The New Gasparian
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A journal dedicated to the life and mission of St. Gaspar del Bufalo, and to a life lived in response to the call and the cry of the Most Precious Blood of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Our on-going mission is to share good news of hope and communion.

Tuesday, October 22, 2002
Morning Prayer

Here is another one of my articles for Precious Blood Family

In the quiet darkness the sound of morning is heard. Some days I wish it were the distant sound of bells as was heard on a recent retreat. Instead it is the insistent beep of a modern alarm. Yet whatever device wakes us to the new day, the words and gestures remain the same. Making the sign of the cross I say “Lord, open my lips; my mouth will proclaim your praise.”(1) This is the ancient and traditional verse and response that begins the Liturgy of the Hours for the entire day. It may be a few minutes before I turn the light on, find my glasses and pick up the prayer book. I do not waken as swiftly as some, yet the day is given its focus. We belong to the Lord, and as with any intimate relationship a practical aspect of that bond is the morning greeting. And as with any human relationship that greeting is done with more or less devotion depending on the day and the feelings. Still this is more than a personal greeting. It is the Church’s greeting. The Body of Christ rises to greet the new morn, in many ways and in many forms, in formal settings and in prayer at home, throughout the world.

The Morning Prayer of the Church, from the Liturgy of Hours, is ancient and meaningful. It can take many forms, and different Religious communities give it varied expressions. Generally it begins with the introduction mentioned above if it is the first prayer of the day, otherwise it begins with “O God, come to my assistance…”(2) When the prayer is prayed in common, a hymn may then be sung. Then there follows a psalm, an Old Testament Canticle, and then another psalm of praise. For individuals the psalms are prayed simply, quietly and directly. When they are prayed together in a group they can be prayed or sung antiphonally, each side of the assembly taking alternate verses or strophes. The psalms are a participation in the Word of God. The members of the community take turns both speaking and listening to this Word. The psalms contain every human emotion, and these emotions are available to us in our relationship with God. In times of joy we may be called upon to pray psalms of sadness, or in times of struggle we are called to pray psalms of praise. Yet, we are praying in more than our own name. We pray in union with all members of the Body throughout the world, praying with them and for them. The Psalms are followed by a reading from the Scripture and a response. Then the Canticle of Zechariah from the Gospel of Luke is prayed every morning. Its focus on the coming Savior and the coming “dawn from on high” are particularly apt for daybreak. This is then followed by a period of intercession offering the day and its concerns to God. After the Lord’s Prayer is recited the concluding prayer for the day is said followed by a simple conclusion. If a priest or a deacon is leading the prayer, the blessing and dismissal are very similar to the Mass.(3)

The Liturgy of Hours, or the Divine Office, sometimes has a bad reputation. It is looked upon as some stern duty that priests of old were required to do under pain of sin. The removal of the “duty” was not a reform designed to make us pray less, but to pray better. Pope Paul VI stated the hope that the Liturgy of Hours would pervade and permeate the whole of Christian prayer, for the clergy and religious AND for the Laity.(4) The intention of the Church was that the Liturgy of Hours would become the basis for councils and groups at parishes, and also for families at home.(5) The point is not to multiply a great many words, but to use the prayer of the Church to give life and expression to our own prayer. For someone praying alone it may be as simple as a psalm, a reading, some silence, some intercession, and the Lord’s Prayer. For a group or assembly it can be sung with great solemnity. There are many books and aids available today to assist with the prayer.(6)

Saint Basil the Great bids all “to take nothing in hand until we have been gladdened by the thought of God.”(7) Saint Gaspar asks us to apply ourselves to prayer “as soon as the alarm rings in the morning.” (8) The Morning Prayer of the Church calls us to rise beyond ourselves and make our own the prayer of the whole Body. We are changed and transformed by our immersion in the Paschal Mystery. Even when we pray this alone it remains the voice of the Church. The basic attitude must be a desire to be one in heart and mind with all our brothers and sisters, and to be one with the mind and heart of Christ.

(1) Psalm 51:17.
(2) see Psalm 31:3
(3) See General Instruction on the Liturgy of Hours, 41-54
(4) Apostolic Constitution
(5) See General Instruction on the Liturgy of Hours, 21,22, 27
(6) Liturgy Training Publications (LTP) has “Children’s Daily Prayer” and “At Home With the Word” as samples of what might be possible.
(7)Saint Basil the Great, Regulae fusius tractate, Resp. 37, 3: PG 31, 1014, General Instruction on the Liturgy of Hours, 38
(8)Letter to Gregory XVI, March, 1831

posted by Fr. Jeffrey Keyes, C.PP.S. on 7:31 PM link
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