Introducing The Book of Hours
I did not mean to write a Book of Hours. It happened completely by accident. I had set out merely to write seven poems, one for each of the “hours” or seven holy pauses, as described in The Artist’s Rule by Christine Valters Paintner. I had already begun another project on a faith memoir through poetry and was certain that’s where the inspiration was calling me. But then I discovered myself drawn to observing the hours, finding inner peace and a sense of purpose growing with each poem I almost feverishly typed as the thoughts, images, and prayers flowed from my soul. This was where I needed to start. This was my anchor. The inspiration led me here, gently but firmly, to this place of being present.
The idea of the Book of Hours is based on the monastic practices of the Desert Fathers from the 3rd century A.D. and has been developed and adapted over time as a regular observance in various liturgical backgrounds in the Christian faith. Many different interpretations and traditions have been formed over time and this book is not meant to be a replacement of any of those. While this book may encourage worship, the focus is on taking time to be quiet and intentional, entering a time of contemplation with the purpose of nourishing the soul and equipping the body with spiritual energy to accept this segment of time as a gift instead of a hardship. It is an invitation to center all thoughts and find release from the pressure of constant doing.
Some of the poems are prayers but they are not all meant necessarily to be. Rather, my intent is to encourage mindfulness. It is meant to turn our attention toward being present in and to those periods of the day, to finding beauty in those hours, and to honoring the mundane as a sacred grace. In observing the hours through poetry, it is my hope that I will learn to blend with the rhythms of my environment, moving with the earth instead of against it, and gaining insight into the peace of living naturally instead of feeling chained to this place and time.
Too often in my life I have turned the ticking clock into a burden. I have fed myself untruths such as not having enough time, not having enough energy, not having enough grace, peace, rest. I grieve and become ambivalent- do I choose to try to “catch up” or do I give up entirely because the striving is pointless? I have found stopping the busyness to practice mindfulness, while counter-intuitive, is actually a key to unlocking the shackles of paralysis. It gives the gift of renewal in life’s direction and purpose. It teaches the mind to release instead of react.
Observing the hours through poetry is changing me and I am grateful. May you find the same grace as you read.