It is Friday morning, my sixth day into practicing The Liturgy of the Hours (I still have to flip through the introduction to my book each time I write that, because the terminology still feels a bit awkward, like I am trying to make words trip easily off my tongue and then they get stuck there instead and I stutter).
Last night I did finish my Anne Lamott book, so I am back into the land of liturgy study. I did happen to check my library account this morning, and another book I desperately want to read is on hold, but I am going to refrain from picking it up until Monday. This noble feat has everything to do with my admirable self-discipline and absolutely nothing to do with the fact that my library is closed on Friday and that I will be gone all day tomorrow and unable to check out the book until Monday anyway.
My studies are sparse and limited, and quite truthfully, I don't want to miss out on the beauty of the simplicity of keeping the hours by making it an intellectual venture. However, my ignorance is staggering, so a little education for me is in order.
First, in my glaring ignorance, I honestly thought that praying the hours was something invented by the ritual-oriented Catholic church. I suppose it makes sense that I would think that, since what little I knew about fixed-hour prayer was the vague idea of what I believed happened at monasteries. I don't even know that I realized that people could be wrapped in their own solitude and not a monk's cowl in order to practice the ritual. But in fact, the beauty of fixed-hour prayer is that it is both a solitary and a communal event. The idea, which I am sure everyone else knows except me, is to be part of "a cascade of prayer being lifted ceaselessly by Christians around the world" (Tickle, The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime, xii). Much of this prayer is praise: "I will confess you among the people, O Lord; I will sing praises to you among the nations. For your loving-kindness is greater than the heavens, and your faithfulness reaches to the clouds" (Psalm 103:3-4). Even desperate pleas to God include some praise: "In your righteousness, deliver and set me free; incline your ear to me and save me" (Psalm 71:2). This paradigm of prayer is starkly different than my paraphrase of this prayer, which is usually more like, "Listen to me and help me. Now." No praise involved. Instead of "a cascade of prayer being lifted ceaselessly," I offer more along the lines of a cascade of whining being lifted ceaselessly. I think God's ears must be hurting a little less these past six days, because I have been whining at him less. You're welcome, God.
Because Macrina Weiderkehr, in her book Seven Sacred Pauses, can say it much better than I can, and also because Jack is hungry and talking to me about zombies so now my brain space is too cluttered to create my own thoughts or even paraphrase another's, I am going to leave you with some of Wiederkehr's wise and beautiful words about the act of pausing throughout the day to pray:
"We practice pausing to remember the sacredness of our names, who we are, and what we plan on doing with the incredible gift of our lives--and how we can learn go be in the midst of so much doing. We have to practice loving and forgiving. We practice breathing and being careful with one another's life. We practice nonviolence. We practice enjoying what we have rather than storing up possessions. We practice silence.
"Our being is often crowded out by our doing. Each day we are summoned to be creators of the present moment. Artists know the value of white space. Sometimes what isn't there enables us to see what is. Perhaps you are being called to the spiritual practice of bringing a little of the white space--of nada--into your workday. There in that white space you will find your soul waiting for you. Allow the anointing rhythm of the hours to touch and teach you each day" (14).