“I would like to renew my call to everyone to pray the Psalms, to become accustomed to using the Liturgy of the Hours, Lauds, Vespers, and Compline.” Pope Benedict VI
Why the Divine Office?
It was an Anglican prayer community that introduced me to the Catholic Divine Office. At the time I was a Presbyterian so the concept of liturgical prayer was new to me. Since then I have had an attachment to liturgical prayer.
The Divine Office takes me daily into the liturgical life of the Church. The Liturgy of the Church isn’t just for Sunday’s and Holy Days or any other day we attend Mass. It is there for us every day, and even for different times of every day.
At the time of this writing the Sunday will be the 32nd Sunday of ordinary time. For some, this will mean they will need help to find the correct pages for the readings in the missal. For me, this means a new opportunity to enter more completely into the liturgy. I have found embracing the liturgy is to embrace the spiritual life and communion in the Body of Christ.
It was once said unto me near the end of Lent, “Fast with the Church, feast with the Church!”
Now I add unto this, “Pray with the Church!”
Two Great Reasons to Pray the Divine Office
The first is that the Psalms are the primary ingredient of the Divine Office. The Divine Office includes the prayers of Lauds, Vespers, and Compline. Christ Jesus himself died with the Psalms on his lips. The Psalms are the cry of His people. This both a great proof for the authenticity of our faith as well as a paradoxical spirituality. When I pray the Psalms, I feel the majesty of salvation history. To pray the Divine Office is to take a liturgical journey through the wilderness to the refuge of the Church.
The second is that another benefit of the Divine Office is its celebration of events and saints. Through this prayer, I have become more aware of them and of how the Church views them. This has increased my knowledge of both scripture and tradition in the Catholic faith. This has also increased my appreciation of the story of our salvation.
There are different versions of the Divine Office which gives me the freedom to mix it up. If I were a Benedictine Monk in an Abbey I would have these options, but I am not, so I do! Apart from the modern Liturgy of Hours, there are also the Traditional Offices. These include the Monastic Diurnal or the Breviarium Romanum. The Breviarium Romanum contains the Latin and English translations side by side. This has sometimes given me the unexpected bonus of an introduction to Ecclesiastical Latin.
Both versions of the Divine Office are now accessible through a smartphone or tablet. Reciting and accessing the Divine Office has never been easier with internet resources. They provide a inexpensive way to access and how to learn how to recite the Divine Office.
I continue to have a personal prayer life. I have found that the Divine Office supplements and enhances this prayer life. I enjoy rising early in the morning and praying Lauds. Towards the end of the day I have the freedom as a layperson not to pray Vespers and Compline. I understand the Catholic clergy and religious do not have this freedom. My preferences of how to pray the Divine Office can change as the seasons change. Sometimes I like to recite Vespers before the evening activities, sometimes after. Sometimes I even like to combine Vespers with Compline. I also sometimes enjoy mixing in the daily Mass readings with Lauds or Vespers. I enjoy this especially when I am unable to attend daily Mass.
I try and stick at praying the Divine Office even when I am at times I am conscious of sin or I experience dryness in prayer. As I write this, today’s short reading at Vespers includes the text from Romans 12:
“Be patient under trial and persevere in prayer!
Over the years picking up my Office book has been the first step back into the confessional. I feel penitential Psalms such as Miserere Me (Psalm 50) and De Profundis (Psalm 129) are a blessing. I enjoy the Divine Office even though it does not have the sacramental power of Holy Communion.
I feel that the Word of God can speak grace into our lives especially when we experience challenges. I am confident the Word of God speaks to us when and how we need it in the trials of life.
These are great treasures which we can access every day and pray with the Universal Church. With the Divine Office the Psalms, and the readings and commentaries of the Saints I know that I am never alone.
I feel it is best to enter into prayer with expectation and to let the Holy Spirit do the rest. I feel the prayer of the Church is should be to give G od glory and not receive consolation. I rejoice when I sometimes receive some spiritual crumb from God through prayer.
I am not a theologian or a spiritual advisor so treat my advice with care. Saying that, I recommend considering taking up your prayer books with Mother Church! Or even your smartphone or tablet!