Monday, December 24, 2012

A Blessed Christmas to All

Angels and Archangels may have gathered there,

Cherubim and Seraphim thronged the air.

But His Mother only, in her maiden bliss,

Worshipped her Beloved, with a Kiss.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

God to Earth: 4 kids per bedroom a Good Thing

photo from
Today's first reading in the Office of Readings, from Isaiah, contains lines that were enormously consoling to me years ago when I was expecting my fourth child. We were living in a smallish 3 bedroom ranch in California--no attic, no basement, and a one car garage that held all the things one would normally store in an attic or a  basement.

Although I laugh now to think about it, I was at the time in a minor panic over how I would house the next child were it to be a girl. My two older daughters were in one small bedroom, and our son in the other. A certain relative hinted that putting three children in one bedroom simply is Not Done, nor does one ever, ever, let children of opposite sexes share a room, even if one is a preschooler and the other a newborn.  I was still young and silly enough to care about keeping  this person's good opinion, even though it had already  been lost years before when I had the bad taste to become  pregnant on my honeymoon.

Sure enough, I had another girl. Little Maryanne had no idea how unhappy she was supposed to be, sharing a 10x11  room with two adoring sisters who were in fierce competition to see who could make her smile often. When she was 5 weeks old I picked up the breviary and read this December 22nd  passage from Isaiah:

Though you were waste and desolate,
   a land of ruins,
Now you shall be too small for your inhabitants,
   while those who swallowed you up will be far away.
The children whom you had lost
   shall yet say to you,
“This place is too small for me,
   make room for me to live in.”

And guess what? This was not a prediction of woe for Israel, but a promise of hope and blessing!

In other words, God used my predicament --a predicament I would have at regular intervals for the next 20 years--as an illustration of a good, highly to be envied  situation.  And the people of Israel, uncorrupted by  articles in Parents Magazine about the pitfalls of siblings sharing a room, understood this.  

 Isaiah helped me to realize that my problem was a pretty good one to have. 

Friday, December 21, 2012

Radiant Dawn!

Making Polish nut roll right now. Here's a post from last year.

From tonight's Vespers:

O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice: come, shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.

This is my favorite O Antiphon. I love sunrises--they're the only thing that ever makes it worth getting up early.  And there's that serendipitous  Sun/Son  homophone that we English-speakers enjoy.  Also, there is a tradition that at the Second Coming (which is what we are rehearsing for with our yearly celebration of Advent and Christmas), Our Lord will appear in the east: "For as lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the son of man be." (Matt.24:27)  Today's concluding prayer also references that final advent:
Hear in kindness, O Lord, the prayers of your people, that those who rejoice at the coming of your Only Begotten Son in our flesh may, when at last he comes in glory, gain the reward of eternal life.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Last Minute Gifts 4 Catholic Readers

Surely you've already bought gifts for all the book lovers on your list. But perhaps you are the book lover, and want to drop a few hints. Thanks to the miracle of e-readers, all of these can arrive by Christmas. Even for hard copies, you still have until 3 p.m. today (Eastern standard time) to get them in time from Amazon. And speaking of Amazon, use the links at the end of this post to get right to the title you want, and send a few pennies to Coffee and Canticles, so that I can afford more postage for book giveaways.

The Christmas Plains by Joseph Bottum A well known writer and editor tells of his childhood Christmases in the Black Hills of South Dakota, while meandering back and forth to other times and places as well: 1888 and its killer blizzard; modern-day New York during it's rare moments of snow-covered stillness. Bottum fondly recalls so many favorite things--story books, carols, vinyl LP Christmas recordings, toys--that were of almost sacramental significance to him as a boy. Needless to say, the larger spiritual themes are there, subtle and graceful.

The Complete Thinker--the Marvelous Mind of G.K.Chesterton by Dale Ahluqist. Some people find Chesterton's essays difficult because of all the references to the culture, politics, and personalities of early 2oth century England. They find to easy to miss the forest among all those pesky trees. Dale Ahlquist acts as your personal Chesterton sherpa. On a wide variety of topics (the problem of evil, war and peace, law and lawyers, life and death, the universe, and more!) he shows us the essence of Chesterton's thought, serving up generous helpings of direct quotation. He explains these in a winsome style peppered with humor that must have G.K. looking down from heaven and saying "That's my boy!"

Witness of the Saints by Milton Walsh For those who love the Office of Readings, here are many of the second readings arranged and quoted by category, following the outline of the Catechism--articles of the Creed, the Sacraments, Christian Life and Prayer. Also of great value is a timeline of all the fathers, doctors and saints quoted in the liturgy, so at last you will not have to wonder what century Melito of Sardis or Origen lived. Short bio-sketches of each holy writer are also very welcome. I've always suspected that the Office of Readings is the best way for ordinary Catholics to become immersed in the greatest writings of the Church. Witness of the Saints proves that point.

History of the Catholic Church: from the Apostolic Age to the Third Millenium by James Hitchcock. Hot off the press as of today!  I couldn't believe my good fortune in receiving this book. Hitchcock is an engaging historian. This is the opposite of put-you-to-sleep textbookishness. The intimidating scope of the work is made manageable for the reader because of frequent subtitles (The Jewish Legacy;  The Kingdom; Paul and the Law, Women in the early Church, Julian the Apostate, the Thomistic Ascendancy, Witchcraft, Clerical Corruption,  The Effects of Trent,and hundreds more.) The Church, its teachings, its cast of characters (both noble and notorious) are covered with complete honesty and obvious love. A lot is packed into these 500 pages.  I'm looking forward to the end of Christmastide  so that I can relax and lose myself in this book!

The Christus Experiment by Rod Bennett Do you like science fiction? Here's the premise: going back in time to 30 AD to kidnap Our Lord  and bring him to the present. so that  a bunch of jaded scriptural "experts" can examine him  to find out once and for all about the "Jesus of history".  If that sounds like a good kind of crazy to you, get this book. Bennett is a good writer. You won't be cringing at the phrasing gaffes, anachronisms, and whatnot so common to self-published fiction. Let sci-fi  geeks delight!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Welcome Plus Weekly Q&A

I'm starting to be sucked  away into the vortex of baking, gift wrapping, and decorating from which I won't often surface until 2013. So posts will be short and few.

Today, for example.

Welcome to new follower, um Wodke Hawkinson, which is, according to the profile, a composite name  for a team of two writers. It doesn't look like you guys tend to follow religious blogs, so feel free to introduce yourselves and tell about your interest in the Liturgy of the Hours.

Now, any questions related to the Divine Office?

Any comments? Me, I thought today's second reading for the feast of St. Lucy was marvellous. It was about the value of consecrated virginity, but has application to anyone who has, according to their state in life, dedicated their lives to Christ.

Also, during all of Advent so far, I've been impressed with how well the readings and antiphons of the Liturgy of the Hours really do awaken in us a longing for the second coming of Jesus. Has anyone else noticed that?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Have you Not Been Placed in My Lap?

Even the most retro, technology-hating, breviary lover will want to set aside the aesthetic delights of their printed prayerbook, in favor of the virtual one, for December 12th's Office of Readings.  This, after all, is the only way to see the second reading for the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which does not appear in our 1975 edition breviaries.

The reading consists of the 15th century account of the apparition to St. Juan Diego. Our Lady's words to him are beautiful:
 “Listen and understand, my humblest son. There is nothing to frighten and distress you. Do not let your heart be troubled, and let nothing upset you. Is it not I, your Mother, who is here? Are you not under my protection? Are you not, fortunately, in my care?  

I also have the Kenyan breviary, in which this account has a somewhat different and longer version. Here, the above paragraph is translated thus:

Listen, beloved son,fear not and stop worrying.Am I not here, your Mother?Have you not been placed directly under my shadow and protection? Am I not the source of your lie and happiness? Have you not been placed in my lap, in my arms? What else do you need?

Although there is no way for us to tell which translation is really the most accurate, that phrase "in my lap, in my arms" so  sweetly describes the love of our heavenly Mother, that I'll put my money on the Kenyan version.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Important Reminder

Don't forget to use Evening Prayer I for the Immaculate Conception for vespers tonight!

Blessed Lady, sky and stars, earth and rivers,day and night--everything that is subject to the power or use of man--rejoice that through you they are in some sense restored to their lost beauty and are endowed with inexpressible new grace. 
-St. Anselm (Office of Readings, December 8th)

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

In this corner, St. Nicholas!

St. Nicholas' Day is tomorrow. Aside from the legends about the 4th century bishop of Myra which gave rise to the various iterations of Santa Claus, there is one other essential story of St. Nicholas that every Catholic ought to know.

He was a hammer of heretics. Literally. Gave 'em the old one-two. Or at least, the old one.

At the Council of Nicea, where the Church's doctrine on the nature of Jesus Christ was formulated,
Nicholas defended the orthodox concept of Christ being of the same substance as God the Father. The heretical  Arius propounded his own theory that Jesus was not fully divine, but just a really, really good man who became sort of god-like.

Always one to put his faith into action, Nicholas, becoming incensed by Arius' claptrap, got up and smacked him. Like this:

When the kids were little, we read them stories of St. Nicholas each year, and had them put their shoes out on the doorstep on the eve of his feast. (In our house Santa Claus was a different person altogether.) We taught them to sing an old Dutch song about St. Nicholas coming on his white horse during the night to fill the shoes of good children with gifts. Prominent among these were chocolate coins, in memory of his secretly providing marriage dowries for some poor girls.

My kids made out like bandits during the holidays, receiving presents from St. Nicholas on the 6th, Santa Claus and the Christ Child on the 25th, and from the 3 Kings on the Epiphany. I'm not sure I would do it this way again if I had to do it over, but the kids certainly enjoyed it.

The Office of Readings for St. Nicholas is from St. Augustine on the necessity of self-sacrificing love for their flock on the part of bishops. Of which St. Nicholas was a true role model. With or without the  decking of Arius. Hey, now there's a holiday ditty for you:

Deck the floor with heretical clerics
fa la la la la, la la, la, la. 
Pay no heed to their hysterics
fa la la la la, la la, la, la.
Christ's Divinity is the reason
fa la la, la la la, la, la la
For this holy advent season
fa la la la la, la la, la, la.

Sorry, I could not resist.

Now, any questions about the Liturgy of the Hours, breviaries, etc.?

Monday, December 3, 2012

Guest blogger Dietrich Bonhoeffer...

...shares some thoughts about praying the psalms.

Well no, not exactly.                                          

But it was with  delight that I recently learned that  this Christian hero, a Lutheran pastor who died for his resistance to the Nazis, had written a lovely little book called Psalms: the Prayer Book of the Bible, and that it is available both in print and e-reader editions. One reviewer on Amazon stated that this was the book that provoked  Hitler to ban  all of Bonhoeffer's publications, since it dared to suggest that the psalms, the ancient prayerbook of the Jews, should be the prayerbook of Christians as well.

Bonhoeffer explained succinctly why praying with God's words is sure to break us out of the narrow confines of our own feelings and take us to something more complete:

Prayer does not mean simply to pour out one's heart. It means rather to find the way to God and to speak with him, whether the heart is full or empty.No man can do that by himself. For that he needs Jesus Christ. ..
...When our will wholeheartedly enters into the prayer of Christ,then we pray correctly.

...Repeating God's own words after him, we begin to pray to him. We ought to speak to God and he wants to hear us, not in the false and confused speech of our heart, but in the clear and pure speech which God has spoken to us in Jesus Christ.

...All the prayers of the Bible are such prayers which we pray together with Jesus Christ, in which he accompanies us, and through which he brings us into the presence of God.

If we are to pray aright, perhaps it is quite necessary that we pray contrary to our own heart. Not what we want to pray is important, but what God wants us to pray.  If we were entirely dependent on ourselves, we would probably pray only the fourth petition of the Lord's Prayer. But God wants it otherwise.The richness of the Word of God ought to determine our prayer, not the poverty of our heart.

How is it possible for a man and Jesus Christ to pray the Psalter together? It is the incarnate Son of God,who has borne every weakness in his own flesh, Who here pours out the heart of all humanity   before God and who stands in our place and prays for us. 

Not every sentence of the book is of great concern to Catholics. The author often dwells  on reconciling elements of protestant theology with the content of the psalms (e.g. guilt, sin,  justification, works). And the author's understanding of suffering is incomplete. He grasps that in His passion, Jesus shares our pain and thus is the only answer to the question of how God permits suffering. But the idea that we can share the suffering of Jesus by joining our pain to His, and cooperating in the Redemption as members of His body--this is lacking from Lutheran theology, and thus, from Bonhoeffer's commentary on the psalms of lamentation.

Nevertheless, Psalms: the Prayerbook of the Bible is full of insights that will enhance your appreciation for the psalms.  It can also make a great starting point of discussion with your evangelical friends who don't "get" the idea of formal or liturgical prayer. 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Guest Book Review: Witness of the Saints

I've said it here and elsewhere: the second readings from the Office of Readings are the ideal way for ordinary Catholics to enjoy the writings of the Church Fathers, doctors, and saints. I've also wished that these were available as a stand alone volume, to make them accessible to those who do not participate in the Office of Readings.
Thanks to Milton Walsh and Ignatius Press, my dream is starting to come true. A new collection of excerpts from the patristic lectionary is now available. Sounds like it will be ideal for study and lectio divina. I haven't received my copy yet, but sometime guest blogger and breviary historian Jim McAuley has. What follows is his take on this book:

A wonderful new book that helps us to utilize the Liturgy of the Hours has been released.  This book is Witness of the Saints: Patristic Readings in the Liturgy of the Hours by Milton Walsh, Ignatius Press, 2012.  The primary purpose of this book is to show how the patristic lectionary found in the Liturgy of the Hours can be utilized for other purposes.  This book is a compendium of excerpts from the Office of Readings found in the Liturgy of the Hours, (formerly known as the Roman Breviary) also known as the Divine Office.  The Book is modeled along the outline of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  In this, it serves as a very useful reference. 

Interestingly, two things come out in the text.  First, Walsh did not use the Editio Typica.  Not a big deal.  What is more problematic is that he uses the American version of the
Liturgy of the Hours, and no acknowledgement is given to the fact that those Ignatius Press readers who use the Divine Office may find it a little awkward.  This is apparent in two ways.  The first is found in the list of readings from the fathers.  In the section for Pope Pius XII (Volume 1, pp. 149-150), Father Walsh only lists two readings.  If you use the American Liturgy of the Hours, this is indeed the case.  But, if you use the British Divine Office there is another, most wonderful reading from Pius XII, This is found in the Common of Women Saints (Volume 1, page 422*) as the alternative second reading and is titled “A reading from a talk by Pope Pius XII to newly married couples.” Strangely, it is not found in the Common of Holy Women in the American Liturgy of the Hours.  In fact, no alternative second reading is provided in the Common for Holy Women in the American Liturgy of the Hours.  Lest one think it a mistake on the part of the British editors of the Divine Office, the reading in question is also found in that wonderful book, the Book of Prayer, the 4th Edition of A Short Breviary from 1975 produced by St. John’s Abbey.

Second, perhaps as an oversight, the book includes as a church father St. John De Brebeuf, a Jesuit martyr celebrated on the American, Canadian, and Jesuit calendars.  His inclusion seems almost an oversight, as no other American saint in the sanctoral is cited.  But if he is included, why not other saints in the American sanctoral?

Another interesting omission, or oversight, is the total failure to cite any readings from the 1992 supplement of the
Liturgy of the Hours. The reading from St. Maximillian Kolbe would have been a good one to reference in this book.

However, the book shows the increased variety of patristic sources from whom the Readings derive from.  There are many new and superb sources not found in the 1960 Roman Breviary, such as Clement of Rome, Polycarp of Smyrna, St. Maximus the Confessor, Alphonsus Ligouri, St. John Bosco, Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, St. John Eudes, and so on.  Others have an increased presence, such as Fulgentius of Ruspe and Irenaeus of Lyons.   Now, this is not to say that the readings found in the 1960 Breviary are defective.  Some excellent readings disappeared, such as St. Bonaventure’s beautiful sermon on the Immaculate Heart of Mary, some of the works of Gregory the Great and Jerome also disappeared. Nota Bene - to those readers who own a Baronius Press Roman Breviary – In the process of doing this book review I discovered that when Baronius revised the Liturgical Press (Collegeville), Baronius deleted the Scriptural and Patristic index found in the older edition, so keep your old editions around, if you have them!

All In all, I would recommend readers to buy this book.  It is a sturdy hardback and has an easy to read font and layout.  The spine is well built, and you will be able to buy the ribbons that can be placed in books and put them safely in the spine. The price is reasonable at $29.95 for such a book and it would make a good Christmas present for your parish priest, a friend, a family member, or yourself.

Friday, November 30, 2012

In praise of short novena prayers.

Saw this on one of my favorite Catholic/Mothers/Humor blogs,and could not resist.

Thank you to the redoubtable Mrs.Pinkerton at Dumb Old Housewives for finding and sharing this piece of cartoon brilliance.

And speaking of St. Andrews's Day, don't forget that the traditional Christmas novena starts today. It's a short and lovely little prayer:

Saint Andrew Christmas Novena

Hail and blessed be the hour and moment in which the Son of God was born of the most pure Virgin Mary, at midnight, in Bethlehem, in piercing cold. In that hour, vouchsafe, O my God! to hear my prayer and grant my desires, through the merits of Our Saviour Jesus Christ, and of His Blessed Mother. Amen.
Now, in the last few years I've been seeing announcements from overly pious bloggers with too much time on their hands saying that this prayer must be said 15 (!) times a day from now until Christmas. NO! NO! NO!
Well, say it 15 times if you like.
 But I have it on good authority from a man who attended Catholic schools before Vatican II. The good sisters told the children to say this prayer once a day for a special Christmas intention.  And I will take my stand with the sisters.  There's nothing wrong with repeating prayers, and we Catholics do this, with spiritual profit, all the time (rosary, Jesus prayer, chaplet, etc.)
Whereas: advent is a very busy time of year especially for us moms, making prolonged extra devotions difficult to keep up on  daily basis, and 
Whereas:The Christmas novena is such a lovely little thing that should be savored as we say it, rather than "gotten through" in quantity
Therefore: I conclude, in solidarity with full-habited pre-Vatican II nuns, that Once a Day  is Enough!

Now, go say your Christmas novena.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Help vs. Salvation - Revised Grail Psalms #2

As stated in my previous post, the Revised Grail Psalms don't appear, at first glance, to be all that different from the current psalter, but a couple of word changes keep popping up again and again. Changes that are very welcome. As with the (now one year old) new missal, these changes have theological significance.

In numerous psalms in the Revised Grail version, the words salvation and savior have replaced our current help and helper. A few examples:

The Lord is my light and my salvation, 
whom shall I fear? (Psalm 27:1)

O God be gracious and bless us
and let your face shed its light upon us. 
So will your ways be known upon earth
and all nations learn your salvation. (Psalm 67:2-3)

Restore in me the joy of your salvation;
sustain in me a willing spirit....
Rescue me from bloodshed, O God
God of my salvation,
and then my tongue shall ring our your justice.(Psalm 51: 14,16)

Bring us back, O God our Savior!
Put an end to your grievance against us. (Psalm 85:5)

While it's true that God helps us in so many ways, saving us means so much more.  Calling on God as Savior, rather than Helper, brings out the christological meaning of the verse, something we are always supposed to be doing as we pray the psalms. We see Savior and Salvation as code words for Jesus and the Redemption. Help and Helper do not have this significance.

So there's one more reason to welcome the Revised Grail Psalms as a decided improvement.

Welcome, new followers Marisa and Noah, and all the anonymous folks who recently added my on Google Reader.  Just to remind you--although Wednesday is the usual Q&A day, feel free to ask questions any time in any comment box.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Revised Grail vs. Current Grail Psalms

So we're getting a new set of psalms in our breviary in   three years    five years   some time or another within the next decade.       But anyone interested in getting a look a the text of the Revised Grail Psalms only has to click here to check them out.    At first glance, they don't seem all that different. Often entire strophes are the same in both versions. But if you read through say, a dozen of them, comparing both versions,   a few things jump out at you, and these things appear (to me) to be improvements. I'll just mention just  one of them today.

Love has Become Mercy

Back in the late sixties and seventies, grouchy traditionalists such as my parents and their friends would  complain that "Love, Love, Love is all you ever hear about these days! Every song on the radio, every sermon at mass, it's nothing but love." 
 Now I'm certain that my parents had nothing against love, either of God or neighbor. Their complaint meant that love was, in their opinion, being cheapened by the incessant verbal harping on it. Also, I think they felt that we couldn't really understand or appreciate God's love if it was the only topic  that was every preached about. All the other divine attributes, all the doctrines of the faith that were neglected in the false spirit of Vatican II were precisely the things that helped us understand what an amazing thing the love of God really is.

Memories of this old complaint of  leaped   into my mind as I noticed  that psalms currently in our breviary use "love" in an awful lot of places where  the Revised Grail Psalms now substitutes  "mercy" or "merciful love".  

Give thanks to the Lord for he is good,
His mercy endures forever. (Ps.136)

O Lord you are good and forgiving,
full of mercy to all who call. (Ps 86)

O praise the Lord, all you nations;
acclaim him, all you peoples!
For his merciful love has prevailed over us;
and the Lord's faithfulness endures forever. (Psalm 117)

Besides being (as I'm told and have no reason to doubt) a more accurate translation of what appears in the original Hebrew and Greek septuagint texts, the word Mercy tells us more about God than the word Love. It tells us what kind of love is his: merciful love. Love that we don't deserve, but receive just the same. Mercy reminds us that we are miserable sinners, the wretches saved from hell  by amazing grace. Mercy reminds us of what Jesus reminded the world through St. Faustina.

Next time: Helper or Savior?


Friday, November 23, 2012

From a Letter of St. Paul - the rest of the story

“I, Paul, a prisoner for the sake of Christ....

When St. Paul wrote this epistle, so many years ago, he probably had no idea what an impact it would have. Naturally, he hoped it would console Christians, young in their faith, who were dismayed and frightened at Paul's arrest, imprisonment, and anticipated martyrdom. But did he have even an inkling that it would be treasured, read and re-read by generations and right up to the present day? Did he have any idea that his words from prison would have a more lasting impact on the Church than any of his oral  preaching?

Short of a secret revelation from on high, probably not.

But what a letter! Full of praise for the mercy of God, Paul reassured his readers that God was his strength and solace in captivity. He spoke of how ardently he longed to be with the Lord. Still, ever humble, he asked for his disciples' prayers, that he might not falter before finishing his race. And he reminded them that persecution and martyrdom is a blessed share in the sufferings of Christ, the head of his mystical  body. As you probably know, Paul was eventually beheaded by his captors. Reading his letter while meditating on what he was facing inspires modern Christians to face their own sufferings with courage as surely as it helped Paul's contemporaries in times long past.

But there's more.
Perhaps you would like to re-read this Pauline epistle for yourself, now that I've whetted your appetite. So, you may wonder which one is it? Ephesians? Colossians?
Well, you won't find this one in the Bible. This letter of St. Paul didn't make it into the canon of scripture.

Apocryphal? Oh no, St. Paul wrote it all right.

In 1843.

From a prison in Vietnam.

St. Paul Le Bao Tinh. By the time this St. Paul was born in 1793, Christianity had already been around in Vietnam for 200 years, due to the activity of Portuguese, French and Spanish missionaries. As in other Asian countries, brutal persecutions against Christians waxed and waned depending on the political climate. Paul grew up in one of the relatively peaceful interludes. He entered the seminary,but seems to have left after a while to pursue the life of a hermit.

In 1841, new persecution broke out. Paul was arrested and spent seven years in a Hanoi prison before he was granted amnesty. He returned to the seminary, finished his studies, and was ordained. He ministered in the hill country of Laos for several years, but was arrested once more, and summarily executed, in 1855. His letter, written to the seminarians of Ke-Vihn, appears in the Church's liturgy for the feast of the Vietnamese martyrs, November 24th. It is found in the Office of Readings of the Liturgy of the Hours. Here is a small excerpt:
In the midst of these torments, which usually bend and break others, by the grace of God I am full of joy and happiness, because I am not alone, but Christ is with me. He, my teacher, sustains the whole weight of the cross, burdening me but with a little and ultimate part: He himself does battle for me, not just as a spectator of my struggles; He the victor and perfecter of every battle. On his head is the splendid crown of victory, in which the members of his body also share.”  
The 117 martyrs remembered on this day actually died over a period spanning more than a century. St. Paul Le Bao Tihn's death came about in the middle of this era. But his prison letter represents well the faith and courage of these men and women.
St. Paul Le Bao Tihn was canonized in 1988 by Pope John Paul II.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Weekly Q&A-Presentation of Mary edition

Today's memorial, the feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, commemorates an event that to some appears to be on pretty shaky historical ground. The actual account of the three year old Mary being taken to the temple in Jerusalem, to live as a consecrated virgin until she was espoused to St. Joseph, comes form the Protoevengelium of James. This second century work was rejected from inclusion from the canon of scripture, but that does not mean every element it relates has been rejected as unfactual. Since the Church celebrates Mary's presentation in the temple, we can be confident that this event happened, although perhaps less confident as to some of the details the book of James relates about it.

More interesting are the hints to be found in Sacred Scripture that there were, indeed, virgins who served in the temple both to do service to the priests and to engage in liturgical prayer. Taylor Marshall has an excellent summary of these scriptural passages, plus quotes from other ancient Jewish sources, here on his blog, Canterbury Tales

Okay, weekly Q&A time! Given last week's excitement (excitement for Divine Office geeks, that is) one question you might have is, "What's the Big Deal about the Revised Grail Psalter? It's different, but how different, and is it a better kind of different?"

I'll be answering that shortly, with a description of my quick comparison of Revised vs. current Grail Psalms.
So stay tuned.

Meanwhile, I have to defrost a turkey, buy pearl onions which I'd forgotten when I shopped yesterday, and tidy up the place a bit for Thanksgiving. But I'll check in to answer any questions about the Liturgy of the Hours that you may have this week.

Also, between shopping sprees and football games this weekend, look for one of my special, Paul Harvey-style Catholic stories.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Only 13 Shopping Days Left!

Image of Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles
...til Advent.

There are some items you need to have not for Christmas, but for Advent. For example, I'll be hunting for purple and pink candles this week.   Here's another item you will want to order it immediately, because  you know that if you wait, the thought will be washed away in the tsunami of December activity. Especially if you are a homemaker who must buy, bake,decorate, send cards,  wrap gifts and attend children's events, all the while making desperate attempts to fit in some extra spiritual activity. (At times I think the penance of lent is nothing compared to this.)

Advent Music
Okay. For the benefit of the readily offended: I'm not saying it's wrong to play Christmas music during advent. There's nothing like hearing a beloved carol to cheer us on cold, dark days. Listening to or singing sacred carols mindfully can be a form of prayer. I get it. But I like to try to approximate-- in my home-- the practice of the Church. So for the first three weeks of advent, at least, we don't play Christmas music at home. We only play advent music. (To which rule there are plenty of exceptions, for example, kids practicing for a recital or school program. And I know my kids cheat with their MP3 players and headphones, but the point is we are not blasting it aloud on the Bose until Gaudete Sunday.)

Now for years, this quirky custom of ours meant that anyone craving seasonal melodies was confined to putting various recorded versions of O Come O Come Emmanuel, which appear on many of our Christmas CDs, on “repeat track” until someone in the house shouted “Enough already!” That, and those tracks from Handel's Messiah which set messianic prophecy to music: Every Valley Shall Be Exalted; And He Shall Purify, And the Glory of the Lord. There were a few other suitable songs besides these, but you get the idea. It was a limited list which involved switching from one CD to another. True, there are a handful of “Advent lessons and carols” CDs done by magnificent Anglican choirs. And there is at least one CD of all Gregorian chant selections from the ancient liturgies of advent. Although the Anglican music is very pretty, much of it is unfamiliar, and for me, does not have that Advent feel to it. And, much as I like to sing Gregorian chant, and prayerfully listen to it at a sung mass, I somehow can't enjoy an entire long album of it as background music at home. It becomes monotonous since my Latin is not good enough to understand all the words as I listen.

So it was with great joy that I learned of a new, all-advent release titled Advent at Ephesus.  It's everything I'd hoped for, already having the 2010 Christmas at Ephesus in my possession.
The Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles, are a young mid-western community living a traditional monastic life centered around the traditional (Extraordinary Form) mass and Divine Office. And that, dear readers, is the first thrill that comes when I listened to Although their voices are as lovely as  any professional performance choir,  knowing that these women are not just singing, but praying and intentionally seeking God's glory when they sing made listening to them a profound experience. Read all about the sisters here.
Thrill number two: the content. Sixteen selections: some Latin and clearly liturgical (Rorate Caeli, Creator Alme Siderum, Alma Redemptoris Mater) Others in English: carols with a folk song feel to them (Maria Walks Amid the Thorn, O Come Divine Messiah, Gabriel's Message) Most are polyphony (sung in harmonious parts) but there's just a few plainsong chant selections as well. And fear not, the essential O Come O Come Emmanuel is here too. Overall, the listener gets not only a sense of the variety of sacred song, but also, that ineffable unity of the spirit of Advent: a spirit of longing that is at once joyful (because the wait is nearly over), yet touched with impatience and sadness (because the wait has been long and lonely). Much the mood of a child longing for all the Christmas entails. Adults will feel this in the music of Advent in Ephesus.
Thrill number three: These consecrated women, who spend their lives praying, farming, and sewing vestments in rural Missouri, are gentle as doves, yet wise as serpents when it comes to producing a top-tier album. The arrangements of all songs was done by prioress Mother Cecelia, a former horn player from the Columbus Symphony Orchestra. She then secured the services of Grammy and Oscar winning producer Glenn Rosenstein, who came out to the prairie, set up a mobile recording studio, and in three days captured the sisters' performances for the rest of us.
The word of this pure, ethereal music plus it's flawless production values has already gotten out. Now Two days before it's 11/20 release, Advent at Ephesus already ranks an amazing #146 among all music CDs and #10 in classical music.
So get in line, quick! Before they're all gone. If you use my click through below or on the  top right picture  of the CD  I'll send the Amazon click-through-kick-back pennies to the sisters.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Postscript to Breviary Revision , Welcome, Q&A

 To add to yesterday's post about the proposed changes to the breviary. It's important to realize that I only reported on what the various bishops stated were items proposed for revision in the breviary during discussion sessions.  Each of them spoke while referring to a booklet or folder which must been the complete proposed scope of the project.
There may well have been more changes, and more specific detail about the changes, in these booklets  that did not come up in the discussion. If anyone out there is friends with a bishop and can get a peak at that booklet, let me know!

One thing referenced in passing at the bishops meeting that I forgot to mention was the addition of extra antiphons for the gospel canticles on Sunday Evening Prayer I, Morning Prayer, and Evening Prayer II. There should be 3 different antiphons for each of these hours, for years A, B and  of the lectionary. This way, the gospel canticle antiphons will always reference the Sunday gospel of whatever year it is. (As the breviary stands now, we get one canticle each from year A, B and C, so only one antiphon each weekend actually matches the gospel. Some countries already have this complete cycle of antiphons in their breviaries. It will be great having it here in the USA.

Welcome new blog followers Matt, "DiTo32", an "dchris". Matt has a blog about books, especially liturgical books, and usually traditional liturgical books at that. He does very thorough and well illustrated reviews. It was partly due to one of his posts that I decided to shell out  for the Pauline editions  Kenyan breviary earlier this year. By using the Mundelein psalter for hymns and psalm tones, the Kenyan breviary for its Revised Grail Psalms and extra Sunday antiphons, and ibreviary for the concluding prayer, I'm already experiencing pretty much what the rest of America will have to wait five years for.

Okay, if anyone has  a question, either about the Bishops' decision on the breviary, or the usual stuff about how to pray the Divine Office correctly, then fire away. All questions are good questions.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Vote on Revised Breviary Proposal-done deal!

In three to five years, we should have a new breviary in the USA.

Today our Bishops voted to go forward with the work of editing, amending, and in some cases re-translating the elements of the Liturgy of the Hours. This vote was a preliminary approval for the work to be done. Once a draft is complete--and no timelime was given for that--the bishops will again review, discuss, and debate before voting on whether to send it to Rome for approval.  Then, once the bishops have approved and Rome has approved, there will be the process of getting it published.

So I think 3 to 5 years is pretty optimistic. The new missal took way longer than that.

Here are some details of today's debate priot to the vote.

Bishop Taylor argued for an amendment to expand  the Office of Readings to include a two year cycle of scripture readings (such as Spanish breviaries already contain), and also a 2 year cycle of patristic readings. Archbishop Broglio also spoke in support of this, as did Cardinal DiNardo, who also mentioned that many of the current patristic readings were poorly translated and needed to be re-done. However, this amendment was voted down. Divine Worship Committee chairman Archbishop Aymond agreed that this should be done some day, but now was not the time. He argued that the priority now was to harmonize the current breviary with the Latin breviary, and that overhauling the Office of Readings would add years to the project.

Bishop Paprocki argued in favor of an amendment that would include more than just the (translated) Latin breviary hymns in the new breviary (i.e. a selection of the more modern hymns that we have now). Lots of discussion pro and con ensued. Cardinal O'Malley and Bishop Coyne argued for some kind of hymn supplement or appendix. Cardinal George argued forcefully against this. He said that tasking the Worship Committee a hymn supplement would put them in charge of determing which hymns were truly classic and which were mere period pieces. He said the current breviary is full of the latter, and that many of them, though perhaps meaningful in the seventies, were now "an embarassment". The Latin hymns, he argued, had stood the test of centuries, and are now in use in the British Isles and in India. There is still permission to substitute other hymns, so this option can be exercised by using hymnals, missals, and missalettes.

Another bishop, whose name I did not catch, added that with the current availability, and probably eventual takeover, of digital resources over printed, that it was not necessary to print common hymns in the breviary. The overriding  principle was--just as with the missal-- to closely follow the Latin breviary, and when that principle was adhered to, the project could go forward with minimal loss of time.

The amendment to add extra hymns was voted down.

Cardinal Dolan then called for a vote on the whole project. It passed handily with 203 in favor, and 14 against.

Then something strange happened. Bishop Brom asked to be recognized. Apparently he had missed his chance to speak earlier either through his own confusion or Cardinal Dolan's overlooking him--it's not clear which. Cardinal Dolan let him speak. What followed was Bishop Brom's attempt to criticize not so much the proposed breviary project, but the new missal which was approved and has been in place for nearly a year. His way in to the discussion was to object to the new missal collects replacing the concluding prayers in the Office of Readings and Morning Prayer. He went on at length claiming that his priests and some  of the laity did not like the new collects and prefaces, bringing up old objections about the style of grammar, length, etc., that had been hashed over years ago when the new missal was debated. He concluded by saying that before any discussion of a revised Liturgy of the Hours, the missal had to be re-visited since, he claimed, his own priests found it "more of a burden than a blessing."

[I couldn't believe my ears.]

Then Bishop Trautman made a complaint about the brevity  of response time allowed during recent regional meetings about the breviary project, and for that reason lent his support to Bishop Brom's idea of putting a new breviary discussion on hold.

Bishop McDonnell (?) argued that going back to critique the new missal was counterproductive when so many were working hard to support it, to "communicate the awesome and transcendent nature of the liturgy".
Criticism would only encourage disunity, he said, and if priests would just review the collects and prefaces before mass, they would know how to read them with understanding.

Due to these after the fact objections, Cardinal Dolan allowed the vote to be repeated.
Thankfully, the plans for a revised breviary still passed, although this time the majority vote was only 189. Still the two thirds required, but obviously affected by the last minute attempt by some to stall it.

My own comments:
I'm basically happy  with the outcome. Much as I'd like an expanded Office of Readings, what I want even more is to have the basic problems with out current breviary corrected as soon as possible, and the work needed to expand the Office of Readings would eliminate any possibility of soon. To recap, here is what the approved project will do:

-replace the current psalms with the Revised Grail Psalter, which, trust me, is  a huge improvement.
-replace the concluding prayers of the Office of Readings and Morning Prayer during the holy seasons with the opening collect prayers from the missal, and hopefully retranslate all the other hours' concluding prayers to be similarly faithful to the Latin edition, i.e. more beautiful in language and complete in theology.
-demote modern hymns from their place of prominence in the breviary, instead restoring to us a treasure that has been denied us for years: the lovely, poetic, and theologically superior Latin hymns in English translation.
-eliminate the psalm prayers. I know some will miss these. I believe that with a little instruction on interpreting the psalms, anyone can quickly learn to see the christological meanings in them on their own, and can then reflect in silence on what these meanings, rather than rely on the psalm prayers.
-re-translate the antiphons to better match the psalms.
-possibly restore the traditional Glory Be.

All in all, these are outcomes greatly to be wished for, don't you agree?

Monday, November 12, 2012

Flash! New Breviary Discussion at Bishops Meeting!

Earlier today I had the
luck   presence of mind nudge from my guardian angel to turn on EWTN and see how the bishops were doing with their meeting in Baltimore. Within minutes of tuning in, I gasped as Archishop Aymond, chairman of the committee on Divine Worship, took the podium to discuss (insert drum roll here) the proposed revision of the American breviary!!!

I'd heard a rumor last month that this subject would be brought up, but feared it would be shelved in favor of giving time to more pressing matters related to the healthcare mandate or the proposed document on employment. So I leaped for the laptop when I saw what was about to happen. Today's session was a presentation of the worship committee's initial recommendations regarding a new translation. The bishops were then given the chance to ask clarifying question today, but  actual debate will take place tomorrow. What follows are from  my hastily typed notes with my own reactions in bold.  Here we go:

Archbishop Aymond opened by saying that ever since the new missal translation was implemented last year, there were frequent inquiries and requests for a revised translation of the breviary. As a result, the committee requested Rome to give permission for work to go forward on pursuing a "more up to date" edition of the breviary,and one that would be more in harmony with the Latin edition(editio typica).  [Yay! We did it! Kudos to everyone who ever wrote the USCCB or their own bishops about this. I had heard earlier that a new breviary was on the back burner, behind new translations of rituals for sacraments. Now it's on the front burner!]

Next, Archbishop Aymond mentioned several proposed  modifications. And the bishops who asked questions based on the handouts they'd received indicated that there were several more:

1. The Revised Grail Psalms would be the new psalter.[We already knew this but now it's official.]
2. The translation for the Benedictus and the Magnificat would remain the same because of long familiarity.[this makes some sense because we have them memorized]
3.The Te Deum would be re-translated.
4.The Holy See said not to attempt re-translating the Office of Readings second readings, in the interest of not making the project drag on for years. [Amen!]
5.Hymns will be English translations of the official Latin breviary hymns! [Yay!  Morning Has Broken shall decrease, Conditor Alme Siderum will increase!!!]
6. Psalm prayers will be eliminated to make the text match the Latin edition.[look for lively discussion of this one tomorrow. Bishop Fiorenza expressed dismay during the question period.]
7.The doxology (Glory  Be) is still under discussion as to whether it should be the traditional (world without end.Amen) version, or something else. Archbishop Aymond acknowledged that discussion in the committee on this point was lively. In the clarification questions that followed from the floor, Cardinal O'Malley said he was pleased that the Glory Be was being reconsidered. He pleaded for the traditional version, saying that the only uniform prayers catholics had left at the moment  were the Our Father and the Sign of the Cross--that even the Hail Mary had it's "thee vs. you" versions. [Right on, Cardinal Sean!]

Other clarifiying questions  included a worthwhile request from Bishop Trautman that antiphons be changed to match the Grail Psalms. [A very sensible idea--to take the antiphons away from ICEL and give them to Conception Abby (authors of the Revised Grail Psalms) to harmonize them with the psalms.]

When asked by Bishop Sheehan for a timeline on the whole process from new translations to approval from Rome to publication, Archbishop Aymond said three to five years. [Given how long it took to get the mass re-translated and implemented, I think 5 years is lovely, and if it were 3 I'd be delirious with joy]

Remember, gentle fan of the Divine Office, none of the above is in concrete. The actual debate on it all will take place tomorrow. I have no idea where on the schedule this is, but keep tuning into EWTN and maybe you will catch it.

This is progress. Te Deums are in order.

Stay tuned for more posts on this topic this week.

Combining Mass with the Liturgy of the Hours

A couple mornings per week, our pastor passes out some  breviaries and  leads us in Morning Prayer after the 8 AM mass.But once in  while--perhaps on the feast of a parish patron--he passes out printed sheets and leads us in saying Morning Prayer and mass in a combined liturgy. This makes for a beautiful, psalm-drenched mass.

You might witness this option regularly if you attend mass at a monastery.  As explained in the General Instructions on the Liturgy of the Hours, the mass will begin with the either the opening verse and hymn of Morning Prayer, OR the entrance antiphon and celebrants greeting from the mass. Next, the psalmody of the day is recited. The mass then continues with the Gloria (on a feast or solemnity) or straight to the opening prayer on a weekday.

Next, comes the liturgy of the word from the mass of the day --the reading from Morning Prayer is not used. The intercessions that follow might be either those from the mass OR those from Morning Prayer. The rest of the mass continues as usual through the end except that the Canticle of Zechariah is sung or recited after communion.

There are slight variations to the above procedure  for combining mass with Daytime or Evening prayer.

So...if you ever witness a Divine Office/mass hybrid, be assured that this is not an unapproved liturgical shortcut. It's a legitimate option. One can see that it is a great convenience for monastic clerics  who gather in community multiple times per day. For the rest of us, it's an easy way

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Nearly Forgot! Welcome+Q&A

Sorry! While wallowing in the election aftermath and searching for answers (which I found) in the Wednesday's Liturgy of the Hours, I forgot all about the usual purpose of the Wednesday post. That is, to welcome new blog followers and to invite any and all questions related to the Divine Office and vehicle, the breviary.

So, better late than never. A joyful welcome to new readers JT Therrien, MicheleShank, Lee, and Carla. I hope you enjoy exploring the Liturgy of the Hours with us.

Now, if anyone has a question, fire away!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Vespers, for that matter...

...also has some suitable words for us disappointed voters.

Those who sow in tears will reap in joy.

God, who is able to accomplish in us more than all we ask or imagine, by the power at work within us,to him by glory in the Church and in Jesus Christ to all generations, forever and ever.

Claim me once more as your own, Lord, and have mercy on me. Do not abandon me with the wicked.

I've said it a million times. The Liturgy of the Hours is our prayer on behalf of the whole Church, but at the same time it manages to give gifts of wisdom and consolation directed  to each one of us tiny cells of the body of Christ.

Into Thy Hands

We hoped, prayed, worked, and voted for a presidential outcome that would restore religious liberty and at least slow down our nation's slide into the culture of death.

Didn't happen.

And once again, the prayers and reading's of today's Liturgy of the Hours fly like an arrow into the heart of our disappointment.  Not so much  to console as to strengthen. At least that's how it looks to me. There's a certain astringency to the message of today's office of lauds, for example. Like we're not getting honey poured on our wounds, but rather something more like witch hazel or styptic, to staunch our wounds so that we can return, gaily, to battle.

We began morning prayer with a psalm 86. A cry of the poor in distress. Turn your ear, O Lord and give answer, for I am poor and needy...I cry to you all the day long...the proud have risen against me, ruthless men seek my life, to you they pay no heed.
The psalm teaches us to ask--after we describe our sad situation--to ask for the things that count: Teach me, O Lord, your way, so that I may walk in your truth, single-hearted  to fear your name...O give your strength to your servant.. (Revised Grail Psalms translation) 
Single-hearted. There is only one goal on which to set our hearts: salvation. It's fine to pursue the good as we see it through political campaigns, but we can't let ourselves get distracted by either victory or defeat in these passing contests.
Moving along, the canticle from Isaiah spells out even more clearly how we must focus on holiness and spurn evil, that we may find our souls ever in a rocky stronghold, whose bread will be given, and whose water assured. (bread=the Eucharist. water=grace. Rocky stronghold= the heart of Jesus in his mystical body)
Psalm 98 is next, sort of an apocalyptic triumph. It declares that the invasion has already been successful (the Incarnation) and that all will be well at the final judgment.

Finally, in case we still don't get it, today's morning reading from Job spells it out. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord! We accept good things from God; and should we not accept evil?

Repeat that one to yourselves all day today. Then tonight, find the Te Deum in your breviary and read that. With feeling. 

Friday, November 2, 2012

All Things Live for Him

"Come, let us worship the Lord, all things live for him."

To me, the best part of today's office is its very first line, the antiphon of the Invitatory Psalm. What a  glorious affirmation on the day we remember our beloved dead: that they are NOT dead, and that their unending lives will find their purpose and fulfillment  when they are immersed  in the beauty and goodness of Christ. 

Remember that you can gain a plenary indulgence each day from now until November 8th by visiting a cemetery, praying for the dead there, and fulfilling the "usual conditions" for a plenary indulgence: sacramental confession and communion within a week plus prayers for the Holy Father. This indulgence is for the souls in purgatory only, it can't be applied to yourself.

In addition, you can obtain partial indulgences--which don't require the conditions of confession and communion--through any number of prayers and good works. Among these is saying either morning or evening prayer of the Office of the Dead, which is what we use today.

The Office of the Dead is interesting. It forms the liturgy of All Souls Day. We can also use it as a votive (at our own choosing) office on any weekday in ordinary time that doesn't have an obligatory memorial, feast, or solemnity. We would do well to use it on learning of a loved one's death, on the day of a funeral, and on the anniversary of a loved one's death. 

For more information from the Church's document on indulgences, go to

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Really Cute All Saints Song

Thank heaven that no matter what treacly pop tunes choir directors feel compelled to include in the Sunday lineup, at least they haven't replaced that rousing anthem, For All The Saints, which I think is still used as the recessional hymn just about everywhere.

But next to For All the Saints, my favorite All Saints Day song is something you never hear in a Catholic church. It comes from the Anglican hymnal, and I suspect other protestant denomination use it as well. This morning, our pastor, a former Baptist, recounted vague memories of a song about the saints that he couldn't quite recall, but loved because it suggested that the saints come from all walks of life. I knew right away which one he was talking about.

I Sing a Song of the Saints of God has the vibe of a children's song. There's even an illustrated children's book about it. Here are the lyrics, followed by a performance:

I sing a song of the saints of God, 
 patient and brave and true, 
 who toiled and fought and lived and died 
 for the Lord they loved and knew. 
 And one was a doctor, and one was a queen, 
 and one was a shepherdess on the green; 
 they were all of them saints of God, and I mean, 
 God helping, to be one too. 

2. They loved their Lord so dear, so dear, 
 and his love made them strong; 
 and they followed the right for Jesus' sake 
 the whole of their good lives long. 
 And one was a soldier, and one was a priest, 
 and one was slain by a fierce wild beast;
 and there's not any reason, no, not the least, 
 why I shouldn't be one too. 

3. They lived not only in ages past; 
 there are hundreds of thousands still. 
 The world is bright with the joyous saints 
 who love to do Jesus' will. 
 You can meet them in school, on the street, in the store, 
 in church, by the sea, in the house next door; 
 they are saints of God, whether rich or poor, 
 and I mean to be one too.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Weekly Q&A- Post Sandy edition

This is a good week to recall that the Church allows us to add specific intentions to  the intercessions of lauds and vespers. It is suggested that these be added after the intercessions given in the breviary, although the final intention for the dead at evening prayer should remain as the last one. In other words, add your specific intentions before this petition for the dead.

This can be as simple as "For the victims of Hurricane Sandy" (Lord hear our prayer) since the Lord knows what all their needs are better than we do.
Or if you like, you may pray more specifically for their material and spiritual needs: medical aid, shelter, etc., and for the souls of those who were lost in this storm. You may even "tack" this on to an intercession in the breviary that already mentions the homeless or the dead by simply adding, "especially for the victims of hurricane Sandy."

It's yet another of those mysterious "both/and" situations regarding prayer. There are times when it is best and most heartfelt to intercede for others with few words, or just the "sighs and groanings" that the Holy Spirit gives us. On the other hand, there are times when praying specifically and in detail about our needs is better for us.  Yes, God knows what we are going to pray for. But sometimes, until we pray at length and in detail, we clarify what the need is in our own minds and,--this is important--exercise our faith and desire for the gifts God is waiting to give us. In last week's Office of Readings, the second readings were mostly from St. Augustine's Letter to Proba on prayer. He took up precisely this topic on Sunday (29th week).  He continued on Monday thru Wednesday with  a remarkable commentary on the Our Father, comparing its verses to verses from the psalms expressing the identical sentiments. On Thursday and Friday he brought up the quandary we often have of wondering whether we are asking for what is best when we pray.   It's worth reading all six days of this letter any time you need clarity on what prayer is, how to pray, and why to pray.
Here is a link to the entire letter to Proba, about twice as long as the excerpts we get in the Liturgy of the Hours. If you just want the excerpts, go to the online breviary of your choice.

It's weekly Q&A time. Submit any Divine Office difficulties, queries or comments below.

Don't forget that you start the office of All Saint's tonight with Evening Prayer I!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Joyous Stars

picture credit:

Today's first reading from the Office of Readings contains one of those little gems of  nature imagery that thrills any  reader who loves poetry:

He...before whom the stars at their posts
 shine and rejoice;
When He calls them,
they answer, "Here we are!"
shining with joy for their Maker. 

This verse puts me in mind of two things. First, C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia.  In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader it is revealed that the stars of Narnia are rational beings, who after their long lives in the heavens may  come to live down on earth. 

Second, I think of medieval theology,  which explains that the movement of the stars and the planets is supervised by the angels: that God delegates  some of his ongoing work in holding all creation together to his mightiest servants. One can read these words and picture the angels, joyful in doing the work God has given them, shouting out their nightly greetings to their Creator.

Third, every created thing, rational or non-rational, animate or inanimate, truly does offer praise to its creator simply by doing that which it was created to do.  So this scripture verse reminds me of how blessed are the stars, how happy they would be if they were rational, because they do fulfill  God's will perfectly. In this we might well envy them.

Now I'm looking forward to the next starry night when I can bundle up and gaze, with this verse in mind. But it might be a long wait given the next week's forecast. All of you on the east coast will be vastly relieved next time the stars are visible at their posts. Those of us in safer locations will be praying for you.