This holiday season I decided to move into the New Year in a more contemplative fashion. While those around me are discussing new years resolutions and such I have decided to pray my way into the days post Christmas. I attended a retreat several months back were we prayed the liturgy of the hours. Yes, just like the monks, in this case the monks of Genesee Abbey.
You got it—we woke up at 3:oo am to pray Vigils, 7:oo am for Lauds, 9:3o am for Prime/Terce, 11:4o am for Sext, 2:oo pm for None, 5:oo pm for Vespers, then before retiring for the night Compline. The Monks at Genesee Abbey have chosen to pray the Psalms. I figured if it was good enough for those guys its good enough for me, too. I decided to use Psalms for Praying by Nan C. Merrill; her version is very life giving and contemporary without losing the poetic rhythm the Psalms are known for.
In my Lauds reading this morning I read Psalm 89 and—after all the commercials on TV for Christmas—this caught my attention: “So often You seem cast off and rejected, as we your people separate ourselves from Love. We renounce the Covenant made with You; we choose the fear-filled way. We build walls to defend ourselves, walls that lead to loneliness. The world is rampant with violence, neighbors striving to outdo one another. The nations compete for worldly riches, oppressing the weak with deceitful promises. Yes, we turn our backs on Love, we become deaf to the Word longing to be heard. We live according to the gratification of our senses, forgetting the Treasure hidden in the Silence of our hearts.”
I’m reminded that there is a kind of high that the holidays can induce and how, often after the gifts are unwrapped, there is a bit of, well, disappointment that can become melancholy and, for some, pure depression. We cast God off, we reject God. We lose our minds in the frenzy and become separated from God. After all where is God amidst the reindeer and elves? In the midst of all the shopping and spending there is little to remind us that this is suppose to be the celebration of God come to earth.
So I’ve decided to take the Monks’ approach to all this and ponder and pray my way through the days ahead. In the silence of my praying the hours, God keeps drawing me back and into Love. There is something incredibly appealing about this rhythm of praying then working some and praying and then lunch then praying and reflecting and staying in the embrace of Love all the while. In some moments my work is so intense that I don’t want to stop as the alarm on my computer sounds to alert my time for prayer but I do. Stop, drop and pray. I am finding that this is so life giving and it’s as though my mind is being intentionally shaped as I move throughout the day and a lil’ night.
I’m feeling less fear-filled. I am a little freer from having to defend myself. I can think before I react and I’m finding that sometimes I need not react at all. I feel God’s presence and I’m hearing God in the simplest decisions. I’m not bound to needless striving, competing inwardly or deceit outwardly. I’m turning toward Love. I’m even longing for the next alarm that will remind me that there is deep gratification in my soul as I return to the “Treasure hidden in the Silence of my heart.”
Want To Learn More?
Go to www.GeneseeAbbey.org to check out the Liturgy of the Hours using Psalms
Want to Retreat with the Hours? Contact www.Newbeginningsprayer.org
For a pocket size devotional that offers a modified liturgy of the Hours consider The Path To Life, a Renovaré resource that you can order at www.renovare.us
What practice or reading might inspire your rhythms for 2011?
Have you, like Juanita, prayed the psalms? How has that made an impact on your journey with God?
Juanita Campbell Rasmus is an inspirational speaker, motivational teacher, author, and founding board member of the Bread of Life Homeless Project. Juanita and her husband Rudy co-pastor Saint John’s United Methodist Church in Houston, Texas.