Thursday, July 14, 2011

Prayers for the Journey

The request for my blessing by someone about to take a trip gives me great joy. It is not something I ever thought about prior to ordination. It is not even something that happens with any great frequency. It is certainly not something that takes a lot of time and effort, as preaching and other tasks do. But it is immensely satisfying, and I am always delighted when someone asks me to do it, as two people did this week.

I don’t have a standard formula – I pray extemporaneously for the person, adapting the prayer to the particular journey they are about to take, ending with a blessing in the name of the Trinity as I trace the sign of the cross on the supplicant’s forehead. Simple. I hope it is meaningful to the person seeking the blessing – I find great meaning in offering it.

Whenever I am about to leave for an overnight journey, I pray the Itinerary, a short office consisting of the Benedictus, the Lord’s Prayer, several versicles, and several collects evoking biblical journeys. It ends with the wonderful versicle and response “V.Let us go forth in peace. R. In the Name of the Lord. Amen.” The antiphon on the Benedictus recalls the journey of Tobit by invoking the archangel Raphael, and the Benedictus contains the prayer “to guide our feet into the way of peace”. The collects mention the journeys of the Israelites in the desert, the Magi on their way to pay homage to the newborn Christ, and Abraham as he set out from Ur, as well as recalling John the Baptist at whose birth the Benedictus was first recited by his father. It is a beautiful prayer, and it has a way of calming me as I set out. The Anglican Breviary adds to it a form of thanksgiving at the journey’s end, using Psalm 103, which is also lovely, and which helps me to return to my everyday life after a trip.

It is my prayer that all of my readers have safe travels wherever they go, as well as a blessed journey with God through life.

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