When I was in college, I had a friend who was into reincarnation, past lives, etc. She told me that I was a Chines monk some centuries before. Cool idea. As I do not consider the past, nor the future, easy to access, I took it as an amusement… maybe a projection of how she viewed me (I was into making raku pottery, yoga meditation, and Asian art at the time). I like the contemplative life, obviously to my regular readers. I cannot say that I recall any of the Chinese language, so maybe that does not translate from one life to another… I will stick to this day, and my limited command of the English language (with great respect for my foreign readers who comprehend multiple languages).
As to that contemplating life, a little over a year ago a neighbor, who also lives in the realm of ideas, passed on a booklet titled Give Us This Day. She is prone to pursuing the spiritual, metaphysical, realms of glory and all that. She has not found the country churches here in the mountains to be particularly enlightening on these fronts. The Protestant Christian traditions are as thick as the oak-hickory forests, great for traditions and family, but as hard as a pig-nut hickory shell to crack into for someone whose ancestors do not go back to at least Civil War era, let along Colonial times.
Give Us This Day is a Catholic publication (Catholics out here are about as common as Cocker Spaniels among the Blue Tick coon-dogs and Chihuahua-Jack-Russle mixes which guard folks’ homesteads). I gave it a read for a month with curiosity. The neighbor liked the idea and gave me a subscription for 2019. I call it the Daily Eucharist.
The outline essentially reads like the daily services for a parish church. Each day has a morning service (2 pages), Mass (3 pages), evening service (2 pages), a saint or person of veneration (1 page) and reflection (1 page). All the extras are contained later in the text and can be inserted as needed: the Canticle of Zechariah (Luke 1:68-79), the Canticle of Mary (Luke 1:46-55), Our Father, the Order of the Eucharist, hymns, etc. You could set up your own parish, if you wanted… just some issues if you did not go through Catechism or got Baptized incorrectly. But, for private devotion no one is looking over your shoulder.
So, last January 1st, I set out to see if I could have the discipline to read this every day. Days off from work, this is pretty easy. A cup of coffee and 15 minutes is usually sufficient. When guests are visiting, this might be a little tricky, though I tend to be up an hour or two earlier than they, so the cup of coffee routine works sufficiently. Work days are another mater, in that we are up early enough and my cup of coffee is while I am driving us to work. Not a good idea to devote and drive at the same time. I usually get through the morning service and day of veneration with my yogurt before hitting the road. That leaves the Mass and evening reading for the drive home when the Mrs is driving. That of course assumes that I stay awake through the Psalms. Oops. We just call those reflective moments. I usually wake up when I drop the booklet and have pick it up to figure out what I last had consciousness about.
As to my experience of this project, I will admit that the Psalms present the most difficulty for me. Half of the time, I’m not sure what the imagery is about. The other half, I fade out with all the pleading for protection from enemies. I am going to have to work on those more diligently someday.
The saint/person of veneration I find interesting. Some are characters form the Bible, with whom I am familiar. Some are characters from the Golden Legend, whom I can read about in more fanciful details in that text. Others are more recent folks doing good from education, health care, and caring for those oppressed by the 19th and 20th centuries governments (yes, and 21st century atrocities in the news today).
In the Catholic church, and some Protestant branches more closely aligned with those traditions, they follow a liturgical calendar for the readings. This presents a variety of reading from Hebrew scriptures, Gospel accounts, and Epistles in sequence to the day of the year. Some of these I am very familiar with from my Baptist upbringing. Other, were new to me. I also found the paring of tests interesting as common themes became evident (akin to reading Paul’s letter to the Roman churches, in which he pairs prophecies to the life of Jesus and the early church).
The reflective reading suggests that the publishers lean toward the liberal side of the church. These usually touched on the text for that day as well as contemporary events. While some of these were gentle reminders of doctrine and morals, often the authors challenged conventional thought and behavior.
In general, I believe that ancient texts continue to exist because they serve a function for society, both of their time and now. Certainly, this applies to what we accept as scripture, but also to secular tests, and writings from other spiritual and religious traditions. Thus, this process of reading each day as been informative and inspirational. While I might be hesitant to jump to divine guidance, I have often found that something that I read a day or two previously has come back to mind as different situations arose at work or on the home front. That is probably at least better than letting Twitter guide my life (not that I am on Twitter anyway).
Let’s just say that the January 2020 Give Us This Day arrived in the mail. Here’s to a contemplating 2020.
Happy New Year