Thursday, May 20, 2010

"Sext" as a Window into My Spirituality

Recently it has dawned on me that not only do we have seasons of the year, we also worship in seasons of the day. In traditional liturgy, this is known as the canonical hours or the divine office. I have enjoyed through my visits at the monastery and my involvement in the Academy for Spiritual Formation becoming immersed in this ancient way. It is so freeing.

I call them "seasons of the day" because they each have their special significance and they are windows into larger aspects of the spiritual journey. Vigils emerges in the darkness and reminds me of the language of the Dark Night of the Soul. Lauds is sung at dawn, which reflects the beginnings of light which transcends the darkness. Prime is aptly named, as the day of work is passionately before us. Terce is sung as mid-morning brings the fullness of the day into being. Sext occurs at noon in the midst of the whole, with half the day behind us and the other half before us. None is sung in the afternoon as the shadows begin to fall, and Vespers is sung at evening when night is approaching. Finally, Compline is prayed toward the close of the day.

Each of the daily offices has a rhythm and a fire. Now that I am 45 and (hopefully) right in the middle of my career and of my life, being in the responsible generation both at work and in my family, I wonder how much my spirituality is Sext spirituality. It is the "high noon" time of my life, the time of the most passion and productivity, a time to pause in the midst to see more clearly both where I've been and where I'm going, with both of these perspectives on life (the forward and the backward) being fully weighted. Sext is the way I am praying these days. I've been through the dark night and my soul has been awakened and enlighted. I have ventured into the life of ministry, hit my early snags, and found a way to smooth them out. Now I am in the midst of life's movement, and I wonder what is next.

It is interesting the Sext is mostly psalms. The deepest of traditional prayer occurs here. One of my beloved holy places is called Sumatanga, which is a Himlayan word for a "place of vision and rest." It is a flat place on a mountain where one pauses to gain perspective. You can look down and get a good view of where you have been, and you can look up and see where you are going. This is where I am in the middle of my life. So I sing the psalms and the songs of my faith, with joy. I have both a sense of calm at all that has resolved before, and a sense of anticipation at the journey ahead.

For many, noon is a time of rest and renewal. It is when we take a lunch break and refresh our bodies with food. I pray that it is just so for me, as I am in the "noon" of my life.

P.S. - I am aware that in today's world of mobile phone texting, the word "sext" has taken on a negative connotation. I hope it doesn't get completely hijacked!