Prayer Cycle / Earth Monastery / Introduction

Introduction to the Earth Monastery Prayer Cycle

Table of Contents

Introduction to the Prayer Cycle

Abbey of the Arts is a virtual monastery and global community of monks, artists, and pilgrims dispersed all over this beautiful globe. The Abbey was founded by Christine Valters Paintner in 2006 with a vision of supporting people to integrate contemplative practice and creative expression. In 2013 she and her husband John moved to Ireland and he joined her in co-shepherding this community. They are joined by a team of treasured Wisdom Council members who support this work with their own gifts.

We are not affiliated with any particular institution and open our doors to people from any denomination or none at all. We strive to create a place of welcome and hospitality where we might dialogue with one another and grow. Our spirituality is steeped in the rich Christian mystical tradition, and three strands of monasticism: desert, Celtic, and Benedictine, all of which profoundly influences our ways of praying.

We are an open and affirming community and strive to be radically inclusive. We delight in being joined by people like you, who are seeking to be monks in the world and artists of everyday life, seeking kindred spirits, a community committed to contemplative rhythms and creative expression.

Poetry is our nourishment.  Art inspires our souls.  We dance and sing for the joy of it.

Morning and evening prayer nourishes many monastic communities and we have integrated this rhythm of prayer into our live retreat and pilgrimage programs. Our participants expressed a hunger for a prayer cycle that could be used by community members no matter where they were, that reflected our values and emphasis.

We are thrilled to present you with the first week of our Abbey of the Arts Prayer Cycle which takes as its theme Earth as Original Monastery, inspired by Christine’s recent book. Nourishing an earth-cherishing consciousness is central to our vision and practice.

Each day you are invited to morning and evening prayer with the original cathedral, scripture, saints, spiritual directors, icon, sacrament, and liturgy. These prayers bring together the rich tradition of monastic prayer, the wisdom of ancient mystics, songs from our album compilations, embodied prayers to accompany each song, contemporary versions of the psalms, and poetry and blessings.

You are welcome to pray through on your own or with a group. We provide all of the written texts for seven days of morning and evening prayers.  Duplication is permitted with attribution. The songs are available to purchase as a CD or mp3 download and the dances are available for purchase on DVD or streaming format.   Your purchases help to support our ability to offer these resources and continue to develop more weeks of the prayer cycle on different themes.

How to Pray with the Prayer Cycle

Make some time each morning and evening to pause and join with us by entering into the prayers offered. You can pray with the songs and movement, or leave them out if you want to keep a simpler focus. If you are praying on your own, read through each section aloud, pausing between each one to allow a few moments to rest and integrate what has been said.

You can also pray this with a small group local to you by gathering together at a regular time. Divide up who reads which parts aloud, again leaving some quiet between each section.

Notes About the Music

All the songs are recorded and published by Abbey of the Arts, so you can listen to the pre-recorded podcast that includes the songs, or access the songs on your own.  For complete lyrics to the Opening and Closing songs, you can download the free PDF versions (available on the Abbey of the Arts website) for each of the CD collections.

The four CD collections from which the Opening and Closing Songs are drawn are

Singing with Monks & Mystics (2015)

The Soul’s Slow Ripening: Songs for Celtic Seekers (2018)

Earth, Our Original Monastery: Singing Our Way to the Sacred (2020)

Monk in the World: Songs for Contemplative Living (2021)

Notes About the Dances

We at Abbey of the Arts are committed to the path of sacred embodiment as a deepening of our spiritual practices. Along these lines, each of the songs included in the prayer cycle has a dance or gesture prayer to accompany it.

Sometimes we are called to stillness, and the Audio Podcast allows you to pray along in stillness, taking a walk, lying in bed, or participating in whatever setting you may be.  Other times, you may be called to explore the dance of embodiment for Morning and Evening Prayers.  For this, you can choose to view the Video Podcast, which offers gesture or movement prayers for each of the songs and responses.  As you pray through this offering, feel free to follow along in some or all of the dances, and pray with your whole being.  
 
To find more support for joining in the embodied prayers, you can also do a bit of preparation.  Each movement prayer has a corresponding teaching video which you can access by purchasing or downloading the corresponding DVD, or by joining the Leader Resources page.  To ready yourself for prayer, you can view the teaching videos to practice and become familiar with the dances for that day, and learn the imagery and background for the movement prayers.

The gestures for the Responses (O LoveDoxology and O God of Earth,) remain consistent for the entire prayer cycle, so they can become trusted friends as you return to them each day.

If you are praying the Prayer Cycle in a live group, (and if you are comfortable leading movement,) you can learn and lead the gestured responses. You could also lead the Opening and Closing Dances, (but this would clearly be dependent on the level of comfort of both you and the group.)  Again, the Leader Resources are created to support you in leading these prayers in various settings.

Our intention at Abbey of the Arts is to create resources that are multi-layered that you can adapt for your own solo or group setting.  Sometimes, just witnessing an embodied prayer which was filmed in a natural setting can lift our spirits, invoking our own memory of glorious outdoor sacred spaces, even when we are at home with our computers or gathered in indoor sanctuaries.

The three DVD collections from which the Opening and Closing Dances are drawn are

Dancing with Monks & Mystics (2015)

The Soul’s Slow Ripening: Dancing the Sacred on a Celtic Path (2018)

Earth, Our Original Monastery: Dancing Our Way to the Divine (2020)

The three Gesture-Responses are available under the Leader Resources, and will be included on our next album and DVD offering in spring 2021.

Closing Blessings for Morning Prayer

One further note is that each of the Morning Prayers includes a video version of the blessing prayer which is a visual feast to deepen your meditation.  These videos will be incorporated into our video podcasts but you can also have access to each of them individually through our Leader Resources.

Conclusion

We are delighted that we can pray through the seasons with you in song, dance, poetry, blessing, and quiet contemplation.  For all of us, may the principles of living as a monk in the world be a place of deep encounter with the mystery of the Divine One, embracing us, challenging us, and calling us to awe and intimacy in every breath we take.