In the post before this one, I mentioned a prayer that stuck out to me from the first week of Lent that I felt cut to my heart. The last two years have been a slow trip into more depth of discipleship and spirituality for me. This slow trip has resulted from a deeper understanding of the Bible on my part and the realization I found there that God’s people are expected to be different than the people around them. And not just different in a practice of weekly worship or inward feeling, but in central commitments and family interactions and how they see and interact with both friend and neighbor and, in the case of Lent, what part of the year is most important to them and why.
I say this because in growing up in a small rural church in Virginia, I knew of Lent, but it usually only brought to mind two things for me:
1) My dad went to worship services on Sunday nights during this mysterious “Lent” time, but I didn’t know why, and
2) The word “Lent” made me think of “lentil soup,” which I thought tasted like pureed cardboard.
Literally. That was all I knew about Lent.
But as I’ve grown in the past several years, I’ve begun to see a certain rhythm of the year (some call it the Christian calendar) that isn’t centered around Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, President’s Day, Valentine’s Day (or Black Friday, for that matter); but All Saints’ Day and Christmas and Easter and Pentecost. And I’ve found that the two “high holidays (or, from the root of holidays, ‘holy days’)” of Christmas and Easter are each preceded by a time of preparation and penitence, a time to do something concrete that helps us to step back and take account of our lives and how they are impacting the world around us. We call them “Advent” (before Christmas) and “Lent” (before Easter). For a better understanding of the deeply countercultural approach of Christians to preparing for Christmas, check out what the folks over at Advent Conspiracy are doing.In a desire to honor these seasons, I’ve made a commitment to progress toward a more rooted, more ancient path of penitence in these times in the hopes that my faith will grow deeper, my actions will reflect Christ more fully, and my lifestyle will display a commitment to walking by the beating of a different drum than those around me who don’t know Christ.
Just a little background for my seeking to honor Lent and through it to more deeply appreciate and celebrate Easter and the breaking through of hope and transformation out of the darkest, most unlikely circumstance.
I offer as a small worship guide for whoever may visit this site a prayer to be said in the morning, the midday, and the evening this week, as well as the prayer for the week at each stage of the day. Maybe they will help draw you deeper into the season as well. These are drawn from Phyllis Tickle’s Eastertide, where she reminds in the preface of the book the reason for this observance of fixed prayer (the “divine hours”) throughout the day, saying
“When one prays the hours, one is using the exact words, phrases, and petitions that have informed our faith for centuries. In addition, we are using the exact words, phrases, and petitions that were offered just an hour earlier by our fellow Christians in the prior time zone and that, in an hour, will be picked up and used again by our fellow believers in the next time zone. The result is a constant cascade before the throne of God of the “unceasing prayer” to which St. Paul urged us. The result also is the communion of the saints fully realized in words both horizontally through the ages and vertically within this day and hour. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.” (xi-xii)
While I’m not quite as invested in the “exact words, phrases, and petitions” side of the Divine Hours as Phyllis, especially since different cultures and peoples and different languages say different things in very different ways, I love the imagery of the “constant cascade.” I am not a Christian by myself and for myself. I am a member of a global people casting ourselves down in humility at the feet of God who can think of nothing better (or more fulfilling) to do than cry, “Glory!” (Psalm 29:9)
Morning (to be observed on the hour or half hour between 6 and 9 a.m.)
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought me safely to this new day: Preserve me with your mighty power, that I may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all I do direct me to the fulfilling of your purpose, through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen.
Prayer for the Week
O Lord, you have taught us without love whatever we do is worth nothing; Send your Holy Spirit and pour into my heart your greatest gift, which is love, the true bond of peace and of all virtue, without which whoever lives is accounted dead before you. Grant this for the sake of your only Son Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Midday (to be observed on the hour or half hour between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.)
Bow your heavens, O Lord, and come down; touch the mountains, and they shall smoke. Hurl the lightning and scatter them; shoot out your arrows and rout them. Stretch out your hand from on high; rescue me and deliver me from the great waters, from the hand of foreign peoples, whose mouths speak deceitfully and whose right hand is raised in falsehood. (Psalm 144:5-8)
Prayer for the week (repeat from the morning)
Evening (to be observed on the hour or half hour between 5 and 8 p.m.)
O God, the King Eternal, whose light divides the day from the night and turns the shadow of death into the morning: Drive far from me all wrong desires, incline my heart to keep your law, and guide my feet into the way of peace; that, having done your will with cheerfulness during the day, I may, when night comes, rejoice to give you thanks; through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen.
Prayer for the week (repeat from the morning)