Saturday, July 12, 2014

A mainline Protestant meets the Liturgy of the Hours

Checking some search results today, I came across this piece written by a non-Catholic making an informal retreat at a monastery guesthouse. He joins the monks for each of the liturgical hours, and has some interesting reactions to it all.

I disagree with him that the Liturgy of the Hours marks "chronos" rather than "kairos" time. Clearly it can do both. (But this gentleman couldn't know that at this point in his acquaintance with it.) But he was spot on when he said this:

While we were there, one of the brothers passed away on the premises. He was old and sick; still, it happened rather suddenly. The monks heard the news at church a half hour later. Then they did what they always do: they prayed the psalms. I suspect that if some Job-like tragedy wiped out all but one of them, he’d still show up for the Divine Office that day, singing antiphonally with the cloud of witnesses.
So I began to appreciate that I was not a second-class participant in a worship event some hierarchically-minded person planned. I was an observer of a holy practice of marking the passage of time, a practice as reliable as time itself.

7 comments:

  1. Funny he should mention a "Job-like tragedy", such as wiping all but one of the monks, - because something like that actually happened. It's from the life of St. Bede. He practically grew up in a monastery, having been placed in the Monastery of Wearmouth and Jarrow, at the age of 7 by his parents (not an unusual practice for the time). In 686, a plague swept through that area of England, devastating the monastery, leaving only two surviving monks who could sing the entire Divine Office: one of which was 14 year old Bede. The two carried on singing the liturgy until others could be trained.

    - Peace to you Daria

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    1. And with you, Kevin! Clarification understood.

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  2. I should clarify: that there were more than the just the two monks that survived, but Bede and the other were the only ones left that could "sing" (as opposed to saying) the Office.

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  3. Thanks for the link. There are many interesting points in it, but his reaction to the readings from the Fathers of the Church is noteworthy, his realisation that they have something to offer even though, or perhaps because, they don't start from our world-view.

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  4. I recently had a retreat at a Trappist monastery. I loved praying the hours with the monks. I got up for vigils which was the first time I had ever done that and I do not think I will ever miss that opportunity again! Thanks for this!

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  5. When I read this: "one where I could participate in worship planning, and prioritize the active and conscious participation of the assembly, and create a clear and hospitable worship aid, etc." I don't think mainline Protestant. I think non-denominational Evangelical. I'm glad he went and saw how it can be done without laser light shows and extrinsic drama.

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    1. Good point about the evengelical flavor to his usual experience of worship, but he later expresses mainline discomfort with biblical literalism and also uses the adjective "mainline": I’m fascinated by the story—it’s probably the New Testament narrative I have the hardest time taking seriously as an account of what actually happened. Clearly I’m not alone in this. Take the cosmology problem, add our mainline preference for all things immanence, and it’s no surprise that it seems you’re as likely to hear a sermon against (or at least in spite of) the Ascension as one simply on it.
      Maybe he's a liberal evangelical, or a mainliner whose church is struggling to attract congregants through putting on a more evengelical-styled program each Sunday.

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