Beginning Each Day in the Presence of God

The Importance of the Morning Offering

Morning Offering article

We’ve all heard, and we all know from experience, how important it is to start the day off right. If we wake up grumpy, or overly tired, it is much more difficult to face the challenges of each day cheerfully and with optimism. How often do we hear about breakfast as the most important meal of the day? Beginning our day on the right foot helps enable us to tackle what comes our way later that day. What better way to begin our days than by placing ourselves in the presence of God? The traditional Catholic practice of the Morning Offering is a great way to begin our day right, in God’s presence, offering all that we’ll do that day, and everything we’ll experience—the good, as well as the bad. As one author puts it, “the Morning Offering is like a door set close to our heart. Faith is the key that opens for us the countless opportunities to offer God the day we sometimes mistakenly refer to as our own.”1

The Morning Offering’s popularity in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries can be linked to the Jesuits, and soon, thereafter, the Apostleship of Prayer, which made the Morning Offering a central aspect of their apostolate. The Morning Offering’s roots, however, lie much deeper in salvation history. We find them in the priestly morning sacrificial offerings in the Old Testament, which Jewish traditions link with Adam’s work in the Garden of Eden.2 Humanity was created for worship. Thus, many Jewish traditions link the later Old Testament roles of the Levitical priests to that of Adam in the Garden. When we examine early Jewish Rabbinic literature, we see, for example, that the Rabbis sometimes understood God creating Adam from the site of the Temple, and as offering priestly sacrifice in the Garden of Eden.3 There was even a morning sacrificial offering associated with the Old Testament priesthood, beginning after the exodus. The Tamid, or daily offering, began with a morning sacrifice of a lamb, bread, and wine. The same sacrifice was offered at the close of the day in the evening. Although there is clearly a sense in which the Tamid points forward to the Eucharist, the morning sacrifice is also an early form of the priestly morning offering.

Within Judaism, beginning the day in the presence of God, has been preserved through the daily recitation of the Shema, which religious Jews pray at the beginning of each day, and at night before going to bed. The Shema is recited at the synagogue on Saturday mornings, and a portion of it is prayed upon bringing out the Torah scrolls. The core of the Shema is the great commandment from Deuteronomy 6:4-5: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might” (RSVCE). Two verses later, we hear the command to speak this prayer upon rising in the morning.

It is not only the Jewish tradition, however, that retained this notion of offering the “firstfruits” of the day to God, but we find this practice among the early Christians as well. St. John Cassian (c. 360-435) wrote about this in his justly famous spiritual work, Conferences:

But what shall we say of the “firstfruits” which surely are given daily by all who serve Christ faithfully? For when men waking from sleep and arising with renewed activity after their rest—before they take in any impulse or thought in their heart, or admit any recollection or consideration of business—they consecrate their first and earliest thoughts as divine offerings, so what they are doing, indeed, is but rendering the firstfruits of their produce through the High Priest Jesus Christ.4

In his wonderful book, The Sabbath, Abraham Heschel explains that, “Judaism is a religion of time aiming at the sanctification of time.”5 Writing further he elaborates, “Jewish ritual may be characterized as the art of significant forms in time, as architecture of time.”6 The notion of the sanctification of time is important to consider when discussing the Morning Offering. When we pray a Morning Offering, we are turning that time, at the start of our day, into something holy. We so often experience time as something neutral, or even as something negative—“time is slipping by.” Heschel exhorts his readers, “We can only solve the problem of time through sanctification of time.”7 Again, this is not only true of Judaism, but also of Christianity which has Jewish roots. Thus, when he writes, “Creation is the language of God, Time is his song, and things of space the consonants in the song. To sanctify time is to sing the vowels in unison with him,”8 we can understand the obvious connections with Christian practice, and especially that of the Lord’s Day. It should come as no surprise, then, that Pope St. John Paul II cited Heschel’s work, The Sabbath, in his Apostolic Letter on the Lord’s Day, Dies Domini.9

It is not only time, however, that we must sanctify, but work as well. With his keen insight, steeped in his broad knowledge of Jewish wisdom and tradition, Heschel observes that, “Labor is not only the destiny of man; it is endowed with divine dignity.”10 The divine dignity of work takes on a whole new context in light of the mystery of the Incarnation. In his papal encyclical, Laudato Si’, Pope Francis explained that: “We were created with a vocation to work.”11 Even earlier, Pope St. John Paul II wrote eloquently about the sanctification of work, that work itself, human labor, can be a means of sanctification, and of continuing the work of redemption.12 If we turn to the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, we find the classic statement of the sanctification of ordinary life, including work and family life, in the context of the role of the laity:

For this reason the laity, dedicated to Christ, and anointed by the Holy Spirit, are marvelously called and wonderfully prepared so that ever more abundant fruits of the Spirit may be produced in them. For all their works, prayers, and apostolic endeavors, their ordinary married and family life, their daily occupations, their physical and mental relaxation, if carried out in the Spirit, and even the hardships of life, if patiently borne—all these become “spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” Together with the offering of the Lord’s body, they are most fittingly offered in the celebration of the Eucharist. Thus, as those everywhere who adore in holy activity, the laity consecrate the world itself to God.13

The idea of sanctifying the ordinary aspects of our daily life is important for laity, clergy, secular, and religious alike; it’s essential for all the faithful. The Morning Offering becomes a means of helping facilitate this sanctification of work, of suffering, and of all the quotidian realities that make up our normal and ordinary life. Starting off the day with a prayer of Morning Offering, is simply a means of beginning to offer all that we will encounter and tackle that day, to the Lord. Reflecting on the connection of Old Testament priesthood with the Morning Offering, Scott Hahn writes, “Our day need not begin laboriously, as did the days in the Temple priesthood. We need no special bowls or trumpets for our priesthood. Our lamb has already been sacrificed. Now, in the fullness of time, we, with a simple prayer, begin to restore all things in Christ.”14 Christ has only one priesthood, but, as we read in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, there are two essentially different means of participation in his one priesthood. The ministerial priesthood imparted through the Sacrament of Holy Orders, and the priesthood of the faithful, imparted in the Sacrament of Baptism.15 When the baptized make a prayer of Morning Offering, they exercise the common priesthood of the faithful, offering their little corner of the world to God.

In his marvelous book on the Morning Offering, Like the First Morning, Michael J. Ortiz explains how, “When we offer sacrifices to God, especially when those sacrifices are offered in union with the sacrifice of the Mass, we are doing something elemental, something as true to our being human as art, music, laughter, mourning, and joy. We join our offerings—all we have—to a new and higher harmony of grace.”16 The Morning Offering is just one way of doing precisely that, and it is a way of starting the day with an attitude that is oriented to God. We begin the day in God’s presence, and offer all that we are, and all that we will do, for God’s glory. Ortiz highlights how: “The Morning Offering helps us remember that Christ isn’t some faraway guide who points out the path, and then watches us scramble and trip in more or less the right direction. By entering into his offering of offerings that is the Mass, we let our guide’s life become woven into our own.”17

There are many different forms of prayers one could say as a Morning Offering. One could even begin with the traditional Jewish Shema, which would have been one of the ways Jesus began his day. One popular Morning Offering is:

O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer you my prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of this day for all the intentions of your Sacred Heart, in union with the holy sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world, in thanksgiving for your favors, in reparation for my sins, for the intentions of all my relatives and friends, and in particular for the intentions of the Holy Father. Amen.18

Another popular Morning Offering is:

O Mary, my Mother, I offer myself entirely to you. And to prove my filial affection, this day I consecrate to you my eyes, my ears, my tongue, my heart; in short, my whole being. And now, my good Mother, as I am entirely yours, look after me and protect me as someone who belongs to you. Amen.19), 492.]

The specific words are less important than the intent. As Christians, it is a good habit to begin our day by lifting our hearts to God, and offering to him our work and our day. It is good to renew this offering throughout the day by offering specific tasks, specific periods of work, the sufferings and moments of joy that we experience. Praying the Morning Offering, day by day, will help us better to offer other moments of the day. Before we know it, we will be on our way to turning our ordinary lives into holy lives, where all the aspects of our ordinary work and family life become of form of prayer.

  1. Michael J. Ortiz, Like the First Morning: The Morning Offering as a Daily Renewal (Notre Dame: Ave Maria Press, 2015), xxiv.
  2. On the connection between Adam in the Garden of Eden and, later, Old Testament priesthood and sacrifice, see, e.g., Scott Hahn, Many Are Called: Rediscovering the Glory of the Priesthood (New York: Doubleday, 2010), 40-49; and Gary A. Anderson, The Genesis of Perfection: Adam and Eve in Jewish and Christian Imagination (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001), 122-124.
  3. E.g., Pirke de Rabbi Eliezer, 11 and 12; and Midrash Rabbah Genesis. 14:8 and 16:5.
  4. John Cassian, Conferences of John Cassian (Christian Classics Ethereal Library), Conference 21, Chapter 26, page 608.
  5. Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Sabbath: Its Meaning for Modern Man (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005 {1951}), 8.
  6. Heschel, The Sabbath, 8.
  7. Heschel, The Sabbath, 101.
  8. Heschel, The Sabbath, 101.
  9. Pope John Paul II, Dies Domini (1998), no. 15. See endnote 13.
  10. Heschel, The Sabbath, 27.
  11. Pope Francis, Laudato Si’ (2015), no. 128.
  12. See, e.g., Pope John Paul II, Laborem Exercens (1981), no. 25-27; and Pope John Paul II, Redemptoris Custos (1989), 22-24.
  13. Lumen Gentium, no. 34.
  14. Scott Hahn, Signs of Life; 40 Catholic Customs and Their Biblical Roots (New York: Doubleday, 2009), 87.
  15. Catechism of the Catholic Church, nos. 1546-1547.
  16. Ortiz, Like the First Morning, xxiii.
  17. Ortiz, Like the First Morning, xxiv.
  18. Handbook of Prayers, ed. James Socias (Woodbridge: Midwest Theological Forum, 2007), 42.
  19. Francis Fernandez, In Conversation with God: Meditations for Each Day of the Year, Volume Two: Lent—Holy Week—Eastertide (Princeton: Scepter, 2000 [1987
Dr. Jeffrey Morrow, Ph.D. About Dr. Jeffrey Morrow, Ph.D.

Dr. Jeffrey Morrow is an associate professor at Immaculate Conception Seminary School of Theology at Seton Hall University, located in South Orange, New Jersey. He also serves as a senior fellow of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology. Dr. Morrow is a Jewish convert to Catholicism. He resides in northern New Jersey with his wife and five children.

Comments

  1. Ryan Parry says:

    I attended a workshop for Catholic educators. One female religious said to ‘”get out of the idea of offering God things and get into relationship”. Both I feel are important.

    • Frank F says:

      We offer any part of ourselves to someone we are not in relationship with?
      Get real.

  2. Frank F says:

    The best part of my Morning Offering?
    Praying the Divine Office.

Trackbacks

  1. […] We’ve all heard, and we all know from experience, how important it is to start the day off right….Read More Here. […]