Saturday, January 19, 2008

Fixed Hour Prayer (part3) Structure of the Hours

The Structure of the Hours

Saint Benidict of Nersia is credited with the formal incorporation of the hours. This practice however is taken from what John Cassin descrbes in his two works "the institues" and " the conferences ". In those pages he details the monastic practices of the Desert Fathers of Eygpt.
By the end of the 5th century the liturgy of the hours was made up of the night service (the vigil) and seven day services of which the prime and the compline seem to be the last added as the fourth century Apostolic Constitution does not mention them.
The following is how they appear after the 5th century.
Mantins (during the night) also referred to as vigil or nocturne
Lauds - dawn prayer
Prime - morning prayer (first hour) 6:00
Terce - mid morning prayer (third hour) 9:00

Sext - midday (noon sixth hour) 12:00

None - mid afternoon (ninth hour) 3:00 pm

Vespers - evening, night prayer, at the lighting of the lamps

Compline- before retiring

Mary and i started keeping the morning office first. Added the evening. Then eventually included the miday. We eased into this rythm inside a year. We found it quit natural and easy to adapt to. We really enjoy the office and find it disappointing when we miss it.
Technically we take a stab at keeping the third hour, the sixth hour, vespers and on occasion the compline.

for more information on the office or fixed hour prayer as it is also known.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Anthony of Egypt (251-236)

Anthony the founder of Christian monasticism and the 1st of the desert fathers was born to wealthy parents who died before he was twenty. After hearing a homily from the gospel that directed "go sell all you have give it to the poor and gather up your treasure in heaven" he did exactly that. On procuring care for his younger sister he sought out a holy man as a mentor and moved away from his home town.

After that, Anthony went into a more remote mountain country, where he spent the next 20 Years. Around 305, at the request of other ascetics he founded a monastery for them at Fayum.
The monasteries that Anthony founded were more like communities of hermits who had separate dwellings. They gathered for common work and devotions. Occasionally Anthony himself would visit and counsel the monks out of his own rich experience. "Do every action as if it were the last in your lives,", "The Devil dreads fasting, prayer, humility and good works.", "If prayer becomes too difficult, turn for a while to manual labor."

In 311, Emperor Maximinus started a fresh persecution of Christians. During that time Anthony came out of the desert to live in Alexanadrea and encourage the followers of Christ in that city to endure the hardship with humility and love.

When Anthony took ill and bade a gentle farewell to his monk companions he instructed them to bury his body in an unmarked grave to avoid his body becoming an object of veneration. He died quickly and calmly of old age at 105.

His monastic rule of has served as the basis for countless monasteries. The chief source of information on Anthony comes from his contemporary Athanasius's "The Coptic life of Anthony".

for more info about Anthony of Egypt go to

Monday, January 14, 2008

Fixed Hour Prayer (part 2) A brief History

A Brief History of Fixed Hour Prayer

I can hear the question. What the heck is this fixed hour prayer stuff? Quit simply it is the practice of praying at set intervals through out the day.

The Ancients marked time. The custom of reciting prayers at certain hours of the day or night goes back to the Jews. In the Psalms we find expressions like: I will meditate on thee in the morning..." -Psalm 62:7 "I rose at midnight to give praise to thee..." Psalm 118:62 "Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud, and he shall hear my voice." Psalm 55:17 "Seven times a day I have given praise to thee..." -Psalm 119:164

The Apostles observed the Jewish customary times of prayer (see: Matthew 15:36; Luke 18:10; Acts 2:15; 3:1; 10:3,9; 10:30; 16:25; 27:35). The Christian prayer of that time consisted of almost the same elements as the Jewish: recital or chanting of psalms, reading of the Old Testament, to which was soon added reading of the Gospels, Acts, and Epistles. At times canticles composed or improvised were added. "Gloria in excelsis" and the "Te decet laus" are remnants of these ancient inspirations.

At present the elements composing the Divine Office seem more numerous, but were derived, by gradual changes as the original elements developed and were added to. It appears from the texts of Acts cited above, the first Christians preserved the custom of going to the Temple at the hours of prayer. They also had their gatherings in private houses for the celebration of the Eucharist, sermons and exhortations.

The Eucharistic celebration soon entailed other prayers. The custom of going to the Temple disappeared. The abuses of the Judaizing party forced the Christians to separate more distinctly from the Jews in their practices and worship. From that point on the Christian liturgy rarely borrowed from Judaism and became distinct.

It's interesting to note that praying five times a day at appointed hours is one of the tenets of Islam making the custom of keeping fixed hour prayer common to all three of the Abrahamic faiths.

a history of fixed hour prayer by Phyllis Tickle
more on the hours
graphic by Night Prayers by Naomi Spears

Friday, January 11, 2008

Fixed Hour Prayer (part1) Rhythm and the hours

Rhythm & The Hours

Rhythm is about balancing the different aspects of ones life.... work, play, prayer, family, friends... etc. Time is one of our most precious commodities. In this day and age time has become a battle field of sorts, everything vying for more and more of it. Over the years i have found that striking a balance became difficult to maintain.... particularly in my devotional life.

When our children were younger the issue was much simpler ... We had set times for certain things (we home schooled). A rhythm developed around our home life. Each evening we had a family time which helped me find somewhat of a rhythm in my personal life.

As our family transitioned, children getting older, finding a clearer track was always a challenge. Over the years i experimented with all types of different prayer, quiet time/devotional tools... some better than others. My wife and i had a difficult time finding something that worked for the both of us, particularly together.

Over five years ago while attending a Celtic Spirituality conference we were introduced to "The Hours", "Fixed Hour Prayer" or as we have come to know them, "The Daily Office". I was previously aware of the hours, but quiet frankly had never considered their present application.

We introduced this spiritual practice into our lives five years ago. Praying the office/ the hours has renewed our spirits. It helped bring balance into our lives and gave us something that facilitates journey together. We have been able to maintain a consistency with the hours that we just couldn't find with any other approach. Not to say it's the only way but it does have a time tested track record.

More about the hours in coming posts.

Monday, January 7, 2008

An Epiphany Hymn

"Hostis Herodes Impie" (Impious Herod)

Herod, why do you fear?
Because the Christ has come so near?
He whom heavenly kingdoms grant,
your earthly kingdom could never want.

The sages from the east are gone
to where the star has newly shone
on by light to light they press
and by their gifts to God they confess

The Lamb of God is manifest
again in Jordan's waters, blessed
and He whom sin had never known
by washing has, our sins undone

Yet He that rules over everything
can change the waters as they spring
and gives at Cana this for a sign
the water reddens right into wine

Then glory Lord, to You, we pray
for Your epiphany today,
all glory through eternity
to Father, Son, and Spirit be
to Father, Son, and Spirit be
to Father, Son, and Spirit be

This hymn credited to Caelius Sedulius appeared around 450AD. The tune is an old Rouen church melody according to, probably from the renaissance period. The translation is an updated version from 1906.

for more about this hymn, it's writer and a midi down load of the tune go to
the painting is the " adoraqtion of the Magi" the middle panel from the interior of H. Bosch's Epiphany

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Epiphany (1)

Jan 6th

Epiphany is celebrated by both the Eastern and Western Churches. The difference between them concerns which historical event is being commemorated. Western Christian observance involves the coming of the Magi. The Eastern Church celebrates the Baptism of Christ in the Jordan. In both cases the focus of the feast is the same: the revealing of Christ to the world and the Mystery of the Incarnation.

In the orthodox tradition the Epiphany is usally called the Feast of Theophany, "God shining forth" or "divine manifestation". It is one of the Great Feasts of the liturgical year being third in rank, behind only Pascha (Easter) and Pentecost in importance. Orthodox Christians celebrate Epiphany on January 6

In traditional Christian churches Christmas as well as Easter are celebrated as a period of time, a season of the church year, rather than just a day. The Season of Christmas begins with the First Sunday of Advent ( or the 17th of November as observed by the Celtic and Eastern traditions)marked by expectation and anticipation, and concludes with Epiphany

Epiphany a word of Greek origin means an appearance, a displaying, a showing forth, a making clear, public or obvious. On this day, Christians traditionally celebrate the making known of Jesus to the world, the Incarnation,

readings for epiphany
Psalm 72; Isaiah 60:1-6,9; Ephesians 3:1-12; Matthew 2:1-12

for more information about Epiphany
The picture is the Baptism of Christ in the Jordan by Andrea Del Verrachio assited by Leonardo DiVinci.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Intro 2008


Greetings all, in the grace and mercy of the Threefold Friendship of God the Father, God the Son and God the Blessed Holy Spirit...

As the Community of Christ ventures into the postmodern present we can glean and learn alot from the premodern past. There is an abundence of wealth, spiritual gold to be mined from the deepths of the past for use in the present.

This blog is dedicated to creating a resource that explores the rich reservoir of spiritual practice that exists in context of the diverse Christian faith traditions. Hopefully it will be come an emergent ancient future misal of sorts... stories, prayers, litergies, worship, spiritual diciplines, personal journey... a place to come and a resource to feel free to pinch from through out the year...

Along the left side you'll notice a growing list of related links along with interactive oppurtunities to learn or practice the daily office, centering prayer, lectio divina... avariety of short pertinent videos will always be available... posts will explore different aspects of and tools for a developing faith journey, personal and collective... along the bottom of the page you'll find headlines from around the world dealing with related topics and a strip of videos that will frequainly change up. Over time the archives will hopefully create a useful resource in themselves.

What will arrive here is gleaned from the rich Christian faith traditions of the past with an emphisis on the Celtic stream... some retro fitted for the present, some in context of personal journey.

Praying you'll find the info in these posts as useful and encouraging as I have:

May the King shield you in the valleys
May Christ aid you on the mountains
May the Spirit bathe you on the slopes
In hollow, on hill, on plain

let us not grow tired of doing good
forever in the grip of grace