|Detail from a window at Emmanuel Episcopal Church, Webster Groves, Missouri|
In the part of the country where I live, we have had a blessed few days in which the earth has felt as if it is shaking off the sere, bony grip of winter, if only for a moment. The darkness seems to be lifting, and prayers begin to rise like sap as the warm southern winds roll like a caress over the still-cool ground.
One of the practices I have been trying out during Lent is spending each week with a prayer and a poem. One of my friends and teachers, Donna, showed me a hard copy of the St. Augustine Prayer Book. This devotional work was first published in 1947 by the Order of the Holy Cross, and is now revised and edited under the auspices of Forward Movement; you can find a sampling of it online.
One little prayer, versions of which have been in existence in the Roman breviary and a collection of devotions known as the Raccolta, has settled into my heart. In the last few days I have been resetting it, phrase by phrase as a poem:
Joy with peace,
amendment of life,
time for true repentance,
the grace and consolation of the Holy Spirit,
perseverance in good works,
a contrite and humble heart,
and a happy consummation of my life,
O Almighty and merciful Lord.
In my devotional use of this little prayer, each of the seven key phrases builds on the ones that follow. I have also tried praying it using an Anglican rosary, moving my fingers over each bead in each week with each one of the seven phrases that make up the body of the prayer, pausing and lingering over each one, each a prayer within itself; praying the kyrie on each cruciform bead, breathing out thanks and gratitude on the cross.
How can we have joy with peace without all the rest?
How can we have amendment of life without time for repentance?
Caught up in the whirl of activity in our life, surely only the grace and consolation of the Holy Spirit calls us back to find that time, and the energy to persevere in doing good.
Yet, O Holy One, let these things not fill us up with anything
but a contrite and humble heart,
prepared to receive and welcome your Holy Spirit.
In the end of the day, let us ask for a happy consummation of our lives, that we may sink into the arms of Christ,
that we may be granted joy with peace indeed.