Electric Prayer

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

Archive for April, 2020

Easter 2020 newsletter

Posted by universalis on 15 April 2020

He is truly risen, alleluia!

It has been a strange time this year. Everything familiar has been abolished or at least rearranged. But perhaps if you stare at it hard enough, the very strangeness of this time can itself be a gift and a renewal. Holy Week and the Triduum are so much part of the rhythm of our lives that it is easy for them to solidify into an unvarying pattern as the years go by. I narrate the Passion on Palm Sunday because I always do; we bag good places for the Easter Vigil extra early because we always do; the children negotiate how late they are allowed to stay up that night, as they always do, and then, as they always do, end up making their way to bed before the end.

There is nothing intrinsically bad about habit – it is one of the ways that we, as beings embedded in time, can experience something like the timelessness of eternity – but all the same, habit does have a certain anaesthetic quality as well. We end up doing habitual things not for a reason, not because of what they really are, but simply because we have always done them.

So the kind of shake-up we are all having this year can (painful though it is) bring some reconnection and clarity. When we watch across the Internet the Pope and a mere dozen people going through a ruthlessly abbreviated Easter Vigil in the middle of an empty St Peter’s, this is nothing like what we are used to: any of us. Even the tiniest parish church could do better! But put that to one side and look at what you are experiencing: the fire is kindled, the praises of the Easter candle are sung, the Red Sea is safely crossed and the stone is rolled away from the tomb. In the end, what else matters apart from that? Nothing.

That is one bit of spiritual exercise we can get out of this unusual Easter.

I am glad, also, that Universalis has played its part in all this, and that through it so many of you have got closer to the liturgy every day.

Easter Week

If you are new to the Liturgy of the Hours, you may find one aspect of it a little alarming this week. The great thing about the Hours is that they are new every day; but this week, they aren’t. The psalms and canticle for Morning Prayer on Easter Monday are the same as they were on Sunday and the same as they will be on Tuesday, on Wednesday, on Thursday, on Friday, on Saturday, and even next Sunday. Something seems to have got stuck. Sometimes people think it is the software that has got stuck and they kindly write to us about it, but it isn’t the software, it is the Church. The Church is so dazzled by the Resurrection that, having celebrated it on Easter Sunday, she cannot think of anything to do the following day except celebrate it again; and again; and again and again and again and again. The celebration of the Resurrection lasts a whole week.

The same thing applies to Evening Prayer: the whole week is one long celebration.

If, being human, you would like a little variety added, then you might try looking at the Office of Readings this week. This does change every day. This week’s Second Readings are among the most ancient we have, and from Thursday onwards they are from the Jerusalem Catecheses, which are teachings addressed to the newly baptized in late 4th-century Jerusalem. And you might also take a quick leap backwards to last Saturday morning, to that dazzling passage from an unknown author of the 2nd century who imagines Jesus’ visit to the underworld before his resurrection: what Jesus said to Adam and what Adam replied. It is stark and moving, and you can listen to it here.

The Schola Cantorum of the London Oratory School

If you have one of the Universalis apps then you may well have bought their Sung Latin Compline in the Night Prayer page. (It is a wonderful thing to fall asleep to). But whether you have or whether you haven’t, they have sent out an Easter present to everyone. It is their recording of Byrd’s Haec dies: “This is the day which the Lord has made: let us rejoice and be glad, Alleluia”. You can listen to it on YouTube.

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