Sunday, December 09, 2007

Six Recognitions of the Lord

I know a lot of fancy words.
I tear them from my heart and my tongue.
Then I pray.

Six Recognitions of the Lord,
Mary Oliver in

For all that sung prayer is in my life, I generally don't sing when I pray the Office alone. In the last few years, I've occasionally used poems in place of the hymns to start my prayer. There are poems in the back of my breviary - but for the most part few of them spoke to me, and for years I've ignored them. A chance encounter with the still point in T.S. Eliot's Burnt Norton led me to begin to dip into and out of the worlds of various poets. I find those who are spare of words, but rich in imagery to be most appealing...and now I have a collection of favorites to supplant the ones in the back of my book. This is the latest addition.

These words are utterly spare, but incredibly full...


  1. The lines of poetry remind me of my attempt to slow my mind before praying, I like how she only gets rid of the fancy words.

    hope you are healing from the soccer.

  2. It's a good reminder to me to get down to essentials...and to listen.

  3. ...and the soccer damage is sloooowly healing; it's really only the ankle that's a pain at this point.


  4. I used to skip the hymn for evening prayer. I think it felt odd to me to sing to myself aloud. Since I started praying it with Thomas I have been singing. I usually just sing a hymn I have memorized, but lately we've been singing Advent hymns from a hymnal I have lying around. He's made the connection between the songs and the songbook. When we sit down in the chair he makes sure I have the prayer book, and then he points emphatically at the songbook and squeals, if I don't already have it on the chair. He likes the music!

    When I was a little kid, for some reason, I could only pray if I was singing. I used to singsong my nighttime prayers. I have no idea why.

  5. More on topic: I love that poem. I don't think, though, that I usually have the power to tear out the fancy words before praying. To be honest, I'm usually lucky if I can do that during prayer.

    I think that's one of the beauties of the liturgy of the hours. It allows me to say what I need to say without thinking about how I am going to say it.

  6. Oh yes, my head is full of fancy words...and the Office, particularly in common is a good discipline to help me keep the words at bay. One of my Augustinian colleagues once told me that he found the Office to be an exercise in listening, not speaking and so I try hard to listen not only to the other side of the choir, but to God...

    And hurrah for your own choir! Crash was an acolyte this weekend and one of the nuns told me this morning how much she loved watching him sing...