Liturgy of the Hours
Liturgy of the Hours
LITURGY OF THE HOURS
The Liturgy of the Hours (Divine Office), composed of Psalms, hymns, scriptural, patristic, and hagiographical readings, and prayers, is the public liturgical prayer of the Church, destined by her for the sanctification of specific parts of the day. This article treats the meaning, history, and renewal of the Liturgy of the Hours in the Roman rite.
Overview. Without frequent and fervent prayer the life of the Christian soon can easily become directionless and empty. In the absence of communal prayer, relying solely on private devotion, Christian witness becomes individualistic and ultimately devoid of any ecclesial sense. The development of the Liturgy of the Hours (or Divine Office) through the ages was predicated on the necessity for Christians to gather as often as possible not only to sanctify the day through the celebration of various hours, but to strengthen the community's capacity and resolve to give witness to Christ as the gathered faithful. So "like all liturgical celebrations, the Liturgy of the Hours is not a private act. As a public sign of the Church, it belongs to the whole Church and has impact on all its members" (General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours 20). By its very nature the Liturgy of the Hours is a communal action of the Church, since it is the Church's daily round of prayer celebrated in common. Private recitation of any or all of the hours is always exceptional rather than normative. The primary responsibility of "those in sacred orders or with a special canonical mission" is to direct and preside over the prayer of the community (ibid. 23). As the prayer of the Church, the Liturgy of the Hours is a common prayer that is much more than the sum total of individual prayers of the participants; it is the result of that transcendent reality uniting all the faithful among themselves. During the exercise of this prayer, the ecclesia is reunited as such in Christ.
The distribution of the Office throughout the day is the Church's response to the Lord's commandment to pray always (Lk 18.1). The words of the Psalmist, "Seven times a day I praise you" (Ps 119.164), inspired development of the hours. The two moments of the rising and setting of the sun were the first chosen for prayers—lauds (Morning Prayer) and vespers (Evening Prayer). The divisions formerly marking the day served to determine the minor hours of Terce, Sext, and None, at the third, sixth and ninth hour respectively. To imitate Christ's example and to follow His teachings, there was established a night Office (matins) divided into several nocturns, a remnant of the ancient divisions of the night. Very early in the Church, the memory of a moment of the Passion was linked with each of these hours; in some countries, the memory of the great stages of salvation history was added to them. Such a prayer retains its full meaning in the traditional organization of the Office when the latter is celebrated at the liturgical hours. However, when it is recited at any time of the day or anticipated before its prescribed time, it loses much of its value and efficacy for those who recite it.
History. The prayer of the first Christians had its roots in Jewish prayer. From the first centuries there were three kinds of prayer: morning and evening prayers, day prayers, and night prayers. Only the first two were practiced regularly by the Christian community; they were liturgical—as the others could have been—when they were celebrated by the local ecclesia under the authority of the bishop. These services, inasmuch as they were public, were composed of hymns, prayers, and readings, accompanied by explanations or exhortations. In the 3d century, the Psalms of the Old Testament were permanently adopted and sung in a responsorial manner.
After Constantine recognized the Church's place in society (313), the Church organized her prayer by establishing the times of celebration and determining the formulas to be used. Two tendencies were brought to bear on this. The first came from cathedral or parish communities, the other from monastic communities' and led to two types of cursus for the Office.
The monks who led a cenobitic life were the first to organize a complete Office with determined times for the reunions of the community and with established formulas and the recitation of the whole Psalter. Nocturnal prayer was the most characteristic use of monasticism, whence vigils were introduced in the churches, first in the East and then in the West. The most ancient monastic cursus known to us are those of Jerusalem, Lower Egypt, Palestine, Gaul, St. Basil, St. John Chrysostom, St. Caesarius, St. Columban, the Regula Magistri, and St. Benedict. For the last two the Office is complete and daily; the monks are obliged to take part in it, and, if they cannot, they must recite it privately.
In cathedral and parish churches, on the contrary, the community, with the presidency and active collaboration of the different orders of the clergy, celebrated each day a simpler Office (the so-called "cathedral Office") that was usually composed of Lauds and Vespers. Between the 5th and 9th centuries, the liturgies received their permanent structure. We know little about the primitive Roman Office, but we must distinguish between that of the tituli (the presbyteral churches) and that of the basilicas (cared for by more or less regular communities). The latter Office probably served as model for St. Benedict's Rule. In these basilica communities, the Office was composed of Psalms, antiphons, readings from Scripture and the Fathers, responsories, and, in certain churches as well as in monasteries, of hymns. The anniversaries of martyrs and confessors began to be celebrated at their tombs by means of a votive Office that was without relationship to the Office of the day.
From the end of the 6th century, at the time of St. Gregory the Great, the liturgy of the basilica was spread to the rest of Rome and even further: to Gaul, England, and Germany. The Office of the Roman basilicas thus became that of the clergy of those countries. Then in the middle of the 8th century, the complete cursus of all the hours, including the lengthy Matins, became general practice, and the clerics were obliged to participate in it entirely. The kind of canonical life necessary for this celebration received its organization principally from St. Chrodegang (d. 766) and the Council of Aix-la-Chapelle (816). With Pepin the Short (751 to 768), the Frankish monarchy openly favored, and Charlemagne sought to impose officially, the adoption of the Roman uses in his Empire. Amalarius and the schola cantorum of the Church of Metz played an important part in the correction and diffusion of the Antiphonary of the Roman Office. Taken as a whole, the Office also underwent certain adaptations and additions such as the chapter Office, supplementary psalms after each hour, offices such as those of the dead and the Blessed Virgin, and several commemorations and preces. All these additions burdened the Office; decadence was the result. In the 10th century an attempt was made to shorten the old Office, especially by reducing the psalmody and the readings of Matins.
As early as the 11th century there appeared the first signs of a reform that was to be accentuated with the renaissance of the 12th century and the Gregorian reform. On the one hand, the common life of clerics and the solemn choral celebration of the Office were gradually abandoned. On the other hand, the Office of the Papal Curia began to take shape, and all the elements of the Office were gathered in a single book, the breviary. The Office of the Curia was adopted and propagated by the Friars Minor, and private recitation of the Office spread. Little change was made in the old texts, but numerous ad libitum sections disappeared. Moreover, trends in spirituality had great repercussions on the evolution of the Office; they were manifest in the multiplying of feasts and historical legends and by the diminishing of the number of readings as well as of certain old elements little in accord with the devotions then characteristic of piety. Finally, in the 13th century, canonists and theologians began to justify the practice of private recitation.
Tridentine Reform. In the 16th century, the necessity for a reform was felt because of all the successive but somewhat confused transformations of the Office. Clement VII gave Cardinal Francisco de quiÑones the responsibility of preparing a new breviary with a simpler office that would be more in conformity with tradition and historical truth. His work first appeared in 1535. It contained a completely new organization of the Office, but the old texts were hardly modified, except for the historical readings. However, it was attacked by theologians and suppressed by the Council of Trent. A new edition of the Roman Breviary was prepared by a pontifical commission and was published in 1568 by Pius V who imposed it on all churches that did not possess a liturgy at least 200 years old. The printing press was a powerful instrument for its rapid diffusion. This edition was characterized by a reduction of the calendar, the hour of Prime, the preces, and the supplementary offices.
At the end of the 16th century, the Jesuits were the first religious order to abandon the choral celebration of the Office, and their theologian, F. Suárez, taught that the obligation bore directly on private recitation. Thus the latter became the rule for the secular clergy and the modern congregations. In the 17th and 18th centuries, a certain number of churches, especially in France and Germany, readopted and corrected their old liturgies. Benedict XIV decided to reform the Breviary, but he died before realizing his project.
In 1911 Pius X began a reform of the Office by redistributing the Psalms throughout the week—shortening the lengthy Matins of Sunday, giving Sundays precedence over numerous feasts, and favoring the Office of the feria before that of feasts of inferior rank. The reform was furthered in 1955 and 1960 to favor the "temporal" Office and to obtain greater simplification.
Vatican Council II. In calling for a systematic and comprehensive reform of the liturgy of the Roman rite, Vatican Council II was motivated by deep pastoral concern. The aim of the entire endeavor was to enable Catholics once again to recognize the liturgy of the entire Church as the ritual expression of their union with Christ, and thus be moved to participate in it more actively, intelligently, and fruitfully. The same pastoral solicitude which prompted modification of the Mass, the other Sacraments, and the Calendar, was no less operative in the revision of the Divine Office—now called the Liturgy of the Hours. As plainly stated in the conciliar document Sacrosanctum Concilium on the sacred liturgy, the Office was to be reformed in order that it "may be better and more worthily prayed in existing circumstances" (art. 87; Abbott, Documents, 164).
In the estimation of the Council fathers, the chief obstacle to prayerful recitation of the Divine Office was the widespread practice of not observing the component Hours at their proper times, thereby frustrating the whole purpose of the Office, which is to sanctify the various moments of the day and night. To some extent this practice was caused by a conflict between the Office as it was then constituted and the demands of active ministry in the modern world. The Hours were simply too numerous to be prayed separately and in order; hence the almost inevitable urge to bundle them together. Furthermore, the length and arrangement of certain Hours militated against their being observed at the appointed times. But an inadequate theology of the Office, coupled with poor understanding of the psalms and other biblical elements, were also responsible for the Breviary being considered merely as an undifferentiated body of official prayers to be read within a 24-hour period by clerics in major orders and solemnly professed religious.
Recognizing this unfortunate state of affairs, the Council stipulated that "the traditional sequence of the Hours is to be restored so that as far as possible they may once again be genuinely related to the time of day at which they are prayed" (Sacrosanctum Concilium 88; Abbott, Documents, 164). To this end, Lauds and Vespers, consecrating the morning and evening, respectively, were to be celebrated as the two chief Hours around which the rest of the Office turns. Prime, a second morning prayer, was to be suppressed. The minor Hours of Terce, Sext, and None were to be retained only in choir. Outside of choir one of the three was to be selected as a prayer during the work day. It has been termed the Middle Hour. Compline was to be maintained as a prayer before going to bed. Matins, originally a night vigil, and hence the most problematic of all the Hours, was to be transformed into an atemporal Hour, now known as the Office of Readings, suitable for use at any time of day or night. In addition, the Council recommended that the component elements of the various Hours be revised. In particular, psalms were to be distributed over a longer period than I week; readings and hymns were to be more judiciously chosen and arranged.
Responsibility for the actual revision of the Office lay, of course, with the postconciliar liturgical commission and later with the Congregation for Divine Worship. The results of their work were disclosed on Feb. 2, 1971, with the publication of the General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours, accompanied by the Apostolic Constitution of Pope Paul VI, Laudis canticum. The General Instruction was placed at the head of the four volumes containing the texts of the new Office. It must not, however, be equated with the General Rubrics which introduced the Breviary of Pius V. Although it describes the external format of the Hours and tells how they should be executed, it also explains their theological significance. By doing so it intends to impart a spirit, to arouse and shape an attitude, to orient an approach to the Office and so facilitate its being prayed more profitably. Fruitful celebration of the Hours was after all the goal toward which the reform was directed. The objective of the General Instruction on the Liturgy of the Hours, then, is no different from that of the General Instruction on the Roman Missal.
Theology. The renewed appreciation of the Divine Office is unmistakably evident in the new term applied to it by the General Instruction: Liturgia Horarum, the Liturgy of the Hours. This designation emphasizes, first, that the Office is a liturgical act in the full sense and, second, that it is intimately bound to periods of time. As liturgy it is by nature a public and communal action of the entire people of God, faithful as well as clergy. Hence private recitation by individual clerics, though praiseworthy, is seen to be far from satisfactory. Besides referring to the action itself, the phrase Liturgy of the Hours also serves as the title of the volumes containing the texts to be employed in the celebration of the Hours. Thus the term Breviary, with all its semantic ambiguity and impropriety, has been resolutely discarded. In the not too distant past praying the Office was habitually spoken of as reading the Breviary. The changed vocabulary of the General Instruction clearly implies that the Liturgy of the Hours involves more than dutifully scanning a little book.
Building on the encyclical mediator dei of Pius XII and the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, the General Instruction on the Liturgy of the Hours teaches that all Christian prayer is the prolongation of Christ's prayer, the principle characteristics of which are praise and intercession. The Eucharist, the other Sacraments, and the Divine Office are simply various modes whereby the Church, as Spirit-filled body of the risen Lord, is united with its Head in His one great act of glorifying the Father and pleading with Him for the needs of mankind. While the Office is a preparation for the Eucharist as well as an extension of it, it also renders present in its own way the same reality which lies at the heart of the Eucharist: the sacrifice of Christ.
Understood as a continuation of Christ's priestly work in the Church, the celebration of the Hours is no longer considered a form of liturgy belonging primarily to those in Holy Orders or solemn vows. It is recommended to all the faithful on the basis of their baptismal union with Christ. This is a most important development and presumes no slight evolution in ecclesiology. Ecclesial sensitivity is maintained throughout the General Instruction. In treating those who celebrate the Liturgy of the Hours, for example, the Instruction first discusses communal celebrations involving bishop, priests, and faithful, or various groups within the Church; only then does it take up the subject of private observance by individuals.
The obligation of ordained ministers to pray the Office is likewise presented in an ecclesial perspective:
The Liturgy of the Hours is entrusted to sacred ministers in a special way so that it is to be recited by each of them—with the necessary adaptations—even when the people are not present. The Church deputes them to say the Liturgy of the Hours in order that at least through them the duty of the whole community may be constantly and continuously fulfilled and the prayer of Christ may persevere unceasingly in the Church [General Instruction 28].
This obligation, however, should not be interpreted casuistically. Nor should it engender scruples. In reciting the whole sequence of the Hours each day, ministers should preserve "as far as possible the genuine relationship of the Hours to the time of day" (General Instruction 29). Presumably there is no obligation to recite the Hours at inappropriate times. Furthermore, the Instruction recognizes that all the Hours are not of equal weight. Lauds and Vespers are more important than the others and should not be omitted except for serious reason (General Instruction 29). The implication is that other Hours may be omitted for less than serious reason.
Structure. With few notable exceptions the general structure of each Hour is the same: opening verse, hymn, psalms, reading, and concluding prayer.
The first office of the day opens with an invitatory consisting of the verse "Lord, open my lips; and my mouth shall proclaim your praise," and Psalm 94. Subsequent Hours begin with the verse "O God come to my aid; Lord, hasten to help me." Instead of being linked to one particular Hour regardless of the time at which it is said, the invitatory now serves as a call to praise at the beginning of the day. This, after all, is its true function.
At every Hour a hymn follows the introductory verse. Besides being particularly well suited to popular participation, the hymn immediately directs attention to the spirit of the Hour or feast. Episcopal conferences are authorized to secure vernacular adaptations of the Latin hymns given in the typical edition of the Liturgy of the Hours and to introduce other appropriate compositions.
Lauds includes a morning psalm, an Old Testament cantitle, and a psalm of praise. At Vespers there are two psalms followed by a canticle from the Epistles or the Book of Revelation. Although Old Testament canticles always found place in the Divine Office, the use of canticles drawn from the Epistles and the Book of Revelation is an innovation. Psalmody at the Middle Hour usually consists of three sections of Psalm 118, or three gradual psalms. The Office of Readings also includes three psalms. One or two psalms expressing trust in God are chosen for Compline each night. Psalms 4, 90, and 133, traditional at this Hour, figure among them.
In keeping with the recommendation of the Council fathers, psalms are now distributed over a period of four weeks rather than one. Compared to the Roman Breviary the number of psalms presently employed at any Hour is reduced. Far from minimizing the importance of the Psalter, the new arrangement is intended to encourage a slower, more prayerful pondering of the sacred texts. The Liturgy of the Hours furnishes three aids for this purpose. First, each psalm bears a title indicating its general theme. A phrase from the New Testament or the Fathers is added to the title in order to evoke a specifically Christian interpretation of the Psalm. Second, a collection of psalmprayers is provided in a supplementary volume of the Liturgy of the Hours. These prayers enable the content and application of a given psalm to be savored in the form of a short oration. Third, each psalm is prefaced by an antiphon. As explained in the General Instruction,
The antiphons help to illustrate the literary character of the psalm; turn the psalm into personal prayer; place in better light a phrase worthy of attention which may otherwise be missed; give special colour to a psalm in differing circumstances; while excluding arbitrary accommodations, help considerably in the typological and festive interpreting of the psalm; and can make more attractive and varied the recitation of the psalms .
In the past psalmody had been a serious stumbling block on the path of many who took up the Breviary. It would be foolish to think that the aids mentioned above will automatically eliminate the problem. Appreciation of the psalms must be acquired by systematic study, and by surrender to the Spirit who inspired them. This is plainly enunciated in Numbers 100 to 109 of the General Instruction, which comment on the role of the psalms and their close relationship with Christian prayer.
Turning to the reading material of the Office, Lauds and Vespers provide a choice between two types of Scripture reading: short and long. The short readings are not mere snippits from the Epistle of the day's Mass as were many capitula of the Roman Breviary. They are carefully selected to highlight certain brief but noteworthy sayings which claim less attention when they form part of more ample pericopes. The longer reading is recommended for celebration with the people, in which case, a homily may be added. The Middle Hour and Compline always have short readings. Two long readings are given for the Office of Readings. The first is scriptural; the second is taken from the Fathers, modern authors, or the lives of the saints. At Lauds and Vespers the customary Gospel canticles succeed the readings.
Formerly every Hour of the Office ended in identical fashion: Kyrie, Lord's Prayer, oration of the Mass. The Liturgy of the Hours modifies this pattern. It suppresses the Kyrie, reserves the Lord's Prayer for Lauds and Vespers, and allows considerable diversity in the final oration. The most significant change, however, is the return of intercessions before the Our Father at Lauds and Vespers. Petitions (Latin: preces) on behalf of all were a characteristic feature of morning and evening prayer in ancient times. They took the form of a litany, the response to which was usually Kyrie eleison. With the passage of time the intentions disappeared, leaving only a thrice-repeated cry for mercy. Thus the restoration of intercessions is consistent with the suppression of the Kyrie.
Parish Catechesis on the Liturgy of the Hours. The obligation of bishops, priests, and deacons to pray the hours is linked to their duty to assure the celebration of this liturgy by local communities, particularly on Sundays and solemnities. Deacons and priests, together with parish liturgy planning teams, were encouraged to devise programs of creative catechesis and implementation of the Liturgy of the Hours, aware of the possibilities and needs of the particular parish. Pastoral adaptation of the hours, as well as parish catechesis on the Office, drew its direction from the General Instruction on the Liturgy of the Hours, a theological and pastoral document.
Parishes learned from experience in the implementation of new liturgical rites that catechesis was not only desirable but necessary before and during that implementation. While the Liturgy of the Hours, particularly Morning and Evening Prayer, did not represent a great innovation, American Catholics did not have much experience with this form of common prayer, especially the common recitation or singing of the Psalms. Experience with the Responsorial Psalm in the Eucharistic Liturgy demonstrated the need for a thorough-going catechesis on the nature of the Psalms, the tradition of their use in the Church's liturgy, and the various forms of singing them. Thus instruction on psalmody benefited the celebration of the Eucharist as well as the Office. The General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours provided a sound basis for parish catechesis since it offered a pastoral theology of the praying Church. Central is the relationship between prayer and witness: "When one takes part in the Liturgy of the Hours, he contributes in a hidden way to the growth of God's people, for he makes the apostolate more fruitful" (ibid. 18). Frequent communal prayer is therefore intrinsic to parish life, for such prayer strengthens and nourishes the resolve of the Church to persevere in its witness to Christ in the world. "Prayer is of the very essence of the Church. The Church is a community and should express in prayer its communal nature" (ibid. 19). Some of the following principles and themes might be included in a parish catechesis:
(1) the relationship of communal prayer and Christian witness (ibid. 19);
(2) the consecration of time and the sanctification of the Church (ibid. 10–11, 14);
(3) the Liturgy of the Hours as preparation for the Eucharist (ibid. 12);
(4) participation in Christ's priestly work of praise (ibid. 13, 15–16);
(5) developing the prayer of supplication and intercession (ibid. 17);
(6) the Psalms as Christian prayer, and the nature of psalmody (ibid. 100–109, 121–139);
(7) the place of God's Word, its reading, and celebration in the life of the Church (ibid. 140–158);
(8) the nature of the various hours of prayer, and the intrinsic importance of Morning and Evening Prayer;
(9) the celebration of the liturgical year through the Liturgy of the Hours.
These are only some of the themes with which a pastoral catechesis on the Liturgy of the Hours might deal. The General Instruction is rich in a great variety of subjects that clergy were encouraged to study carefully.
Pastoral Considerations in the Implementation of the Hours. "Perhaps the most difficult and challenging task is to make the liturgy of the hours in fact and practice, as well as in theory and doctrine, the prayer of the entire Church" (United States Bishops' Committee on the Liturty, A Call to Prayer ). Extraordinary efforts are indeed required to implement the celebration of the communal prayer of the Church. Likewise hard pastoral questions regarding the priority of prayer in individual parishes need to be asked. One such question involves scheduling. Given the pastoral practice of daily Eucharists, for example, when does one schedule and celebrate Morning and Evening Prayer, "the hinges of the Office," in a local parish?
(1) Scheduling the Hours. Obviously the most important days for celebrating the hours are Sundays and solemnities; secondarily, feasts and weekdays. The greatest obstacle, oddly enough, is the multiplicity of Masses on those days. Parishes need to reexamine their Mass schedules in order to strike a proper balance between the principles of convenience and the presence of a community at the Eucharist. Too often in large urban or suburban parishes weekday and Sunday Eucharists are multiplied in the name of convenience for the people, when in fact very few people are present at certain celebrations, especially in the early morning hours. The question of stipends and support of the clergy, a legitimate concern, frequently intervenes in the problem of scheduling. The Eucharist needs to be scheduled according to need and the actual presence of an assembly. Once that is accomplished, Morning and Evening Prayer may take their proper places. The liturgical day ought to begin, especially on Sundays, with Morning Prayer and conclude with Evening Prayer. For example, Sundays might begin with Evening Prayer I ("First Vespers") on Saturday before the anticipated Masses and might be celebrated as a vigil to prepare those who are present for the Sunday Eucharist. Late Sunday evening may seem more suitable nowadays for the celebration of Evening Prayer II, rather than late afternoon as in the past. However, this may vary from place to place.
(2) Which Hours to Celebrate? As Morning and Evening Prayer are the hinges of the Church's daily round of prayer, they are naturally the most important of all when scheduling the celebration of the hours. However, the other hours of the Office should find some place in a parish's prayer life. Daytime Prayer (mid-morning, midday, or mid-afternoon) and Night Prayer (Compline) are as easily celebrated by small groups as they are by large groups. Rather than beginning a parish meeting "with a prayer," one of the hours might be recited or sung. Thus an evening parents' meeting might end with Night Prayer; a school faculty meeting in the afternoon might end or begin with one of the daytime hours. Even on a diocesan level, those who plan meetings and congresses ought seriously to consider solemn celebration of one of the hours instead of the Eucharist, especially on weekends; in this way people are not taken away from their parish Eucharistic celebration. Even the Office of Readings can be profitably celebrated in a parish on important occasions, since it enables people to delve more deeply into the Scripture and become acquainted with the rich theological tradition which the second reading of that Office represents. Marian, Eucharistic, and other devotions can be carefully joined to the celebration of some of the hours from time to time.
(3) Who Leads the Celebration of the Hours? Those who are obliged to the Office also have the responsibility to lead the people in its celebration. Thus priests and deacons, and even the bishop in his cathedral, should lead in the celebration of each of the hours. However, the leadership of prayer in the celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours is not limited to those in Orders. Lay men and women and religious should be trained in the ministry of prayer-leadership to assure the daily celebration of the hours. Families should likewise be encouraged to pray the hours at home, especially Morning, Evening and/or Night Prayer.
(4) Participation Materials. The publication of materials suitable for the celebration of the hours is still in process. While the four-volume edition of the Liturgy of the Hours, and its one-volume excerpt, Christian Prayer, are available, these are too expensive for most parishes. However, excerpts from the hours are being published (e.g., Shorter Christian Prayer ) and made available. Parish liturgy committees should investigate what is available.
(5) Musical Choices. In celebrating any of the hours, planners ought to keep in mind certain principles with regard to music. Obviously the hymn which begins Morning or Evening Prayer must be sung and must reflect the character of the feast. A choice must be made with regard to psalmody, to sing or not to sing the Psalms, to use Psalm tones (e.g. Gregorian, Anglican, Gélineau, etc.), or metric Psalms. If Psalm tones are chosen, then the type of psalmody is important; responsorial, antiphonal, or indirectum. While the Psalms need not be sung on weekdays, it would seem inappropriate merely to recite them on Sundays and solemnities. In parish celebration consideration ought to be given to the question of using a constant repertory of Psalms, rather than varying them every day. As with the Eucharist, care, planning and competent musical leadership are required. The simplest of chants are quite accessible to most congregations nowadays and ought not to be rejected out of hand as too difficult or out of date. Music in the Liturgy of the Hours is not ornamental—the Psalms are songs before all else—for the "sung celebration of the Divine Office is the form which best accords with the nature of this prayer" (General Instruction of the Liturgy of Hours 268).
(6) Ritual Elements in the Celebration of the Hours. The celebration of any of the hours may be as simple or as elaborate as the needs of a particular community or occasion may require. The use of such ritual elements as water, light, incense, flowers, processional banners, vestments, or electronic media (e.g., visuals) ought carefully to be integrated in the celebration of the Office and in the proper places. For example, the use of incense is traditional during the singing of the Magnificat or Benedictus. At times incense may be used as a penitential act in the celebration of Evening Prayer. A light service or lucernarium can sometimes be joined to Evening Prayer as well, just as a rite of sprinkling to recall Baptism might find a occasional place in Morning Prayer.
(7) Other Occasions in Celebrating the Hours Solemnly. There are many occasions when the Liturgy of the Hours ought to be celebrated with solemnity, not as an alternative to the Eucharist, but rather as more fitting than the Eucharist. (a) At ecumenical gatherings, such as are held during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity or on Thanksgiving Day, Christians from many different backgrounds can draw on the common tradition of Morning or Evening Prayer of the various Churches to create a truly ecumenical and unifying service of prayer. Many of the Churches are in the process of revising or already have revised their rites for the Liturgy of the Hours. These revisions, as with the Roman Catholic reform of the Office, are based on the common tradition and demonstrate an already achieved liturgical unity. Thus an ecumenical gathering ought to be celebrated in this Liturgy that all can call their own and in which unity may already be perceived. (b) During the seasons of Advent, Epiphany, Lent, and Easter special celebrations of Morning or Evening Prayer, or even the Office of Readings, might be adapted without prejudice to the normal celebration of the hours or the Eucharist. For example, on the third Sunday of Advent the celebration of Evening Prayer might be lengthened and adapted to resemble a ceremony of lessons and carols. An Evening Prayer in Lent might be joined to a celebration of the Stations of the Cross. Evening Prayer on the feast of the Epiphany might include a dramatic reading or dramatization (through dance, mime, etc.) of the theophany of the Messiah. During Eastertide, a longer Office of Readings might be devised for the neophytes during their mystagogia, stressing the communal nature of their newly acquired faith. Such adaptations, of course, ought to be accomplished without doing harm to the course of prayer or the liturgical year as provided in the liturgical books and must be carefully planned.
The Liturgy of the Hours as Family Prayer. The need for families to pray together is important not only that children might grow up in an atmosphere of prayer and devotion, but also because through prayer a family can find nourishment for its faith and strength for its unity. The Liturgy of the Hours does provide, especially in the "little hours" (Daytime Prayer and Night Prayer), a varying form of prayer for parents and children that is adaptable to the needs of each particular family. Members of the family can participate in Night Prayer, for example, in a variety of ways. The Psalm is constant for each day of the week. The Nunc dimittis (Canticle of Simeon) is unchanging. After a while these invariables can be learned by heart and become a part of each person's "repertory" of prayer. The Marian antiphons at the end of Night Prayer, like the opening hymn, can be easily sung by a family. Prayerful silence is likewise learned from this prayer, as is a sense of penitence and reflection on the day's activities during the examination of conscience. Instead of a hastily recited formula for grace before meals, Prayer at Midday might be recited in common around the table before the start of Sunday dinner. The celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours by a family has many merits, e.g. familiarity and use of the Psalms as Christian prayer, the singing of simple hymns, but most of all the development of prayer in the life of a child that prepares the child for Sunday worship and eventually for Christian witness.
Communal Prayer and Personal Prayer. The goal of the Liturgy of the Hours is the development and growth of a praying Church, a Church united to the communion of saints who worship in the presence of God. Communal prayer ultimately develops an intense life of personal prayer. The Liturgy of the Hours will always need to be adapted; thus Paul VI noted that the 1971 revision has provided "various forms of celebration that can be accomodated to the various groups, with their differing needs" (Paul VI, Laudis Canticum 1). There is no opposition between communal and personal prayer, especially when the latter draws its nourishment from the former. "When the prayer of the the Office becomes real personal prayer, then the bonds that unite Liturgy and the whole of Christian life are manifested more clearly. The whole life of the faithful, during the single hours of the day and the night, constitutes a leitourgia, as it were, with which they offer themselves in a service of love to God and to men, adhering to the action of Christ, who, by staying among us and offering himself, sanctified the lives of all men" (ibid. 8).
See Also: compline; little office of the bvm; little hours; office of the dead; matins; lauds; vespers; breviary, roman.
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j. a. gurrieri/eds.]