Thursday, October 1, 2009

9/28/09 Readings

My wife and I try to go through the daily readings every day. I got into the habit when I got an iPhone. I need to make sure to write that as "iPhone" and not "i-phone" or "Iphone". In fact, my iPhone will correct the capitalization if I type "iPhone" incorrectly.

For the most part, the iPhone has been a great part of my life. I definitely waste my time more productively now. Instead of spending dead moments of the day daydreaming or doodling, I check e-mail, update my Netflix queue, keep up with the news, and obsess over Twitter. The big difference here is that I'm reading and so I'm contributing to maintaining my knowledge of basic vocabulary and grammar. TOTALLY productive.

Occasionally, I even get to pray with my iPhone. This has definitely felt like the cheapest and lamest way I've ever prayed. Sometimes, I wonder if it even counts. When Catholics pray, we have a plethora of options. We have form prayers that we learn when we're kids (Our Father's and Hail Mary's), we have books that help us to pray (the Bible, Liturgy of the Hours, prayer books) and we even have our trusty imaginations to contemplate the mystery of God. These are all very "earthy" options, and feel more natural.

Around when I first got the iPhone (our 1 year anniversary is coming up soon!), I got a program called "iBreviary". Keeping with the spirit of the iPhone, it precedes its basic function with an "i". If I wanted to be more tech, I could be an iHuman or an iCatholic. Already I feel like I'm building a bridge to a new era in iCommunication.

"iBreviary" compiles the daily prayers of the Church. People might not realize, but every day the Church does a lot of common things as a Church without having every member present. We read from the same readings, pray the same Mass, recite common prayers, and have the opportunity to pray from what's called the Liturgy of the Hours. I call it an opportunity (it is) and that might seem like it's something cool and extra that you do for fun, like an after school club or fantasy football league (which it isn't). Our clergy are more or less required to pray this common prayer of the Church and it's strongly recommended to the lay faithful.

For a long time I didn't really jive with the Liturgy of the Hours and it took a long time for me to enjoy it. A large reason because it would feel like one of those "Choose Your Own Adventure" books that I would read was a kid. If you didn't grow up reading this series, the idea was that you began reading story up to a point until you were presented with a set of options that would progress the story. Once you made your choice, you would turn the page that matched up with your option. You could tell if someone was reading a "Choose Your Own Adventure" book because they would flip back and forth between pages a lot.

Well, it turns out that an avid page turner also might be praying the Liturgy of the Hours, because the Liturgy requires some page turning in order to progress. Some friends of mine have really mastered it and have discovered the beautiful rhythm of the living breathing Church. If you pray the whole thing, you take time at different points of the day(morning, mid-morning, midday, afternoon, evening, night) to pray. The prayers come from Scripture (and in a special way the Psalms) and the Church's tradition. By marking the different junctures in the natural progression of the day, I've also heard that you become more in tune with the rhythm of life. It's a pretty remarkable thing.

It's also a pretty remarkable thing that I'm not very good at.

Cue: iBreviary.

iBreviary does all of that without any page turning. NO page turning at all. And before I came to understand what the Liturgy of the Hours was, I knew what it was because of all the page turning. In fact, it was the one thing that made the whole endeavor kinda daunting. It felt like a badge of honor to master the way you turned the pages. There was a technique, a style. You could even get to a point where you could master the page turning so that you didn't even notice it. But in order to do that, you had to turn those pages. It took time and it took work, but when you were done it was like learning an instrument or how to set up a stereo. Once you learned it, you learned it. I definitely know my way around the Bible, but the Liturgy of the Hours would feel like a Syriac Grammar (which I should know because I have one of those too and can't get through it).

And that's why I felt like I was cheating. iBreviary organizes all these great prayers and I don't have to turn those pages. It first felt like buying one of those guitars or keyboards that light up so you know where to put your fingers. In the end, do you even really learn the instrument? Wouldn't you just keep cheating like this?

Eventually, I got over it.

One feature of iBreviary is that it also gives you the daily readings that are used at Mass. During the week, that equals one Old Testament reading or non-Gospel reading, a reading from a Psalm, and a Gospel reading. On Sundays and major feast days/observances, you also get a reading between the Psalm and the Gospel.

If you stick by this for 3 years, you read most of the Bible. They're also organized pretty neatly. This week, for example, we're reading from the much neglected Old Testament book of Nehemiah. The readings usually push the gist of the story forward as the days progress. And, like I said, if you stay savvy you can get almost the whole Bible under your belt in 3 years. That even leaves you some time to think about it too.

These daily readings are actually the whole driving force for me starting the page. I love writing a lot of things that next to nobody reads. I want what I write to be useful (and I love to write) but since quitting my music store job over a year ago, I haven't had something that I was faced with every day that I could write about. I'm a youth minister now and I like to pray (and still love noisy music, but that's for another blog) so this was a natural fit. And I really love the Bible, in the geekiest way I could possibly mean that.

The hope is that I can take some time when I can and write about the readings, to get to know Scripture better and better...

So here goes...

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