Monday, June 18, 2012

Morning prayer

I am no legalist. But I do think there is something fitting about coming before the Lord at the beginning of the day. Obviously some people can't, and they find opportunities at other times to settle their spirits. 

The following piece by Dietrich Bonhoeffer puts into words what many instinctively feel about prayer at the break of day. 

I was trained in the Anglo-Catholic tradition to try and have a daily Mass, and thanks to faithful clusters of lay people and parish staff in the parishes I have served, that aspiration has been fulfilled down through the years. Many times, people have adopted a particular morning each week on their way to work, and that has become part of the rhythm of their devotional life. 

As a result it always feels strange to me to embark on the day without both Morning Prayer and the Eucharist. Since Vatican II there has been an emphasis on making the Eucharist more available to people by having celebrations at different times. I'm all for that. I'm just saying how wonderful it is to offer the day to the Lord in that special Eucharistic way as the sun rises, so that everything else that needs to be done (or endured!) is sanctified by and flows from that sacred Mystery. 

Bonhoeffer was not actually referring to the Eucharist in his remarks. But they are at least relevant to the Catholic instinct to be at the altar first thing in the morning: 

The entire day receives order and discipline when it acquires unity. This unity must be sought and found in morning prayer. It is confirmed in work. The morning prayer determines the day. Squandered time of which we are ashamed, temptations to which we succumb, weaknesses and lack of courage in work, disorganization and lack of discipline in our thoughts and in our conversation with other men, all have their origin most often in the neglect of morning prayer. 

Order and distribution of our time become more firm where they originate in prayer. Temptations which accompany the working day will be conquered on the basis of the morning breakthrough to God. Decisions, demanded by work, become easier and simpler where they are made not in fear of men but only in the sight of God. “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men” (Colossians 3:23). Even the mechanical is done in a more patient way if it arises from the recognition of God and his command. The powers to work take hold, therefore, at the place where we have prayed to God. He wants to give us today the power which we need for our work. 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Psalms: The Prayerbook of the Bible, p. 64


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