Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Welcome, Q&A, Beheading (I mean, Passion) edition

I'll begin today's Q&A with a question of my own: when did we start calling the Beheading of John the Baptist the Passion of John the Baptist?  I noticed today's feast listed that way on two online breviaries, ran to my print breviary to assure myself that this title had not always been the case, and then began to ponder: when was this name change made, by whom and why?  I can reason out several reasons why the change might have been made, as well as a reason it might not be a good idea, but if this is an official action of the Church, my reasons are not important.  

So if anyone has light to shed on this topic, please let me know. 

I'm also chuckling to think how ridiculous my question would seem to so many people (whom I need not fear upsetting because they don't read this blog) when there are so many important things to worry and wonder about in the world and in our nation. Economic crises! The upcoming USA election! Who will advance to the finals in America's Got Talent! And here I am babbling about such minutiae as the name of a feastday.

Little do they know that my little quibble hovers at the border of one of the most important things in the world. The liturgy. The way in which we little ants on the bottom of the Creator's  shoe find ourselves able to be part of the conversation as God speaks to God. So yeah, maybe not so petty of me to wonder about the Beheading to Passion switch. 

Welcome new followers Geoff, Clifton, Tami, and I would also say, Michael Demers, since his picture just appeared on the followers list. But Mike has been making interesting and helpful comments on this blog for so long that I think this appearance just formalizes a connection that already existed. PS Mike, what kind of dog is that in your picture?

Lots of followers have blogs or websites  of their own, which I sometimes have mentioned but don't do consistently. That will now be remedied starting this week. New follower Tami is part of a wonderful bible study effort that you can learn about here,  although this page I just linked is for a particular article that I enjoyed, rather than the homepage. That would be here, at Turning to God's Word.

Okay. Question or comment time. Anything puzzling or remarkable about the Liturgy of the Hours that you'd like to talk about?

Shout out to "Cut Fastball" who asked a question on an old post but I lost the email message and so cannot locate which post you wrote on:
I'm sorry but I have no inside info on the Baronius Press breviary. Maybe try Father Z who really keep up on all things EF. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

Psalm 119 stomps on "Spiritual but not Religious"


Did you ever wonder why the psalter for daytime prayer during the week seems to be obsessed with God's law? 22 days out of 28 the psalmody is partly or fully drawn from Psalm 119, a veritable eulogy to God's law. The remaining days (such as today) include other psalms that speak of God's law in the same vein.

Face it, ours is a culture where rules and regs are not the stuff of which poetry is made. And even those of us, say, devout Catholics or observant Jews, who willingly practice some fairly strict, detailed precepts of morality, liturgy, or diet--do we always find it a sheer delight to do so? Or is it sometimes  a grit-your-teeth act of will to follow through on a religious way of life?

Take that word, religious. From the Latin religare: to bind, fasten, tie down. No wonder we hear "I'm spiritual but not religious" quite a bit these days. It's a tempting point of view. To feel awe at the beauty of the universe and to ponder its suggestion of the Transcendent. That's the fun part. But the idea that the Transcendent might make demands on you? Not so much.

Enter the psalmist, who declaims Psalm 119 not like a stern Moses with stone tablets, but like a love sick poet who can't stop thinking and talking about his grand affair. With religion. With rules and regs. Heedlessly he tramples all over the "spiritual not religious" zeitgeist. For him, religion is precisely what makes the spirit soar:

I rejoice in the way of your precepts,
as though all riches were mine.(verse 14)
My soul is consumed with longing at all times for your decrees.(verse 20)
I will run in the way of your commands;
you open wide my heart. (verse 32)
In your commands I have found my delight;
these have I loved. (verse 47)
-(Revised Grail Psalm translation)

And he continues, like a lover, to express grief and anger and even vengeance  towards anyone who doesn't agree that the object of his love is perfect and beautiful and to be obeyed at all costs. 

So why are Psalm 119 and other I 'Heart' God's Law psalms always on the menu for daytime prayer?
Because daytime prayer is the prayer of our lunch break. The prayer that comes in the middle of our workday. And what do we most need to get through our workday (whether in an office, a factory, a home with a bunch of whining preschoolers,on  an oil rig, or in a monastery)?  

We need help in remembering to do the right thing. Don't cheat your employer by slacking. Don't gossip by the water cooler.  Don't resent that you are stuck at home with the children while your spouse enjoys witty repartee with other adults at business luncheons. Do treat annoying co-workers with all the kindness you can muster. Do love your children even when they are acting momentarily unlovable. 

And above all, be glad that you have that guide to Doing the Right Thing known as God's law. The Ten Commandments. The moral law written in our hearts. The precepts of the Church. The ties that bind are the ties that free us to do good and reject sin. So, we pray along with a Jew from thousands of years ago, trying to adjust out attitudes on this "spiritual not religious" business.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Q&A- Welcome Lily and Drew edition

Two more people have managed the complicated process of getting themselves on the follower list! Welcome Lily and Drew! Glad to have you here at Coffee&Canticles, the online community of Divine Office devotees!

Tonight I'm hosting a barbecue potluck for our parish Fortnight for Freedom committee, to thank them for their hard work earlier this summer. And to maybe figure out what to do next in our efforts to save our country from a threat that very few recognize.  More immediately, this means I have to cut this post short and get to work with some major housecleaning before the guests get here.  Especially the downstairs bathroom, where a very naughty kitty,once perfectly housebroken, has been doing things to show her displeasure over our recent adoption of a dog.

Our weekly Question and Answer post ought to be called the Questions, Comments, and Answer post, because people often use it not just to ask, but to tell us really interesting and useful info related to the LOTH. For example, last week Mike Demers gave us this wonderful link.

It gives us a part of the Liturgy of the Hours which, heretofore, has not been available to the English speaking world: the second cycle of readings for the Office of Readings. If you check the index of the one-volume Christian Prayer breviary, you will find biblical references for a second cycle of OOR scripture readings. But the center for Catholic Studies link give us a second set of patristic readings. The idea is to use Year I in odd numbered years and Year II in even numbered years. (although the Church "year" starts just prior to the new calendar year on the first Sunday of Advent.)

Theoretically, these readings should appear in breviaries eventually. But now we have a way to use them right away, if we choose. And free! God bless the good scholars in Scotland and England who have given us access to an expanded treasury of patristic widsom. I can't wait for the school year to begin, at which point I'll have the leisure to start looking at these readings and maybe integrating them into my daily office.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Weekly Q&A Assumption Edition

You are the bridge of life and the ladder to heaven: you are a boat over the sea of death reaching to immortality.   -St. John Damascene Office of Readings for the Assumption, Dominican office.

Whatever breviary you normally use, you might want to check out ibreviary today (widget on right), because it includes along with the regular office for the Assumption, some alternate antiphons and a second OOR reading that are used on this feast by the Dominican order. I thought the Dominican antiphons for Evening Prayer I last night were lovelier than the regular ones. And the Dominican OOR second  reading is a great follow up to the regular second reading from Pope Pius XII. 

Last week a reader brought up the issue of what to do when the Liturgy of the Hours becomes routine and one becomes bored. A  few of us brought up the usual advice about perseverance in prayer during dry times, etc., and she responded that this was what she needed to hear. But its true, once you've read the same psalms year after year, especially when it's just the psalter during ordinary time, things can get a little dull. 

I though it would be nice to assemble a list of things we can do to revive and freshen up our daily office. Little things that will just help us pay more attention to what we are doing, or to help us focus on aspects of the hours that we may have missed. Here are some examples for starters:

  • If you don't normally read the quotations under the psalm title, start doing so. And/or use these as substitute antiphons for a while. (the General Instruction allows this as an option)
  • Concentrate on praying these psalms on behalf of the Church Universal--thinking about the sufferings, temptations, triumphs, etc. of the Church as a whole rather than your own personal joys and woes.
  • Imagine Jesus praying the psalms (which in fact He IS doing through you), and what He thought/felt as He prayed/prays them.
  • Imagine Our Lady praying the psalms. Ask her to pray them with you
  • If you normally use all the longest options (invitatory, hymns, psalm prayers, repeating antiphons at the end of psalms) cut them out for a while so you have more time to focus on what's left.
  • Vice versa if you normally take short cuts: add one or more of the above options back in for variety and added devotion.
  • If you normally don't use the commons for saints feasts (other than the major, obligatory ones), then start doing so more often.
  • Go online to try a different version, such as the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary, or the Breviarum Romanum. 
Okay. What are your ideas for improving your attitude when the Liturgy of the Hours becomes routine?

Or, just ask any other question you like about the Liturgy of the Hours.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

More Hymn Tune Help

In response to my discussion of hymn tunes and the meaning of "Long Meter" two posts back, and helpful reader John Orzechowski sent me a link to this helpful Franciscan website  which explains even more of those puzzling little notations that are meant to indicate what melody may be used for the breviary hymns.

So thrilled am I to have this resource that I've put a tab (Hymn Tune Help) at the top of this page for myself, and anyone else who wants to master arcane secrets heretofore unknown to all but choir directors!

John also found a site with links to MP3 audio files of traditional Latin breviary hymns . Between this and the MP3 resources from the Mundelein Psalter website, Latin fans have everything they need to add some ancient flare to their daily liturgical hours.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Earliest Road to Prayer

From today's Midfternoon Prayer:

Stand beside the earliest roads,
ask the pathways of old
Which is the way to good, and walk it;
thus you will find rest for you souls.

Jeremiah 6:16a

There was never a time when the psalter was not the prayer of the Church. The first Christians brought it with them from Juadaism. Or, to be even more basic, Jesus prayed the psalms and scriptures of his people, thus giving them to us, his body.

St. Benedict and the early desert fathers arranged the psalms into chunks to be recited or chanted around the clock. Other elements were added,subtracted, arranged, and rearranged over the years. Just as a good road will be widened, paved, and periodically get rough spots filled in over the years. But its still the same road.

So...anyone you know looking for a new way to pray?
Tell them about the earliest road.

The Liturgy of the Hours.

Friday, August 10, 2012

In search of Meredith and Melanie B!

You won copies of the Night Prayerbook in the giveaway drawing.  I need your addresses.

Please send to thesockeys"AT" gmail "DOT" com.

St. Lawrence's sarcasm and traditional breviary Hymns

Some saints get more items unique to themselves in their office than others. St.. Lawrence is certainly one of these.   He has his first and second readings in the OOR, and a complete office of his own for lauds and vespers. No mere common of martyrs for Lawrence. Using Ibreviary this morning,I see that he even has his own unique hymn, which I include here. Note the reference to Lawrence's sense of humor, recalling his legendary remark, "Turn me over, this side is done", made while he was burned alive on a gridiron.

When Lawrence was led out to die,
Love made him prodigal of life,
No armor would he use but faith
Against the persecutor’s strife.

The first of seven chosen men
Selected at the Pope’s behest,
A deacon’s office to fulfil,
In virtue he surpassed the rest.

He was a leader in the fight,
Although no sword hung by his side,
And with a smile in face of death,
He could the torturer deride.

We praise your triumph here on earth,
So, holy Lawrence, lend your aid,
May each of us your favor feel,
Receiving grace for which we prayed.

For all the care with which you served
And loved the city’s poor in Rome,
What luster must enhance your crown
For ever in the Father’s home!

To Father, Son, and Spirit too,
Be honor, homage and renown,
Who will reward your prayers for us
By granting an eternal crown. Amen

To those of us who like to sing the hymn now and then, there is nothing less helpful than the remarks beneath a hymn that let us know that the correct melody to use is that old standard, Erhalt' uns HerrL.M.  or Grosser Gott or Saint Anne C.M.  There must be someone in this wide world who reads these things and says to himself, "Oh, yes, Ernhalt' uns Herr! I know that one," and launches into the hymn with complete confidence.

But I sure don't know it. And don't know anyone else who does.
Fortunately, I did figure out recently what the L.M. stands for. It means long meter. If you read the words to the hymn above and count the beats, you'll notice that every line has eight beats. Many  traditional hymns  follow this pattern, so if you want to sing a long meter hymn, use the tune of a long meter hymn that you already know. For example:

Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow (known in these cryptic hymn subtitles as Old One Hundredth)
Jesus the very Thought of Thee/Jesu Dulcis Memoria/O Radiant Light O Sun Divine
Creator of the Stars of Night/Creator Alme Siderum (a popular advent hymn)
Tantum Ergo/Down in Adoration Falling
O Salutaris/O Saving Victim
Behold a Virgin Bearing Him
From All That Dwell Below the Skies

There are probably others, but these are the ones that come to mind.
If you use the Mundelein Psalter, you'll see that the traditional hymns of the Roman breviary also follow this long meter pattern. So if you have despaired of figuring out the gregorian notation given in Mundelein's hymnal, you may resort to the tunes listed above.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Weekly Q&A plus Welcome!- Literary edition

Welcome, Jordan and Judith to Coffee&Canticles. Thrilled to have you here. Also thrilled with the title of Jordans blog, An Ever Fixed Mark ("fixed" to be pronounced with two syllables in the archaic fashion: fix-ed. ) That title comes from Shakespeare's Sonnet 116, a favorite of mine:

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
   If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

One of the few good bits of advice I received in college was a recommendation from an English professor to memorize one sonnet per month. I seized on this idea with an enthusiasm that lasted for an entire two months. (I am like the seed that falls on stony ground in many aspects of my life).  But a thing worth doing is worth doing badly (GK Chesterton), so I am grateful to still be able to recite, almost flawlessly, the above sonnet plus the incomparable 29 ("for they sweet love remembered, such wealth brings, that then I scorn to change my state with kings.)

Of course, all this has a connectioin to the Divine Office, right? 

Of course right! (now I'm quoting Yente that matchmaker.This must be my day for quotations. )

Shortly after my project to memorize sonnets fell by the wayside, I began praying Morning, Evening, and Night Prayer. That has continued (on and off, with many of abandoning and returning) for many years. Although I didn't set out to memorize the psalms and canticles, this has actually happened with quite a few of them. 

I'm sure it's the same for many of you. The 3 gospels canticles come pretty quickly. And little Psalm 117 (Saturday morning week III) is down after one or two recitations. Sunday morning of week I is usually next (although one never gets all those weather elements (dew, rain, frost, etc) quite straight in the Canticle of the three Children). The psalms of Night Prayer are mostly short and memorable, and going through that cycle every week will stick them in your memory after six months to a year. So there's about 15 items that were memorized without really trying.

How about you? Have any psalms or canticles gotten happily stuck in your memory?

And ask any breviary-related questions here.