Day 6: PRAY: Liturgy of the Hours

I had a colleague once who introduced me to the Divine Office.  He had a regular corporate job, but I always wondered if he would have been happier as a priest.   He was a faithful communicant, and regular retreatant.  He conducted a bereavement ministry, and he had gone through the two-year formation to be a Catholic deacon, only to be told by his wife at the last minute that she didn’t want him to be ordained.

And he arose daily at 5:30 a.m. to pray the Divine Office.  

I didn’t have a clue what that was until I started going to the Weston Priory and became enamored with Benedictine spirituality.   The complete Liturgy of the Hours was available to purchase online, and I bought one volume, to test.  It seemed like such a daunting undertaking to get through all those psalms, readings, hymns, etc.    But I learned that even my pious colleague just got to them whenever he could.  Spiritual progress in doing the Divine Office, not perfection, was the goal.

He taught me how to start with the invitatory, and where to insert the antiphons, and where to place the ribbons… it was all very confusing!   What helped was finding online versions, such as universalis.com and divineoffice.org. There, you didn’t have to navigate through the thick volumes of thinner-than-thin paper to find the right week, the right reading.  You just www’d, clicked, and prayed.   

But last week, on Ash Wednesday, I resorted to my thick book with the thinner-than-thin paper. And I started right at the beginning of Volume II:  The Lenten Season / The Easter Season.  

I’m not a huge poetry fan, so I’m not a huge psalm fan.  I tend to gravitate towards the readings, the sermons by ancient priests and bishops.  But what spoke to me on Ash Wednesday was a reading from the book of Isaiah.   It’s about how giving up stuff for Lent is OK with the Lord, but what is more impressive is social action–what matters most is love in action:

Lo, on your fast day you carry otu your own pursuits, and drive all your laborers.
Yes, your fast ends in quarreling and fighting, striking with wicked claw.
Would that today you might fast so as to make your voice heard on high!

Is this the manner of fasting I wish, of keeping a day of penance:
That a man bow his head like a reed, and lie in sackcloth and ashes?
Do you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord?

This, rather is the fasting that I wish:
Releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke;
Setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke;
Sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless;
Clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own.

Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your wound shall quickly be healed;
Your vindication shall go before you, and the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer, and you shall cry for help, and he will say: Here I am! 

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