Electric Prayer

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

March 2022 newsletter

Posted by universalis on 25 March 2022

Happy Annunciation!

That isn’t something people say. You didn’t wake up this morning expecting to hear it or planning to say it to everyone you met. Just as well, because you would be disappointed (on the one hand) and (on the other hand) come across as some kind of lunatic. But all the same it is true: the Annunciation is a great feast because it is the feast of the Incarnation. It is when our salvation started.

The Annunciation is the reason why in England until 1752 the year began on the twenty-fifth of March, which confuses historians no end since it means that the month after (say) December 1630 was January 1630, not January 1631. (A real pedant will notice that the tax year in England, even today, still ends on the 25th of March according to the old Julian calendar).

The Annunciation is important because it commemorates God’s definitive intervention in human history. It is no less important because it commemorates not only an act of God but an act of man. Mary is the second woman in history (the first was Eve) to hold the whole future of the human race in her hand – and as she chose, so it went. The Annunciation is not “You shall”, but “Will you?” Mary’s “yes” is not the obedience of a puppet but the free choice of a being endowed with free will.

Looking at God’s actions in our own lives and others’, this is part of a consistent pattern. He rarely commands, and sometimes he asks so quietly we have to listen carefully to hear him. And when he does ask, ask seriously, he asks (more often than not) not for a careful assessment of the pros and cons, but simply for trust, and assent based on that trust. None of us trusts God enough. Let us try to do so more.

The Creed in Slow Motion

Everything is still on course for the publication date of 30 June. This page tells you about the book and includes the final cover design.

The book’s publishers, Hodder & Stoughton, are sending out regular messages on social media, one a day throughout Lent. Each message, on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, unfolds the text a phrase at a time: a couple of sentences, no more. On Twitter (@HodderFaith) and Facebook (HodderFaith) this is a 30-second video; on Instagram (@HodderFaith) it is a series of slides. Today’s message, for example, explores what it might mean for the Son of God to be crucified “for our sake”.

The idea was the editor’s and I have to say it is rather splendid. So try it. The sequence started on Ash Wednesday, 2 March, so you can go back in time and pick it up from there.

Pathways to Lectio Divina

The other book I would like to mention is Pathways to Lectio Divina: Methods from The Weave of Manquehue Prayer.

Lectio Divina (literally “Divine Reading”) has been part of the Church’s life from the earliest days: indeed, it is an obligation laid on Benedictine monks and nuns, among others. It consists in reading the Word of God not merely to see what it says, the way you might read a newspaper article – still less, to analyse what you think it was trying to say, the way the writer of a commentary might read it – but rather, asking “What is God saying to me, here, with these words, today?” It is reading as a form of prayer.

The Manquehue Apostolic Movement began in Chile as a way for the laity to structure their lives according to the Rule of St Benedict. It lives and spreads in a variety of ways, and The Weave of Manquehue Prayer describes itself as “a network of friends who seek to help one another to pray, cultivate spiritual friendship and share with many the Good News of the Risen Christ”.

The Universalis apps and programs have a Lectio Divina page which is built on the commonest form of Lectio, where two or more friends get together to read the Gospel of the day. The great merit of this is that the choice is made for one, so that there is no risk of choosing to read something purely because it is familiar, or easy, or what one feels like at the time. You can look at the Lectio Divina page in Universalis to see how such a shared reading is constructed and executed.

Pathways to Lectio Divina goes further. It goes to the roots of what Lectio Divina is and its development through history, showing not only how to do it but why that is the way to do it. It has a guide to preparation, an order of service, and some alternative and enriching ways of doing Lectio Divina when one is on one’s own. It gives the teaching of the Church on Lectio Divina and, perhaps most inspiringly, it has a chapter of “Testimonies to the power of Lectio” quoting saints and spiritual writers from the earliest days to the present.

This is a short book, but a rich one because, properly used, it refracts the whole of the Word of God. You should definitely have a look at it. It can be found both on amazon.co.uk and on amazon.com.


Thank you all for using Universalis. If you have trouble or questions, or suggestions, do write to us at universalis@universalis.com or use the Contact Us button in one of the apps.

Let us all keep one another in our prayers, as always.

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