Under Christopher’s guidance, the group practiced the art of reciting the Divine Office according to ancient monastic custom, whereby the psalms are said antiphonally (from one side of the chapel to the other) with a pause at the colon. The canticles are similarly recited, albeit without pause.
‘Doubtless for some who are unaccustomed to this practice it may appear awkward, but it is remarkable that in just a few short weeks we found our own rhythm in a way that felt more natural and less contrived’, says Philip Tolliday.
‘Much of life is made up of habits. But at the beginning habits were not habitual; they were intentional. Think of the first time you tried to drive a car – all the things you needed to remember, and steer as well! How, you wondered, did people do it so easily? And yet, in very short order, you were behind the wheel, doing all those things you needed to do and concentrating on the road. Reciting the Divine Office is not so very different.
‘Just as doing all those things necessary to driving serves the purpose of getting somewhere, similarly the saying of the Divine Office serves to open oneself up to God. The rhythm of the choir becomes unreflective and habitual. As an ancient prayer expresses it:
Grant, I pray, Lord God, that by the melody of this holy Psalter my heart may be refreshed; cause me always to apply myself to your praises, and at last to come joyfully to your unveiled Presence.
After prayers the group lingered over refreshments and matters theological.
Companions of the Society commit themselves to offering prayerful friendship for SSM, its members and their work and being assured of SSM’s interest in and prayers for them.
The Revd Dr Phillip Tolliday is SSM’s theological consultant