The Divine Offices – that is, our daily “services" or "works" of prayer – happen every day of the week (except Mondays). Each “office” is structured around communal chanting of Psalms and two readings from Holy Scripture (one from the Old Testament, and one from the New). Regular participation in the Divine Offices shapes our thoughts, prayers, and desires according to the patterns of Scripture. They last about 20 minutes.
Low Mass is where we participate in the mystery of the Holy Communion, by which we are made partakers with Christ of the divine life and and members one of another. It is central to the life and mission of S Giles. Our life is rooted in the celebration of a short "Low Mass" (without choir or sermon) during which we reflect quietly and inwardly on the Scripture Lesson and Holy Gospel for the day.
Why Ancient as well as modern?
This is another sort of "experiment" at S Giles. We believe that the contemporary world can be fully experienced only through a thoughtful recollection of the intellectual and spiritual history that has shaped it. Our daily prayer and ritual makes use of an inspired poetic 16th century liturgy, little in current use. This 'antiquated' liturgy intentionally gathers up the Greek pagan poetic and philosophical traditions as transmitted through its ancient Christian expression of the undivided church (1st to 5th century) to the late medieval synthesis (given expression in Dante’s Divine Comedy). This same liturgy also participates in, and gives expression to, the philosophical leaning of the sixteenth century toward the emergence of the subjective of the early Modern period. Finally, this Liturgy is often experienced by contemporary people as true to the re-discovery of the transcendent, the sacred and the holy in the radically secular 21st century.
What is Urban Abbey?
UrbanAbbey is an experiment of renewal in the modern world. With all the contemporary attempts at "modernising" the Christian faith going on everywhere, we wonder if the ancient Church had it right all along: pray together, daily! That's basically it.
So describe how it works.
Prayer, of course, is about the mind and heart. But in order to permeate our mind and heart, prayer needs a structure, or a form. We follow the ancient form of prayer we have inherited from the monasteries, called the "Divine Office" or "The Liturgy of the Hours," Four words can describe the "form" of our daily prayer:
1) CATHOLIC: that is to say, from the Greek ‘kath’hôlon’ – ‘according to the whole’. Our prayer is a blend of ancient words (the Psalms, the words of Holy Scripture, etc), and medieval prayers (from the Book of Common Prayer) and contemporary liturgy (the new translation of the Mass).
2) CONTEMPLATIVE: that is to say, our worship engages our hearts and minds, which discern God, both naturally (by reason) and supernaturally (by faith), as the Good, the True, and the Beautiful, who is also the only cause of all that is good, true, and beautiful in our lives and in the universe as a whole (kath’hôlon).
3) SCRIPTURAL: that is, our contemplation is mediated by God’s Word written in Holy Scripture. The Word of God – the Second Person of the Holy Trinity – is not only the subject of Scripture, he is also the Speaker throughout. Most of our prayer is simply chanting and hearing the words of Scripture, being transformed through that hearing.
3) SACRAMENTAL: that is, God mediates his Presence to us through specially chosen creatures – water, bread, wine, oil... God does not despise his creation – far from it! God elevates creation by drawing it, through Christ, into his own Life. Through his gifts we are ‘deified’ (‘made divine’ – Ss Irenaeus and Athanasius) and ‘transhumanised’ (Dante), elevated from the status of mere creatures to friends of God (John 15:15) and Children of God (i.e., fellow-heirs with Christ; Romans 8:16). All that Christ is by Nature (as God) we can become by adoption (because Christ shares his Life with us). That is why daily mass is always part of the rhythm of our prayer.
4) LITURGICAL: that is, our worship draws our whole being, our body and its senses into adoration of God – not just our minds and hearts. Our worship involves movement (standing, kneeling, sitting, processing, bowing, genuflecting and more!); it involves the sense of hearing (music and chant, hearing the Word proclaimed and preached); sight (vestments, statues, banners); smell (incense, candle wax); taste (bread and wine); touch (‘sacramentals’ such as holy water or Candlemas candles, the touch of the priest who blesses or heals, and the exchange of the peace). Creation is not to be despised: As S Thomas Aquinas so brilliantly expressed it: Divine Grace does not destroy nature, but perfects it. That is what Liturgy is all about.