The Friday after Ash Wednesday is popularly known in community as ‘Grumpy Friday’. The fast is beginning to take its toll (yes, already!); the penances we took on with such enthusiasm two days ago no longer look so attractive; and the loss of alleluia in the Divine Office has caused so many crashes and false starts that one wonders how we ever manage to sing anything right. It is reassuring to find the Rule of St Benedict advising us on the content of Lauds (RB 13.1–11). We can comfortably doze through that, can’t we?
Well, no we can’t. The so-called Liturgical Code, chapters 8 to 20, is vitally important. By which I mean that prayer is truly life-giving, and the way in which our community prayer is ordered matters immensely. The monastic Office is much longer than its Roman equivalent (we say all 150 psalms in the course of the week, for example, and have a good curse on Fridays, i.e. we don’t omit the cursing psalms as being unsuitable for the mouths of Christians) and Lauds or Morning Prayer is, together with Vespers or Evening Prayer, one of the two great hinges of the day.
When we pray Lauds we do so with and on behalf of the whole Church. We welcome the new day as God’s gift and celebrate the salvation which is ours in Christ. The words of the Benedictus (Canticle of Zechariah) remind us that no matter how dark our thoughts, no matter how grumpy we may be feeling, the Son of God will illumine us. Is it any wonder that, after Lauds, for a few minutes at least, Grumpy Friday is no more?