Every morning of every day all around the world every Catholic bishop, priest, deacon, and religious is required to pray the Liturgy of the Hours, for their own spiritual enrichment as well as in union with the entire Church. This daily ritual begins with the praying of the Invitatory.
And so begins Marcus Grodi’s introduction to a brief one-act play that he recently published on his blog From Our Back Porch. His was a one-act play in which the reader experienced the meditation of a local bishop wishing only the best for the men who serve beside him. I really enjoyed it but began to think immediately how it could be altered slightly to fit into my own life experience. It is a scene that does not play out every day in my home but may be seen with regularity, whether in my living room or outside on the back patio.
As Grodi says, the Liturgy of the Hours is required prayer each day for Catholic bishops, priests, deacons and religious brothers and sisters. Vatican II opened this treasury to the rest of us as well, and encouraged us to lend our voices and prayers at every opportunity to the chorus around the world.
One of my favorite parts is the Invitatory, Psalm 95, prayed at the very beginning of the day in the early morning hours. What Grodi has done is provided yet another way of visualizing the psalm as I pray it each day and reminds me that it is what it says it is: an invitation at the start of each day. It is also a reminder to me to invite, embrace and serve the family and friends I care about, but also those who (including complete strangers) I do not so fully know or embrace through my own fault or ignorance.
As happens in the psalm, each day we receive several invitations from God in many forms. And each day he sends them again while never giving up on us.
The night is fading. It is the start of a brand new day. We’re all invited.
For those unfamiliar with the term, a breviary is a book of prayers, typically those of the Liturgy of the Hours which are traditionally known as the Divine Office.
The Set: Mostly bare stage except:
- To the far stage right: a simple bed with a tall head board toward the audience—the bed canted slightly so that a person getting out on the side away from the audience is blocked from view by the head board; a night stand with a clock and lamp on the audience side of the bed; next to the bed within arm’s reach is a dresser upon which lays the normal bedroom items of a husband and wife, including his reading glasses and a Miraculous Medal necklace, from which also hangs a medal of St. Benedict.
- At Center stage: a living room chair, an end table with reading lamp and a breviary placed next to the lamp. The chair is positioned so that when the husband/father sits in the chair, the chair is between the end table and the audience, and his silhouette is seen by the audience.
Actors: Thirteen people, one as the husband/father (hereby referred to as “husband”), the other twelve as follows: four of them are his immediate family consisting of his wife, two sons, and one daughter. The other eight are extended family, friends and co-workers. The twelve are dressed in role/age appropriate attire of their various occupations or vocations.
Initial staging: Curtains closed; stage completely dark; the twelve family members and friends are standing behind curtain far stage left each holding an article that represents a distraction to their vocations as Christians; the husband is in bed in nightclothes (out of sight of audience, hidden by bed headboard).
Beginning of play: House lights go completely dark, curtain opens to a dark stage.
Clock alarm sounds and resounds.
Eventually the husband turns on the night stand lamp. All that the audience sees is his hand. Light should be only bright enough to barely illumine the far right of stage.
The husband then stops the alarm and slowly sits up on side of bed away from the audience. The audience should only see his back from behind the form of his wife who is sleeping on her side while turned away from the audience. He opens a dresser drawer and reaches inside for his shirt and puts it on where it hangs low over his pajama bottoms. He reaches for his Miraculous Medal necklace and puts it on, followed by his reading glasses. He then crosses to night stand and turns off the lamp. Stage and house are once again dark.
Slowly a sharp but dim light comes on focused on the living room chair and end table.
The husband crosses to the light and reaches over to turn on the end table lamp, at which point with the aid of a spot light the chair area alone is lit. He then sits in the chair so that his right side faces the audience, putting him in silhouette. He reaches for his breviary on the end table and opens it. After a period of silence he crosses himself and begins the Invitatory.
Husband: “Lord, open my lips…and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.”
He bows his head slightly as he recites: “Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.
Husband: “Cry out with joy to the Lord, all the earth; serve the Lord with gladness.”
He looks down at the breviary, reaches under his glasses to rub his tired eyes and then reads aloud with a tone of solemnity…
“Psalm 95…A call to praise God…Encourage each other daily while it is still today.”
He pauses in silence and then looks up in front of him towards stage left.
A spot light slowly rises on stage left revealing the twelve friends and family members standing around frozen in various poses of attention, some facing others in apparent conversation, others alone.
The husband rises and steps a few paces toward the twelve figures. When he begins speaking to them, the twelve come into action, their conversations muted, etc.
Husband: “Come, let us sing to the Lord and shout with joy to the Rock who saves us…”
Some of the twelve stop what they are doing and listen.
Husband: “Let us approach him with praise and thanksgiving and sing joyful songs to the Lord.”
Six of the figures leave behind their distractions and cross to the husband. They greet each other, receive his embrace, walk to chair, and together kneel alongside him and the chair, their backs to the audience.
Husband and six figures: “Cry out with joy to the Lord, all the earth; serve the Lord with gladness.”
The husband rises again and addresses the remaining six figures stage left.
Husband: “The Lord is God, the mighty God, the great king over all the gods…”
The remaining figures continue looking at their distractions or talking softly, but two slowly lay their distractions down.
Husband: “…He holds in his hands the depths of the earth and the highest mountains as well. He made the sea; it belongs to him, the dry land, too, for it was formed by his hands.”
The two figures walk to the husband, greet him, receive his embrace, and then together they kneel with the others beside the chair.
Husband and eight figures: “Cry out with joy to the Lord, all the earth; serve the Lord with gladness.”
The husband rises and beckons silently to the remaining four figures who in various ways, some belligerent, others reluctantly, turn from him.
Husband to the eight who have joined him: “Come, then, let us bow down and worship, bending the knee before the Lord, our maker. (He kneels in front of the chair) For he is our God and we are his people, the flock he shepherds.”
Husband and the eight: “Cry out with joy to the Lord, all the earth; serve the Lord with gladness.”
The husband once again rises and crosses several steps toward the remaining four figures, and beckons to them…
Husband: “Today, listen to the voice of the Lord: do not grow stubborn, as your fathers did in the wilderness…”
The four remaining figures pause; three slowly look down at their distractions and then to the husband; the fourth looks down and away.
Husband: “…when at Meriba and Massah they challenged me and provoked me, although they had seen all of … my … works.”
The husband drops his face, reflectively, looking at his own hands. The three figures drop their distractions, cross to the husband, and grasp his hands in greeting. After receiving his embrace, the three join the eight and kneel. The husband remains facing the one remaining figure. Together the husband and the eleven speak…
Husband and the eleven: “Cry out with joy to the Lord, all the earth; serve the Lord with gladness.”
Husband alone, beckoning to the one remaining figure: “Forty years I endured that generation. I said, “They are a people whose hearts go astray and they do not know my ways…”
The remaining figure glances at his distraction, then to the husband, and then back finally to his distraction.
The husband continues to beckon: “So I swore in my anger… ‘they shall not enter into my rest.’”
The figure looks up at the husband, but then turns his back on him and faces off stage left. The husband sadly turns and joins the eleven and together they speak…
Husband and the eleven “Cry out with joy to the Lord, all the earth; serve the Lord with gladness.”
All bowing slightly: “Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit…
The husband rises and looks toward the figure standing left still facing off left…
“as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever…Amen.”
The stage lights go down leaving only the light from the end table.
Husband and the eleven figures: “Cry out with joy to the Lord, all the earth; serve the Lord with gladness.”
The curtains close.
Thank you Lord for the invitation. And thank you Marcus for your wonderful reminder. I hope you don’t mind my alterations.