Electric Prayer

The Liturgy of the Hours, the Mass, and other things.

June 2018 newsletter

Posted by universalis on 17 June 2018

Recent newsletters have welcomed you to Lent, or said Happy Easter or Happy Ascension. Those were indeed glorious times. Now all we can say is, welcome to Ordinary Time!

It is true that Ordinary Time does not have much of a ring to it. When I was a child there was something desperately dull about the prospect of week after week of green vestments stretching into the future. But then, all human life is like that. After the party, or the holiday, or the exam success, or the victory in tournament or war, we come back in the end to the old routine of putting out the rubbish and making sure there will be milk for breakfast tomorrow. After the excitement of First Communion comes the second communion, and the third.

Theologically, of course, it makes sense. The Spirit, having come down on us, is now living in us and acting through us. But still we are human and miss the excitement.

It is a bit like that with Universalis this month. Just when thousands of you have very kindly pressed the button in the app and asked to be sent newsletters, there is no grand world-shaking news to convey. No stunning new features that will transform your spiritual life. The transformation now has to come from within, from you. As St Paul (who loved athletic metaphors) would put it: you have the home gym in your hand, so now use it!

All the same, I have a few things to report.

Languages

By the nature of things, most of you will be using Universalis in English (or Latin, since everything is now available in Latin as well: see the Settings screen in your app). On top of that, additional languages might seem to be of interest only to a minority. But out in the real world each of those minorities is still millions of people. Those extra languages matter and I am proud when Universalis can act as a channel to provide them. The latest steps forward are that we now have the major Hours in Irish Gaelic, and the Order of Mass in Setswana and (in a draft form) in Igbo. Apart from that, the provider of Mass readings in one of the tropical languages is now starting work on Compline, and there is every chance that Madagascar will have the whole Liturgy of the Hours in Malagasy soon: a draft version of Compline is in the apps and programs already.

The Office of Readings

The Office of Readings is the hidden gem of the Liturgy of the Hours. I have mentioned the Second Readings before, the ones from the saints and the Fathers of the Church. Now it is the turn of the First Readings. At first sight the idea of a daily “slab of Scripture” does not sound that special, but it is. As the General Instruction says, the Office of Readings is able to include longer and more “difficult” passages that wouldn’t fit well in Mass. What you don’t realise until you experience it is that the longer passages can actually make more sense. An isolated few sentences from the Second Letter to the Corinthians (such as we had at Mass on Sunday) are all very well, but they can’t convey a sense of what St Paul was really getting at as well as a complete chapter can. In this particular case, the whole chapter will turn up on the 27th of July. It is worth waiting for; although of course if you have an app or a program, you can cheat and look ahead.

Looking less far ahead, the story of Gideon is about to appear. Catch it on Tuesday, when Gideon tells the angel of the Lord that the Lord is not doing a very good job of protecting his people Israel, and on Wednesday, where Gideon expresses perfect willingness to act as God’s instrument for the rescue of Israel as long as God first proves who he is, and proves it twice. There is no way of cutting down that second story to be short enough for Mass and still make sense, and perhaps that is just as well. Perhaps one shouldn’t hold Gideon up as an example of how we ought to behave; but how magnificently human it all is! Do read those First Readings when they come.

More audio

Those of you who have been subscribing to what started as “Morning Prayer every day” but is now “Morning, Mid-Morning, Midday, Afternoon, Evening and Night Prayer” now have something more to look forward to. We are beginning work on the Office of Readings.

As you can imagine, this is an enormous project, about as big as everything else put together; but at least it is under way. For now –  as long as you have the latest version of the apps, and are subscribing to the spoken English Hours –  you can press the Play button in the Office of Readings page and hear the First Reading. Over the next month or two we will complete recording the First Readings, then record the Second Readings, and then record the psalms and so on; so that with any luck, before the end of the year you will be able to listen to the entire Office of Readings at home, or when travelling, or in your car.

Updates

To see the new content and hear the new audio, you need to have an up-to-date version of Universalis or Catholic Calendar. Updates ought to happen automatically but sometimes (especially on Android) they don’t. We have instructions for updating manually here.

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