Having not blogged for over a week, when I returned I was surprised to have been tagged by Fr. Austin at Concord Pastor and Claire at A Seat at The Table to name five devotions.
Oh no, what an awful topic to ask me to write about was my first reaction (!) :I haven't got a clue , but paradoxically it has turned out to be a gift as "the well was dry" for me on what to write about after a long time away from blogging, so it has stimulated me (eventually) to think about it.
So my initial groans are now converted to thanks to Austin and Claire and I get to tag some others !! They are Barbara at Barefoot Toward The Light and Tess at Anchors and Masts
So : Devotions and Me .....................................
Like Claire, I am not really into devotions. My mother and father certainly were familiar with them. Growing up as a Catholic, devotions for me were in the realm of something reserved for ardent believers and not for me , the reluctant, doubtful, fairweather friend of prayer.
Even the hint of something called a daily devotion provoked dismay and almost revulsion.
However, there were a few devotions that did attract me.
I think my earliest memory of one I liked was the Angelus - always accompanied by the mid morning tolling of the bells and is still something I love to hear on Irish radio.
Other early memories of devotions during adolescence were repetitive litanies that never appealed to me and novenas were a big turn off - I tended to associate them with stolid and routine petitioning and they never seemed to work for me.
: The Angelus : Jean Francois Millet 1857
I remember often falling asleep during times at Mass when the droning monotones of the priest and the congregations responses were the dullest responses I could conceive of in the presence of a vibrant and eternally creative God.
Later in my twenties I was introduced to the wonderful Taize chants set to music and in the community of a wonderful church , these devotions reopened my eyes and ears to the value of cyclical rhythmical prayer.
I suppose I was beginning to realise the affective intensity that could result from such prayer but was also sensitive to the criticisms of my atheist peers who were highly critical of this type of prayer as they thought it was just a form of brain washing !!
Later in my life I became more confident in listening to Gregorian chant and during the time I spent in Malawi I discovered and enjoyed the Divine Office - strictly supposed to be done seven times a day: psalms, canticles, scripture and silent meditation but I managed three times !!
Thomas Merton had this to say : "The mix of devotional activities, singing, reading, meditating- that absorbs both body and mind in prayer; the self effacement needed in order to say prayers in unison with others, a willed anonymity that is the complete opposite to the logic of the world; the literary and spiritual beauty of the biblical texts being sung, read and meditated upon : and the serenity of the music, traditionally Gregorian chant - all have a special power to bring one close to God."
Thomas Merton explains the effect of chant at the Abbey of Gethsemani , Kentucky where he lived for 27 years :
"The cold stones of the abbey church ring with a chant that glows with living flame, with clean, profound desire. It is a warmth that is deep beyond ordinary emotion and that is why you never grow tired of it.It never wears you out by making a lot of cheap demands on your sensibilities. Instead of drawing you out into the open field of feelings where your enemies, the devil and your own imagination and the inherent vulgarity of your own corrupted nature can get at you with their blades and cut you to pieces, it draws you within, where you are lulled in peace and reonciliation and where you find God."
Nowadays, I don't have a formal set of devotions that I pray every day but I do have some favourite prayers and other things that are important to me. I often revisit them at certain times of the day, year or at special moments in my life.
This plaque is on my wall in the garden (which is also on my blog's side bar),and carries a phrase that punctuates my life several times a day. In English it means "Invited or Uninvited, God is Present.".
Incidentally the same plaque featured outside Jung's home.
Although it is not really a prayer in the formal sense, it allows me to bring the presence of God into the domain of my daily mundane actions and time and allows me to remind myself that everything and everywhere can be transformed into "sacred time ", where God's presence blessings and grace can enter irrespective of my own paltry attempts to articulate in words a prayer.
I like the phrase as it offers me a reminder that I am not in control and when I think I am then I am most definitely not !
Then there are
The Stations of the Cross.
The Daily Prayer of Cardinal Newman:
"May He support us all the day long, till the shades lengthen and the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over, and our work is done.
Then in His mercy may He give us a safe lodging, and a holy rest and peace at the last."
The phrase : "Spirit of the Living God, Come today and dwell in me." is something I often use.
Finally, The Easter Exultet when beautifully sung at the Easter Saturday Midnight Mass to announce The Resurrection never fails to move me, especially the last few verses which I have highlighted in yellow below
Click here for an mp3 recording and the words are below:
Rejoice, Heavenly powers! sing, choirs of angels! Exult all creation around God’s throne! Jesus Christ, our King is risen. Sound the trumpet of salvation!
Rejoice, O earth, in shining splendour, radiant in the brightness of your King. Christ has conquered! Glory fills you! Darkness vanishes for ever!
Rejoice, O Mother Church! Exult in glory! The Risen Saviour shines upon you! Let this place resound with joy, echoing the mighty song of all God’s people!
My dearest friends, standing with me in this holy light, join me in asking God for mercy, that he may give his unworthy minister grace to sing his Easter praises.
The Lord be with you: and also with you.
Lift up your hearts: We lift them up to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God:
It is right to give him thanks and praise.
It is truly right that with full hearts and minds and voices
we should praise the unseen God, the all-powerful Father,
and his only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.
For Christ has ransomed us with his blood,
and paid for us the price of Adam’s sin to our eternal Father.
This is our Passover feast, when Christ the true Lamb is slain
whose blood consecrates the homes of all believers.
This is the night when first you saved our fathers:
you freed the people of Israel from their slavery
and led them dry-shod through the sea.
This is the night when the pillar of fire destroyed the darkness of sin!
This is the night when Christians everywhere,
washed clean of sin and freed from all defilement,
are restored to grace and grow together in holiness.
This is the night when Jesus Christ broke the chains of death
and rose triumphant from the grave.
What good would life have been to us,
had Christ not come as our Redeemer?
Father, how wonderful your care for us!
How boundless your merciful love!
To ransom a slave you gave away your Son.
O Happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam,
which gained for us oh great a Redeemer!
Most blessed of all nights, chosen by God
to see Christ rising from the dead!
Of this night scripture says:
‘The night will be clear as day:
it will become my light, my joy.’
The power of this holy night dispels all evil,
washes guilt away, restores lost innocence,
brings mourners joy;
it casts out hatred, brings us peace,
and humbles earthly pride.
Night truly blessed when heaven is wedded to earth
and man is reconciled with God!
Therefore, Heavenly Father, in the joy of this night,
receive our evening sacrifice of praise, your church’s solemn offering.
Accept this Easter candle,
a flame divided but undimmed,
a pillar of fire that glows to the honour of God.
Let it mingle with the lights of heaven
and continue bravely burning
to dispel the darkness of this night!
May the Morning Star which never sets
find this flame still burning.
Christ that Morning Star,
who came back from the dead,
and shed his peaceful light on all mankind,
your Son who lives and reigns for ever and ever.