Christianity, the faith within whose ample arms I have lived my life, received the core
of its liturgy and the central form of its spirituality from the Judaism out of which it
came. In the former case, the Passover meal became the Christian both cases, the
change from Jewish to Christian practice was so gradual that few of the observant
even noticed that one was becoming two.
Peter, for instance, had his famous vision of the lowered sheet while he was on Simon
the Tanner's rooftop for noon prayers. Peter and John together healed the cripple as
they were passing toward ninth-hour, or 3-o'clock, prayers in the Temple. While
these acts of the apostles may still have been Jewish in the first century, by the sixth
century they were not. By then, the keeping of the Hours had so clearly become the
living source of Christian spirituality that St. Benedict could build his famous rule
around it and the later Middle Ages could give rise to exquisite Books of Hours and
elaborate breviaries just to enable it. Each Office has its prescribed set of Psalms,
Gospel readings, hymns, and prayers.
Today millions of Christians — laity like me as well as the vowed and the religious —
pray the Hours in one form or another. I have done so for well over thirty years by
observing the three so-called "Little Offices" of terce, sext, and nones and the so-
called "Dear Office" of compline.
If those times are not convenient, I may have to slide to the next hour or half-hour,
but I will observe. And if the place is not convenient, I may have to slip into someone
elses office or even into some ladies'-room stall, but I will observe. When the digital
watch on my wrist dings lightly, it calls me to terce or sext or nones as surely as
cathedral bells used to call the Old World's laborers from their fields. Just as at least
once a week, I eat the body of God and drink the blood of God, so four times a day I
take into me the words of God.
Only rarely will that pattern be broken; and each day I am taught again how little has
changed for the soul over centuries of change for those who observe.
Unlike the medieval townspeople who went together to the cathedral for the praying
of the Hours, many of us who keep them today pray in solitude. Only once in my
thirty-plus years has it been otherwise for me, and I remember those brief months as
ones of deep contentment. I had just joined a rather large cookbook publisher as the
director of trade publishing. All the offices near mine were busy, as offices tend to be
in publishing houses, from sunup to sundown, with people trotting up and down the
halls, chattering constantly. On my first few days after joining the firm, I tried
everything for my noon prayers from the lounge to a conference room to my parked
None was satisfactory. In a matter of a few days, I gave up and took to closing my
office door for a few minutes. Nothing was said and no questions were asked until
about two weeks later when the owner and CEO of the house knocked one noontime.
"Come," I said.
He stuck his head in and said, "I thought so," and grinned. A Roman Catholic, he
showed up the next day just before my watch could ding and closed the door for me.
He had a breviary in his hand, and we kept sext together for almost six months before
a shift in his schedule stopped us.
But even when one is alone within the Offices, as I have been most of the time since
those good months, the flow of the ancient phrases, the psalms that my God himself
used when he was as I am, human, embrace the soul. I have said to the Lord, "You are
my God; listen, 0 Lord, to my supplication."
"Hear, 0 Shepherd of Israel, leading Joseph like a flock; shine forth, you that are
enthroned upon the cherubim."
"It is good for me to be near my God, I have made the Lord God my refuge and my
The words appointed for the day's Offices flow on. Their very music lifts my own
hands into all the hands that together are Christian history. And when the work of
their saying is done, when the prayers are uttered, the praise and petitions offered, I
go back to my temporal work. Shortly, other Christians in the time zone beyond me
will take up the prayers from their own place, as will the Christians beyond them
three hours after that. Together, they and I and all of us are, each day, every day, a
constant cascade of prayer before the throne of God. If for me that exercise is
privatized, as it most certainly is when done in an empty office or the stall of a ladies'
room, it is definitely not individualized. To keep the Hours is to enter with one's
fellows into that which has been, which is, and which evermore shall be. Amen.
~Phyllis Tickle, The Divine Hours
The Latin word contemplare literally means "with time." Contemplation, or
contemplative prayer, is a way of spending time with God. Contemplative prayer is a
prayer of silence. The emphasis is not on technique -- on "mastering silence" -- but
on simply being present with the greater, uncreated presence of the Divine.
Contemplation is not something we achieve, it is something we allow. We allow
ourselves to spend time with God just as we allow ourselves to spend time with
anyone we deeply love. To enter into contemplative prayer requires nothing more
than a commitment to spend time in silence, offering the time to God. It is time
spent listening gently for God's soft whisper. It is best practiced as a daily discipline.
It's tempting to fill this time with "stuff" -- we want to tell God all about our needs,
and the needs of others. We want to fill the time spent with the Divine by trying to
control the agenda. God patiently waits for the times when we let go of our need to
control, and we allow the silence to wash throughout our consciousness like a
cleansing wave of crystal water.
Often, we cannot discern God's presence, for even in the silence we are continually
distracted by the static of our thinking minds. But sometimes we do notice the
Uncreated Presence within and beyond the silence. Sometimes, our time spent in
contemplation is rewarded with an experience of resplendent joy -- but these times
are appropriately rare. God comes to us to be in relationship, not just to make us
feel good. So contemplation ultimately nurtures us at a level far deeper than
To enter into contemplation is to go on an adventure within the wilderness of the
mind and spirit. Persons wishing to engage in a daily practice of silent prayer need a
competent and caring guide. An amchara or "soul friend" is a person who agrees to
be a caring mentor to the contemplative seeker. A popular contemporary term for
soul friend is "spiritual director."
To be a contemplative we must become converted to the consciousness that makes
us one with the universe, in tune with the cosmic voice of God. We must become
aware of the sacred in every single element of life. We must bring beauty to birth in
a poor and plastic world. We must restore the human community. We must grow in
concert with the God who is within. We must be healers in a harsh society. We must
become all those things that are the ground of contemplation, the fruits of
contemplation, the end of contemplation.
The contemplative life is about becoming more contemplative all the time. It is
about being in the world differently. What needs to be changed in us? Anything that
makes us the sole center of ourselves.
To become a contemplative, a daily schedule of religious events and practices is not
enough. We must begin to do life, to be with people, to accept circumstances, to
bring good to evil in ways that speak of the presence of God in every moment.
~Joan Chittister, Illuminated Life
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New Beginnings is a house of prayer...
bringing healing to places never
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line to the living God, prayer...that
intimate relationship with God.
Prayer..our way of hearing God say to
us...I love you.
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|Lectio Divina / Sacred Reading
grasped or acquired. It is essentially a process, and a gentle one. Yet it does have its
lectio by which we read some short passage from the Bible. Then comes meditatio,
which is the seeking, finding a word or phrase that strikes us, touches us. We repeat
it, reflect on it, come to grips with what it is saying to us personally. The vital thing is
that it is to and fro, to and fro, time and again, until it becomes like a heartbeat inside
of our own self. For then the word touches the heart and we reach the third step,
oratio . It is now that we allow ourselves to be drawn to God as though with a magnet,
and all the false self, with its games and facades, falls away and instead we surrender
totally to God. This brings us to the final step, contemplatio, in which we learn a new
language, silence. We are content simply to be, standing in the presence of God. We
let God take us beyond ourselves. As Abbot Marmion puts it: we read (lectio) under
the eye of God (meditatio) until the heart is touched (oratio) and leaps into flame
~Hugh Feiss, Monastic Wisdom
|What is Contemplative Prayer?
As you begin to read and meditate on the Psalms, allow the Spirit to heal, renew,
restore, and fill you with His love...the love of the Beloved. Nan Merrill, author of
An Invitation to Wholeness, has reworked the book of Psalms in a loving,
contemplative manner. Praying these Psalms will stir your soul as you dialogue with
the Divine...the Divine that pours out His love into our hearts and into our lives.
Enter into the Silence, into the Heart of Truth; For herein lies the Great Mystery.
invited to serve.
Listen for the music of the Holy Word in the resounding Silence of the universe.
May balance and harmony be your aim as you are drawn into the Heart of Love.
Those who follow the way of Love with calm and faith-filled intent, Know that all is
working toward healing and wholeness. And may the healing power of love lift you
from the limitations of fear and ignorance into the arms of freedom.
May the peace of the Spirit bless you, and lead you on life's journey.
Be not afraid of the Silence, for Wisdom's Voice is heard there!
As you follow the Light, you become gentle and kind, you come to live in the Light.
Children enter the world radiating the Spirit -- learn from them of innocence and
simplicity; Learn to co-operate with the unseen realms, to see beyond the veil.
Wise are those who learn through silence; learn then to listen well.
For beyond the silence and stillness within, you will come to know a profound and
dazzling Silence --Herein lies the music of the spheres, the harmony of creation.
Enter into the Holy Temple of your soul,converse with the Beloved in sweet
communion. Blessings of the Great Silence be with you as you help to rebuild the
heart of the world with love.
Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers and sisters dwell in unity! It is
like vistas seen from atop a mountain one has climbed...or like the stillness of a
sunset after a long day's work.
It is like a shimmering rainbow, breaking through a summer rain. When men and
women dwell in harmony, the star of Truth appears!
Most gracious Presence, let me not be arrogant, nor boast of my virtuous deeds; let
my soul, like a child quieted at its mother's breast; like a child that is quieted, be so
I shall hope in You, O Breath of my breath, from this time forth and forevermore.
|New Beginnings House of Prayer ~ P. O. Box 854 ~ Galena Park, TX 77547
~ (713) 927-7534 ~
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