According to my old college American Heritage Dictionary “liturgy is a noun defined as a fixed set of ceremonies, words, etc., that are used during public worship in a religion; ritual.”  As followers of faith traditions we most often encounter liturgies when we attend religious services. But all rituals having a set order to the words spoken and are also liturgies. Graduation ceremonies, inaugurations, State Union Addresses, weddings any ritual using an set order of service uses a liturgy.
We may also use liturgies in our private prayer and spiritual practice’s. Some traditions have small books with liturgies for each day of the week that include morning, mid-day, and evening prayers. Each meditation includes a prayer, scripture, maybe a written meditation, and sometimes poetry or pictures to contemplate. In addition to a traditions individual prayer books there are also many other books that provide written rituals for private prayer. (You will find a short list of a few of my favorites at the end of this meditation.) Today I am going to introduce you to a liturgy from one of my all time favorite prayer books and offer how I use these resources in my prayer life. One of the advantages of having a liturgy already written out for you is you may adapt them to fit your day and your lifestyle.
I most often use prayer books when I am very stressed out and can’t find a way to sit still and listen for the still small voice of God. Using a liturgy that includes a blessing or poem, scripture and a prayer calms my heart and open a door into soul allowing me to find my still point and open up to what God is trying to tell me. If you are new to prayer, any kind of prayer, these pre-written liturgies may provide you with a stepping stone into a regular prayer life. They allow you to slow down and step across a threshold to you own sacred space. But, just as with every spiritual practice, you must set a regular time aside each day to read the liturgy. Most are short and may be read in only a few minutes. However, setting aside 10 to 15 minutes as a starting place will allow you to sit with the written prayers and scripture in silent contemplation.
Today I offer a liturgy I’ve adapted from a meditation for Tuesday from the Earth Gospel, a guide to prayer for God’s creation written by Sam Hamilton-Poore. It is an adaption I have used before in my own private prayer and one that allows me to go deeper into that sacred space of my heart. As you read may you also find a blessing within the words.
Opening Blessing: Edmund Banyard
Holy is the soil we walk on,
Holy everything that grows,
Holy all beneath the surface,
Holy every stream that flows.
A moment of silence
Scripture: Psalm 23 Common English Bible (CEB)
The Lord is my shepherd.
I lack nothing.
2 He lets me rest in grassy meadows;
he leads me to restful waters;
3 he keeps me alive.
He guides me in proper paths
for the sake of his good name.
4 Even when I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no danger because you are with me.
Your rod and your staff—
they protect me.
5 You set a table for me
right in front of my enemies.
You bathe my head in oil;
my cup is so full it spills over!
6 Yes, goodness and faithful love
will pursue me all the days of my life,
and I will livein the Lord’s house
as long as I live.
Reflection: “The Avowal” by Denise Levertov (1923-1997)
As swimmers dare
to life face to the sky
and water bears them,
as hawks rest upon air
and air sustains them,
so would I learn to attain
freefall, and float
into Creator Spirit’s deep embrace,
knowing no effort earns
that all-surrounding grace
Into your arms, loving Lord, let me “free-fall,”
upheld by your goodness and mercy.
Secure in your embrace,
show me how to love without effort,
trust without fear,
and live with abandon. Amen
- Deleon, Roy ObiSB, Praying with the Body, Bringing the Psalms to Life, Paraclete Press, Bewster, MA, 2009
- Hamilton-Poore, Sam, Earth Gospel, a guide to prayer for God’s creation, Upper Room Books, Nashville, TN , 2008 (my offered liturgy will be found on pages 106 and 107)
- Newell, J. Philip; Celtic Prayers from Iona, Paulist Press, Mahwah, NJ, 1997
- Rohr, Richard, YES, AND . . . Daily Meditations, Franciscan, Media, Cincinnati, OH, 2013
Ruth Jewell, ©January 28, 2014
 The American Heritage Dictionary, 2nd College Edition, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston MA, 1982