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
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.
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.
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.
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
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