday, moved lots of readers. The topic of Venus and Mars praying together  was reassuring to spouses who weren't doing joint extemporaneous prayer sessions on a regular basis.
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Just about anything written about the New Missal was of interest to Catholics in November, and  this little craft piece  on updating one's breviary with scissors paste and a monthly devotional magazine saw lots of traffic. The big winner in December was about a quote from Isaiah that celebrates overpopulation.
For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Reasons for Hope

Just wanted to share, and agree with CatholicVote that these are indeed reasons to hope. See if your heart doesn't leap at each new item on this list.

Finding your Place in the Book-a Guide for the Confused

I just finished talking to a former Episcopal priest who converted to Catholicism in 1993. When the topic of the Divine Office came up, he joked that "I learned that I didn't have enough fingers to be a Catholic", referring to the frustration of learning to find one's place(s) in the breviary compared to the relative simplicity of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer.

A few days ago, another reader mentioned that his St. Joseph guide listed week IV in the psalter for the week after Christmas week: clearly an error. A very rare error, by the way. I think the St. Joseph's guide is an excellent resource. Since lots of people get new breviaries for Christmas, I thought it a good idea to re-print this old post  of hints for finding one's place when there is no St.Joseph's guide at hand, and no computer access to check an online breviary. Here it is:

A reader pointed out that there is a yearly booklet to go with your Christian Prayer book, that tells you what page(s) you should be on every day of the year.  I used to use one of these. Then the new year came and I'd forget to order the new booklet. Or I'd be lax in praying the office for a few weeks and then lose track of what week it was in the psalter. And even when I still had the current booklet, I had the habit of misplacing/losing it. Homeschooling mothers do a lot of that.

But my husband taught me  that if you keep your parish calendar at home, you can figure everything out yourself. All you need to know is your 4x  table. Look at the most recent Sunday on your calendar. It will say what Sunday in ordinary time it is. If by chance it's a multiple of four (4,8,12,16, etc.) then your should use week IV of the Psalter. If it's a multiple of 4, minus 1, (3,7,11,15...) then you want week III of the psalter. If it's a multiple of 4 minus 2, use week II. 4 minus 3?  Week I.

The four weeks of advent correspond with weeks I thru IV of the psalter. The six weeks of lent correspond to weeks I thru IV, then I and II again.  Same deal with the weeks of the Easter season.

Of course,  you can also find this on the computer, thanks to,, and probably others. But I like being able to manage without a computer.

Now, for those of you with shiny new breviaries, one or four-volume, that you received for Christmas--I have bad news for you. This is about the worst week of the year to figure out where you should be, and 2011 makes it especially bad due to having had Christmas on Sunday: we've lost our Holy Family Sunday and Baptism of the Lord Sunday this time around. Just know that every day this week, you will be using Sunday week I for the psalter of Morning prayer, whether you celebrate a Saint's feastday, or whether it's a weekday in the Octave of Christmas. Then, for evening prayer, do whatever it says for for Evening prayer for that day (Dec. 26-30)  Since today is the feast of the Holy Family, everything should be in one place for you, except for turning to Sunday week I for the psalms.

Tomorrow you may just do everything in the proper of seasons for 12/31, but you have the option of substituting the final prayer for the commemoration of St. Sylvester in the proper of Saints.There are old traditions associated with St. Sylvester and New Year's Eve--including recipes for "Sylvester Punch". If you are into fun Catholic customs, then you'll want to try this. There are recipes online, both alcoholic and Non.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

How Do Bishops Feel...

When they read this morning's second reading from the Office of Readings  for the feast of St. Thomas Becket?
Most , I imagine, feel humble and contrite,and  then resolve to be ever more faithful to their calling.
Do any feel smug, complacent, self-satisfied, Yep-that's-me-all-right?
I hope not.
Let's offer our Office for our bishops today. If you own the dvd of Becket, this would be a great day to enjoy it. If not, here is a wonderful scene. Many of the others are on You Tube as well.

Here is the letter of St. Thomas Becket from the ORR. Very powerful when you realize that this Saint practiced what he preached like few others, standing against his king (and former friend) to protect the rights of the Church, and finally giving his life. 

If we who are called bishops desire to understand the meaning of our calling and to be worthy of it, we must strive to keep our eyes on him whom God appointed high priest for ever, and to follow in his footsteps. For our sake he offered himself to the Father upon the altar of the cross. He now looks down from heaven on our actions and secret thoughts, and one day he will give each of us the reward his deeds deserve.

As successors of the apostles, we hold the highest rank in our churches; we have accepted the responsibility of acting as Christ’s representatives on earth; we receive the honor belonging to that office, and enjoy the temporal benefits of our spiritual labors. It must therefore be our endeavor to destroy the reign of sin and death, and by nurturing faith and uprightness of life, to build up the Church of Christ into a holy temple in the Lord.
There are a great many bishops in the Church, but would to God we were the zealous teachers and pastors that we promised to be at our consecration, and still make profession of being. The harvest is good and one reaper or even several would not suffice to gather all of it into the granary of the Lord. Yet the Roman Church remains the head of all the churches and the source of Catholic teaching. Of this there can be no doubt. Everyone knows that the keys of the kingdom of heaven were given to Peter. Upon his faith and teaching the whole fabric of the Church will continue to be built until we all reach full maturity in Christ and attain to unity in faith and knowledge of the Son of God.
Of course many are needed to plant and many to water now that the faith has spread so far and the population become so great. Even in ancient times when the people of God had only one altar, many teachers were needed; how much more now for an assembly of nations which Lebanon itself could not provide with fuel for sacrifice, and which neither Lebanon nor the whole of Judea could supply with beasts for burnt offerings! Nevertheless, no matter who plants or waters, God gives no harvest unless what he plants is the faith of Peter, and unless he himself assents to Peter’s teaching. All important questions that arise among God’s people are referred to the judgment of Peter in the person of the Roman Pontiff. Under him the ministers of Mother Church exercise the powers committed to them, each in his own sphere of responsibility.

Remember then how our fathers worked out their salvation; remember the sufferings through which the Church has grown, and the storms the ship of Peter has weathered because it has Christ on board. Remember how the crown was attained by those whose sufferings gave new radiance to their faith. The whole company of saints bears witness to the unfailing truth that without real effort no one wins the crown.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Enjoying Your Octave?


Just got back from a trip to Canada to celebrate my very new grandson's christening, and was thrilled to find a Christmas gift of three new followers, bringing that number to a nice tidy 70.  Thank you, Amy, "Liturgical Time", and Mac Anthony. I hope you enjoy visiting here, and please feel free to ask questions whenever you have them.

Also a hearty welcome to any new visitors who learned of this blog from reading my recent article in Our Sunday Visitor  or after following a link from Blessed Among Men

I hope you all have been enjoying a week that is not only among the most joyous of the year, but also one of the most interesting liturgically. There are two liturgical octaves (8 days of celebration)  each year, this one, and Easter week. Each day in the octave is considered pretty much a repeat of the high feast--Christmas or Easter. So each morning you will be praying the psalter of Sunday, week I. Even this Friday is considered to be a Sunday. This means, by the way, that if you practice  the tradition of abstaining from meat or doing some other penance every Friday of the year, this is one time you may consider yourself well excused from it. My children are always ready to remind me of that during both Octaves.

Now what makes the Octave of Christmas even more interesting, is that there are several obligatory saint's feasts that are fully integrated into the celebration of Christmas: St. Stephen, St. John the Apostle, and the Holy Innocents. On each of these days, the Office of Readings, Morning Prayer, and Daytime prayer is specific to the feast in its readings and antiphons, but then reverts back to the liturgy of Christmas Day for Evening Prayer. If you've been keeping up with your Divine Office the last few days, you will have seen how appropriate each of these feasts is to the Christmas octave.

Since the Church is telling us that each day in its octave is a liturgical repeat of Christmas Day, we should do our best to observe them in that spirit. Keep the Christmas carols playing. Don't take the tree or decorations down yet. Continue to do things that are festive ( "God rest ye Merry") and things that are holy. Even if you are back at work this week, there are small ways to accomplish this. Maybe surprise your spouse or children with some small gifts (heaven knows everything is  on sale this week). Go out to a movie one night.  Pray the joyful mysteries of the rosary each day of this week. Go Christmas caroling.  Do a work of charity.

And of course, pray the Hours during this unique week in the liturgical year.

Friday, December 23, 2011

O Emmanuel...


...God with us, Our King and Lawgiver, the awaited of the peoples and their Savior--come to save us, O Lod, our God.

From the Realm of Endless Day

Back next week. May God rest ye merry, gentlemen and gentlewomen!

Here's a gift for you. Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence is a very beautiful, very Catholic hymn. . I'm not the biggest John Michael Talbot fan, but I like his Chrismtas CD, and this version of the song, with its gorgeous orchestral setting, gets the power and the glory  just right. (although, unfortunately, the last verse is missing from this recording.)

As you listen to the song (lyrics below), just imagine that angel vanguard prostrate before an embryo in the Virgin's womb, or before a tiny white Host. The thought of the majestic humility of our God is just...heart shaking.

Let all mortal flesh keep silence, 
 and with fear and trembling stand;
 ponder nothing earthly-minded, 
 for with blessing in his hand, 
 Christ our God to earth descendeth, 
 our full homage to demand. 

 King of kings, yet born of Mary, 
 as of old on earth he stood, 
 Lord of lords, in human vesture, 
 in the body and the blood; 
 he will give to all the faithful 
 his own self for heavenly food. 

Rank on rank the host of heaven 
 spreads its vanguard on the way, 
 as the Light of light descendeth 
 from the realms of endless day, 
 that the powers of hell may vanish 
 as the darkness clears away. 

 At his feet the six-winged seraph, 
 cherubim, with sleepless eye, 
 veil their faces to the presence, 
 as with ceaseless voice they cry: 
 Alleluia, Alleluia, 
 Alleluia, Lord Most High!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

O King of Nations and--Question time!


O King of all the nations, the only joy of every human heart; O Keystone of the mighty arch of man, come and save the creature you fashioned from the dust.

O King of nations and their desired one, Cornerstone who binds two into one--come and save man whom you fashioned from the slime of the earth.

This is our two-for-one O Antiphon: King and Keystone.

If anyone out there knows the Latin, check that word for dust/slime. Personally, I'd rather be fashioned from dust.

Probably no one is spending much time pondering the ins and outs of praying the Divine Office this week. What with Christmas preparations, especially for us females, we're lucky there's time to pray the Hours at all, let alone meditate on it's structure, regulations, and history. But if you are enough of a mental multi-tasker to do this, then fire away, and I will scrape the cookie or nut-bread dough off my hands and answer!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Thank you, New Followers.

Coffee&Canticles now has one-tenth as many  followers as Mark Shea both on Google Connect and on Reader.   I find this highly encouraging since  the blog is less than one years old, it sticks to a rather narrow topic and thus appeals to a very specialized (elite? discriminating? classy?) audience.

Its goal, of course, is to help remove perceptions of the Divine Office as an elite niche of Catholic practice.

You can help with that goal by  spreading the word about this blog  to your friends who might be considering, or have already begun, praying the DO. But someone a breviary app for Christmas. Or a breviary.

Our Sunday Visitor will run a feature story on the Liturgy of the Hours in it's first issue of the new year. (written by yours truly). That's a good sign that in  the United States, the  Hours  are  on the way to becoming, as every pope since Paul VI has wished, "the prayer of the whole people of God."

The Annunication by Henry Ossawa Tanner, Philadelphia Museum of Art  

Even if you don't have the time, drive, or energy to pray the Office of Readings daily, it wouldn't be a bad idea to just squeeze in the second reading. It's always something from one of the saints, fathers, or councils of the Church. Just a great way to sample theses treasures that the Church has preserved for us from across the centuries. 

And even if you can't do this, today's second reading, from St. Bernard, is a gem of Marian poetry that ought not to be missed during this final week of Advent. You ought to be meditating on something this week, right? Here St. Bernard dramatizes that moment between the Angel Gabriel's announcement to Mary and her response. In those seconds or minutes of delay, the fate of us all seemed, to Bernard, to hang in a balance:

Tearful Adam with his sorrowing family begs this of you, O loving Virgin, in their exile from Paradise. Abraham begs it, David begs it. All the other holy patriarchs, your ancestors, ask it of you, as they dwell in the country of the shadow of death. This is what the whole earth waits for, prostrate at your feet. It is right in doing so, for on your word depends comfort for the wretched, ransom for the captive, freedom for the condemned, indeed, salvation for all the sons of Adam, the whole of your race.

Answer quickly, O Virgin. Reply in haste to the angel, or rather through the angel to the Lord. Answer with a word, receive the Word of God. Speak your own word, conceive the divine Word. Breathe a passing word, embrace the eternal Word.

Why do you delay, why are you afraid? Believe, give praise, and receive. Let humility be bold, let modesty be confident. This is no time for virginal simplicity to forget prudence. In this matter alone, O prudent Virgin, do not fear to be presumptuous. Though modest silence is pleasing, dutiful speech is now more necessary. Open your heart to faith, O blessed Virgin, your lips to praise, your womb to the Creator. See, the desired of all nations is at your door, knocking to enter...

You may read the rest of it in the ibreviary widget at the right.

O Key of David (old&new versions)

In your breviary:
O Key of David O royal  power of Israel controlling at your will the gate of heaven: come, break down the prison walls of death for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and lead your  captive people into freedom.

The older, more literal translation:
O Key of David and Scepter of the house of Israel,you open and no man can close, you close and no man can open; Come rescue the prisoners who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.

The older version calls to mind Matthew 18:18 where Our Lord give the power of the keys--to bind and to loose--to Peter. So here the antiphon reminds us not only that Jesus rescued us from the prison of sin by his redeeming death, but gives us a hint of continuity, as his Church is the vehicle of that saving, liberating grace.

Closing prayer -today's new missal collect.
O God, eternal majesty,whose ineffable Word the immaculate Virgin received through the message of an Angel,  and so became the dwelling place of divinity, filled with the light of the Holy Spirit, grant, we pray, that by her example we may in humility hold fast to your will. Through Our Lord, etc...

Monday, December 19, 2011

O Flower(Or Root?) of Jesse's Stem. have been raised up as a sign for all peoples; kings stand silent in your presence; the nations bow down in worship before you. Come, let nothing keep you from coming to our aid. 
-Magnificat antiphon, Dec. 19th.

Update: a reader asked why this antiphon begins "O Flower of Jesse's stem, when the Latin--O Radix--clearly says "Root of Jesse"  My guess is that we have another case of "dynamic equivalent",  modern translation in our breviary. On the other hand, the root connects to the stem and the end of the stem flowers. It's all one. Also, think of a very old hymn, "Lo, how a rose e'er Blooming." (from tender stem has sprung, from Jesses's lineage coming, etc.) So there is an old tradition of --what? Not a synedoche exactly, but something like that. Metonomy, maybe: using one part to refer to another. Here is the older translation:

O Root of Jesse, a standard to the peoples before whome ings are mute, to whom all nations shall appeal--come to deliver us; delay, we beg you, no longer.

Lots of bloggers are writing about the O Antiphons this week (yay!). You won't find a more detailed and interesting explication than this one.

Beware the Advent Police

Father Erik of the ever-entertaining Orthometer has posted a list of Liturgical Gripes today.

Among the gripes  was something that some of us, in our zeal to Preserve the Season of Advent, can be guilty of. If my adult kids were habitual blog surfers, they'd certainly be sending me this link today. Although they'd have to admit that we've relaxed considerably over the years. (or as they might put it, they've worn me down.)

"Advent Police. My first year at the seminary, the Ice Queen (tm) decreed that there would be no Christmas decorations at all during Advent. (I think she was descended from Burgermeister Meisterburger.) It made for the most depressing December EVER! Jesse Trees just don't cut it. I hear more and more of similar bans. Get a grip folks. I understand the desire to appreciate the Liturgical Season of Christmas, but get a grip folks. Saying Merry Christmas does not destroy Advent and neither do Christmas lights and trees. This problem can addressed by the gradual introduction of Christmas decorations culminating on December 25th and by leaving them up until the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. Liturgical Puritanism in not the answer."

Worth Doing Badly II

One of Coffe&Canticles favorite readers (favorite as in loyal and makes frequent comments ) is Melanie B. from Massachusetts, who has her own blog, The Wine-Dark Sea, a very sweet and intelligent Catholic mommy blog.  Late last night she left a comment on last week's Worth Doing Badly post, and it's worth sharing:
I just wanted to come back and say thank you for posting your description of your "badly done" evening prayer in the midst of chaos. I really needed that. I've started trying to pray morning prayer while cooking breakfast on those days when I don't get up before the kids instead of waiting to try to find a quiet time after breakfast that may or may not appear. It's been a gift. I've allowed myself to pray daytime prayer while hiding in the bathroom and to pray evening prayer while brushing my teeth. Giving myself permission to stop looking for the quiet place but to just pray in the midst of the chaos was exactly what I needed right now as the quiet places in my day have seemed to dry up recently. It's been like looking for a creek in Texas in August. There just isn't anything there. I've been so frustrated. 

Even though I've never held myself up to some sort of ideal of ordered peacefulness and have learned to pray with the kids climbing all over me, I guess I was still clinging to the notion that I should try to find time to sit down and devote my full attention. Letting go of that has really been a blessing.

My only followup is to make this suggestion to Melanie and all moms (and dads) who put down their breviary to attend to Life, only to see it sitting there several hours later and realize that one never got past the second psalm of the hour,and now it's time for the next hours to be prayed.  Don't try to go back and finish that earlier hour.  Imagine that your guardian angel finished it for you, since that is in fact what he did.   Your guardian angel, and the millions of believers all over the world. Sort of like when you get up  at mass to take a child to the bathroom. You wouldn't feel you had to go back and recite the prayer's you'd missed to "catch up" to the others. No, because they prayed the mass for you. That's  called the communion of saints. 

Friday, December 16, 2011

Close at Hand!

It seems that the Church's liturgy, in its now heightened anticipation of Christmas, recognizes the little kid in all of us. What we mothers do with our children in December is just a reflection of this: we begin by telling them that yes, Christmas is coming soon, but not too soon, and we pull out the calendar and show them how to count and cross off the days (or we use an advent calendar).The candles on the advent wreath are another way to help them mark the time.  But later, we let them know it's getting much closer, we say look! only ten more days! Only one more week!  And the little ones are jumping up and down with excitement, repeating the endless litany of Oh-I-can't-wait!

The liturgy went into this higher gear of anticipatory joy on Gaudete Sunday (3rd), and today, the 17th, takes us to the calendar and says look, little ones, it's almost here!  That's why the invitatory antiphon changes from the indefinite Come let us worship the Lord, the king who is to come, to the very urgent,

 The Lord is close at hand; come, let us worship him!

We also start the O Antiphons, as mentioned here two days ago.   These are so heatbreakingly beautiful, depicting so well the goodness and majesty of Christ and our longing and neediness. If anyone comes across a good set of meditations on these,please let me know. 

One last thing before I go to buy a sack of seed for the many finches, nuthatches, woodpeckers,cardinals, and juncos that depend on it.  This morning's Office of Readings contains a verse from Isaiah that has stood out as one of those key statements of the beauty and glory of the Incarnation:

Let justice descend, O heavens, like dew from above,
   like gentle rain let the skies drop it down.
Let the earth open and salvation bud forth;
   let justice also spring up!
   I, the Lord, have created this.

The Gregorian chant setting of it is well known to traditionalist Catholics. For those of you whose experience has not included much of our ancient musical heritage, I'd like to share this with you. 

7 Quick Takes-Last Minute Gifts

--- 1 ---
After a 3-day delay caused by a defunct hot water heater, holiday baking has finally begun. Almond bars and China Chews are done. Next: Kifli (Polish delicacy), sandies, fudge,lemon bars, and possibly pinwheels.   Shopping came to a grinding halt due to cost of replacing the water heater, but no fear,kids, all the big ticket items were already purchased. We'll just go leaner in the filling-in-the-cracks department this year. And on the stocking stuffers. The tree is up with the (apparently) one of a kind topper, purchased at a garage sale 18 years ago.

--- 2 ---
It still hasn't snowed with accumulation here and this is strange! Not ready to credit global warming yet, since the last 7 winters have yielded plenty of December snow. But pity my poor  husband, who is dying to try out the shiny new snow blower he bought on Black Friday.
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A few more last minute Catholic gifts in case you are not done.
I know that you know about the remarkable Catholicism dvd series by Father Barron of What you may now know is that it's now only $99 at Amazon. I've justified asking for this item for Christmas, because once my family has all watched it, I'm going to make it available for extended loan to our parish and/or our local Catholic High School. So my lust to possess this series will be tempered by an eventual good deed of evangelization.
--- 4 ---
If you can't quite see your way at this point to spending another $99, consider just getting Catholicism: the Book  I already have this and it is pretty darn good. Like the video series, this is not so much apologetics as a joyful and un-apologetic exposition of the Catholic universe. I love that it begins, not with proving the existence of God, but with the central Fact that makes our Faith too good to be true but true just the same: the Incarnation. Chapter 2 is the teachings of Jesus, and then in chapter 3 we backtrack to the existence of God in case any agnostics are listening in.

Product Details--- 5 ---
Here's a virtual stocking-stuffer for friends who own a Kindle. Infinite Space, Infinite God, edited by Karina Fabian, is a collection of Sci-Fi short stories  in which either  believing Catholic characters figure prominently and act on their faith, or Catholic themes are explored. Check the reviews--you'll see it's been well received. Although my own tastes in geek fiction run more to fantasy than sci-fi, this has been one of the exceptions that has grabbed and held my interest. You can't beat the price. If your e-reader of choice is the Nook, this book is also available in that format.  Infinite Space, Infinite God
--- 6 ---
On the other hand, maybe you believe the experience of reading should include the aesthetic delights of turning those fine, silky pages, feeling the heft of that volume in your hand,  stroking it's leather binding. St. Benedict Press  hears you loud and clear. A Year with the Angels  and A Year with the Church Fathers are two superb daily devotionals that will make splendid gifts. You'll really have the sense of giving a treasure with either of these books, with it's gold pages edged and embossed (imitation) leather cover. Let alone the content, which is generous daily helpings of writings of the fathers and saints, with unobtrusive introductory statements , one daily question for reflection, and  concluding prayers by  author Mike Aquilina.
A Year With The Church Fathers - Patristic Wisdom For Daily Living
--- 7 ---
May your final week of advent be (relatively) peaceful and (highly) prayerful and overall, joyous. 
For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

It's All About the "O"

Here comes a place in the Church year where a little piece of the Liturgy of the Hours joins up with popular devotion.

I refer to the famous "O Antiphons" the antiphon for the Magnificat at Evening Prayer  every day from December 17 through the 23rd.  Shorter versions of these, although in a different order, also appear in the mass at the verse before the Gospel during these days. You will also recognize more poetic versions of the O Antiphons as the verses of the hymn, "O Come,O Come Emmanuel."

The O Antiphons give us the names of the Messiah, drawn from the prophecies of the Old Testament. The O Antiphons were part of the liturgy since the early centuries of Christianity.This excellent wikipedia article tells more about them.

Many Catholic families like to integrate the O Antiphons into family prayer time during the countdown to Christmas. They might say them at the beginning or end of whatever is usually done for family prayer (e.g. rosary, bible reading, bedtime prayers with children).  In our home, the appropriate O Antiphon is read just after grace before dinner.  Some years we have also concluded dinner by singing the appropriate verse from O Come O Come Emmanuel, but that has fallen away as our most enthusiastic singers have grown up and left home.

Other families take the O Antiphons to the arts and crafts level, constructing an "O Antiphon house", which is something along the lines of an advent calendar, with doors that open each day on a different antiphon, providing both a focus of prayer and a cute way for little ones to count down the last week beforeChristmas. 
If you don't already have a family custom related to the O Antiphons--that's why I'm posting this two days before they start. You now have time to figure out how to display these jewels of the advent liturgy to your loved ones.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

How's Your Office Going?Holiday shortcuts and Your questions.

With all the extra chores and activities--fun but exhausting--that Advent imposes, it's tempting, and sometimes an absolute necessity, to skip some of your breviary.  That might mean leaving out one of the hours you're normally committed to (i.e. bye-bye day time prayer til 12/26) or it might mean sticking to your normal  prayer times, but taking a few short cuts to get them done faster. (i.e. skipping the psalm prayers or not repeating the antiphon at the end of the psalm.

This is not wrong! Remember, there is no requirement for you to pray with the same frequency or length at all times. There are seasons in our lives that might require changes in order for us to remain healthy and at peace.
The General Instruction on the Liturgy of the Hours says in several places that laity in particular can and should adapt the Hours to their situation.
At the same time, we do need the peace that a prayer break affords now more than ever. So don't cut too many corners if you can help it.

What does your minimalist version of the Divine Office look like when it's one of those days? And/or, how do you juggle the rest of your Advent committments so as to be faithful to daily prayer?

Also, any other  questions are welcome in the comments section today.

Scriptural Exegesis in 4 Easy Steps!

 When you pray the Liturgy of the Hours, there is great merit and satisfaction in doing so simply because it is the public prayer of the Church: a  world wide sacrifice of praise that unites you to your Catholic brothers and sisters and to our Savior in His eternal prayer to the Father.  That would be true even if you were reading the psalms in a foreign language which you could pronounce but not understand, so long as your intention was to do what the Church intends when we pray the Hours.

But using  our own language, we can get even more out of the Divine Office by praying with understanding.That is, by thinking about the meaning of the words we pray. I know this sounds obvious, but stay with me.

The Divine Office is about 90% scripture. So the more you know about how to understand scripture, the more interesting,and  inspiring your prayer will be. Hence, the 4 Easy Steps. These are the four ways, or "senses" of understanding Sacred Scripture. These are the literal sense, the moral sense, the allegorical sense, and the anagogical sense. I'll briefly explain each of these with reference to psalm 68 , which appears in the psalter for Tuesday, week III, Office of Readings.

1. Literal sense.This means reading the scripture as it was plainly intended by the author. Psalm 68 is a triumphal song of victory, describing how enemies have been defeated,  and spoils of battle enjoyed.God is credited, thanked, and praised throughout as the source of this victory. Focusing on the literal sense might lead one to admire this humble and thankful attitude of Israel and the joyful exuberance of their praise. Or might make you wonder which victory the psalm commemorates.
 2. Moral sense How might this scripture apply to me personally? It might make me resolve to be more confident that God is with me and will save me from evil. It might inspire me to remember with gratitude of any recent "victory" God has brought about in my life.
3. Allegorical sense How does this apply to Christ and the mystery of redemption? Read Psalm 68 and apply its  imagery  to Our Lord's victory over Satan,sin, and death, won on the cross. He bears our burdens, God our savior....he leads the prisoners forth into freedom.  The sacraments of baptism and the Eucharist can be seen in You poured down,O God , a generous rain: when your people were starved you gave them new life.  Two other lines, make a highway for him who rides on the clouds,and the Lord, who rides on the heavens, the ancient heavens, might bring to mind the Ascension of Jesus.
4. Anagogical sense How does the scripture put us in mind of heaven as our final goal? Perhaps with Psalm 68 one could reflect life as the ultimate battle, as we fight the good fight  with Jesus for the salvation of our souls to attain a triumphant entry into heaven.

One Caveat: Unless you have a literal, 60 minute  hour or more to spare for each liturgical hour, don't, I repeat, don't try to find each of the four senses of scriptural meaning in every verse you read. Or even every psalm. You would only drive yourself crazy.     If you are a normal person with a job to get to, children to care for, a  lawn to mow, or a car to wash, and emails to answer, then you don't have the time to parse each psalm of each hour in this way.

My advice is to just keep the four senses of scripture in the back of your mind without trying to use them all the time.  The literal sense,of course, will come to you without effort if you read the psalm with attention; it's the plain sense of what you are reading.  If you are moved to look beyond the literal, then ask yourself one of these questions: What is God telling me here (moral sense)?; What does this say about Christ or the Church (allegorical sense)? ; How does this help me think of my final purpose and end? (Anagogical sense)

After praying the Divine Office for a while, the various meanings or senses will start jumping out at your as you pray. Once this starts happening, the Liturgical Hours will almost become addictive.

Here's a link for more explanation of the four senses of scripture.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Rare Pauline Breviary sightings!

Some time ago  I lamented that the Pauline Editions (Daughters of St. Paul) one-volume breviary was out print,
and a few days later gave the hopeful news that there were plans on the part of Pauline Media to come out with a new one eventually.

In the meantime, a cache of Pauline breviaries is available from the online catalog of Our Lady'e Missionaries of the Eucharist.  They cost  $35 plus postage.

To recap why I love this one-volume breviary better than the Catholic Book Publishing Company edition of Christian Prayer:

  1. Pauline is more complete, containing the complete 4-week psalter for daytime prayer, not just the sampler that CBPC has. 
  2. Pauline prints the morning and evening gospel canticles on every single day of the psalter, so there is one less ribbon to flip. 
  3. Antiphons printed both at the beginning and at the end of each psalm and canticle.
Two drawbacks: 1.  No red ink, only black, and slightly smaller font than CBPC, so it may not be the best choice for the severely far-sighted. 2. The cover is stiff hardback rather than flexible, which some people don't find as comfortable to hold. 

Thank you to the alert anonymous reader who let me in on this source of Pauline breviaries.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Christ and the Church right there in Isaiah

From today's Office of Readings --the regular weekday office, not the common of Our Lady for O.L. of Guadalupe--we continue with Isaiah, plumbing the depths and puzzling through prophecy, prophecy, and more prophecy.

Isaiah is tough for us non-scholars (and  probably for them too) because his prophecies refer to, and/or can be applied to, many events at different times in history: The upcoming conquest of Israel, it's exile, it's return, the coming of the Messiah, the fall of Jerusalem, the Church as the new Jerusalem.  After a few weeks of advent, the lines of Isaiah can all seem to blur together into an endless cycle of destruction and woe, promises of restoration and redemption, woe, redemption, etc.etc.

So it's nice when something jumps out at  you, fresh and wonderful. Today this happened  as I read what seems to speak of the Eucharist, baptism, the preaching of Jesus, and the ongoing instruction He gives us through the teaching authority  of the Catholic Church:

The Lord will give you the bread you need and the water for which you thirst.
No longer will your Teacher hide himself, but with your own eyes you shall see you Teacher.
While from behind, a voice shall sound in your ears: "This is the way; walk in it," when you would turn to the right or to the left.

Wow! That's what Jesus does today through the Church, as surely as He did it standing the shores of Galilee or sitting on Mt. Tabor. We are not left to page frantically through the Bible, comparing that verse with this one, looking up what the Hebrew or the Greek says, consulting this or that theologian for interpretations.
Instead, we look to Peter,a teacher we can see,  who with the authority Christ gave to him  says "This is the way. Walk in it."