Keep Your Eyes on Christ

From the second reading of today’s Office of Readings, a sermon on Ecclesiastes by St Gregory of Nyssa:

We shall be blessed with clear vision if we keep our eyes fixed on Christ, for he, as Paul teaches, is our head, and there is in him no shadow of evil. Saint Paul himself and all who have reached the same heights of sanctity had their eyes fixed on Christ, and so have all who live and move and have their being in him.

As no darkness can be seen by anyone surrounded by light, so no trivialities can capture the attention of anyone who has his eyes on Christ. The man who keeps his eyes upon the head and origin of the whole universe has them on virtue in all its perfection; he has them on truth, on justice, on immortality and on everything else that is good, for Christ is goodness itself.

The wise man, then, turns his eyes toward the One who is his head, but the fool gropes in darkness. No one who puts his lamp under a bed instead of on a lamp-stand will receive any light from it. People are often considered blind and useless when they make the supreme Good their aim and give themselves up to the contemplation of God, but Paul made a boast of this and proclaimed himself a fool for Christ’s sake. 

And so, without board or lodging, [Paul] travelled from place to place, destitute, naked, exhausted by hunger and thirst. When men saw him in captivity, flogged, shipwrecked, led about in chains, they could scarcely help thinking him a pitiable sight. Nevertheless, even while he suffered all this at the hands of men, he always looked toward the One who is his head and he asked: What can separate us from the love of Christ, which is in Jesus? Can affliction or distress? Can persecution, hunger, nakedness, danger or death? In other words, “What can force me to take my eyes from him who is my head and to turn them toward things that are contemptible?”

He bids us follow his example: Seek the things that are above, he says, which is only another way of saying: “Keep your eyes on Christ.”

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With Lent just a little more than a week away, I am pondering prayer.

Years ago, I was out to dinner out with friends–a group of priests, a few married couples and a few singles.

One of the friends said that the readings from the Office of Readings, the “biggest” hour in the Liturgy of the Hours, seems more compelling during Lent.  He wondered  if it was because you were fasting during Lent, or are more focused on spiritual things.

A good discussion ensued.  I don’t recall the consensus view, though I think we all agreed the Holy Week and Triduum readings were especially rich, no surprise.

This might have been the evening that my husband and I (who have been praying the Office together off and on since we starting dating in 1991) first learned about Universalis, an online and mobile way to pray the Liturgy of the Hours.  This would have been in the last millennium,  since I feel confident I am not only one of the biggest fans of Universalis, but also one its earliest users (nearly 20 years).  I first used Universalis on my uber-cool Palm.   Raise your hand if you remember those.

I know I have written about Universalis not a few times before, but please, if you have a smart phone, consider getting the Universalis App.  It is one of my top-used apps and a great way to pray the Liturgy of the Hours wherever you are.   It is a currently a $10 app for Apple products–I think I might have spent $25 or some other really large number for an App when I first got it on an iPhone, but it is worth it at either of those price points.  You can also read it online for free on the Universalis website.

Back to the theory that the Office of Readings is “better” during Lent   We’re not in Lent yet, and yet this reading often falls during Lent.  Still,  nearly two decades after that conversation, I would say no.

In my own spiritual life, I find that being moved or impressed by something is more episodic than seasonal.

Some days, I just drift distractedly through the Office (or Mass when I go, or a Rosary).  Some days, though, in particular with the Office of Readings,  a part of a psalm or reading will stay with me all day.  I try not to feel bad that I can get distracted, but just “keep on keepin’ on” as a former pastor was fond of saying.

Daria Sockey’s book The Everyday Catholic’s Guide to the Liturgy of the Hours has something to say about that.  (I can’t look up the exact quote, because gave away my review copy to a dear friend (after reading and mini-reviewing it here). That book is a good resource about the whys and hows of praying the Office.

I’ve tweeted short lines from the Office, or shared on Facebook, when they’ve really moved me, and I think I’ve shared here before.  When I read the second reading in the wee hours this morning (yes, the early morning rising does happen regularly) , I immediately thought, what a great thought to take through today:

“Keep your eyes on Christ.”

By the way, this second reading goes really well with the first reading, from Ecclesiastes, itself always an interesting, puzzling reading.  You can read today’s entire Office of Readings here , or search there for Feb. 24 if you’re not reading this today).

Do you use technology to pray? Do you think Mass readings, or prayers, are “better” during Lent?

(Linking up here today with Jen Fulwiler’s “7 posts in 7 days” series).