praying without ceasing

The schedule of worship here at Saint John’s Abbey – four times a day in addition to the regular interruption of the bells every 15 minutes – is a reminder to be spiritually attentive.

At our home in Ambler we have a wall sculpture by the artist Brian Andreas.  It’s supposed to be an angel – you can tell by the oddly-shaped wire wings.  The sculpture comes with a message:

Most people don’t know
there are angels whose only job is to
make sure you don’t get too
comfortable and fall asleep &
miss your life.

As far as I can tell, the spiritual journey is pretty much all about waking up.  Over and over, the life of faith encourages us to wake from our slumber; to pay attention to the signs of God’s presence that daily surround us.  Falling asleep – spiritually or emotionally – is the most common way we can miss our life and damage the ones we love.   But even when we want to, it’s hard to stay awake; to be present; to keep caring; to pay attention; to watch and wait for and believe in the signs of God’s in-breaking in our world and our lives.

That’s what I like about the Liturgy of the Hours.  To be interrupted four times a day; to have to get up from what I’m doing and walk to the Abbey Church; to take my place in the choir alongside the monks and find my way through the (count them) eight different volumes of liturgy and song; to have each hour broken up into 15-minute segments and to be summoned from my reverie and distraction by the call of bells – these are such sensible ways to stay awake.

To ‘pray without ceasing,’ the Apostle enjoins us (1 Thessalonians 5:17).  This seems to me to be a very good way of trying to do just that.

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