Friday, November 2, 2012

Commonly prayed

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, all semester, the professor begins my first class of the day in the same way. Oh, there are some preliminaries, the occasional wry observation. But when he is really ready, he begins:

Oh Lord, open our lips, and our mouths shall proclaim your praise. 
Create in us clean hearts, O God, and renew a right spirit within us;
Cast us not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from us.
Restore to us the joy of your salvation, and sustain us with your bountiful  spirit. 
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit;
As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever.
[here may be included a brief timely topical prayer - this week, for example, for those suffering on the East Coast]
O Lord, you have brought us in safety to this new day. Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity. And in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The first day, I recognized this - and some of you do, too - as the opening of morning prayer from the Book of Common Prayer used in the Anglican communion. I appreciated the gesture that first morning, and wondered where Dr. Kalantzis's prayers would take us in the weeks to come.

But, every class session, this is how we begin. I couldn't be more satisfied, and I look forward to it each time. We're now about 10 weeks into the semester, and I simply don't tire of it. But my heart leapt when, last week, the good Dr. K. prayed before a campus lecture. I should not have been surprised to hear:
O gracious Light, pure brightness of the everliving Father in heaven;
O Jesus Christ, holy and blessed!
Now as we come to the setting of the sun, and our eyes behold the vesper light,
we sing your praises, O God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. 
You are worthy at all times to be praised by happy voices, 
O Son of God, O giver of life, and to be glorified through all the worlds. 
This is the ancient Greek hymn Phos hilaron, and it is the opening of evening prayer, also from Common Prayer.

And I sat in that lecture hall, with these prayers having begun and ended my day, and said to myself, "Yes. This is the spirit of worship that I want to foster and serve." My intimacy with the Book of Common Prayer helps me "fill in the service" in my head - the psalms, the multiple readings of scripture, the wide-ranging prayers for the world and the person sitting next to you. With or without music, but simply if gloriously with music. All this was evoked for me, and as I already said, my heart leapt.

My own tradition gets impatient with "sameness." We don't like to use other peoples' prayers. We throw babies out with bath-water. I guess what I long for is the chance to demonstrate that a beautiful historic liturgy can have an "evangelical warmth." I believe this is happening in a number of settings around North America. I could really get on board with that.

1 comment:

dthaase said...

Grateful for your reflection this evening