Man, it is hard to change one’s daily routine.
For the last 2 weeks, I have been actively pursuing this new Rule of Life that I have adopted. What has risen as the backbone of the rule is the Daily Office.
The Daily Office, that is daily time-set prayer, is one of the oldest disciplines used by Christians. The Psalms refer to it (e.g. Psalm 119:164), Luke writes about it in Acts (e.g. Acts 3:1), The Didache (the oldest Christian Liturgy) mentions it, The Church Fathers wrote about it (e.g. Clement of Alexandria, Origen and Tertullian) and move into the Roman Rite and Eastern Church to Now.
The Office I’m working from is the Celtic Office, found online at the Northumbrian Community’s website , a community devoted to living a monastic lifestyle. Being an ethnic Celt, I thought this one would work – plus it is free and introduced to me by my local monastic sounding-board, George Sweetman.
Devotion to the Daily Office is hard, and I’m only at 2 of the hours (there’s like, 7). What I have found is this: I’ve found that in adopting this rule, I’ve had to start going to bed earlier, because having to focus for about 30-45 minutes of day-starting is a tough task, especially when you are a night-hawk that works in the mornings. I think I might start doing this outside to help wake me up. But here’s the thing: structuring a daily life around set prayer times really helps orient your thinking. I’m someone whose first hour of being awake greatly influences the rest of the day. Every morning I finish my first hour awake with these words:
May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you,
wherever He may send you.
May He guide you through the wilderness,
protect you through the storm.
May He bring you home rejoicing
at the wonders He has shown you.
May He bring you home rejoicing
once again into our doors.
Being well-rested and going forward into the world with these words around me really centers my spirit for the day. These words just hold me in a way that moves beyond cognition. It moves me beyond sentimentality. It moves me into vision.
So I just finished The Sacred Way, by Tony Jones, to point me in the way of correct spiritual discipline. After looking into the histories, theologies, and practices of different disciplines, I think I’ve found the ones I’m going to adopt. What’s more, I need to develop my rule of life.
A ‘rule’, for those who don’t know, is a set of precepts that guide conduct/action. The Desert Fathers, a formative group of Christian Ascetics situated in the deserts of the Middle East that lasted from the 4th Century A.D., until the 7th (ish) set out the Rule of the Master in which they espoused service, humility, silence, solitude and contemplation. The next most famous Rule is the Rule of Benedict, which some would say is the basis for all of Christian Monasticism.
So am I going to become a Monk? No. Certainly not. I’m getting married in 94 days! But I am going to start living an orderly life.
So far, the Rule looks like this:
The Rule of William Kinchlea.
Every morning, I’ll do Matins (from the Daily Office – pre-written prayer, based on the psalms) and 300 Jesus Prayers. Every evening, I’ll do Compline (again, from the Daily Office).
I’ll spend at least 1 hour meditating and praying through an icon. During the Summer, Friday-Sunset-to-Saturday-Sunset Sabbath will be too difficult, traveling between 3 cities on weekends and working on the Wedding, so I’m going to dedicate 2 hours a day to not working. 7×2 = 14 hours – pretty much the waking hours of a Saturday. When the Summer’s over, this will change.
At least, once a month, I’ll walk the prayer labyrinth at St. John’s Convent, down the road from me.
That’s the structure in which I will begin my rule, starting tomorrow. If anything sounds weird in there (What’s a Jesus Prayer? for example), don’t worry, as I’m going to explain each one of these in time.