The featured image is “The Kiss” (Paris: Musée Rodin, c. 1882) by the French artist Auguste Rodin (1840-1917).
I have a daily practice I would like to share.
When I get up in the morning, I like to (and do) pray-read this sequence:
The Ave Maria (Hail Mary)
Áve María, grátia pléna,
. Dómina técum.
Benedícta tū in muliéribus,
. et benedíctus frúctus véntris túi, Iésus.
Sáncta María, Máter Déae,
. óra pro nóbis peccatóribus,
. nunc et in hóra mórtis nóstrae. Ámen.
(I made the gender assignments of the divine One more feminine-appropriate.)
The Song of Solomon (Shir ha-Shirim)
“I will run without stopping until you lead me into the wine cellar.” —Saint Clare of Assisi’s 4th Letter to Agnes, verse 31 (translated by Sr. Frances Teresa Downing)
(The two-week arrangement works very well. However, as my appreciation and understanding increase, the divisions I delineate here are bound to change. I started with Michael D. Goulder’s division of the whole in The Song of Fourteen Songs (Department of Biblical Studies, The University of Sheffield, Sheffield, England: Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, supplement series 36, 1986). His thesis is that “the Song is a single poem, and not a collection of unrelated lyrics,” and “that there are fourteen Songs, two sevens: the poem divides in two neatly at 5:1 …” The chorus is often used as a device to separate the Songs from one another (pp. 71-72).
The translation I use is The Song of Songs: A New Translation by Ariel and Chana Bloch (University of California Press: 1998.))
The Lord’s Day, 1:1-8 (attracted)
Monday, 1:9—2:7 (satisfied)
Tuesday, 2:8-17 (invited)
Wednesday, 3:1-5 (awakening)
Thursday, 3:6-11 (transported)
Friday, 4:1-7 (transforming)
Sabath, 4:8—5:1 (communing)
The Lord’s Day, 5:2-8 (challenged)
Monday, 5:9—6:3 (contemplating)
Tuesday, 6:4-12 (con-forming)
Wednesday, 6:13—7:10 (dancing)
Thursday, 7:11—8:4 (longing)
Friday, 8:5-10 (secluding)
Sabbath, 8:11-14 (crossing over)
An Anthem to the Theotókos
(This is from Celebrating Common Prayer: A Version of the Daily Office Society of Saint Francis (Mowbray, 1992), page 267. It is said there to be a Greek Orthodox Hymn (translation: West Malling). Though it renders the hymn much less poetic, my adaptation makes the words more palatable.)
Into his joy the Lord Jesus has received you,
bearer of the Divine, virgin mother of Christ.
You have beheld the King in his beauty,
Miriam, daughter of Israel—
you who made answer for the creation
to the redeeming will of the divine One.
Light, Fire and Life—divine and immortal—
joined to our nature you have brought forth
that, to the glory of our divine Mother,
heaven and earth might be restored.
(This prayer I took from two sources. The first half I adapted from a prayer of Richard Rolle (d. 1349) in The Fire of Love, translated by Clifton Wolters (Penguin Books, 1972), page 98. The second I adapted from Celebrating Common Prayer: A Version of the Daily Office Society of Saint Francis (Mowbray, 1992), page 15.)
My Lord Iesu, I ask you to develop in me, your lover,
. an immeasurable urge towards you,
. an affection that is unbounded,
. a longing that is unrestrained,
. a fervor that throws discretion to the winds.
. As I rejoice in the gift of this new day,
. may the light of your presence, dear Love,
. set my heart on fire with love for you—
now and forever. Amen.
No doubt what will surprise most Protestants is my invocation of blessèd Mary. It seems most natural, since in Christ she is our mother who leads us in the way of salvation toward salvation’s telos in theosis (divinization or deification). Because she already participates in glory, she can be our real companion here in the sanctorum communionem (Gk: hagíōn koinōnían). She grounds me in the incarnation of her Son, which sets us on the proper path to theosis. Also, my identifying with her in her humanity, adds strength to the Song of Solomon when I read it as also pertaining to me. How better can I begin my day than with Ave Maria?
The choice to meditate on the Song of Solomon immediately upon awaking might also surprise some people. Following a long tradition, I use the Canticle as a metaphorical description of Christ and his individual lovers. Christ is personal and affectionate toward us, and so our relationship to Christ is likewise personal and affectionate. Christ encourages us to mature in our feelings of love for him; and these natural feelings in turn help us mature in our spirit. I perceive (or perhaps imagine) that the Song of Songs affectively takes us through these stages.
The prayer of Richard Rolle for “more love to thee,” and the request for Lady Spirit to set my heart on fire by bringing to my awareness the presence (in her) of my Beloved, are a fitting way to begin my day.
The office of Morning Prayer comes next after this “dawning” prayer with which I begin my day, after—of course—the coffee has brewed.