31 July 2008

Holy Hour - a date with Jesus

One of the spiritual exercises that I find enormously beneficial is making a weekly Holy Hour. This is widely practiced in the Roman tradition but largely unknown in our Anglican/Episcopal churches except for some Anglo-Catholics.

The biblical basis for this practice is traced to the Garden of Gethsemane when Jesus asked the disciples, “could you not watch with me just one hour?”

A holy hour is simply an hour spent in the presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. However, is it is so much more than that technical definition. It is really like a “date with Jesus.”

We naturally want to be with people we love—in whatever way we love them. Sometimes we talk non-stop. Sometimes we sit in silence and just enjoy the nearness of the other person. There is the communion of just being together. This is, or should be, true of our relationship with Jesus.

When I first began to make a weekly holy hour, I thought, “I’ll never last an hour; what will I do?” It was difficult.

I said every prayer I had ever memorized. Okay, fifty-eight minutes left. I opened the BCP and looked for prayers. Okay, fifty minutes to go. I counted all the crosses in the building (my parish has 184). Okay, forty-five minutes to go. Somehow I survived that hour but I vowed I would never go back.

However, the next week, I felt inextricably drawn back to the church for that one hour. I have returned almost every week for the past 20 years. Even when I was not “in TEC” for a while, I continued to make my holy hours.

So, how does one make a holy hour? First, find a church that has the Blessed Sacrament reserved. It is difficult to have a date with someone who’s not there, physically. It is acceptable to make a holy hour in your home, or out in nature. However, the distractions will be difficult to overcome. A web site exists for those who wish to make a Eucharistic Visit but are unable to leave home. You'll find the live feed here.

Go and sit with him. It is not necessary to kneel the whole time. You might begin by kneeling and praying a while and then sit.

Talk to Jesus. Formal prayers are helpful, particularly in the early stages. I usually begin with meditating on one of the three sets of the rosary or I say the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. If I make the hour in the morning, I put off saying Morning Prayer until I’m in the church. If I have to make my hour in the late afternoon, I sing Evensong.

Other times I just go in and collapse into the pew with no formalities. That’s probably what Jesus likes best. When we visit a good friend, we seldom exchange formalities; we just go in, collapse into the chair or couch and let out a long sigh. Our friend says, “What’s wrong?” and we unload.

Then, I sit in silence waiting for him to talk to me. I also try to keep my mind from distraction. Someone once said, “Not even a saint can say one Ave without some worldly thought creeping in.” That is so true, and I’m not a saint!

Sometimes I hear Jesus clearly and at other times he is completely silent. He is just enjoying my visit. Occasionally, I have a real “experience,” and rarely, I have an epiphany of sorts. But what I am always sure of in that hour is that Jesus does love me, unconditionally.

I was moved and thankful when Mother Theresa said that she had not heard Jesus speak to her in fifty years, yet she continued to make daily holy hours.

When the hour is over, I go back to the problems of my life and the world. Somehow, that hour makes my week bearable until Sunday when I receive Jesus in the Eucharist.