Electric Prayer

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

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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March 2020 newsletter

Posted by universalis on 23 March 2020

In many parts of the world this is a strange and disturbing time. Everyone’s situation is different, everyone’s needs are different. It is impossible to say the right thing to everyone (or even to anyone) in a newsletter that is sent out to thousands of anonymous addresses. But let me say two things.

First, at a time when populations are being epidemiologically added, multiplied, counted, almost (it seems) weighed, remember that you are not “1.0 units of population”. You are a person called into being uniquely by God because without you, the masterwork of Creation in all its splendour would have had something missing.

Second, you have been anointed a priest, and anointed a prophet, and anointed a king. It took place a long time ago at your baptism and you were probably not paying attention, but it did happen and now is the time to live those anointings.

As priest, you can open yourself to those you come across, and bear witness to the infinite value of their being and to the love of God for them. You can be there for them and with them, you can be quiet together, or even listen. There is nothing like an open heart and a safe pair of ears.

As prophet, your voice must not be embarrassed to tell of the wonders of the Lord. Do not keep the truth of your faith secret for fear of derision. As long as people do not feel they are being preached at, you will find them remarkably tolerant. Do not expect the seed to grow before your eyes – that is God’s job done in God’s time – but do at least sow and scatter it.

As king – to see how to live your anointing, see first what a king is. Think of a gardener who is at the service of his plants and his crops, which he feeds and weeds and waters; then think of a king who at the service of everybody, keeping them safe and orderly free from want. The gardener serves whoever owns the garden; the king serves whoever owns the universe. Whoever and wherever you are, you are in some sense king of something. And we are all of us servants of each other. The more we do it, the easier it becomes.

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Praying the Rosary

Posted by universalis on 22 March 2020

The Rosary is part of all the Universalis apps, both for Android and for iOS. You will find it among the other pages in the “Hours” menu.

If you are blind, then here are some instructions for getting into Universalis using VoiceOver on the iPhone or iPad, and for getting to the Rosary page. We are very grateful to a Universalis and VoiceOver user, Adrienne Chalmers, who recorded them for us!

There is also a Play button at the bottom left of the screen of the Rosary page, which will play you the audio of the Rosary being said by the pupils and community at Downside Abbey and School. We are asking Adrienne to see how accessible that audio is for blind users.


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Buying Universalis in Nigeria

Posted by universalis on 2 March 2020

Quite a few people in Nigeria have difficulty buying Universalis, whether from one of the app vendors (Apple, Amazon, or Google Play) or directly from us in the form of a registration code. This is down to the policies of the vendors, or, in the case of the registration code, the policies of our credit card processor, WorldPay. We cannot do anything about it directly.

However, if you are in Nigeria and you are having a problem, there is another way round.

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A new instructional video: Pages and Dates

Posted by universalis on 24 February 2020

Here is the second in our series of videos to help you get started with Universalis. It takes you through choosing which page you want to display, which date you want to see, and the choice of local calendars.

You can watch this video on You Tube – iPhone versioniPad versionAndroid version.

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February 2020 newsletter

Posted by universalis on 11 February 2020

The 40 days of the Christmas season finished just over a week ago, and the 40 days of Lent are already getting near. Remember, if you have the kind of people around you who compare notes about Giving Things Up: the point of Lent is not only penance and repentance but also an increase in joy. Giving up bad things is no doubt good for you; but giving up good things is even better. It means that you can give thanks to God for them and rejoice when he gives them back to you at Easter. In some moods we need to be reminded that God made the whole world and saw that it was very good.

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A new instructional video (Android)

Posted by universalis on 6 February 2020

We have created a short video to help you get started with the Universalis app on Android. It takes you through choosing the text size, the colour scheme (dark or light), and so on.

You can watch this video on You Tube – here is the link.

We plan to make more of these videos in the future, so stay tuned!

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A new instructional video

Posted by universalis on 5 February 2020

We have created a short video to help you get started with the Universalis app on iOS. It takes you through choosing the text size, the colour scheme (dark or light), and so on.

You can watch this video on You Tube – iPhone versioniPad version.

We plan to make more of these videos in the future, so stay tuned!

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The Epiphany again

Posted by universalis on 8 January 2020

Some people get into a terrible flap after the Epiphany, and six years out of seven they write to us to say that we have got the readings wrong. So this post really ought to appear every year.

In religious parts of the world the Epiphany is celebrated when it always has been: on the 6th of January, when good children get presents from the Kings. In more commercial parts of the world the Epiphany is moved to the Sunday after New Year’s Day, so that the Twelve Days of Christmas become the Eight Days or the Fourteen Days.

The reason for all the panic is that a day such as Wednesday 8 January 2020 has different readings depending on where you are. In religious countries it is 8 January, the second day after the Epiphany. In commercial countries it is Wednesday after Epiphany Sunday, the third day after the Epiphany.

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The date of the Epiphany

Posted by universalis on 1 January 2020

At about this time of year we tend to get a few emails from people who say that we have got the calendar wrong. This is because the solemnity of the Epiphany is celebrated on different dates in different parts of the world. There are two choices:

  • It can be celebrated on January the 6th, the thirteenth day of Christmas. That is why the eve of the Epiphany is called Twelfth Night.
  • It can be celebrated on the Sunday between the 2nd and 8th of January.

Universalis does both. If you set Universalis to use your local calendar, you will see the Epiphany on the right day for you.

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