Primary School of Prayer of the Heart

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The Antiphons of the Final Days of Advent

Today at Lauds the Church begins a series of proper antiphons for each day until Christmas. These antiphons are relatively short and easy to memorize. Most of them are composed in the hauntingly beautiful transposed Fourth Mode (in the new books II*) with the optional ending on si, that is so expressive of our yearning for completion in Christ. The antiphons are repeated throughout the day at the Little Hours, and again at Vespers. This morning, for example, we sang:

Constantes estote, * videbitis auxilium Domini super vos.
Be ye steadfast, and ye shall see the the help of the Lord upon you.

Ad te, Domine, * levavi animam meam: veni, et eripe me, Domine, ad te confugi.
To thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul: come, and rescue me, O Lord, for to thee have I fled for refuge.

Veni, Domine, * et non tardare: relaxa facinora plebi tuae Israel.
Come, O Lord, and tarry not: relieve thy people Israel of the burden of their sins.

Deus a Libano veniet, * et splendor ejus sicut lumen erit.
God shall come from Lebanon, and his splendour shall be as the light.

Ego autem * ad Dominum adspiciam, et expectabo Deum Salvatorem meum.
As for me, I shall look to the Lord, and wait for God my Salvation.

Antiphons Pondered in the Heart

It is not enough merely to sing or recite these antiphons at the Hours. The Church gives them to us so that, in imitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who "kept all these words, pondering them in her heart" (Lk 2:19) we might so make these words our own as to find in them the perfect expression of our soul's every longing.

Primary and Indispensable

The Sacred Liturgy is -- and this is often overlooked or forgotten -- the primary and indispensable school of the prayer of the heart. The febrile pursuit of trendy methods of meditation and esoteric approaches to prayer comes from having lived apart from The Prayer of the Church. I have noticed, for example, that in religious communities where the Divine Office is neglected, minimized, or even performed regularly, but in a perfunctory manner, souls tend to gravitate to things like "Centering Prayer" or lose themselves in private devotions that are, at best, marginal to The Prayer of the Church.

Prayer Ceaseless and Incandescent

The prayer of the heart -- ceaseless and incandescent -- flourishes wherever and whenever the Sacred Liturgy -- and, in particular, the Divine Office -- is cherished and celebrated with dignity, reverence, and devotion.

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About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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