I remember the first time I prayed the Divine Office, or the Liturgy of the Hours. I was a college freshman, on a mission trip in the Bronx, praying with the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal and laughing with homeless men. The book of prayers, with its five ribbons and its changing nature (having to use the ribbons to navigate the different prayers) intrigued me. One of the friars with a kind smile and a small chuckle had to help me every morning as I struggled to keep up. Sitting there, in the darkened chapel, lit only by the early morning light and a few candles, wearing my grimy hoodie and beaten Converse, preparing to catch the subway to the people we would be serving, I felt a deep connection to the very heart of the Church.
The Liturgy of the Hours, as the name suggests, is liturgical, in the sense that it is an action of the Body of Christ. While it is said primarily by priests and religious, the 1983 Code of Canon Law made it clear that laypeople can pray the Divine Office liturgically, even when praying alone. It is a prayer made through and with Christ our high priest and it unites us with the Church Triumphant as they worship God in heaven. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1174): “The mystery of Christ, his Incarnation and Passover, which we celebrate in the Eucharist especially at the Sunday assembly, permeates and transfigures the time of each day, through the celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours.” The Divine Office extends the Liturgy found in the Mass into one’s daily life and activities.
The Divine Office fulfills the Lord’s order to, as it is written in St Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians: “Pray without ceasing.” Many saints have spoken on the importance of making your entire life a prayer, whatever your vocation or state in life might be. If you are a college student, a business woman, a wife, or a mother, you do not have time to sit in Adoration for hours on end. Nor does God want you to. While structured prayer is important and does have a place in the Christian life, the Lord wants more than that. He wants you to make your life and all of the school work, emails, dirty dishes, and smelly diapers that go along with it an offering to Him.
The Divine Office sanctifies your daily activities. It transforms the ordinary into the extraordinary. It raises your everyday life to an experience of God Himself and makes everything you do an act of worship. It furthers reveals your place, your role in Salvation History by weaving together your life and the Paschal Mystery, or Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection; it calls you to be a witness to the Good News with your very life. It orients us toward heaven, where we will pray without ceasing in the unending liturgy.
Reflect: What is God asking you to offer to Him? How can you make your daily life and activities a prayer no matter what your state in life?
Act: Pray either morning, evening, or night prayer of the Divine Office today. If you don’t have a breviary, don’t worry! You can find the Divine Office of several free apps, such as iBrieviary and Laudate.