Every time I pray the Daily Office, something good happens. I know this sounds superstitious, like the Medieval Christian practice of going from church to church to see the elevated host (large wafer representing the body of Christ). At a time when the people were denied communion and hungering for God’s presence and nourishment, glimpsing the elevated host was thought to protect the viewer like an amulet. But I digress . . .
Wednesday morning I was in a Starbucks eagerly awaiting a mocha frappuccino. The crowd of people waiting for their specialty coffees was large. After waiting three or so minutes I pulled out my iphone and tapped the Mission St. Clare app. I began to do Morning Prayer right then and there, in the midst of all those caffeine hungry souls. Back against a window, I quietly confessed my sins. Doing so did not bring me “down.” It actually lifted my spirits, giving me the opportunity to be honest before God, and to start the day with an awareness of the person I did, and did not, want to become.
A high point was the Jubilate (Psalm 100), especially the first part, “Be joyful in the Lord, all you lands; serve the Lord with gladness and come before his presence with a song.” How easy it is to forget the joy God gives us, the privilege of living life in the midst of and through the power and presence of a merciful and loving creator. I love to sing, especially in my car, and it was good to be reminded that singing was a great way to pray to God and acknowledge God’s presence.
The Jubilate continues, “Know this: The Lord himself is God; he himself has made us, and we are his, we are his people and the sheep of his pasture.” Knowing who and whose we are inspires confidence and peace. Being reminded that God is in control, and that we are God’s creatures is a good thing. Being joyful, living a life of gratitude, is an intentional spiritual practice.
As I stood there moving through the Office, reflecting on all the words and images that popped out at me in the Jubilate, Psalm 119, and the readings from 1 Samuel and Acts, I heard a woman say, “do you have a friend Blair?” It turns out that the owner of that franchise accidentally made an extra mocha frappuccino. Calling out the name scribbled on my original cup, she gave me the additional drink with the words, “this will help you make a friend.”
Just last week I decided to take some visiting friends from Connecticut to the Como Zoo. We began to drive around looking for a parking place, and I couldn’t believe how many people, especially Hmong men, women, and children were there. I thought it was great that so many people were enjoying the park, but was getting a little baffled as to why I couldn’t find a parking space in the satellite shuttle bus lot. Then I saw a sign: “Hmong Freedom Celebration.” After I dropped my friends off and had driven around for at least thirty minutes, I came across one parking space. When I got out of the car a nearby sign said, “no parking from 10 am to 4 pm.” It was 3:45, and I know the City of St. Paul is in need of revenue. So, I stayed in my parked car, pulled out my iPhone and began to say Evening Prayer right then and there. The time passed quickly, I had some important time for reflection and re-centering (after nonstop socializing with our friends), and I noticed a significant attitude adjustment. I found myself more thankful, open, and relaxed after saying the Daily Office. I smiled at and personally greeted everyone I encountered as I walked through the park. It was a great reminder that the day I was enjoying was a gift, my friends were a gift, and what a joy to be at Como Park for the Hmong Freedom Celebration!
Doing the Daily Office reminds me that I am part of God’s larger story, not a story of my own making. The office grounds me, teaches me, and informs my day. It helps me to notice things and people I might otherwise miss. It reminds me of the life I am called to live, and of the joy and goodness of this life, come what may.
Do you pray the Daily Office? What sorts of things do you notice when you pray it?
The Mission Saint Clare Daily Office is easy to use and can be found at http://www.missionstclare.com/english/. There is an app for most mobile devices.