The Divine Office Transformed

The post-Covid Church: the Divine Office transformed

There was a quote in the Tablet last week which struck home: “Had we developed the celebration of the liturgy of the hours more fully, then people at home could actually celebrate liturgy.” This is what we have done in the Covid crisis in the Lay Community of St Benedict.

The LCSB first became virtual in 2003 when we set up away from Worth Abbey as an independent lay association, 32 years after being founded by the monks. Although we have always met in regional and local groups, and come together for other community gatherings, we were sometimes unsure, asking if we needed to create a new home, such a vital part of Benedictine spirituality. Since the Covid lockdown we have discovered a new home online, and it is good.

For three years the community has been encouraging people to experiment with online prayer. A group of pioneers started saying morning office every week on Skype. It worked well and immediately there was an attachment to this form of prayer. We felt close and strengthened as if we were praying together in person. But it was only a few. The Covid crisis has changed that, and on average we now have 60 people every week attending one of the three offices of the church which we conduct online – morning prayer, vespers, and compline.

In the office we are the church. We are a faith family. Everyone participates. Some are cantors, others are readers. We take turns. The beauty of the liturgy is important, and we have guidelines and a way in which it works for us. Being there, structuring our life around it in true Benedictine style is more important than perfection. It has kept us stable during this difficult period and has brought us much joy and support. We have had many witnesses from people expressing their deep appreciation of this ancient form of shared prayer, rediscovered and renewed.

The challenge for members of the LCSB is to sustain the spiritual life as in the discipline of a monastery. Members are active Christians in their parishes (from multiple denominations), and also in non-church activities such as charity work, development, politics as well as in professional life. So, we now offer to activists a place of repose and spiritual journeying. Besides the daily office, this also includes study and prayer groups.

We know that we have benefited from people’s availability during this time, and that things will change when we leave lockdown, but we have a strong desire to take the learnings of this crisis forward. We have learnt that to live the Benedictine life of work, prayer and study means making the time for communal prayer, whether we are commuting or working away, and insofar as our circumstances allow. We deeply appreciate the heritage of the liturgy of the hours and rejoice as a Lay Community in being able to host this gathering online.

Categories LCSB | Tags: | Posted on June 28, 2020

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