|Image from www.divineoffice.org|
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
- 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.