Moments in the life of a Pastor

Walking with God

Moments in a Monastery – Part 2

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A typical day for monks in the monastery at Pluscarden starts with the first service of the day Lauds, beginning at 4:30am and ends with Vespers a little after 8pm. Lauds as morning prayer and Vespers as evening prayer are the two hinges on which the daily office turns and as such are considered and celebrated as the chief hours. The name is derived from the three last psalms 148, 149, 150, know in the Lauds of the Roman Rite as the Laudate psalms. Lauds as the principle office of the day is known by several names, the Morning Office, Office of the dawn, the Office of sunrise, the morning praises, and the Office of the Resurrection of Christ. Its purpose is to sanctify the morning, to consecrate to God the first movements of our minds and hearts. So often even in Christian society we build our schedule more around the secular than the spiritual. Yet here in the monastery the first moments of the day are set apart to focus on the Father. There should be no other care to engage us before we have been moved with the thought of God, nor should the body undertake any work before we have done what is said in Psalm 5:3 “At daybreak I prepare a prayer of sacrifice, I hold myself in readiness, watching and waiting for you to speak to my heart.” It is in these early hours when the body beckons for sleep, and as we fight flesh with faith so we can give of our first fruits to the Father, that we are reminded of who should be preeminent in our lives. Today as our schedules of self eclipse the Savior we are traded truth for the temporary, sacrificing the spiritual on the alter of societal success. But what if we were to surrender self and start the day seeking His schedule? What if our first moments as the day dawned were spent not in sleep but on the Savior, reserved to recall His resurrection? Rising in the darkness to sing His praise as the first rays of light illuminate our sight and our minds become focused on Jesus, the light of the world (John 8:12), who came to dispel spiritual darkness “When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Lauds also reminds us that Christ met his followers at dawn, following His triumphant resurrection and there miserable failure. Reminding us that our focus should not be on our failures but His forgiveness. We can start the day not with our past problems but His present power. From the moment we awaken our first though should be on Jesus, His praise should be what inhabits our breath. Yet so often because our waking thoughts are fixed on our frailties we become consumed with our circumstances instead of Christ and our thoughts are far from the Father. When praise permeates our first moments, and takes the place of priority, it puts life into perspective. When we start with the Son self is eclipsed in His shadow. It is in these morning moments when we make what is really important our priority that we realize that the first act of the day should be prayer not progress, Christ not our calendar, the Word not our work. Prayer places our thoughts on the Father before we face the cares of the day. It is in these tranquil hours, just before and as the sun rises, that our focus on the Father provides the foundation on which to build the rest of our day. For when we learn to turn to the Father first we transfer our trust from self to the Son. John 1:9 reminds us that “The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.” He came into the world, but are you letting Him into your heart and mind? Lauds is typically composed of a number of psalms, a hymn, a short reading from the Bible and prayers sung by the monks using Gregorian Chant. Opening with the singing of Psalm 66 I was reminded of His power, position and purpose. With the focus on who He is and what He has done we are reminded that God is worthy of our praise, He has heard our prayer and provided us His love. Psalm 66: “Sing the glory of his name; make his praise glorious. Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds! So great is your power that your enemies cringe before you. All the earth bows down to you; they sing praise to you, they sing the praises of your name.” Come and see what God has done, his awesome deeds for mankind! He turned the sea into dry land, they passed through the waters on foot— come, let us rejoice in him. He rules forever by his power, his eyes watch the nations— let not the rebellious rise up against him. Praise our God, all peoples, let the sound of his praise be heard; he has preserved our lives and kept our feet from slipping. For you, God, tested us; you refined us like silver. You brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs. You let people ride over our heads; we went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance. I will come to your temple with burnt offerings and fulfill my vows to you— vows my lips promised and my mouth spoke when I was in trouble. I will sacrifice fat animals to you and an offering of rams; I will offer bulls and goats. Come and hear, all you who fear God; let me tell you what he has done for me. I cried out to him with my mouth; his praise was on my tongue. If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened; but God has surely listened and has heard my prayer. Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld his love from me!” What a change in our perspective when we start off with praise instead of our own plans. What if praise was the first part of everyday, what if like the psalmist His praise was the first thing on our tongue? At the end of this time of praise and prayer Psalm 150 was recited: “Praise the Lord. Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens. Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness. Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre, praise him with timbrel and dancing, praise him with the strings and pipe, praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals. Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise The Lord” Psalm 150 starts in verse one with a:

● Call to praise
Why a call to praise? Isn’t it interesting that we need to be reminded to praise but not to problem! Wherever you are today I want to invite you to join me, to let your praise push aside the problems. I love the diversity of praise in this psalm, it is not a static fixed two dimensional dribble of praise, but praise with all our being, song and soul. From the diversity of dance, and delicate harp to the deafening sound of cymbals. This is a call to praise with all that we have, to stop holding back and let The Lord have our best. Next in verse two we see the:

● Cause for praise
The praise that is called for in verse one is because of His mighty excellence in all that He does. This is a call to worship Him for His wonder instead of waking up only to whine. Oh we have such cause for worship, we have a Savior who because of His of surpassing greatness and power has secured us a place in His sanctuary. So why do we slumber when we could shout His praise? Why is my worship so often overtake and overwhelmed by my whining, or held hostage by my wants? How different when I start the day declaring His greatness, when I wake choosing to respond to the call of praise. Only when our worship collides with our worry do we discover the power that praise really has over problems. Third there is a call to:

● Combined praise
Appropriately the last verse of the Psalm includes a call for every living thing that has breath to praise the Lord. This is the call to corporate praise, the call to pursue God in the context of community. Who else around you needs to be spurred on in song, instead of sitting silently on the sidelines. This is the called to combine our voices in a communal chorus of praise, the question is what will you contribute? Lastly we see the full circle of:

● Complete praise
As psalms 150 closes with a final hallelujah, praise the Lord we see not a concluding praise but a call for complete praise. Its not just that the start and end of the psalm are the same its that they represent a circle of praise. A continual unbroken chorus of praise. This isn’t “praise The Lord” and then go back to your plans but a life style of praise. Today let me encourage you to call out to Christ, to sing of your Savior, so that the Lord becomes your life song.

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