S '71 Preparation

Order Base

July 2, 1971


Every man shows up in the context of time. He marks his time chronologically and, as we say, kairotically. He pays attention to the sequence of time and then he marks that time with the significance that he decides to bestow upon the flow of his life of the events around him. Because that's true of every man, then you could expect that to be true of the church. The church marks time chronologically and marks it kairotically and that's what the church year is all about in one sense, about the marking of time in the life of the church. What self­consciousness brings to that marking is intentionality. Being the church, we mark our time intentionally with the story of our faith that we tell ourselves about who we are in history and our task and with the historical symbols that mark that reality. The radical thing about the church's marking of time is that the church marks all time; not just eight to five, not just the weekend or whatever, but the church marks all time. The church year, all 365 days, week one, week two, twenty­four hours a day ­­ that's what the Canonical Hours are all about twenty­four hours a day every day. The little hooker down underneath those images is that you know it's your whole life that's being marked. Time that is all of life the church has decided to mark chronologically and kairotically with the symbols of the faith.

When you come down to the day, you come down to the whole arena of the Canonical Hours or twenty­four hours of every day. And if you can just imagine what it must have been like for a young man at fourteen, let's say, to have entered the orders and to begin to prepare to be the sign and the symbol in the midst of the kind of medieval civilization that was, and from the very beginning they began to mark time. He had already been raised in a household that marked time. For all his life he had gone to the Mass. He had heard the bell toll in the middle of his town, or the city. He had gone to had seen the church mark and symbolize time and the significance of all the events of life. Then he entered the monastery or the seminary and he began to rehearse perhaps more intentionally and in a more intensified way the marking of time than ever before. A few weekends ago, I talked with a Father who was 83, we talked about the Hours. He talked about his first forty years. He said, "I never really got on top of the Hours, but we did them. We were very faithful and it was not until, I think, the forty­first year that things began to break open a little bit for me." (He had been 55 at the time) "But as you get into it, it will come." Just think, imagine fifty years of marking time with the symbols of the faith. To remember the Christ, to remember the church, to remember the Holy Spirit over and over and over and over and over, when you're sick and when you're well and when you're happy and when you're sad, when life is a pile, and when life is a party. Over and over and over and over and over for fifty years. Or forever. And there are those, there have always been those, in the church who have marked the time for the church and on behalf of the whole world.

Now, enter the twentieth century and the radicality of the image of the church as mission. What you know about that mission is that it's not eight to five, it's not the weekend, it's not during holidays, it's all the year ­­ week one, week two, 24 hours a day, when you're happy, when you're sad, when life is a pile, when life is a party. Over and over and over and that's just the way it is. That's what the Canonical Hours are all about, is rehearsing over and over in every moment your decision to be the church and to be the church all of your life.

Now, to say a few words about the development of the Hours. The Hours began very early in the life of the church. Before every feast day Mass, there was a vigil held. The vigil was held in three parts and it began on the evening before. The third part was finally ended in the early­morning hours before the feast or the Mass. Out of this we got Vespers and Matins and Lauds which are the 6­9, 12­3 and 3­6 in the night. Those became known as the nightwatches or the nocturnes. It seems appropriate that there would develop a corresponding kind of daywatch to fit over against the nightwatch, the church acting out wisdom that a monks whole life is consecrated or sanctified to the Lord or to the task. Then there developed the three daytime hours of Terce, Sext, and None, or the daytime hours, and now we're up to six. It was in the medieval period that I would talk about as the medieval resolution of the Canonical Hours. For monasticism developed four more, two primary and two minor.

The first of these was Prime. I don't know whether the guys were sloughing off or not but 3­6 had been morning prayer. Evidently some of the Fathers had decided that was a little early for morning prayer and so they developed a second morning prayer and they called it Prime between 6 and 9. I guess you sort of do that after collegium and before breakfast or something like that.

And then there was Compline, and that was night prayer. Even the most sick of us Protestants as myself know that it's appropriate to say your prayers before you go to bed. "And now I lay me down to sleep", remember that? Out of the bedtime devotions of the monks, everybody got clear that it was silly to do it in the room by yourself that you ought to gather and do it corporately. And out of that then came Compline, or the Hour of the second evening prayer or bedtime devotions. And this was the resolution of the primary offices of the Hours. Three night hours, three days hours, and then the Prime and the Compline. Now our efforts with the Canonical Hours is to be utterly faithful to the spirit of all of that which has gone before us. We're not out to undercut the fantastic wisdom and experimentation and effort that has just gone on for centuries by thousands of men and women in the church who have in one sense already gone the journey for us. But the key in our time is to get clear that the radicality has to do with the church's mission and I've not gotten my mind around that yet. We've not made the total leap from something like they used to do in the eleventh century to something that needs to be done now. That's one of the things that his summer's about, is experimenting with that whole problem seem in the light of the church's mission. It's a rehearsal of monk's time, if you will, and I'm pretty convinced that one of the keys to releasing the spirit in our time will come with the Canonical Hours, or the holding of monk's time with the marking of every moment in every day as a consecration to the Lord.

Now the structure of the Hours is that in every Hour, you have four major elements. There are the hymns, that's the thing David Scott leads right after we say "Praise ye the Lord", and then the scripture, the psalms and the prayers. Now our effort has been to synthesize and fuse or bring into one Office just the wisdom of the past, the contemporary, and the movemental all at once and that's a very powerful part of the power of the Hours is to begin to see, once you've done some of these psalm conversations and begin to get a feel for what the psalms are a about, those poor monks rehearsed 150 psalms just like clockwork. I mean they went through the psalms like you and I go to the bathroom and brush our teeth. That is just the way life was, going through the psalms. The psalms then were the guts of the Canonical Hours. And that was fine. I have to tell this story. Do you remember when you learned the twenty­third Psalm in Sunday School? "The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in you remember the part where it goes, "surely goodness and mercy"? It was not until this year that I discovered that surely, goodness, and mercy were not three parts of a series like cats, dogs, and parakeets. It was surely, goodness and mercy....Once then you begin to break through some of the superficiality you have with the psalms and to see that what the psalms point to are states of being to the journey, to raw humanness itself, then you begin to see what these monks were rehearsing and what we're about to begin to rehearse. It's not surely, goodness, and mercy. But the psalms then are the guts and what you see there is that they are so contentless it doesn't matter if it's a historical psalm or a "I'm a very dependent psalm, or whatever, you get your whole life pulled through that whether you want it pulled through or not and that was what was rehearsed over and over and over, every day, every night, every morning, every afternoon, just as regular as three meals a day.

Then when you come to the single offices, you can see on your chart there, each office has a theme and an image and then one of the Mysteries of the church and if you'll look across the eight hours there under Mystery, you will begin to see a kind of one, two, one, one, two, one, kind of rhythm. We talked about this but I've not gotten my mind around what that rhythm is all about. But the important thing was that our fathers were imaginal educators and they knew that if you were sent out to hoe the grapes in the vine field you needed something to set yourself before. So these Mysteries were provided. And just imagine, if you will, reflection on the Great Commission, Go Ye, and the Martyrs ­­ those who have already gone ­­ who have given their whole life already, and that's what you're reflecting on while you're out there hoeing around the grapes.

Then you want to try to begin to talk about the journey the Hours are. We could just begin with Matins. It's the middle of the night and it's dark and you stand just at the depths of darkness itself and the watchful, the waiting one who hinds himself at the bottom. Where would you be? You would be lying in your bed or you would be finishing up your last obediences for the day before retiring and it's dark. It's the night and the watchful and the waiting, and you begin to prepare for the coming day. Maybe there are just a lot of rows to hoe tomorrow, or maybe tomorrow is the day that you go into the village to visit the citizenry or, in our context, maybe tomorrow is the day that you have to decide how you're going to get a thousand people here. But the watchful, the waiting, the darkness. then the anticipation of the morrow. And in the midst of that everybody knows that you can't anticipate the future until you affirm the past, so there's the affirmation of the day that has just gone before. Beginning to affirm then the future and beginning to arrange your day that is coming according to the task that just stands before you that needs to be done. Then it is that the office is said and perhaps retire. And at 3:00 the bell rings. And you're up. It's still night, but you can hear the first sounds of the waking of the days if you're out in the country. Or if you're in the city, maybe it is that you can look across the street here and you can see that some of these gentlemen who live across the street who have to go to work very early are beginning to get up and their lights are on. Whereas you were in the depths of the darkness, the resurrection or new life stands present before you. That's the way it is. And the tomb. Lord, the tomb, the dark tomb and the stone is removed. There's no way to stop the new life that's coming. It's just coming. The theme, then, is one of ecstatic praise, appreciation for the creation that is just being burped. Time is going on, things have not stopped. Things have not stopped. And so it is then that you begin to embrace what is there and begin to awaken your consciousness to prepare to move into the day that's before you. Maybe you say the office and maybe you go back to bed and at 6:00 another bell. Bong. And this time you roll out because you know they're serious, collegium's in five minutes. It's a time of spiritual reflection ­­ reflection on the Great Commission to go forth. The universality of that is now particularized in your own life ­­ get your ass out of that bed and get over there. Then it is the consecrating service. Remembering the martyrs, and the dedication of your life to the task, and the particularity of that, that's not like you were out at MYE camp one weekend and at the end they said "now everybody that wants to be good and live good from now on come up here and burn your faggot." The particularity of the day is that it's Tuesday and it's raining, and you have more to do than you can possible do. Four preschool teachers are sick and you're going to have to take the minischool ­­ now get out there! And of course the mood is decisional obedience. How else could you do it? Or your acceptance of the holy calling, preparing yourself for the labor of the day. Breakfast is over, things are beginning to get moving a little bit and you come to the hour of Terse. How do you talk about the middle of the morning? Usually that comes to me something like ­­ "Today falls into two kinds of categories. It's either a good day or it's one of those pile kinds of experiences" And what you know about that, regardless of how that comes to you, is that the only reason you showed up this morning is because the Lord decided to let you live through the night and appear down in some office working on tertiary actualization of recruitment, or something like that. Unceasing dependence. And it is then that you begin to strengthen yourself because you realize that the day could last a pretty long while. For the day's work is long.

Then comes Sext and the image there is the crucifixion or the cross of Christ. What is embodied is total submission ­­ just the free man. In the seminary where we were at Denver last year, down at the end of the place where we ate, there was a crucifix on the wall. It wasn't one of those bloody ones. It was a real nice good gold cross and there was this guy up there who had on a crown and flowing robes. The free man, just embracing what's there. It's then we're called to open ourselves to accept that which stands before us and that is going to be there. You've got a decision to make and that's what the hour of Sext is all about. The other way I would talk about Sext is: suppose you come to the Ecumenical Institute and you eat a good meal at lunch, and that does happen, the decision is something like, "do I sleep the afternoon, sitting at a desk, or do I work it? The secular man who had a good lunch, then goes later for a cup of coffee, has a decision to make about whether he's going to finish the day or not. And the hour of Sext is acting out that decision just to embrace the rest of the day's work and see it through.

None comes Next. Here the reflection is on the throne or the last judgment. I don't know how you talk about this without getting into moralism, but it's coming to 3:00 with now the decision to persevere to the end of the day's work knowing that sometimes the day's work can go on right to 10:00­­like tonight, and the work days ­­ steadfast perseverance. The decisional mood with None is somberness and I understand that perfectly. To appropriate the last things. And as you see the day is beginning to wane, the sun is beginning to move toward the western horizon for us. The day is beginning to die, beginning to be ended and that's the way every day is. It's the consideration, then, of the last things ­­ of the eschaton, of undergirding ourselves for life's end, and that will come.

Then you move to the hour of Vespers. Vespers is usually a very high celebration. We talked about doing that by doing all three offices every time you got to Vespers, as we were talking here this morning. But it's an evening prayer . It's the fervent thanksgiving for the day that has been, acknowledging the gift that today is. It's hard to lay down and decide that chaos is just as good as order. But that's what this Hour is all about, celebrating the day that has been and giving thanks for it.

The office of Compline, or the bedtime devotions or the second evening prayer follows None. The reflection with Compline is on Christ Gethsemane or the Garden. Abject contrition. I don't know how to talk about the examination of the conscience. It's like the rehearsal in our mind, standing present just to the day that has been and what you've learned there and what you've been and who you've been and then beginning in that next hour the watchful awaiting, turning again to the future. Facing the day then as preparation for the night is the way the chart puts it. Picture the radicality of just standing self­conscious to that life journey day out, day in. And you see it's contentless finally. It does not matter what goes on in the day. We're talking about the ontology - "ontologicalness" of all that, and it does not matter whether you drive a taxi or whether you sit on your can, (morally it doesn't matter) but I mean just anything that happens could be pulled through that. And just day after day after day after day after week, after month, after year and just standing present to all of those psalms, all of that journey, all of those states of being.

I want to say that in terms of their use, then, the Hours are used all the time. I don't know how we've lost that. Talking to those Franciscans in New Jersey was just a horrible experience. I said after the pleasantries were over, "What kind of liturgical life do you fellows have?" And he said, "There are fifteen of us­six brothers and nine Fathers ­­ and we've kind of gotten away from a lot of that stuff. You know it's pass." I said, "Ok . What kind liturgical life do you have?" "The older brothers of the fifteen have worship at 7:30 in the morning. And the younger ones of us (He must have been 50) go down to the Zen Den at 11:30 in the morning. The Zen Den. Do you understand the degeneracy in that? It has nothing whatsoever to do with whether you do the Canonical Hours or not. Underlying that is his decision not to consecrate all of his time to the Lord. I said, "Well, we've been experimenting with the Canonical Hours and found them very exciting." He said, "Well, you know it's kind of like this, isn't it." (Accompanying with hand motions) I said, "It's kind of like that, isn't it? The mission if nothing else for me is that what we get said in Summer '71 with the Canonical Hours is that it is possible for every man ­­ lay, clergy man, woman, young, old, whoever, to decide to somehow symbolize the consecration of his whole life to the Lord. That we are not finally victimized to the point that we have to end up down at the Zen Den at 11:30. They are for all of the time and they are for every man, I would want to say. To hell with this stuff about the clergy. It's for the cleric, it's for the layman, and it's for public use and for private use. Then it is that we see that the Hours are used in a way that embraces the past, and I am very pleased about the way our Hours got constructed because they embrace the past. I get .these images of all of these grown men and women sitting around singing songs I used to learn in Sunday School and for a long time that was very offensive, made me vary angry. I thought it was very childish. But it seems now that we are at a point where we can reappropriate that in an authentic way. We can embrace the past ­­ the basic structure, the twenty­four hours, the whole thing. And then it's moving into the future. And I guess what holds that for me are the movement prayers, the contemporary prayers, the hymns, the use of the New English Bible psalms. Finally, knowing what we're doing ­­ we're not just being more disciplined people or more intentional we are radically symbolizing that it's possible for every man to consecrate his whole life to the Lord. If we get that done, we will have recovered something for the whole church.

John Bengel