ECS Wellbeing: Bishop Martin’s Awareness Practice- Week 8
I have an invitation for you.
Try carving out a little time each day to pray ‘The Prayer of the Church’. Now, the word ‘church’ means ‘the Body of Christ’. To be in ‘The Body’ is to respond to the Love of God shown, known, but also not seen and not known. One of the time-honoured practices of response to that Love of God is called ‘Daily Prayer’. What does it require? Practice and attention.
Every day, without exception, millions all over the world pray some form of Morning and Evening Prayer, which consists basically of some psalms, which are traditional hymns and poetry of Jewish from ancient times, recorded in the Bible. There are also readings from the Bible and then prayer for the needs of the world, coupled with thanks for what [and who!] has been given. All these change, depending on the time of year and important celebrations.
This Daily Prayer has been given different titles: ’Breviary’ [which literally means a ‘short compilation’]. The Breviary comes in several volumes, or a single volume, as in The Book of Common Prayer. The latter is used every day in the Cathedral, including by the choristers of our school. Another name is the Divine Office. The word ‘Office’ means ‘duty of service’.
Some have an obligation to pray ‘The Office’ every day. For example, I pray the Office in the Morning, Midday, Evening [Vespers/Evensong] and Compline [Night Prayer]. These are prayed mostly by myself, but sometimes with others. The more enclosed monks and nuns have these ‘offices’ seven times a day in ‘Quire’ [or Choir]. But this discipline is for everyone, not just for the religious specialist, following a simple demand: ‘From the rising of the sun to its setting, the Lord’s name be praised’. Perhaps a better way of putting it is to use the Latin term: Opus Dei – The Work of God. Each office is not long, but it keeps awareness high as to the Presence of the Love of God in all things.
For centuries, the tradition has grown that in Cathedrals, Churches and Monasteries, the ‘Office’ is sung. The word Choir comes from the same word as ‘chorus’: the place and the people who sing the Office. In your Cathedral, Exeter, it is said or sung every day. That is why we have our choristers [ECS] who sing the Office [Evensong] every day, in and out of term time.
Love is at the heart of what humans are and do. All creation stems from Love, both in its delight and in its agony. The Office is a disciplined way of recognising that and responding. It isn’t a concert or a performance, but a ‘duty of service’.
My invitation then… Try coming to Choral Evensong in the Cathedral and soak up the words, the music, and the prayer. Follow the words in the Prayer Book. [Choral Evensong is on BBC Radio 3 every Wednesday at 4.00 pm from a Cathedral or College that have choral foundations.]
You can pray ‘The Office’, in whatever form you choose, on your own at home, in the car, even while walking. On your mobile, you can download various ‘Daily Prayer’ apps: e.g. Daily Prayer from the Church of England. Try for example: ‘Time to Pray’. The important point is that it isn’t about quantity but about the attention you give to a little. The practice has a surprising affect on the rest of your life, as it gathers round a rhythm of praying as a daily habit.
You can, of course, a little of Daily Prayer together as a household. However, keep it simple.
If you want any help and guidance, do get in touch with me.
‘O Lord, open our lips. And our mouth shall show forth Your Praise.’
Bishop Martin Shaw
ECS School Chaplain