Let us stand to sing the psalms
so that our minds may be in harmony with our voices.
~ Rule of Benedict
Once a month, Sister Mary David, Lynn Lemberger (our director of worship and music) and I gather as the monastic ritual team. You might find us trying out a new hymn for Christmas or planning the environment of our worship spaces for liturgical seasons such as Advent or Christmas. Together we decide the arrangement of psalms, readings and hymns the community uses during the Liturgy of Hours, our daily prayers. We are the team that oversees the design and implementation of all the liturgies or worship materials used at the monastery. Because prayer is central to the life of every Benedictine community, at Holy Wisdom Monastery we devote substantial resources to designing our liturgies both for the ecumenical Eucharist on Sundays and the daily Liturgy of Hours. During our liturgies the needs of the world and the community meet.
Our Liturgy of Hours contains some features you might not find at another Benedictine monastery, because we are an ecumenical community. For example, we have included days of observance for people of various traditions, such as Mohandas Gandhi on January 30, Martin Luther on February 18 and John and Charles Wesley on March 2. We take note of some Jewish and Islamic observances and pray for our Jewish and Muslim brothers and sisters. We are a women’s monastery and so we also intentionally include observances of many women like Julian of Norwich (May 8), Evelyn Underhill (June 15), Hildegard of Bingen (September 17) and Teresa of Avila (October 15) in our daily prayer.
We almost always have guests with us at prayer, like the summer Volunteers in Community and coworkers pictured here joining the sisters. We intentionally make our prayer books as usable as possible for newcomers. Retreatants have told us they especially appreciate that our prayer books are easy to use.
We have seven volumes of prayer books for our Liturgy of Hours: a different book for each season of the church year and one for the celebration of feasts and solemnities (special observances). The antiphons and the canticles are appropriate for each season and feast. In addition to the participant’s books, a prayer leader’s book contains orations and litanies written to fit the scripture for the day and to reflect the broad range of concerns for which we pray daily. At midday prayer, in addition to the Gospel reading we have a second reading that is selected for reflection. In November we are reading from A Little Daily Wisdom, Women Christian Mystics, edited by Carmen Acevedo Butcher, while our readings during Advent will come from Advent with Evelyn Underhill, edited by Christopher L. Webber.
Our current Liturgy of Hours books were originally written over the course of several years in the mid-1990s. Approximately every 10 years we revise the books adding new hymns, changing Psalm tones or Psalm translations as needed. Revisions to the two Ordinary Time volumes were completed in 2008. The revision of the Advent books was completed in 2011. We are currently working on revisions to the Christmas books. The revision process may take us 10 years and then we will begin the process again; it is an ongoing effort to keep our daily prayer fresh and alive to the present day.
You are welcome to join us for the Liturgy of Hours. Advent is a wonderful time to make space in your day for this communal prayer.