“It is more ancient than the rosary, prayed by your priest every day, and second only to Holy Mass among the Church’s liturgical celebrations.
Also known as the Divine Office, the Liturgy of the Hours has remained largely unheard of among Catholic laity until recent times — probably because it used to involve lugging around a thousand-paged book that no average Catholic would know to use. But thanks to modern technology, you can conveniently load up the Liturgy of the Hours on your phone, scroll through, and pray.
The Liturgy of the Hours is simply a liturgy celebrated every few hours. It happens seven times a day, just that as a layperson, you aren’t obliged to pray them all (or at all to begin with). Each time of prayer is called an “Hour”, but do not deceived by its name! Each Hour lasts no more than 30 minutes, while the shortest can be done within 10 minutes.
Here’s the general structure of each Hour:
– Opening Hymn
– Psalmody (a series of Scriptural songs)
– Short Scripture Reading
– Gospel Canticle*
– Our Father**
– Concluding Prayer
– Final Blessing
*Morning, Evening and Night Prayer only
**Morning and Evening Prayer only
Now that you know a little more about how the prayer goes, here are five good reasons you should give the Liturgy of the Hours a try.
- Praying with the Church
You’ll live the life of the Church, as we celebrate the feast days and liturgical seasons together. Though distance may separate us, we will be joined into one body as we say the same psalms and utter the same prayers. The Intercessions prescribes petitions for various groups of people, so that we pray together for the good of others and are ourselves assured that we have been kept in the prayer by the Church. Also, as we offer Night Prayer before we sleep, our brethren in the West rise to say Morning Prayer. In this way, the Church on Earth never falls silent in her worship of the Triune God, mirroring the Church in Heaven. We who participate in the Hours become sharers in this wondrous mystery.
- Sanctifies your day
St Paul exhorts us to “pray without ceasing (1 Thes 5:16)”. As you repeat the Invocation, “O God, come to our aid”, you’ll come to recognise your reliance on His help as you go about your day. Also, the Psalmody contains a decent mix of psalms and canticles for you to give thanks and grumble to God for the things that have passed since the last Hour you prayed. Thus punctuating your day with prayer, you’ll become more conscious of God’s keen involvement in your day-to-day life.
- It is a holistic prayer
There are four key elements to prayer best remembered by the acronym ACTS — adoration, contrition, thanksgiving, and supplication. Most Hours cover all four elements! The Invocation and Intercessory express supplication, while the Glory Be’s adoration. The psalms, canticles and responsories offer a mix of the other elements.
- Deepens your appreciation of Scripture
As you pray each day, you’ll be exposed to different psalms, canticles and readings. These are rotated on a cycle of either one or four weeks, giving you a nice balance between freshness and repetition. Before you know it, you’d have painlessly memorised quite a chunk of the Bible! You’ll also be surprised by how relevant the Scriptures can be, as you meditate on them throughout your day and through the ever-changing seasons of your life. How glorious an exchange it is — that God reveals Himself to us through the Holy Scriptures, and we return this gift to Him through the Liturgy of the Hours.
- Mother Church recommends it
At Vatican II, Mother Church declared in the document Sacrosanctum Concilium that “the laity, too, are encouraged to recite the Divine Office, either with the priests, or among themselves, or even individually (#100).” She especially recommends it to ecclesial communities and ministries, as well as to families, saying, “Wherever groups of the laity are gathered and whatever the reason which has brought them together, such as prayer or the apostolate, they are encouraged to recite the Church’s Office, by celebrating part of the Liturgy of the Hours. […] Finally, it is fitting that the family, as the domestic sanctuary of the Church, should […] say certain parts of the Liturgy of the Hours, in this way uniting themselves more closely to the Church. (General Instruction on the Liturgy of the Hours, #27).”
So what are you waiting for? Join Mother Church in her ceaseless prayer now!
Download the CatholicSG app on your smartphone, select “Pray”, then “How and What to Pray”. Select the “Divine Office” tab, then tap on “How To” and select the Hour you wish to celebrate. All you have to do is read off the text; there’s no fuss about where to repeat this or that. Neither do you have to worry about what day it is in our liturgical calendar, since the app has that figured out for you. Alternatively, you can visit universalis.com.
If you find the Hours too much to digest, you can begin with Night Prayer, since it is the shortest of them. You can also find abridged versions of Morning and Evening Prayer in the monthly Magnificat publication.
Remember that you’re not obliged to pray the Liturgy of the Hours in the first place, so don’t worry too much about being liturgically correct or complete when you first start exploring!
Several parishes in our Archdiocese offer communal celebrations of the Liturgy of the Hours.
Church of Sts Peter and Paul
Morning Prayer (Mon-Sat @ 7am)
Church of the Holy Cross
Morning Prayer (Mon-Sat @ 6.15am)
Evening Prayer (Mon-Fri @ 6pm)
Church of Our Lady Star of the Sea
Morning Prayer (Mon-Sat @ 6.25am)
Evening Prayer (Mon-Sun @ 6.10pm)
Church of St Vincent de Paul
Morning Prayer (Mon-Fri @ 7.45am)
Chances are that they’ll be using the hard-copy book, known as the breviary. If you don’t have one or don’t know how to flip yours, do the Catholic thing – share with your neighbour and learn from him.
So let’s start praying… O God, come to our aid!
Top photo: Christ our Light/Lawrence OP
Written by Louis of VITA Scribes.
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