Lent begins with Ash Wednesday this week (see the Ash Wednesday plan here).  I’ve chosen to center our Lenten offerings this year around a theme: “Monastic Wisdom for Non-Monastics in an Anxious World.”  Ok, it’s a long-winded theme, but stick with me. 

I am aware that our perceptions and notions of monks and nuns are going to vary widely.  Some of us were educated in Roman Catholic schools where you had monastics teachers.  I know that some of you had excellent experiences, and some not so much.  Others of you will know that there is a long tradition of monasticism in Anglicanism, and might be curious about that or other traditions.  Others may not have any reference point or knowledge of monasticism outside of bits and pieces picked up at church or from popular culture.  Monasticism is a pretty wild idea, actually.  The idea that there are people who feel called to make some kind of commitment to live a different kind of life, “in the world, but not of the world,” together in a community (or as a hermit), following a rule of life that includes enormous amounts of prayer and study, holding personal possessions in common, and agreeing to be celibate—all of this is very counter-cultural.  Monasticism may seem like a rarified pursuit, far removed from the experiences and concerns of us, and our parish.  In reality, I believe the opposite is true.  There is much profound wisdom in the Christian monastic tradition that has a great deal to do with us in our current situation.  This can offer us a lot of wisdom, solace, and strength during this extended period of pandemic related crisis.  So, I am not asking anyone to become a monk or nun for Lent.  Instead, I am inviting us all to explore how monastic wisdom can enrich our own lives as we live them in our present circumstances. 

The core commitment and center piece of monasticism is also the inspiration and centerpiece of the Book of Common Prayer: daily prayer.  The Book of Common Prayer was designed to take the monastic cycle of daily prayer and put it within the reach of non-monastic Christians like you and me.  This cycle of prayer is called the Daily Office. During the pandemic, many of us have rediscovered the power and joy of one of these monastic prayer offices called Compline.  During Lent, I am inviting everyone to explore the Daily Office as it is given to us in the Book of Common Prayer.  This Office includes Morning Prayer, Noonday Prayer, Evening Prayer (said around dusk), and Compline (said at bedtime or roundabouts).  For some, this daily prayer practice will be new.  I would suggest trying out each of these services in turn.  The easiest way to start might be joining us for nightly Compline.  There are also many apps, websites, podcasts, and books that can help you understand how to use the Book of Common Prayer on your own, and I will be posting links to these resources here: www.holyapostlespa.org/lent.  Some might want to try to pray more than one Office every day during Lent.  Some might want to try praying them all, at least once in a while.  To facilitate this, I will be leading the entire Daily Office on Tuesdays during Lent starting February 23rd.  Morning and Evening Prayer will be livestreamed to our YouTube channel.  Noonday Prayer and Compline (both quite short) will be prayed on Zoom using the same link that we use for Compline now.  The schedule can be found below.  There are also many other online opportunities to join other communities in daily prayer, including Holy Apostles and the Mediator, the Diocesan staff, and many parishes in this diocese, and indeed, around the world.  As we go along, I will be finding and sharing some of these opportunities (feel free to send me ones that you have found).  I encourage you to pray these services with me, and/or explore the riches of this essentially monastic tradition on your own. 

We are also reading a book together this Lent.  The book is called Seeking God: The Way of St. Benedict by Esther DeWaal.  This book, which is written for non-monastics and for non-specialists, will help us explore one of the many monastic traditions and bodies of wisdom, Benedictine Monasticism, from the perspective of what it has to say to us in our context.  There will be two opportunities to discuss this book together via Zoom on Sunday March 7th and Sunday March 21st, after the morning service. 

One piece of Benedictine monastic wisdom is that spirituality must be balanced.  It must fit holistically and realistically into one’s life.  This year, with online school and childcare shaping and limiting my schedule, leading a weeknight class during Lent isn’t going to work for me and my family.  My dance card is full, as my grandmother used to say.  But, I hope that reading this short, insightful book will be a rewarding experience instead of our normal “Soup Group” class and discussion. 

I will use my weekly Notes from the Rector to highlight some other aspects of the broader monastic tradition and look for other resources to share with you.  For instance, there are a number of fascinating documentaries and fictional movies about monasticism that you might find interesting.  I’ll share some of them with you as we go along. 

God willing, during Holy Week (schedule below) we will be able to continue to have limited in-person gatherings.  The exact details of our services will need to be flexible and take into account what is happening in our world and community.  One way or the other, we will hold our Holy Week services as well as other Lenten devotions such as the Stations of the Cross, the Rosary (perhaps), and the all-night prayer vigil starting on the night of Maundy Thursday. 

I look forward to this journey of preparation for Easter with all of you.  Lent is a time of introspection and self-reflection.  It is a time of study and fasting.  It is a time of taking up things that are valuable and real, and letting go of illusions and other things that hinder us on our journey toward God.  I am always available to listen to your spiritual concerns, hear your confession, and offer God’s absolution.  I can also easily arrange for another priest to hear confession if that is preferable.  Lent is a particularly good time for this sort of internal spiritual work.  I’m here if you need me.   

The BCP Daily Office
Tuesdays in Lent

8:30AM – Morning Prayer – YouTube
12PM – Noonday Prayer – Zoom
5:30PM – Evening Prayer – YouTube
7:30PM – Compline – Zoom

Holy Week & Easter Schedule

Palm Sunday – March 28
Holy Eucharist with Blessing of the Palms, Procession, and Passion Reading – 10AM

Tuesday –  March 30
Stations of the Cross – TBD
Chrism Mass (Philadelphia Cathedral, virtual) – TBD

Wednesday – March 31
Stations of the Cross – TBD
Tenebrae – 6:30PM

Maundy Thursday – April 1
Stations of the Cross – TBD
Agape Meal, Holy Eucharist & the Stripping of the Altar – 6:30PM
The Altar of Repose & All Night Vigil (virtual and in-person)

Good Friday – April 2
Stations of the Cross – TBD
Service of Readings and Meditations – 12PM
Good Friday Liturgy with Music and Veneration of the Cross – 6:30PM

Holy Saturday – April 3
Holy Saturday Liturgy – 9:15AM
Easter Vigil – 8PM

Easter Morning – April 4
Festival Eucharist  – 10AM

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