Tuesday, March 28, 2017

A Liturgical Menu

I've probably written about this before, but I think I'll do it again - I want to craft a menu that follows the liturgical calendar in a particular way, primarily in living out the Rule of St. Benedict in my current state in life. The Rule of Benedict talks sparingly about the life of a monk appetite-wise, but he does address it partly in Chapter 4, when he lists tools of good works; while speaking, of course, on the love of God and neighbor, Father Benedict does eventually list a few things that challenge me in my lifestyle:

10. To deny oneself in order to follow Christ.
11. To chastise the body.
12. Not to become attached to pleasures.
13. To love fasting.
35. Not addicted to wine.
36. Not a great eater.

And in Chapter 39, when proscribing the meals of the day, he also writes:

"Above all things, however, over-indulgence must be avoided and a monk must never be overtaken by indigestion; for there is nothing so opposed to the Christian character as over-indulgence according to Our Lord's words, "See to it that your hearts be not burdened with over-indulgence" (Luke 21:34)."

My life is one big over-indulgence.

Another challenge, same chapter:

"Except the sick who are very weak, let all abstain entirely from eating the flesh of four-footed animals."

So, basically just fruit, veg, fish, and fowl. Those monks who strictly observe the Rule will maintain a completely vegetarian diet, and some actually continue to follow St. Benedict's instruction of having one to two meals a day (depending on the period of the liturgical year) as well as being allowed a POUND of bread to snack on throughout the day. Some monasteries abstain from wine (except for during Mass) even though St. Benedict says that (although abstaining is the best) that a monk can be allowed up to a hemina - nearly a LITER - of wine a day, more in the heat of the summer!

My point is that Benedict laid down his rule in a way that says: THIS is the best thing to do, but we can allow even THIS, but it would be pretty good if you could maintain the ideal. In other words, he mentions the ideal and then, out of mercy, allows his monks some leeway. And, as an oblate, I have even MORE leeway, since I'm not bound to follow any of this. But, I keep feeling this call within me to change my eating habits according to the liturgical calendar. The fact that I've failed miserably at it all this time, and yet still haven't shaken off this desire to do it, makes me think that perhaps God is asking me to do this. It's penance, to be sure. It's not a burden, since I'll still eat. It sort of follows the Rule of Benedict, although not completely. And it keeps me mindful of the Church's life all day long, which IS something the Rule speaks of (as well as some of the prayers of the new Ordinariate prayer book), that we ask him to make us always mindful that we are walking in his sight.

So, I am crafting a menu - a way of life - that will help me to do this with my appetite. I always try fasting and this other stuff as a way of losing weight, that weight loss is in the front of my mind, whereas penance and the suppression of my unruly passions is sort of in the background - that's why I keep failing, I believe; God isn't my reason for doing this, but the hopes that I'll finally lose weight and keep it off. So, my focus has to change.

The Church teaches that the Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life, that all we do is drawn to It, and that through the Eucharist we obtain in a most particular way, strength for our journey. Accordingly, the liturgy (Mass, Divine Worship, Divine Liturgy) is the most profound way in which we are brought into that Heavenly presence; just our presence there allows us to receive great gifts of grace, being so close to Jesus Christ and surrounded by his angels and saints. However, the liturgy of the hours - the great Divine Office - is a liturgy that, again, puts us in his presence in a special way (not as profound a way as the Mass, of course). So, as I try to pray the Divine Office, as I've written before, I seek God to sanctify the day, praising him throughout the day not just in personal, private prayer, but in this public prayer of the Church. So, in my eyes, inspired by the Rule (and, I believe, the Holy Spirit), I believe that changing my eating habits to coincide with the liturgical year is yet another way to always keep myself mindful of the fact that all things come from God and that I am always in his presence; in giving up all the goodies and in ignoring my desire for meat when I'm eating vegetables, I offer him penance in gratitude for his gifts, but also in sorrow for my sins. Then, in great feasts like Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost - as well as the Sundays outside of Lent, those meat dishes will allow me to remember his great goodness, and his ever-abiding grace, to get through this life in every little thing, including which dish I decide to thaw from my freezer. Losing weight is a happy accident, a coincidence, whereas love for God and a desire to offer him even my meal plan, is the main reason for all of this.

I'm not going to be so bold as to write out the menu here or create all the "rules" - I'm going to let God do that and, when I've actually followed this method for a large amount of time, THEN I'll post about it. I'll let the Holy Spirit move me and craft things, shifting it a little this way and a little that way, and we'll see what the Lord comes up with. Jesus, I trust in you! Do with me as you will!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

The Divine Office

For many Catholics, the existence of the Divine Office is something they've never known, but one of the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) was to encourage its use amongst the people of God. "Pastors of souls should see to it that the chief hours, especially Vespers, are celebrated in common in church on Sundays and the more solemn feasts. And the laity, too, are encouraged to recite the divine office, either with the priests, or among themselves, or even individually" (SC, 100). Unfortunately, this is a reform of the Council that has barely been realized, nor has it really been talked about in the parishes.

The Divine Office is "the voice of the Church, that is of the whole mystical body publicly praising God" (SC, 99); it is seen as "the official prayer of the Church" (LC). Coming from Jesus Christ, the Office is seen as "that hymn which is sung throughout all ages in the halls of heaven" (SC, 83). The Church believes that she should be "ceaselessly engaged in praising the Lord and interceding for the salvation of the whole world" and that this is done "not only by celebrating the eucharist, but also in other ways, especially by praying the divine office" (SC, 83). The Divine Office "is truly the voice of the bride addressed to her bridegroom; it is the very prayer which Christ Himself, together with His body, addresses to the Father" (SC, 84).

The Office is a "tradition going back to early Christian times" and "is devised so that the whole course of the day and night is made holy by the praises of God" (SC, 84). Many attribute its earliest form in the way that devout Jews would recite the psalms, day and night, in praise of the Lord and that the Office is the Christianization of that practice. The praying of the Office is to make holy the entire day: Seven times a day I praise thee for thy righteous ordinances (Ps 119:164). Always rejoice. Pray without ceasing. In all things give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you all (1 Thes 5:16-18). Obviously, the praying of the Office isn't meant to replace our heartfelt prayers to God, but that they supplement our prayers through the offering of the psalms, prayers, and Scriptures to Almighty God. "[A]ll who render this service are not only fulfilling a duty of the Church, but also are sharing in the greatest honor of Christ's spouse, for by offering these praises to God they are standing before God's throne in the name of the Church their Mother" (SC, 85).

As a future Oblate of St. Benedict, praying the Divine Office (also called the Daily Office, the Office, the Breviary, the Hours, and the Liturgy of the Hours) is part of my spiritual expression. St. Benedict, who called the Office the Opus Dei (the Work of God), spent many chapters of his Rule explaining how the Office should be offered by his monks, reminding them that "nothing is to be preferred to the Work of God" (43:3). Even before I ever knew I wanted to be an Oblate, I already knew that I wanted to pray the Office once I learned of its existence; I never lost that original love for Scripture that was nurtured in my days as a Protestant.

There are many Office versions out there and everyone has their preference; however, I always desired to pray with the Church in a way where I felt like I wasn't lost in a time machine - plus, the older Offices can be quite burdensome (for instance, in the Office that was in use in the 1960s, all 150 psalms were prayed weekly, which meant praying all the Hours of the day, including the ones designated for during the middle of the night). Realizing that this was burdensome for the laity, and desiring that all the people of God celebrate the Hours, the Second Vatican Council suppressed the Hour of Prime and changed the Hour of Matins (now called the Office of Readings), authorizing the Office of Readings to be prayed at any time during the day instead of just in the middle of the night, and they went to a four-week psalter, which meant less psalms per day. I truly enjoy the Office of Readings because of the second reading, which is usually the writings of a Saint or a Father of the Church.

For the laity, the Church advised us that the "two hinges" of the Office were Morning Prayer (Lauds) and Evening Prayer (Vespers), so for many of the faithful, due to how busy life can get, they limit themselves to praying these two Hours; in keeping with Anglican tradition, these are the Hours I normally pray, and on most days I also pray the final Hour, which is called Compline. When Thomas Cranmer became the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, he revised the Mass and Hours, creating the Book of Common Prayer, which would allow clerics and laity to pray the worship service and the prayers together in the common language of the people; wanting to make things simpler (and more likely to be done by the laity, who were busier than we are today) the "minor/lesser Hours" throughout the day were removed, leaving behind only Morning (called Mattins) and Evening Prayer (called Evensong); the Ordinariate Office returns these Hours.

Obviously, the laity are not bound to pray the Hours like the clerics and religious orders are, but the laity (myself included) often get very enthusiastic about the Hours and try to pray them with their whole heart. It was God's providence that he led me to joining the Anglican Ordinariate. Although I enjoyed the current version of the Liturgy of the Hours, I wasn't feeling a great draw to them; there was something missing. As a member of the Ordinariate, my priest told me I could privately pray the Book of Common Prayer (1928 edition), but with the Readings of the Book of Divine Worship (a Catholic revised version of the Book of Common Prayer promulgated by St. John Paul II in 1983).

THIS is what was missing for me, as the BCP not only contained the psalms and beautiful prayers, but also contained readings from the Old and New Testaments; through the daily praying of the Office, using the BCP, one can work through the entirety of the Protestant version of the Bible, along with the psalms. In the new version of the Daily Office, soon to be released by the Anglican Ordinariate, the Office contains Scripture from the entire Catholic version of the Bible (like the Book of Divine Worship), but in the beautiful English found in the 1928 version of the BCP; it also contains many traditional prayers and intercessory prayers of the saints that had been taken out by the Anglicans, and so as to not be stuck in a time machine, there are many intercessory prayers for many of our modern saints, such as St. John Paul II and St. Padre Pio, in keeping with the reforms called for by the Second Vatican Council.

It was the hope that the liturgical renewal of the Second Vatican Council, authorizing more Scripture readings in the Mass and the reform of the Hours, "will bring about a continuous meditation on the history of salvation and its continuation in the life of men" (LC). Pope Blessed Paul VI, in authorizing the release of the reformed Liturgy of the Hours, along with the Second Vatican Council's desire for the laity to participate in the Hours, said "By means of this new book of the Liturgy of the Hours...let there resound throughout the Church a magnificent hymn of praise to God, and let it be united to that hymn of praise sung in the courts of heaven by the angels and saints. May the days of our earthly exile be filled more and more with that praise which throughout the ages is given to the One seated on the throne and to the Lamb" (LC).

Amen! It is my hope and desire that, through the praying of the Anglican Ordinariate's Daily Office, I may join my voice to that hymn of praise on earth and in heaven, to the One seated on the throne and to the Lamb.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Ember Days in the Ordinariate

Ever since I learned about the Ember Days, I've wanted to practice them (although I haven't done a good job with that). For those unaware, the Ember Days are three days at four times a year, coinciding with the changing of the seasons, where we pray for God's blessings on the bounty of the earth, as well as for those to be ordained (or contemplating the priesthood) that we may receive more workers for God's True harvest.

The Ordinariate continues to form, finding itself; one of the challenges is to resist the urge to be just an English version of the Extraordinary Form. We must remember that our "job" is to preserve Anglican patrimony within the Catholic Church; this can trace itself to practices that existed prior to the reforms of the Second Vatican Council - some things can be traced to practices that existed prior to the Council of Trent! Either way, regarding the Ember Days, I wanted to observe them according to our Patrimony, if that differed from the way that those who practice the Extraordinary Form observed them. Writing a man who is "in the know", this is what I've received from him:

On the recommendation of the Governing Council, the Bishop has decreed that Ember Friday in Advent [and in September] will be kept as obligatory days of abstinence.

The Whitsun Ember Days fall in the Octave of Pentecost which is ordinarily a time of feasting, though voluntary, individual abstinence, even fasting, is certainly allowable as a personal rule.

Ember Friday in Lent is a day of abstinence anyway by the OF norms of the modern Roman Rite.

So, all the Ember Fridays of the year are days of abstinence, with those of Lent, September, and Advent being obligatory for the Ordinariate, as the minimum requested.

What about the Ember Wednesdays and Saturdays?

...fasting or abstinence on Ember Wednesdays and Saturdays is up to you.

This person, as an Anglican, abstained from meat on all the Wednesdays and Fridays of Lent and fasted on the Ember Days, but acknowledged that Anglican customs varied a lot, quite often following the practices of the Roman rite in this case.

So, there you have it. Ember Fridays of the year = abstaining from meat (at least), while the other Ember Days are (as of now) voluntary days of abstaining (as well as fasting, if desired); let us not forget that, at least in the Office, we also have collects for the Ember Days, which assist in their observance.

So, as personal practice (as of the moment), I will observe the twelve Ember Days as days of abstaining from meat (and, in keeping with the request from our Ordinary Emeritus, which I do not think has been rescinded, I continue to abstain from meat on all Fridays of the year, except on the very rare occasion, such as the Friday after Thanksgiving, where I abstain from something else). Perhaps one day I'll be able to add fasting to the observance, as a personal act, as well as in keeping with tradition, but as of now, abstaining from meat on the Ember days will be how I observe them (except in the cases of feasts and solemnities, like this Wednesday), in keeping with the bishop's request.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Is This the Final Form?

I've often posted about my struggles with weight and all the plans I have in combating it, but nothing ever works. I pray constantly for relief, but by the end of the day - and a pizza or two later - my lifestyle never changes. I entertain weird and challenging ways of eating, like going vegan or crafting my meals according to the liturgical calendar, but to no avail.

I've been led, I believe, to be simple, embracing the Rule and going into this in a simple, prayerful manner. And I believe it's from God because no matter what I try, my heart and mind always return to this simple plan - if it finally works, I hope to share it with others who struggle with their addictions.

Simply put...

1) Stop ordering out: This is the biggest killer of any efforts to lose weight or save money.

2) Fast with the Church: I always try to go above and beyond, such as trying to fast on both Wednesdays and Fridays. How to run when I can barely crawl? No, I shall fast on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and on the Ember Days - let's learn to crawl first.

3) Exercise: I'll never lose weight and keep it off without exercise; and since it's a struggle for me, and nowhere near enjoyable, I offer my exercise to the Lord for the conversion of sinners and for relief of the souls in purgatory.

4) Rare treats: I'll never quit junk food for good, no matter how much I want to, because I know it's going to be a struggle. So, I promise myself to never buy junk food again (except for popcorn for the air popper, which really isn't junk food). However, my parents always have junk food in the house - if the mood strikes, I'll enjoy a treat at their house, but never in mine. With God's graces, I'll resist the urge over there, as well, but one step at a time.

5) Don't sweat the booze: I only have one or two drinks a week - I'm not going to worry about its impact.

6) Eating natural foods: My heart keeps going back to this. I'm not going to do anything extreme, although I *might* replace some of my dairy with other things, like almond milk or flax milk, but for the most part, I'm not going to obsess over organic vs poison-filled, or vegan/vegetarian vs meat and fish - I'm just going to enjoy the Lord's harvest and blessings and be thankful. Yes, my meals will continue to be mainly vegetarian, but I won't worry about the meat (unless it's Friday) and fish. Since South Beach, my meats have been mainly poultry and when it's been red meat, it's been very lean; and since my marriage, I'd say at least half my meals, if not 75%, are vegetarian. Truthfully, if I could just stop ordering out or buying junk food, the pounds would fall off!

So, that's it. No big crazy challenges or extreme penance - just trying to do this in a simple manner, offering it up to God, and begging him for the graces to believe that I'm worth being healthy. And I made goals for myself: Short term, I pray that I'll be down one pants size and one shirt size by New Year's. Long term, by this time next year I pray to be off all my medications.