The last week or so has had me praying most of the Benedictine Office from sunup to sundown every day, and it’s been nostalgic. It’s nostalgic because I have fond memories of being a Roman Catholic layman devoutly praying the same psalm schema as St Benedict himself, and because I love the rhythm of the hours, their symbolism, and how aside from Matins the whole Office is fairly easy to pray. The Little Hours are short and to the point, yet they have a depth that is hard to explain.
The Benedictine Breviary is the mystery of Christ set to psalms, hymns and patristic readings. I had immersed myself into it for a few years, and as you get used to praying it the various psalms, antiphons and hymns start to mean something to you, as if it is God Himself speaking to you through a verse or a psalm. I have memories of standing on the beach in St Augustine, the waves crashing their lullaby on the shore while the rays of sunset burst out of the cloud like an image of grace visible, all the while praying Saturday Vespers with it’s majestic psalms speaking of the Kingdom of Christ, and our Heavenly homeland. I cannot pray Saturday Vespers without thinking of this. Of course that’s just one example! In short, the Office becomes a part of you, and the wheel of the liturgical year takes you into it’s mysteries and sanctifies time. In a secular world busy erasing every last vestige of Christ from it’s horizons, the Breviary can be a Godsend, a means of coping with our Brave New World.
The agony of it all is that, while I love the Western Office I feel deeply estranged from the Roman Catholic Church. I sometimes go to Mass at the local chapel but that’s really because there isn’t any Orthodox Church around. I honestly do not believe in the papal claims at all, in fact, I cannot even in good faith WANT to pray in union with Pope Francis. I actually long for a church community that actually lives by a traditional Lex Orandi. There are some decent places associated with Rome where this exists—places like Silverstream Priory–but they are in spite of papally sanctioned destruction of the Latin Patrimony, and I wonder if I could ever really handle the cognitive dissonance of praying in old fashioned ways in a small community that belongs on the hinterlands of a Church that no longer teaches, preaches or prays in the way it used to.
Will I go back to my Old Orthodox Prayerbook or continue getting back into the Western Office? Time will tell…