solo

Momisa asked about how one might best use the Daily Prayer link, given that the liturgy is designed to involve more than one person, but on-line, most of us are on our own.

So, what follows is a very idiosyncratic telling. The short answer is: you do what works for you. But here’s what works for me.

Morning and Evening Prayer are designed as public worship. So, they are set out assuming a fair bit of call (plain text) and response (bold). When I was a curate, my training rector taught me to always say the office out loud — even if I was alone in the church. I found saying the office aloud fine if I really was alone (though never particularly helpful) but painfully difficult as the early stragglers came in for the pending eucharist.

When I am saying the office at home, I rarely say it out loud — except for Compline, of course, which I invariably sing.

So, how to read it without rushing, and without losing a sense of the dialogue that is intrinsic…

First you have to play a mental game. You are never really alone with Daily Prayer. That is the point. It is being said all over the place all the time. Lots of people have said this office or something very like it already today, and others will follow. So, even at your desk by yourself, you are joining in. And that is before we consider ‘angels, archangels and the whole company of heaven.’

Next, you need to suspend normal computer habits. No skimming, no rushing, no multi-tasking.

For the first part of the office, including the opening dialogues and the first section or two of psalms (I’m deliberately avoiding technical labels here. Go with it…), I use the printed words as a sort of breath prayer. So, what that means is, I read the first line as in inhale — then finish most of the business of inhaling after the words are done. Then I begin the second line once my breath pauses, exhaling fully as the line ends.

This automatically slows you down, and helps establish the rhythm that would come of speaking aloud in unison.

breath wise, it feels like in — pause — out — pause, with the words happening in a barely breathing mode.

Now, trust me on this: you do not want to think about that as much as I just have. Just try and see what happens.

Once I get to the psalm, things might change. If I am lucky, the psalm will trigger a musical memory. That might mean Molly and I sing the psalm together. Or, more likely, it means I simply open up the memory and hear the sung psalm in my head. Tonight’s psalm was one we used to sing at Compline in St Andrews. So, the psalm ‘came with’ choir, glinting candelabras, red-woolly gowns, and strains of ‘Ain’t she sweet’ lingering in the background from the organ prelude. The mental singing of the psalm was also carrying prayers for particular people that are bound up with the memory (today: for Rosemary, who died a few years ago, and whom I miss.)

Tonight’s psalm was lucky. It’s not always so multi-layered an experience. And if there is no musical memory to call on, then I read the psalm much as I have read the opening prayers: pausing to breath at the half point and at the end of the verse.

I find the readings the hardest thing to do on-line, because the long prose passage can easily lure me into bad screen-skimming habits. If the temptation to rush is very strong, I imagine reading it aloud, or actually do so if necessary.

After each reading, I stare out the window for a while, and perhaps pet the cat (if she is between me and the screen).

The response to the readings is probably the thing I do most idiosyncratically. A sensible bit of advice would be, ‘treat it as all the rest.’ But you will notice that it has a particular structure where the words in bold repeat the opening line.

I think of this like the tide coming in. so:

Lord, you will guide me with your counsel
and afterwards receive me with glory.
(tide in, wave crashes)

Lord, you will guide me with your counsel
and afterwards receive me with glory.
(rumbly echo as the water goes out)

For I am always with you;
you hold me by my right hand. (crash)
And afterwards receive me with glory. (rumble)
Glory to the Father and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit. (crash)
Lord, you will guide me with your counsel
and afterwards receive me with glory. (rumble)

After that, it’s all fairly straight forward.

I close my eyes for the Lord’s prayer, and possibly for intercessions.

I inevitably go too fast through the closing prayers, unless the collect wins me over.

If I were not used to saying daily prayer aloud, I’m not sure how helpful I would find it on a computer screen. But I often find it very helpful indeed to have it all on screen when I am struggling to find the time or the will to say the office.

For those of you not canonically bound to the Daily Office (and if any of you who are are still reading this, you must indeed be bored), I wonder if there are not other resources that would be more helpful.

The Irish Jesuits have a different form of daily prayer, designed for solo use and more computer friendly. You can find it on their website, Sacred Space.

Another site that I wish were a form a daily prayer is The Painted Prayerbook. It isn’t quite what it says on the tin. I love the pictures, and ignore the words. The words may be very good, but they are not what I want when I go there. I wish the pictures filled the screen.

Now, Momisa, aren’t you glad you asked??

3 thoughts on “solo

  1. I feel that you may be the right person to offer guidance on the saying of the Daily Office with cats. Although Molly got a mention above, I feel that there is more to be said about best practice in this area.

    Compline ain’t complete without ain’t she sweet.

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