Editors Note: this post is part of a series if posts titled Praying the Liturgy of the Hours
Clergy are required by Canon Law to pray the Liturgy of the Hours every day. Most consecrated religious have the same requirement (by virtue of their Constitutions). However, the laity do not have the same requirement. Yet, the laity have been highly encouraged for decades to do so, especially since the Second Vatican Council. In 1974, Pope Paul VI instituted directives to incorporate lay use of the Liturgy of the Hours. In 2001 Pope John Paul II established a catechesis surrounding psalms.
What has generated this emphasis since the Second Vatican Council? The General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours (GILH) states:
“Public and common prayer by the people of God is rightly considered to be among the primary duties of the Church. From the very beginning those who were baptized ‘devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the community, to the breaking of the bread and to prayers’ (Acts 2:42) … The witness of the early Church teaches us that individual Christians devoted themselves to prayer at fixed times. Then, in different places, the custom soon grew of assigning special times to common prayer, for example, the last hour of the day, when evening draws on and the lamp is lighted, or the first hour, when night draws to a close with the rising of the daystar … This kind of common prayer gradually took shape in the form of an ordered round of Hours. This Liturgy of the Hours or Divine Office, enriched by readings, is principally a prayer of praise and petition. In fact, it is the prayer of the Church with Christ and to Christ.”General Instruction on the Liturgy of the Hours, no. 1
The same Holy Spirit who inspired the Psalmist inspires us today. The same Christ who prayed the Psalms throughout His earthly life unites us to Himself today as we pray the Psalms.
In The Everyday Catholic’s Guide to the Liturgy of the Hours, Daria Sockey identifies five key reasons everyone should pray the Liturgy of the Hours.
First, it unites us to the Church universal. As with the Mass, when we pray the Liturgy of the Hours we join Pope Francis, all the clergy, and millions of Catholics around the world. In doing so, we become increasingly aware of belonging to and and sharing in the life of the entire Church.
Second, it contains the very prayers of Jesus Himself. The psalms were the prayers and hymns of Israel, prayed at morning, noon, and evening. Jesus would have learned these prayers and used them throughout His ministry.
Third, it is Scriptural. From the earliest times, God’s faithful have established a daily rhythm of prayer that involved the psalms and Scripture. As the day goes on it helps us to pray, thank, repent, and complain.
Fourth, it flows FROM and INTO the Mass. By providing a fixed, daily pattern for prayer, the Liturgy of the Hours extends the fruit of the daily Mass into the other hours of the day. Like the Mass, the Liturgy of the Hours follows the Church calendar including its seasons, solemnities, and feasts. The psalms, antiphons, prayers, and and readings complement the daily Mass.
Fifth, it is part of the official public worship of the Church. It is a way of exercising the priesthood of the laity in that it does not require the presence of a Priest. Further, it is distinct from other devotions such as the Rosary and Novenas.
In summary, the Liturgy of the Hours is both Scriptural and part of our Tradition as Catholics. We will further explore additional benefits as we progress through the series.
Next Post: Why Pray the Psalms?