The Divine Hours of Lent

Yesterday was massage day. Thank God, and I say that reverently. For someone who never had a massage until she was over seventy years of age, I have become an addict of the first order. My body, if not yet creaky in the usual sense, is at least pleased to let me know quite often that it wants some attention…specifically that it wants the attention of a massage therapist who knows where the trigger points are and where one weary muscle connects to one slightly-worn joint.
There’s a downside to massage day, of course, namely that I come out of my hour on the table so completely at one with all my pieces and parts that I want to stroll about and enjoy the scenery, or dally away an hour or two just talking to friends, or maybe play one of those computer game I am so disastrously fond of. It is not that I lack purpose so much as it is that I lack urgency after a massage. I am ready to live in the world, as opposed to being set upon fixing it. To speak theologically…and theology is where most things go for me….to speak theologically, a massage is the best example in my ordinary life of what it means to be fully incarnational, fully present in my own mini-cosmos of body.
That observation is a long way around to another observation, namely that prayer needs to be incarnational and/or that we need to receive and perceive ourselves as incarnate pray-ers when we are about the business of our prayers. Some prayers, of course, are offered in public and as part of a worshipping body. Some, like fixed-hour prayer or the keeping of the hours, are fixed in content as well as timing and are, therefore, a matter of praying with the Church Universal. Some prayers, our individualized ones, for example, are often offered out of rote or from a mental list or out of some circumstance like distress or gratitude or joy. But there is another way, one I have only known about for a year or two. And it’s the best way I know of to pray incarnationally, th best way to bring body into our prayers. It’s called praying in color.
Praying in color is really a way—a shockingly simple way, actually—of using the hand and the eye, as well as the mind, to capture and trace the heart’s thoughts and petitions, thanks and wonderments. There is a book by the same name, Praying In Color by Sybil MacBeth, that elaborates the ways in which the hand, given permission, can speak the soul’s truths by engaging in holy or prayerful doodling. By whatever name, however, and whether with or without a book or web-site as a guide, the result is prayer fully entered into by, with, and in the body…which is not so much a Lenten discipline, as a kind of Lenten massage. Give it a try.

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