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O Lord, open thou our lipsHallo again to all.

The new year is three weeks old, and many new year's resolutions are already two weeks dead. This seems to be the nature of the beast. There is nothing magical about the first of the year that should really alter our resolve to improve anything: that is a silly if sometimes effective mind-trick. 2019 will be an easier time to do x, y, and z than 2018 had been. From where does it come? We're not ourselves sure, but something about the change in the calendar does seem to have wrought a difference in our horarium.

We've told ourselves in the last ten years or so that it was simply impossible to pray even part of the Daily Office. It is complex and time-consuming, we said. Our lives are too busy. There is childcare, there is graduate school, there is the need to catch an extra half hour of sleep whenever and wherever we can, there is that inbox, and that one. There is the commute, and the gym, and the distraction of this project or that social media platform, or that messaging conversation. There is no time for Venite, Benedicite, Mag, Nunc, and the Prayer of St Chrysostom.

On some wise, this has been true and still is true. Our lives are too busy, cramped even: not easy places into which to steal time for focus, quiet, calm, the openness to God's word in lectionary and cyclical Psalter. We tell ourselves that others have it still worse, that we manage, that we are doing our best, that God understands. It was one of our favorite George Herbert poems that put us in mind to make an experiment this year to try at least part of the office on a regular basis, a thing we hadn't done since our undergraduate years:

Seven whole days, not one in seven,
I will praise thee;
In my heart, though not in Heaven,
I can raise thee.
Small it is, in this poor sort
To enroll thee:
E’en eternity’s too short
To extol thee.

The worship of the holy people (and indeed peoples) of God, the plebs sancta Dei, has always been a daily matter rather than a weekly one, and we know this. The rhythms of the entire Psalter in a calendar month, and the several testaments right through during the course of the year, have shaped the thought of twenty centuries of our predecessors in the faith according to just about the same order in which we can experience them if we will in our Prayer Book. The children are older now, graduate school is over, the commute is no longer daily, and we have evolved in our attitudes toward the inboxes. It seemed a good time to try to make this true:

Wherefore with my utmost art
I will sing thee,
And the cream of all my heart
I will bring thee.

And so, since the beginning of this year, we've boiled a kettle before dawn to prepare a pot of tea or a press of coffee, we've arranged an app for lessons and a Prayer Book for the set prayers, canticles, psalms, and collects, and we've spent the 15-20 minutes early (almost) each morning making our way through the text. It is a time when our minds are naturally sharp, before the rush has begun, when the cities around us are quiet, and when we can pull together a modicum of intention and seriousness about the day ahead. We don't retain the content of the readings with the sharpness we once did, but they're still the first things with which we're engaging actively, rather than CNN, BBC, CBC, NHK, Deutsche Welle and their ilk, which had been the case via podcast until the middle of Christmastide.

The fruits of this three-week experiment have been most apparent at the end of the day. We're able to be thankful for the things about which we prayed at the beginning of the morning. We're able to have spent some time in those moments of busyness (the commute, the inbox triage, the tending to the needs of loved ones and other duties) pondering the meaning of a curious word in the Coverdale Psalter. We're grateful to have started the day with an informal recitation of a very formal kind of prayer, latching on to the movement of the readings and prayers through the course of our days. We've come to look forward a little more to waking up each day with this small work of duty ahead of us, filling out the goodness of Keble's words:

New every morning is the love
Our wakening and uprising prove;
Through sleep and darkness safely brought,
Restored to life and power and thought.

New mercies, each returning day,
Hover around us while we pray;
New perils past, new sins forgiven,
New thoughts of God, new hopes of heaven.

If, on our daily course, our mind
Be set to hallow all we find,
New treasures still, of countless price,
God will provide for sacrifice.

Old friends, old scenes, will lovelier be,
As more of heaven in each we see;
Some softening gleam of love and prayer
Shall dawn on every cross and care.

We need not bid, for cloistered cell,
Our neighbor and our words farewell,
Nor strive to find ourselves too high
For sinful man beneath the sky.

The trivial round, the common task,
Will furnish all we ought to ask;
Room to deny ourselves, a road
To bring us daily nearer God.

See you next week.

Our Signatures

Richard Mammana


All of us at Anglicans Online

20 January 2019

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