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Praying the Liturgy of the Hours

Have you ever admired those who have a regular consistent prayer life throughout the day? Perhaps you have admired Muslims who are regularly called to prayer at multiple times throughout the day. The Roman Catholic Church provides the same structure to us as well, it is called the Liturgy of the Hours, a prayer structure that marks the hours of the day and sanctifies them to Christ. It is in effect the Church’s response to the Biblical exhortation for all Christians to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thes. 5:16-18). Augustinian communities gather at least twice a day to pray the Liturgy of the Hours in common as part of our way of life.

Be assiduous in prayer (Col. 4:2), at the hours and times appointed.

The Rule of Augustine II, 10

In short, the Liturgy of the Hours consists of prayerfully reading the Psalms, a reading from Scripture, time for mediation or contemplation, and a time to unite our prayers with the universal Church through petitions. It constitutes part of the public official worship of the Church for several reasons:

  1. It is Scriptural, combining prayer and Scripture reading into one. It helps us to give praise and thanks, repent, and offer petitions throughout the day. From the earliest days of the Church the people of God have had a daily rhythm of prayer combining Psalms and other parts of Scripture.
  2. It contains the very prayers of Jesus Himself. When Jesus went off to pray, He would have utilized the Jewish Scriptures, which contain the Psalms.
  3. It is Liturgical in that it is part of the official public worship of the Church. The various prayers, Psalms, petitions, etc. of the daily Liturgy of the Hours are all linked to the particular liturgical season and Solemnities/Feasts/Memorials of the day.
  4. It therefore unites us to the Universal Church throughout the day as the Liturgy of the Hours invites us to pray and reflect on the same prayers and readings as the Pope and millions of clergy, religious, and lay Catholics throughout the world.
  5. Fifth, for all these reasons, the Liturgy of the Hours flows from and into the Mass. It extends the prayers, graces, and fruits of the Mass into the hours of everyday life while also preparing us to fully, actively, and consciously participate in Mass.

While clergy are required by Canon Law (and most Religious by virtue of their Constitutions) are required to pray the Liturgy of the Hours, the Second Vatican Council and every Pope since has exhorted the laity to pray it as well. The General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours indicates that through such public worship and prayer “the laity can contribute in no small degree to the salvation of the whole world” (paragraph no. 27).

Accordingly, the Augustinians invite you to pray with us the Liturgy of the Hours with us. Click here to learn more.

Click for Augustine’s Thoughts on the Psalms
1“Christ was born into this world as we were born but he was different from us sinners because the allurements of this world did not hold him prisoner. He did not want an earthly kingdom and the pride that goes with it. Such pride is rightly understood as the ‘seat of pestilence’ because a pestilence is an epidemic which has spread widely and overwhelms nearly all people. The lust for power is like such a pestilence because there is hardly anyone who does not love wielding power or who does not long for human glory.” – Commentary on Psalm 1, 1.
24"Driven out of paradise by you and exiled in a distant land, by myself I cannot return unless you come to meet me in my wandering. My return is based on hope in your mercy during all of my earthly life. My only hope, the only source of confidence, the only solid promise is your mercy" - Saint Augustine (Discourses on the Psalms, 24, 5).
31"If, as St. Paul says, Faith profits us nothing without Charity (1 Corinthians 13:2) and Charity must always be active wherever it is found, then Faith itself leads to good works by choosing to love. How then is it possible for anyone to be justified by Faith apart from works?" - Saint Augustine (Commentary on PSalm 31/2, 6)
32"Seek what is better than you are so that you can be made better by it. If you desire gold, you may or may not obtain it. But you can always possess God whenever you wish." - Commentary on Psalm 32, 16.
33"Note the Psalmist's words: 'I sought the Lord and He answered me.' Where did the Lord hear? Within. What does He reply? Within. There you pray, there you are heard, and there you are made happy. Therefore, enter your heart. Happy are those who delight to enter their hearts and find no evil." - Saint Augustine (Commentary on Psalm 33).
39"How will you be able to lift up your heart to God? Does your heart not need first to be healed before you can come to see God? Are you not revealing your pride when you cry out 'First let me see and then I will be healed?" - Commentary on Psalm 39, 21
47"See him whose hands and feet were pierced by nails, whose bones were numbered as they hung upon the wood, and for whose garments they cast lots. See him reigning, whom they saw hanging on the cross; see him enthroned in heaven, whom they espised when he walked on the earth." - Saint Augustine (Commentary on Psalm 47, 7).
54"If love is life, hatred is death. When a person begins to fear that he may hate the one he used to love, he is afraid of death and the death he fears is one more dreadful because it is a death that slays not the body but the soul. What harm can an angry person do to you in view of the security the Lord gave you when he said 'Do not be afraid of those who kill the body'? In his rage the enemy may kill the body, but by hating him you have killed the soul. He killed the body of another; you have killed your own soul." - Saint Augustine (Commentary on Psalm 54, 7).
55“Usually human beings do not truly know themselves. They do not know of what they are able and what not. Often they presume that they can do certain things when they cannot while at the same time presume they cannot do others of which they are perfectly capable. Only when trials come to test them do they discover their own possibilities, possibilities hidden from them but known to their Creator. ” - Commentary on Psalm 55 (2)
58"The teacher of humility, who shared our weakness and gave us a share in his own divinity, came to earth in order to teach us the way, even to be the Way himself. It was his humility, above all else, that he impressed upon us. He willingly submitted to baptism at the hands of one of his servants, so that we might learn to confess our own sins and to beome weak in order to be truly strong, repeating with the apostle: 'When I am weak, then I am strong.'" - Saint Augustine (Exposition of the Psalms, 58).
60“Through his resurrection he is the proof for the life we will live after death. If Jesus had not come as a human being all we would know about human life is that we are born and we die. Jesus took upon himself the human condition we know and gave us a proof of the eternal life we do not know” – Commentary on Psalm 60, 4.
61“Every earthly state makes use of some of the citizens of the ‘City of God’ to administer its affairs. How many of the faithful are there among its loyal subjects and its magistrates, its judges, generals, governors and even among those who have been kings? All these are good people, keeping deep in their hearts the longing for the glorious things of heaven. In a way they are like foreigners in a society that will pass away, but in the meantime (under the command of God) they serve their earthly masters conscientiously” – Commentary on Psalm 61, 8.
75"Christ who is rich in heaven chose to be hugry in the poor. Yet in your humanity you hesitate to give to your fellow human being. Don’t you realize that what you give, you give to Christ, from whom you received whatever you have to give in the first place." - Saint Augustine (Commentary on Psalm 75,9)
80"Earthly life is a pilgrimage, and as such it is full of temptations. But our spiritual growth is worked out in temptation. By experiencing temptations, we know ourselves. By fighting them, we have the chance to become winners. By overcoming them, we are crowned victors." - Commentary on Psalm 80, 3.
99"Many people promise themselves that they will live a holy life. But, they fail because they go into the furnace and come out cracked." - Saint Augustine (Exposition on the Psalms 99, 11)
99"The more you progress in charity the more you will resemble God, and the more you will begin to experience him" - Saint Augustine (On Psalm 99, 5)
118Lord, help me to do what you command me to do. Grant me, you yourself, what you yourself command. Quicken me in your righteousness, for in myself I have only that which makes me die, and I find no way except in you to discover how and where I may live.
125“We need the gifts of others to make up for what is lacking in ourselves.” — St. Augustine, Commentary on the Psalms, 125, 13
136"This present world (which we call 'Babylon') has its lovers. They hope for peace on earth and find all their joy in earthly peace and do not go beyond it. But, dear friends, take note of what these 'rivers of Babylon' are. They are all things that humans love on earth, things which quickly flow away." - Saint Augustine (Commentary on Psalm 136, 2).
138"Certainly, even the impious and unjust seek God, so that after they have found Him they may no more be impious or unjust. But how are they already blessed while they are still seeking Him? They are happy by their hope not because of what they have but because of what they will have. They are happy, not because they seek God but because they will find what they seek." - Saint Augustine (Commentary on Psalm 138, 2-3).
147"God does not demand much of you. He asks back what he gave you, and from him you take what is enough for you. The superfluities of the rich are the necessities of the poor. When you possess superfluities, you possess what belongs to others." - Saint Augustine (Exposition on Psalm 147, 12).
148"The days before Easter signify the life that we live now with all its trials and troubles. The days after Easter signify the happy days that lie beyond death. What we commemorate before Easter is what we experience in this life, what we celebrate after Easter points to something we do not yet possess." - Saint Augustine (Commentary on Psalm 148, 1-2).
148"The subject of our meditation in this present life should be the praises of God; for the everlasting exaltation of our life hereafter will be the praise of God, and none can become fit for the life hereafter, who has not practised himself for it now." - Saint Augustine (Commentary on Psalm 148, 1)

This post was written by Jeremy Hiers, O.S.A.

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