Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Charles Borromeo and Preparing for the Office

Today's Office of Readings includes advice from today's saint to his priests. But of course most of it applies to laymen as well. Here is one passage that naturally jumped out at me today:

Another priest complains that as soon as he comes into church to pray the office or to celebrate Mass, a thousand thoughts fill his mind and distract him from God. But what was he doing in the sacristy before he came out for the office or for Mass? How did he prepare? What means did he use to collect his thoughts and to remain recollected?

I was brought up to arrive several minutes before mass begins, in order to prepare myself for this great and holy sacrifice. In practice, I'm often walking in mere moments before it starts. Highly excusable in the days when babies or toddlers came along: you don't want to waste the 10 or 15 minutes of "quiet baby" time-- before the sweet little time bomb goes off--on non-mass minutes, so arriving just as mass started was a survivors strategy. But nowadays, not so much. 

And  how about preparation before beginning one of the liturgical hours? I really hadn't thought much about that. Usually, I plop down in a chair, find my place in the breviary, and plunge right in. Although, on reflection, it seems that the Invitatory psalm at the start of the day does serve the purpose of preparation quite well. It reminds you that you are about to offer the sacrifice of praise. 

As for the othe hours, maybe forming the habit of --after you sit down and fix those ribbons---just taking maybe 5 seconds, or two deep breaths--to mentally close the door on your work, your to-do list, and whatnot, and just tell yourself, "Now I am here with you, Lord, to praise you and hear your voice.  

Alternatively and more traditionally, you can go to the "Prayers" section of at the top of the list you will find this Prayer Before the Divine Office. Print it out on a bookmark and stick it in your breviary for ease of use.

Open, O Lord, my mouth
to bless your holy name;
cleanse my heart
from all vain, evil, and wandering thoughts;
enlighten my understanding and kindle my affections;
that I may worthily, attentively, and devoutly
say this Office,
and so deserve to be heard
before the presence of your divine Majesty.
Through Christ our Lord.
R. Amen.
Aperi, Domine, os meum
ad benedicendum nomen sanctum tuum:
munda quoque cor meum
ab omnibus vanis, perversis et alienis cogitationibus;
intellectum illumina, affectum inflamma,
ut digne, attente ac devote
hoc Officium recitare valeam,
et exaudiri merear
ante conspectum divinae Majestatis tuae.
Per Christum Dóminum nostrum.
R. Amen,
in union with that divine intention,
with which you praised God
while you were on earth,
I offer to you these Hours (or this Hour)


  1. That same prayer (slightly different english translation) is on the prayer cards that come with the breviary, on the same card with the invitatory. I've used it for years.

    Great posting.

  2. The practice at the Priory of the Immaculate Conception (Dominican House of Studies) is to kneel to pray the "O Sacred Banquet" prior to the Office and Mass.

  3. Daria, could you please comment on the theology presented to us on Fri., Nov. 6th, where St. Gregory Nazianzen proclaims, "I am to be buried with Christ and to rise again with him,to become a co-heir with him, a son of God, and indeed God himself." (pg. 493 in the 4 vol. set.) This is quite a shocking statement, eh?

    1. Kind of shocking when taken by itself--and maybe he was trying to get the congregation to sit up and listen!--but when taken in the context of the entire sermon, it makes sense. Think of that part of the mass where the priest says, "that we may come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity." Also, look at the Catechism, #460 where they quote St. Athanasius saying pretty much the same thing.

  4. Thanks so much for the saintly corroboration, Daria, but when Sts. Gregory and Athanasius say we will "(be) God", it sounds heretical.

    I can buy being "gods" and "sharing in the divinity of Christ", but how can we BE God if we are created and have bodies? Is there something missing in our English translation of the Saints' words?

  5. Daria asked me to comment, as the family theologian. If the statement is not a mistranslation, then the only question is "in what way might this be true?" As you suggest, clearly we don't cease to be human, and it is revealed that we will be restored to our bodies. But in heaven the faithful will be united to God perfectly in our will and intellect, perfectly willing what God wills, so that our wills become in some real sense one with His, and seeing God as He is in Himself, through the Beatific Vision, so that our intellects also become one with God. The mystery is that in this perfect state of union with God we remain our individual selves, as Our Lady remains in her apparitions. St. Thomas Aquinas would say that we become God in a certain respect, but not absolutely. In heaven, God unites Himself to us and us to Him without annihilating our individual personalities. -- Bill (Daria's husband)

  6. Thanks so much, Bill, for your noble contribution!