A Reflection on Morning Prayer
Morning Prayer, or Lauds, is prayed every weekday at 8.30am in the Portland Chapel at the University of Nottingham. For those of you who couldn’t be with us this morning, I thought I’d offer a reflection on the psalms prayed and the reading.
At the first Office prayed each day we begin with a call to conversion by reciting psalm 94. During Lent there are two antiphons that can be recited with this psalm; this morning we prayed the following antiphon:
“O that today you would listen to his voice! Harden not your hearts.” Ps 94
This antiphon, taken from the psalm itself, sums up not only Israel’s exile in the desert but the call of God to each one of us. “Harden not your hearts!” Each day must be a new conversion to Christ. We are reminded at the beginning of the Church’s daily cycle of prayer to listen to the voice of the Lord, both in the words of the scriptures that will be prayed throughout the day but also in the silence. How are we to listen? With open hearts: we must rid ourselves of our preconceived perceptions, our own worldly views and constructs and listen to God’s call in our lives, both in terms of following Christ but also being attentive to God’s plan for each one of us. Rend your hearts, let them be as clay for the Lord to mould rather than cast of the stone of disobedience.
“And I will go to the altar of God,
the God of my joy.” Ps 42
The first psalm marks the great call to Christian vocation, in fact not just Christian vocation but creation’s vocation: to bless God. The creation itself is a showing forth of the glory of God: a theophany. God has no reliance upon it yet he wills that it might be and so it is. We were made as priests of all creation and our primary vocation is to bless God: to go to the altar of God, the God who brings us joy – for our hearts will be restless until they rest in him.
“For Sheol cannot thank you,
death cannot praise you.” Is 38
The second psalm continues this theme of conversion and blessing. More vividly we are reminded that our hearts are as stone, that we are lost and cry to God for we have become homeless – restless – “My dwelling is plucked up and removed from me.” Yet God has not abandoned us, he wills us to be and we are! In death we cannot be priests, in Sheol we cannot praise him. It is not for death we were made but for the praise of God and the showing forth of his glory.
“To you all flesh will come
with its burden of sin.” Ps 64
In the third psalm we are called once more to the altar of the first psalm. We are told that our offences are too heavy a weight for us but that God will wipe them away. From homelessness we will be called once more “to dwell in your courts, your holy temple.” All that is good in the world we sing of: the riches God bestowed on us when he gave us such a glorious creation to be priests over – we are reminded that all of creation, the hills and meadows themselves glorify the Lord. A glory we are chief among and one we can once again be priest over for if we come to the Lord with our burden of sin he will make us anew.
All of this is taken up in today’s reading at Lauds when the Prophet Joel speaks to us. Ours must be a true conversion, a breaking of the heart. Turn to God and you will be made anew for the Lord does not desire your death but your glory so that in you he may be blessed and glorified:
“Come back to me with all your heart, fasting, weeping, mourning. Let your hearts be broken, not your garments torn; turn to the Lord your God again, for he is all tenderness and compassion, slow to anger, rich in graciousness, and ready to relent.” Joel 2:12-13
To finish I offer you the collect for today so that you can make this prayer your own:
Guard your Church, we pray, O lord, in your unceasing mercy, and, since without you mortal humanity is sure to fall, may we be kept by your constant helps from all harm and directed to all that brings salvation.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen