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An Introductory Course in Christian Spirituality

Prayer and Worship
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Course Instructor

The Church provides the two foundational elements in its liturgy: the Eucharist and the Liturgy of the Hours.

When you hear the words “Christian spirituality” the first thing that comes to mind is prayer and devotional activity. As we have seen, Christian spirituality encompasses much more than just prayer and devotional activity. However, we must never lose sight of the importance of prayer and devotional activity to our life in Christ.

 

Eugene Peterson describes Christian spirituality as not simply a matter of

…selecting from a potpourri of spiritual disciplines, nor is it willing oneself to be faithful to some spiritual practice. Rather, it is all of life, all worship, ministry and work experienced as prayer and set in a structure (askesis) adequate to the actual conditions in which it is lived out. If it is not seen as encompassing the whole of life then spirituality is reduced to a few spiritual disciplines and put into a cubby-hole for devotional narcissism.[1]

 

It is the systematic and regular character of the spiritual disciplines that provide structure for the spiritual life. This structure must reflect the actual conditions of one’s life. The Church provides the two foundational elements of such a structure in its liturgy: the Eucharist and the Liturgy of the Hours.

 

The Eucharistic celebration anchors spirituality in Christ, revelation, community and service. The Eucharist is experienced in a particular location with a particular assembly. It takes spirituality from the abstract to the concrete.

 

The Liturgy of the Hours is the other foundational element. It is a daily immersion in sacred Scripture. It gives voice to our deepest emotions. Its formality, while off-putting at times, ensures that the focus of our prayer is not dominated by our sense of self but by a sense of God.[2]

 

Within the basic structure of the Eucharist and the Liturgy of the Hours, prayer, meditation, lectio divina and contemplation are all ways of giving mindful attention to the Lord, of spending time with the Lord and of careful listening. While they can be listed under the separate categories of contemplation and reflection, the categories overlap and elements of each category can be found in each other category. Reflection, journaling, and the examination of conscience are ways of being open and vulnerable before the divine Beloved; as a result, they are opportunities for discernment.

 

Some of the devotional activities common in the 1950’s and earlier, such as Eucharistic Devotion, processions, pilgrimages and praying the Rosary, seem to be making a comeback in popularity. Part of what is fueling the growing use of these devotional practices is a greater appreciation for the contemplative character of these devotions. These devotional activities must never replace the foundational role of the Liturgy of the Eucharist and the Liturgy of the Hours in Christian spirituality but they have place of honor in Christian spirituality and are a rich resource for the spiritual nourishment of any Christian.

 

Discussion Questions

1. It is suggested that the Liturgy of the hours be recognized as Liturgy and be prayed accordingly. How is the experience of praying the liturgy different from private prayer?

2. Do you have any experience with praying the Liturgy of the Hours? If yes, please describe our experience.

3. The Vatican describes the celebration of the Eucharist and the Liturgy of the Hours as the two pillars of the spiritual life. Why do you think the Vatican places such great emphasis on the Liturgy of the Hours in the spiritual life ?

Resource Materials

Christian Prayer: The Liturgy of the Hours, New York: Catholic Book Publishing, Co., 1985.

Conn, Walter. The Desiring Self: Rooting Pastoral Counseling and Spiritual Direction in Self-Transcendence. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1998.

De Wit, Han F. The Spiritual Path: An Introduction to the Psychology of the Spiritual Traditions. Translated by Henry Jansen & Lucia Hofland-Jansen. Pittsburgh, PA: Duquesne University Press, 1994.

Fowler, James. Stages of Faith: The Psychology of Human Development and the Quest for Meaning. San Francisco: HarperSan-Francisco; 1981.

Kegan, Robert. The Evolving Self: Problem and Process in Human Development. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1982.

Kessler, Jay, Being Holy, Being Human, Word Books: Carol Stream, IL, 1988.

Lonergan, Bernard. Method in Theology. New York: The Seabury Press, 1972.

McAdams, Daniel P. The Stories We Live By: Personal Myths and the Making of the Self. New York: William Morrow and Company, 1993.

Van Kaam, Adrian. The Transcendent Self: The formative spirituality of middle, early and later years of life. Denville, NJ: Dimension Books, 1979.

[1] Eugene Peterson, Under the Unpredictable Plant: An Exploration in Vocational Holiness (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdsmans Publishing Company, 1992), 89-91, 98-99.

[2] Peterson, Under the Unpredictable Plant: An Exploration in Vocational Holiness, 102-107. The Liturgy of the Hours involves a prayerful reading of three psalms or canticles from Scripture, a gospel reading, hymn, and several other prayers drawn from scripture. It is normally said in the morning and evening, though it can also be prayed at other hours of the day. Its use goes back to Old Testament times and was incorporated into Christianity in the early years of the Church. It is an obligatory prayer for clergy and religious. Its use is encouraged for the laity.


Under the Unpredictable Plant an Exploration in Vocational Holiness
Eugene H. Peterson

Saying Amen: A Mystagogy of Sacrament
Kathleen Hughes

Christian Prayer: The Liturgy of the Hours
Catholic Book Publishing Co

Liturgy of the Hours Guide (2005)
Catholic Book Publishing Company

Being Holy Being Human: Dealing With the Incredible Expectations and Pressures of Ministry
Jay Kesler

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(c)2005. Richard Shewman. All rights reserved. The contents of this website are the intellectual property of the author and may not be reproduced, aside from fair personal use for the purpose of individual study, without the written permission of the author.
 
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