"Our lives, like candles, spell this simple symbol;
Weep like our bodily life, sweet work of bees,
Sweeten the world with your slow sacrifice."
- Thomas Merton
Our liturgical celebration is a daily feast on the Word and Bread of God and a daily intercession for the needs of our world. We sing the Divine Office (the "work of God") in English with some Latin, for several hours each day, and thus consecrate our time to God. Much of our English music has been composed over the years by musically gifted members of our community, often inspired by Gregorian Chant. We continue to sing Gregorian Chant in Latin for two Masses each week.
When we pray the Psalms, we receive the inestimable gift of giving voice to the deep cry of humanity to God and of God to humanity. Many psalms speak in a frank and evocative way about pain, sickness, fear, grief, abandonment, desolation, anger, vengeance, desire, hope, trust, relief, abundance, joy, and gratitude. Their authenticity stems from a personal or communal experience which is passed on to our lips. The power of these words sometimes outstrips our own attempts to find words for our situation and that of our world. Many times a particular psalm will give us the courage to speak before God things we would not otherwise have dared to express. Even those psalms whose spirit of intense anger and vengefulness seems irreconcilable with the gospel message can be a gift of freedom to us. They invite us to acknowledge that we too harbor violence within us and it is only in laying open these dark corners of our hearts and world unflinchingly before God’s gaze that we can be set free.
Praying the Psalms also opens us to receive God’s word to us: words of comfort and encouragement, words of love and longing, words of judgment and forgiveness. But public recitation of the Psalms is not only about our personal experience. It is the prayer of the Church, through which we are united with all who pray, with all who cry out in fear and pain, in gladness and joy, with all who have no voice, no freedom to speak or to pray, with all who have no words to speak to God, or no God to whom to address themselves. In praying the Psalms, we are united with Christ, who stands before the Father in his human body and cries out with his human voice for the salvation of all creation.
Following the tradition of our Order and the practice of Jesus as described in the Gospels, we rise at 3 am (the fourth watch) to pray to our Father in the night. The office of Vigils, which consists of Psalms and readings from the Scriptures and the Fathers and Mothers of the Church, is followed by a generous period of time for prayer and lectio divina. The darkness and the silence of this hour is particularly conducive to returning to the deep center of our hearts in the presence of God.
"Darkness makes cells with no walls
in which we are solitary together
in the free night."
- Mother Agnes Day
The morning office welcomes the light of a new day with psalms of repentance and praise of our Creator. With Zachary we invoke the tenderness of our God:
"In the tender compassion of our God
the dawn from on high shall break upon us,
to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death,
and to guide our feet into the way of peace."
- Luke 1:78-9
The daily celebration of the Eucharist is the source and summit of our Christan and monastic life here at Wrentham. By thus sharing in the Paschal Mystery we are united to one another and to the whole Church and transformed into that which we eat, so that our lives may become bread, broken and given.
Little Hours (Terce, Sext, None)
At the third, sixth and ninth hours of the day (about 9 am, 12 pm and 3 pm), we set aside time from our work and other activities to praise God together. These particular times of day recall the events of the passion of Christ: his being led out to die, his crucifixion and his death. This practice sanctifies the day and serves to call us back to our focus and goal of living for Christ, so that we may grow
toward continual prayer.
In the evening, as the light fades, we gather once again to sing songs of gratitude and supplication, echoing Mary's Magnificat:
"The Almighty works marvels for me.
Holy his name!
His mercy is from age to age,
on those who fear him."
- Luke 2:49-50
Vespers is followed each day by a period of twenty minutes of Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and communal Adoration in silence.
This is the office with which we close each day, placing our lives into the hands of God with grateful hope and calling out with Simeon:
"And now at last all-powerful Master, you give leave to your servant to go in peace, according to your promise..."
- Luke 2:29
As at the end of each of the offices, our final words are addressed to Mary, our life, our sweetness and our hope, as we turn to face her image in the Salve window:
"O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary."
- Salve Regina