What if the busy present moments that constitute our daily lives were consecrated to Christ? Each insignificant moment or mundane activity becomes another opportunity to glorify Him.
The Liturgy of the Hours is a means of not only centering the day on Christ, but also sanctifying the day, offering these moments to Him. It is a prayerful habitual practice of the clergy and religious – yet, in ever increasing numbers, the laity are also gravitating towards these daily prayers.
Though it has undergone various developments over the years, the Liturgy of the Hours – also know as the Divine Office or the Breviary – actually finds its origins in the Old Testament. Colin B. Donovan, a writer for EWTN, explains that in the years of the Babylonian Exile (587-521 BC), synagogue services of reading the Torah at fixed hours throughout the day began, thereby creating a “sacrifice of praise.”
The practice continued with the Early Church. Then, in the sixth century, St. Benedict’s Rule offers an example of an established psalm cycle with readings for different hours throughout the day.
The basic structure of the Liturgy of the Hours has remained relatively the same since the 11th century. The Hours are divided into five parts of “canonical hours” – Office of Readings, Morning Prayer, Daytime Prayer, Evening Prayer, and Night Prayer.
Each of the Hours includes readings of the psalms. Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer, the two most important Hours, include a Gospel canticle.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops describes the prayers as “a meditative dialogue on the mystery of Christ.” Through Scripture, the Hours invite us into this dialogue, a prayerful conversation that can undergird our daily moments.
From helpful instructional videos on YouTube to written resources through EWTN and the USCCB, there is a wealth of resources for the laity on learning how to pray the Liturgy of the Hours.
Many Catholic bookstores and even Amazon.com sell the four-volume book set that contains the complete Hours. The prayer books Christian Prayer and Shorter Christian Prayer offer an abbreviated version of the Hours and could serve as an accessible introduction to the prayers.
If using the actual four volume set seems daunting, the website divineoffice.org offers the entire Liturgy of the Hours for free. An app is also available to download, therefore providing us with a means of keeping the prayers within reach throughout the day.
Whether with a faith community or in solitary prayer, saying the Liturgy of the Hours situates us within a rich tradition of Catholic prayer and consecrates the present moments of our lives to Christ.