Monastic Practice ~ Liturgical Prayer

Another one of the legs of the stool of monastic life is Liturgical Prayer.  We encounter the word of God in Liturgical Prayer as we do in Sacred Reading.  We need to move from an encounter with the written word to a deeper relationship with the living God of the Scripture.  Liturgy Prayer will aid us in that journey.

One of the things that monasteries are known for is the liturgical services that the monastery has during the day.  The complete round of services is a major part of the life of the monastery and perhaps is the only way that one might come in contact with the monks.  Communal prayer is extremely important in the life of the monk.  Here at St. Columba we serve Matins and Vespers each day as public services but also pray Compline each night.

Liturgical prayer is a continuation of our day and part of our daily rhythm and not an interruption in the day or a distraction from the work we might be engaged in when the bells rings.  When we gather for liturgical prayer we bring all of the concerns of the day to the prayer.  We lay them at the feet of God and ask that His will be done in each of the situations we remember.

Orthodox liturgy hits all of the senses.  The sights, the sounds, the smells of liturgy draw us into a living existence.  Prayer is not a static arrangement but a living and breathing part of our day.  Liturgical prayer deepens our personal prayer and deepens our relationship with the Living God and with each other.

We use the Psalms in our liturgical prayer and through the seasons of the church year we will be able to grasp in a deeper sense the meaning of the ancient prayers.  We need to make them our own prayer and harmonize our heart with our voice so that we will be honoring God with our hearts and our lips.

In his rule for monasteries, St. Benedict assumed that the monks would know the Psalms by heart.  Most of the monks of his day could not read so they would commit all of the Psalms to memory.  Although this is not necessary we should try to at least commit some of our favorite Psalms to memory for use during the day.

Part of the cell rule in the monastery, or the personal prayer routine of the monks, portions of the Psalms are read each day so the monk reads through the entire books of Psalms each week.  The Psalms become part of us as we move through the seasons of our life.

The Liturgical life of the monastery directly reflects the community life of the monastery.  If there is conflict in the community there will be conflict in the prayer of the community.  Because liturgical prayer looks forward to the Kingdom of God the prayer of the community will strengthen each of the members and will foster the loving unity that will characterize the community of believers when God has become all in all.

“Liturgical prayer is designed to lead us ever deeper into the mystery of Christ until we live not for ourselves but for him who died for all humanity and rise again.  Learning the full meaning of liturgical prayer and being transformed by it will occupy us for a lifetime.” (Monastic Practices)