Dr. Pacini is not the man you would expect to effect immediate spiritual change in your life. He’s a wise-ass Italian whose seminars drift from his long-winded monologues on Metallica and meditation to his tongue-in-cheek account of the theology of the orgasm. Unlike many of the seminary professors here at Candler, his pedagogy never keels over into pastoral care, and he scoffs at the occasional strains of hymns heard in the hallways of our building.
Nonetheless, David Pacini is teaching me how to pray. One of the requirements of his Reality of God class is that I pray the hours twice a day every day. For a non-liturgical, low-church Brethren, this daily liturgy of psalms and prayers is pretty foreign. We don’t even have written Creeds or Statements of Belief in my tradition, much less standard daily prayers of confession and intercession. Antiphons and canticles confuse me, and I’m not sure if the ellipses after the psalms are instructions to repeat something or add something in. This is taking a little while to get used to.
But in the meantime, while I’m learning about the structure of the practice and the rhythm of the recitations, I’ve noticed some things. I can hear the birds singing in the morning, a rare thing in my loud and crowded basement apartment. They sing back and forth outside my window, answering one another and accenting my whispered words. I’m also surprised to find how easy it is to slip an extra twenty minutes into the day, how little I regret the earlier alarm, and how much I look forward to chanting myself to sleep.
Usually, my morning monologue readies and steadies me for the rest of the day, putting away leftover dreams and focusing on the immediate and pragmatic: what will I wear? When will I eat? Which tasks must get done today in order to keep my self-imposed pace? I ask and answer the questions myself, setting my schedule and arranging the day’s agenda without giving a moment’s notice to anything outside my drowsy head. Now, though, I pray the psalms, I hear the birds, and I’m forced to attend to this rhythm that is not my own.
We’ll see how it goes.