The other day, I got to thinking about how much of a role the liturgy of the hours played in my spiritual formation. Nearly every day while in college I would attend at least one of the prayer services lead by the monastic community at Saint Martin’s Abbey. After leaving college, I missed the prayer cycle and the liturgy and the communal worship and, as life would have it, ended up adapting the prayer services used in the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer. Naturally, as the heretic that I am, it left much to be desired for me as a Gnostic to be using a prayer service that didn’t have room for my own personal spiritual experience.
On a whim, I made a post asking members of one Gnostic community if there was anything in their tradition resembling the Liturgy of the Hours – sadly there was not, but fortunately for me I was pointed in a good direction to a book that I owned at one time, never really got around to reading and likely sold or gave to someone at some point. Perhaps this was all for the better. Reading through A Gnostic Book of Hours by June Singer has immediately filled a small void that I have been missing and has inspired me to create a more in-depth Gnostic Liturgy of the Hours combining elements from my experiences in Catholic contemplative prayer, Episcopal devotional service and my own Gnostic beliefs.
Below follows what I’m working with right now as a sort of, Gnostic Divine Office going largely off the model set forth for the Morning Service, Rite One in the Book of Common Prayer. Naturally, this is still very experimental at present, but I’m hoping it will develop into something more fluid and organic as time and practice allows.
A Gnostic Divine Office
The Invitatory and Psalter
Officiant O Lord, open thou our lips.
People And our mouths will proclaim your praise.
Officiant and People
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: as
it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
Except in Lent, Alleluia may be added.
Then follows the Venite or Jubilate.
Venite Psalm 95:1-7
O come, let us sing unto the Lord; *
let us heartily rejoice in the strength of our salvation.
Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving *
and show ourselves glad in him with psalms.
For the Lord is a great God, *
and a great King above all gods.
In his hand are the corners of the earth, *
and the strength of the hills is his also.
The sea is his, and he made it, *
and his hands prepared the dry land.
O come, let us worship and fall down, *
and kneel before the Lord our Maker.
For he is the Lord our God, *
and we are the people of his pasture
and the sheep of his hand.
O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness; *
let the whole earth stand in awe of him.
For he cometh, for he cometh to judge the earth, *
and with righteousness to judge the world
and the peoples with his truth.
Jubilate Psalm 100
Be joyful in the Lord, all ye lands; *
serve the Lord with gladness
and come before his presence with a song.
Be ye sure that the Lord he is God; *
it is he that hath made us and we ourselves;
we are his people and the sheep of his pasture.
O go your way into his gates with thanksgiving
and into his courts with praise; *
be thankful unto him and speak good of his Name.
For the Lord is gracious;
his mercy is everlasting; *
and his truth endureth from generation to generation.
Bread of Heaven The Gospel of Philip
“Before Christ came, there was no bread in the world, just as Paradise, the place were Adam was, had many trees to nourish the animals but no wheat to sustain man. Man used to feed like the animals, but when Christ came, the perfect man, he brought bread from heaven in order that man might be nourished with the food of man. The rulers thought that it was by their own power and will that they were doing what they did, but the Holy Spirit in secret was accomplishing everything through them as it wished. Truth, which existed since the beginning, is sown everywhere. And many see it being sown, but few are they who see it being reaped.”
The Psalm or Psalms Appointed
At the end of the Psalms is sung or said
Officiant Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: *
People As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.
One or two lessons, as appointed, are read, the Reader or Officiant first saying
A Reading (Lesson) from _______________.
A citation giving chapter and verse may be added.
After each Lesson the Reader may say
Officiant The Word of the Lord.
People Thanks be to God.
Or the Reader may say Here endeth the Lesson (Reading).
Silence may be kept after each Reading. One of the following Hymns is sung or said after
each Reading. If three Lessons are used, the Lesson from the Gospel is
read after the second Canticle.
Hymn to the Living Soul A Manichaean hymn in Parthian.
You, oh Soul, would we praise, our bright Life!
You would we praise, Jesus Messiah!
Merciful savior, look upon us!
Worthy are you to honor , redeemed Soul of Light!
Salvation to you, and may we also receive salvation!
Worthy are you of the Soul of Light, bright shining limb of Light.
You have salvation, bright Soul of the gods that shines in the darkness.
You sons of Truth, praise the Soul, the valiant god eager for battle.
This fettered Soul has arrived, gathered in unity
Coming forth from heaven and from the depths of the earth,
And from all creation.
Meritorious and blessed is the auditor who gathers the Soul
together, And blissful is the elect who purifies it.
This redeemed Soul has come,
It has come to this Church of Righteousness.
Praise it forever, you elect,
So that it may wondrously purify me
And lead me to life.
Blessed are you, oh Soul, you with the divine form!
Blessed are you, oh Soul, weapon and battlement of the gods,
Blessed are you, radiant Soul,
Splendor and glory of the … Worlds of Light!
Blessed are you, divine radiant Soul,
Weapon and might, soul and body, gift of the Father of Light.
A Triple Trisagion from the Hymns of Hermes
Holy art Thou, O God, the Universals’ Father.
Holy art Thou, O God, Whose Will perfects itself by means of its own Powers.
Holy art Thou, O God, Who willest to be known and art known by Thine own.
Holy art Thou, Who didst by Word make to consist the things that are.
Holy art Thou, of Whom All-nature hath been made an Image.
Holy art Thou, Whose Form Nature hath never made.
Holy art Thou, more powerful than all power.
Holy art Thou, transcending all preeminence.
Holy art Thou, Thou better than all praise.
Accept my reason’s offerings pure, from soul and heart for aye stretched up to Thee,
O Thou unutterable, unspeakable, Whose Name naught but the Silence can express!
Give ear to me who pray that I may ne’er of Gnosis fail — Gnosis which is our common being’s nature — and fill me with Thy Power, and with this Grace of Thine, that I may give the Light to those in ignorance of the Race, my Brethren and Thy Sons!
For this cause I believe, and I bear witness. I go to Life and Light. Blessed art Thou, O Father. Thy Man would holy be as Thou art holy, e’en as Thou gavest him Thy full authority to be.
Excerpta ex Theodoto
What makes us free is the gnosis of who we were, of what we have become; of where we were, of wherein we have been cast; of whereto we speed, of wherefrom we are redeemed; of what birth truly is, and of what rebirth truly is.
The Lord’s Prayer
The People stand or kneel
Officiant The Lord be with you.
People And also with you.
Officiant Let us pray.
Officiant and People
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy Name,
thy kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our tresspasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.
Prayer of Thanksgiving
We give thanks to You! Every soul and heart is lifted up to You, undisturbed name, honored with the name ‘God’ and praised with the name ‘Father’, for to everyone and everything (comes) the parental kindness and affection and love, and any teaching there may be that is sweet and plain, giving us mind, speech, and knowledge: mind, so that we may understand You, speech, so that we may expound You, knowledge, so that we may know You. We rejoice, having been illuminated by Your knowledge. We rejoice because You have shown us Yourself. We rejoice because while we were in (the) body, You have made us divine through Your knowledge.
The thanksgiving of one who attains to You is one thing: that we know You. We have known You, intellectual light. Life of life, we have known You. Womb of every creature, we have known You. Womb pregnant with the nature of the Father, we have known You. Eternal permanence of the begetting Father, thus have we worshiped Your goodness. There is one petition that we ask: we would be preserved in knowledge. And there is one protection that we desire: that we not stumble in this kind of life.
Then may be said
Officiant Let us bless the Lord.
The People Thanks be to God.
As a note, at present I’m simply using the readings as assigned according to the Revised Common Lectionary for the readings from the Hebrew Scriptures and the synoptic Gospels. In place of the epistle (typically the second reading), I’ve been using the suggested readings from Singer’s A Gnostic Book of Hours to round things out according to her model of following the Liturgy of the Hours cycle.