One of the greatest benefits of our tradition is the spiritual discipline of the Office. Morning and Evening Prayer are the primary daily prayers in our denomination (with a midday and compline/night office as well). This is from the Benedictine tradition, which is the primary Western monastic expression of this way of life. Students of the early church are aware of the many individuals and groups who sought to live lives consecrated to the Lord. They are our great spiritual teachers on prayer because so much of their life is focused on the work and discipline of prayer (just as scholars are a more focused expression of study, missionaries are a more focused expression of the apostolic vocation, and other ministers--teaching, healing, serving the poor and needy, administrators, choirs, and others--are each practitioners of the ministries in which we all engage).
I have heard people who criticize monastics, but I think it is unfair. Historically, some of the greatest missionaries of the church were monks. Monks copied scriptures and other ancient manuscripts and without them much of our Christian heritage would be lost. And above all, the way of holiness in which we are all walking, can be informed by the experiences and insights of those who do more completely and intensely what we all try to do in our own ways.
This morning we have had intermittent rain, some of it quite heavy. The big, high church roof (for an otherwise a relatively small space) creates a wonderful background for prayer when the rain falls. Today was very meditative, but at one point the rain came much harder and louder. As the church echoed with the drumming melody, we prayed together the assigned Canticle 10.
Seek the Lord while He wills to be found; call upon Him when He draws near.
Let the wicked forsake their ways and the evil ones their thoughts; And let them turn to the Lord, and He will have compassion, and to our God for He will richly pardon.
For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor your ways My ways says the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.
For as RAIN and snow fall from the heavens and return not again, but water the earth, bringing forth life and giving growth, seed for sowing and bread for eating, SO is MY WORD that goes forth from My mouth; it will not return to me empty; but will accomplish that which I have purposed and prosper in that for which I sent it.
The Word spoken through the prophets, the word written in Sacred scripture, the word preached and proclaimed by evangelists and ministers--that Word is incarnate in Jesus, God the Son. Jesus' work is effective and will not be empty. Whatever the state of the world, whatever the state of the church, whatever the state of our hearts and souls...whatever things appear and are, the Word is at work, like falling rain, bringing life.
Hearing the rain and declaring it is a sacramental of the Word, was a very profound experience today. Every Friday we proclaim this canticle from Isaiah 55. Every Friday those words are spoken by the lips of those gathered together, and we know it mostly by heart, and our hearts are being filled with life and God is accomplishing His purpose a bit more in each of us.
The monk way is for you and me. The office, praying Scripture (the Word) and encountering Jesus (the Word made flesh); and God doing the slow work of growing His kingdom (like a mustard seed or a woman kneading dough into enough loaves of bread to feed hundreds and hundreds).
Thy Kingdom Come! Thy will be done!
we also prayed this today, in the rainy echoes of our little church.
I hope all who read this are inspired to learn the Benedictine way and the discipline of praying Sacred Scripture.