Formation During COVID-19
What an unusual time we find ourselves in. I know many of our lives are disrupted in numerous ways that can leave us feeling unsteady on our feet and unsure about how to proceed day-to-day. While we are not able to gather together in-person, we are still in this together as a church family and are all taken up together into the embrace of our Good Shepherd. In a season of disruption, we are also in a season of opportunity to delve into what may be new practices of prayer for many of us.
The Anglican tradition centers around the common life of prayer together. Our Book of Common Prayer offers us a means to be in prayer not only in the Nave on Sunday mornings as we turn to page 323 or 355, but to be in prayer throughout our days and provides words to speak even when we feel overwhelmed with grief or instability or distance from those we love.
There is an excellent book on our prayer book called Inwardly Digest: The Prayer Book as Guide to a Spiritual Life by Derek Olsen. Olsen frames this book by using the analogy of a runner training for a race. One cannot just set out to run a marathon without any training. Instead, a runner must do the daily work of going out on runs—even when he is not in the mood, or is distracted, tired, or lazy—in order to perform well on race days. Olsen observes:
There is a disconnect between the way most people approach their spiritual lives and how they approach a project like getting in shape to run a marathon. When you’re working on such a project there are concrete tasks to accomplish; there’s a goal to word toward, and success can be measured by progress against the goal. We don’t tend to think of prayer and meditation in the same way (12).
I have been thinking a lot about this picture of spiritual practices as a kind of training ground since the hard decision was made to worship at home on Sunday mornings at least for the next few weeks. Some of you might be wondering what it means to “worship at home” and keep up spirituality without walking into a physical church space. There is an opportunity here for us to both worship together from afar and discover what it means to be “in training,” to work muscles that don’t often get attention. I want invite all of us to discover or delve deeper into daily prayerful practices. For many of you, this may mean beginning to adopt the practice of morning and evening prayer.
If you don’t have a Book of Commom Prayer at home or prefer electronic options, there are easily accessible online and app versions. Here are a few I would recommend:
- The (Online) Book of Common Prayer. A full online version of the BCP.
- The Daily Prayer Anytime. Forward Movement provides a number of excellent online resources. On this page you enter the date and the prayer (morning, noonday, evening, or compline) and the full prayer with the readings will be loaded.
- Forward Day by Day, app for iOS or Android. Forward Movement provides short and accessible daily reflections from the lectionary reading. The apps also have the Daily Office prayers for the day.
- Mission St. Clare, app for iOS or Android. This prayer resource might be especially appealing to those who miss the music of worship. Mission St. Clare includes Morning and Evening Prayer each day with sung hymns and portions of the Office.
In addition to taking up the practice of daily prayer, I want us to reflect on the idea of “spiritual communion.” In the 15th century, St. Thomas Aquinas answers a question regarding whether or not there are times when it is okay to abstain from communion. He answers that there are two ways to think about communion: sacramentally and spiritually. We are familiar with the idea of a sacramental communion, this is the conviction that Christ is really present in the Eucharist—that we are fed with spiritual food and are ourselves incorporated into the mystical body of Christ. The second type of communion—spiritual communion—might be unfamiliar to many of us. As we are worshipping together, though physically apart, we remain united together in the mystical body of Christ and we can participate in that truth together through a spiritual communion. Spiritual communion, St. Thomas says, is the desire or yearning to receive the sacrament. I am including two resources on praying through the spiritual communion, through cultivating and maintaining the desire for the Body of Christ, the Bread of Heaven and the Blood of Christ, the Cup of Salvation:
- “Rite for Spiritual Communion in the Absence of a Priest,” The Order of Julian of Norwich: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1ytuMtqYiqQZHE_5E0sDMDuAL6jA3Lm_U/view
- “Spiritual Communion,” St. Augustine’s Prayer Book: https://s3.amazonaws.com/dfc_attachments/public/documents/3217538/Spiritual_Communion.pdf
May the peace of the Lord be with you through this next week. If you find yourself looking for something new to read or with a tough question or simply want to say “hi,” please do send me a note: email@example.com.