Monday, October 23, 2006

Morning prayer

My friend the Reverend George P. invited me to be the guest reflector at Night Prayer on Sunday evening. Night Prayer! I love the canonical hours of the monastic tradition -- Matins, Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers, Compline (Night Prayer) -- and wish I could align my life more consistently with a regular celebration of the day -- this day, every day. I might have been, I think, a Trappist monk had it not been for little things like sex, and falling in love, and theology. Prayer, as I understand it, is a matter of focusing the mind and senses to more fully experience the world -- what Thomas Merton called "a silent listening of the heart." Over the generations and throughout the world humans have developed dozens of techniques to enhance perception, to open the windows of the soul. The monastic tradition of canonical prayer is one such technique. There is nothing mystical or supernatural about this. It is simply a matter of paying attention.

Did I say "simply"? Nothing is more difficult. The distractions are generally overwhelming. Give me then those rare moments of darkness, silence, a Chopin Nocturne -- or solitude on a summer's day in a meadow where a spider spins a web one silken thread at a time. These postings are prayers of a sort, composed each morning over coffee in a quiet corner of the College Commons, sunlight streaming through the shadows -- small personal psalms cast onto the sea of the internet like messages in bottles, not anticipating that they will wash up upon a receptive shore, but merely because it becomes us all to listen and to praise.