Saturday, December 29, 2012

Praying Around the Clock - Liturgy of the Hours

I have been at it for a few days now - the Liturgy of the Hours that is.  This is the first time I have really made an attempt to pray it in its entirety throughout a single day, not to mention a series of days.  I have to be honest; I've fallen short and missed at least one hour a day - but my intentions have been good.  I wanted to share what I have learned thus far.
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First, let me give a snapshot of the Liturgy of the Hours. (You will also hear it referred to as the Divine Office.)  These are the periods of prayer, spaced throughout the day, that priests and members of religious communities are required to keep.  (It is also a reflection of the different times of daily prayer practiced by Jesus and all faithful Jews.)  The Liturgy of the Hours is built around the praying of the Psalms, readings from Scripture and commentary by the saints, and interceding for the needs of all members of the Church.  It is the Church's "public prayer," the common prayer of the Church spread throughout the world, prolonging the Liturgy of the Eucharist throughout the entire day.  It consists of an:
  • Invitatory Psalm
  • Office of Readings (attached to one of the following Hours)
  • Morning Prayer
  • Daily Prayer
  • Evening Prayer
  • Night Prayer
A few things have stood out to me already:
  • I cannot imagine a more Scriptural form of prayer.  (The words of the Mass are approximately 85% direct quotations or  paraphrases from Scripture, but I am going to ballpark the Office at over 90%, with more direct quotations.)  We begin the day with a Psalm, and then Morning Prayer alone has three Psalms woven in with readings from Paul's epistles, etc., etc.  We are constantly addressing God in the words He Himself inspired. 
  • God is going to be praised, whether we personally feel like praising Him or not - praise is at the heart of the Liturgy of the Hours.
  • Joining the Church in its "public prayer" calls us out of ourselves to be concerned with not simply our needs and the small circle of brothers and sisters who surround us, but the whole Church. 
  • I have been attending daily Mass at the same time I have been attempting to pray the Office and have been so impressed at the cross-fertilization that occurs between the two.
If you find yourself wanting to learn more about the Liturgy of the Hours, please visit  Not only can you click on and read any Hour of the day, but you can pray along with audio files for each.  Last spring and summer I waded into the Office a bit by praying Night Prayer.  When I climbed into bed at night I simply opened that page on my iPod and prayed along.  It's beautiful too; it always contains Simeon's Canticle, known as the Nunc Dimittis, from Lk. 2:29-32, and the antiphon, "Protect us, Lord, as we stay awake; watch over us as we sleep, that awake, we may keep watch with Christ, and asleep, rest in his peace."  See what I mean? Absolutely beautiful ... well, that's the prayer of the Body, joined to Christ its Head.

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