Sometimes the sheer magnitude of suffering and death in the world is overwhelming. The death of innocents, the death of not-so-innocents, really, hunger and pain, neglect and abuse, exploitation and oppression, and all of the things that make the world go ’round as much as peace and love. These things, when they hit closer to home, in our own backyards, elicit an even more profound response within us. Or they should. I even had to have a conversation with a dear friend well into the night last night who was afraid they were dying. Unfounded, probably, hopefully, but sometimes a feeling of helplessness is so pervasive that is causes even the strong to falter.
Once I said, “In the noontime of life I must depart! To the gates of the nether world I shall be consigned for the rest of my years.
"I said, “I shall see the Lord no more in the land of the living. No longer shall I behold my fellow men among those who dwell in the world.”
Those are the words from the prophecy of Isaiah which form part of the Canticle for Morning Prayer in the Office for the Dead.
Sometimes on ferial days, like today, especially when I feel simply lost in the middle of everything, I will pray the Office for the Dead instead of the Office of the Day (in this case, Wednesday in the 3,456th week of Ordinary Time).
I don’t know if this is proper or not, because I cannot find a good rubric on the Office for the Dead. If the truth be known, the only time I know that it is proscribed is on All Souls, which in my mind is not nearly often enough. And this year, as it falls on a Sunday, the Office for the Dead will not be said if the Office is recited privately. The Office will revert to the Office for that particular Sunday. (It may be said, however, if the Office is said with a congregation or in common.)
I shall see the Lord no more in the land of the living. So to the question: is it acceptable to say the Office for the Dead on a ferial day if one has an intention? (Or many, like I did this morning.) I’ll say now that if it isn’t acceptable, it ought to be, but I will defer to anyone who might know.
With all of the helplessness that surrounds us sometimes, it’s good to remember in our corporate prayer that even while we “walk in the land of the living,” some do not. And if it be within our power, we should do what we can, and what we should, to help.
Pax et bonum.