I have been listening to the Propers these days.
The Propers are the prayers, the Collects, appointed for each of the Sundays during the season after Pentecost, the season that many of us call Ordinary Time.
In the liturgical tradition, the Collect for the Day is the second collect said by the officiant at worship on Sunday. It is then said at Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer and also at the Daily Eucharist each day during the week that follows. In the tradition, one keeps saying this particular prayer for seven days, over and over. Sometimes I think that perhaps we say it over and over in the hopes that the prayer will finally rise as incense to our Holy Maker, or that it will finally sink as wisdom into the heart of the not-so-holy offerer.
Either result seems a fine one to me. Either of them is more than I deserve.
This past Lord’s Day, we prayed Proper 18.
Proper 18 is not the most stirring of names for a prayer, I admit, but even so.
Grant us, O Lord, to trust in you with all our hearts; for, as you always resist the proud who confide in their own strength . . . .
I was not able to listen any farther to anything else this Sunday past. I was not able to listen to the Scripture as it was read, to the Word as it was proclaimed, not to the prayers of the people or even the words of the prayer I love the most, the prayer of the Eucharist.
Four minutes into a 68 minute service, in the course of listening to a prayer that is often ignored, I was held up into the Light and saw something about myself, something with which I am now struggling through the darkness of. In the space of that 240 seconds, I caught a glimpse of something that cripples the life I am trying to live, a life in search of communion with the Light of the world. In the saying of less than thirty words in a service that would release thousands of them into the air, I came face to face with something I had not admitted before, something unacknowledged in all of the decades I have spent in search of such communion.
I am now a few days past the moment when that Collect burst in on me and my pride, but I have yet to recover from the hearing of it. My pulse has begun to slow now, and I can breathe more deeply and I am sleeping better but I am not over it. I do not yet know what to do with what I saw about myself in the light of Proper 18.
But I do know this —
The season when we say such Propers may be called Ordinary. But the prayer is not ordinary at all.
Lord, have mercy.
Christ have mercy.