Prayer card

An early draft of a prayer card for a project that’s now taken a new direction. That means I won’t be taking the time to work on it till I’m reasonably satisfied I’ve finished it. But if you like it, and can make use of it in its unfinished state, then please feel free to use it.

The inspiration came from a phrase in one of Gerard Manley Hopkins’s poems: “send my roots rain.” It’s based on (the Latin version of) Jeremiah 12. Verse 1 is cited as an epigraph, and translated as the first lines of the sonnet.

Justus quidem tu es, Domine, si disputem tecum; verumtamen 
justa loquar ad te: Quare via impiorum prosperatur? &c. 

Thou art indeed just, Lord, if I contend
With thee; but, sir, so what I plead is just.
Why do sinners’ ways prosper? and why must
Disappointment all I endeavour end?
Wert thou my enemy, O thou my friend,
How wouldst thou worse, I wonder, than thou dost
Defeat, thwart me? Oh, the sots and thralls of lust
Do in spare hours more thrive than I that spend,
Sir, life upon thy cause. See, banks and brakes
Now, leavèd how thick! lacèd they are again
With fretty chervil, look, and fresh wind shakes
Them; birds build – but not I build; no, but strain,
Time’s eunuch, and not breed one work that wakes.
Mine, O thou lord of life, send my roots rain.

Gerard Manley Hopkins

Making a spiritual communion

The archbishops and others are presently encouraging people to attend acts of worship in their imagination, and online. People are asked to pray at home, but with others who are praying elsewhere. This includes virtual Holy Communion – and many people have used the traditional language of “spiritual communion” without explaining it. Here’s a short explanation, with some prayers that you can use.

There are have always been times when people have wished to take Holy Communion, but could not. Sometimes that is because they are travelling, sometimes because they are ill, and sometimes because of wrongdoing and their own personal sin. There is also the standing barrier to communion that is Christian division and disunity. This regularly prevents us receiving the sacrament equally with and in other denominations.

The present suspension of gathering for public worship makes this lack of physical access to Holy Communion a temporary norm rather than an occasional exception. Despite this physical barrier, all Christians are being encouraged to pray, to meet virtually, and to gather spiritually. When we are unable to share sacramentally in the unity of Christ’s body, we nonetheless seek to unite ourselves to Christ, believing that as we draw closer to God, we also grow closer to one another.

The practice of making a spiritual communion, as this is called, is well known in Christian tradition, but less well known in contemporary practice, especially in protestant churches. It normally involves being as much present as possible at the celebration of the Eucharist.

In the past that has included being physically present where able, and, if not, present in the imagination at the time of the celebration. Today we have the opportunity to be present online, and through webcams: this makes it easier to have a sense of praying together while physically absent.

Beyond this, it also involves a conscious act of spiritual participation at the point in the liturgy when individuals would normally receive Holy Communion.

There are many different prayers that have been written to put this into words. Here are three different sets of words. The first comes from St Francis, from a time before the western church divided into catholic and protestant. The second comes from the Roman Catholic tradition. These focus (as is traditional) purely on the relationship of the individual with God.

The last has been specially written for our present situation, and has a communal aspect also. It is currently an imperfect first draft, and may well develop and change in the light of conversation and comment.

Prayer of St Francis

I believe that you, O Jesus, are in the most holy Sacrament. I love you and desire you. Come into my heart. I embrace you. Never leave me. May the burning and most sweet power of your love, O Lord Jesus Christ. I beseech you, absorb my mind that I may die through love of your love, who were graciously pleased to die through love of my love.

Act of Spiritual Communion by St Alphonsus Liguori

My Jesus, I believe that you are present in the Blessed Sacrament. I love you above all things and I desire you in my soul. Since I cannot now receive you sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. As though you were already there, I embrace you and unite myself wholly to you; never permit that I should be separated from you.

A prayer for communion in separation

Lord Jesus Christ, life-giver and good physician, here you meet me in our need. In a world marred by corruption and marked by death, draw me into true life. By your selfless sacrifice, help me to live for others and not myself. May I, who cannot now receive you sacramentally, embrace you more fully in my heart, mind and soul. Help me unite myself to you in spirit, so that I may be drawn closer to those from whom I am isolated in body. Through sharing your life given up in death for us all, may we grow together in love into a richer and more profound communion of life.

Selah

“Selah” is a word that occurs in various psalms, deployed after certain verses. No-one knows what it means. However, informed guesses usually light first on the probability that it indicates some kind of pause in the recitation. Perhaps there was silence, perhaps some kind of musical interlude. Or it might mean something else altogether.

This blog is on a brief pause, since my liturgical experiences, and my blogging time, are currently occupied by visiting churches such as this one, with a group of mixed-bathers – Roman Catholic and Anglicans. You can see news of the pilgrimage on the Diocese of Worcester Facebook page.

St Peter’s, Rome

Selah.

Introducing the glossary

I said yesterday, my next three posts would be examples of the public reading of scripture. However, I realise now I need to implement a glossary for terms that I will be using. You can access this glossary (across four pages) from the drop-down menu above, and I will leave a permanent reminder of its existence in the sidebar.

Every time I use a technical term – whether liturgical, theological or the occasional specialist word – for the first time, I will try to create a glossary entry for it.

If you think I’ve used a technical term, and you can’t find it in the glossary, either post a comment on the blog post I’ve used the term in, or on the main glossary index page. The main index page will accept comments, the actual sub pages with the glossary on will not.

Welcome

cartoon from www.weblogcartoons.com

Cartoon by Dave Walker.
Find more cartoons you can freely re-use on your blog at We Blog Cartoons.

Welcome to a new blog, although despite Dave’s excellent cartoon, not one I expect to make me famous! This is where I want to pull together a range of my thinking and writing around liturgy and worship, and offer it as an engagement with and resource for others. Most of the below text will be repeated on my About page. My thoughts on other topics can be found on a sporadically maintained blog at dougchaplin.wordpress.com.

The title of this blog is Latin shorthand for “liturgical things”. Liturgy means different things to different people, but most fundamentally it normally refers to an underlying pattern of worship, typically in the Christian tradition.

In that sense, liturgy doesn’t have to be written down, though it often has been. Every group of people that meets together for some form of worship develops recognisable patterns that means group members work with a sense of appropriate group behaviour, and develop familiarity with their way of doing things.

More normally though, most people use the word liturgy for a more-or-less set pattern of Christian worship, often with highly developed written texts, and certainly with a consistent and developed structure. Narrowing the use again, “the liturgy” is often used of sacramental worship, especially the Eucharist (Mass, Holy Communion).

On this blog, I hope to offer a range of reflections and resources for people who want, as I want, to make our liturgies engaging, thoughtful, and as good as we can make them – although I recognise that different people will define good in ways other than I do.