+ As some of you might know, I pray the Daily Offices of Morning and Evening Prayer every day. Every day, without fail. I have to. An Episcopal priest, and as Oblate of St. Benedict, I am committed to prating the Office daily. Doing so, however, proves a bit daunting. Or rather, I should say, exhausting and…I don’t know if I’m even comfortable saying this, but I’ll be honest…There are moments when praying the Daily Office is just kind of boring and tedious.
It’s a normal part of regular prayer life. The monastics, of course, certainly experienced this. They called this boredom the Noonday Demon. And it’s an important thing to recognize and name and get beyond.
So, what does one do in those instances when regular prayer becomes boring? One finds ways to rejuvenate it, to stir the pot a bit, so to speak. And, for me, I have found that I have been able to use other liturgical resources in my praying of the Daily Office. One of the resources I use, is actually, the Liturgy of the Hours of the Roman Catholic Church. Although I am sworn, by the vows of my ordination, to pray according the worship of the Episcopal Church, meaning I am obligated to pray the Daily Office as we find it in in the Book of Common Prayer, I am able to use some of the antiphons, responses and collects/prayers of the Liturgy of Hours, as well as the Intercessions in my daily prayer. And it has helped tremendously.
But I have also added to my daily prayer regime, the Office of Readings from The Liturgy of the Hours. The Office of Readings is a wonderfully contemplative office, in which, in addition to psalms and scriptures, there is also a select reading from one of the early Church Fathers.
Well, the reading for today—this Tuesday of Holy Week—really struck me, and I’d like to share a bit of it with you. This comes from St. Basil, an early Church Father, from his book, On the Holy Spirit. St. Basil writes,
“To attain holiness…we must not only pattern our lives on Christ’s by being gentle, humble and patient, we must also imitate him in his death. Taking Christ for his model, Paul said that he wanted to become like him in his death in the hope that he too would be raised from death to life.”
Now for me, that is the sense of what it means to follow Jesus. And that is our job as Christians. We are to follow Jesus.
In our Gospel for this evening, we find Jesus admonishing his followers to walk in the light while they still have the light. Well, we are those followers he speaking to tonight. We are the ones who are, in this moment, still walking in the light.
But, in these next few days, we will be walking in the darkness as well. We will be following Jesus through some very dark moments in his journey to the cross. And this journey is, of course, not just his journey, but our journey as well. It is not an easy journey. It is a hard journey. And it is a dark journey. But that is all part of what it means to follow Jesus.
Last week, at St. Mark’s, William Weightman preached a very wonderful sermon about many of these same issues. In that sermon, I loved the reaction he received from the Lutherans and even some Episcopalians in the congregation when he shared with us about how when he was confirmed, the Bishop slapped him. Some of them were shocked.
Now, we should be clear, the Bishop didn’t slap William because he was being a bad boy at his confirmation. Well, maybe William was being a bad boy at his confirmation. But the Bishop didn’t slap only William. That Bishop slapped everyone being confirmed that day. It was a part of the traditional Anglican rite to provide a light slap to people being confirmed. As William explained, the reason for this slap was to remind us, as followers of Jesus, that the journey is sometimes hard.
We will face hardships in our following of Jesus. Our following of Jesus means we follow him through good times and bad. We follow him through the miracles and the teachings. But we also follow him through the Garden, through the sweating of blood, through the anguish, through the near-despair, through the betrayal, through the whipping, through the carrying of the cross, through the agony of having loved ones see us in our pain and misery and humiliation, through the nailing on the cross, through the physical anguish and through, yes, even death. It means following him through everything we prayed about in tonight’s Litany of the Passion.
But…before we think all is bleak, as hard as it is to remember this, we must also look beyond all of that. Following Jesus means following him also to that glorious light which will once more shine on us on Saturday evening and Sunday morning—that glorious Easter light.
There are dark days ahead for us, as followers of Jesus. But the light will return. And that Light, on its return, will be even more glorious. That Light will be even more stunning. That Light will be even more blindingly beautiful than anything we’ve experienced to that moment. It will be because we have been through the darkness. We have known darkness. And because we have, that Light will be even more stunning.
So, let us journey with Jesus. Let not waver in our following of him. Let us bear what we need to bear in these next days. Let us go even into those dark places we don’t really want to go. But let us do so knowing that light is just around the corner. Light in just beyond our reach. Light is awaiting us. And it will be a glorious light.