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Liturgy of the Hours

Since the Liturgy of the Hours is the means of sanctifying the day, the order of prayer was revised so the canonical hours could more easily be related to the hours of the day in the circumstances of modern life.”  (Paul VI, Laudis Canticum [Apostolic Constitution], November 1, 1970)

Definition

The Liturgy of the Hours (Divine Office, Breviary) is a form of public prayer in the Church to praise God and sanctify the day. It is a means to renew and vivify all Christian prayer and serves to nourish the spiritual life of the People of God.

The Liturgy is composed primarily of psalms and canticles that follow a four-week cycle, and it is prayed at specific times (“hours”) during each day. Since the Council of Vatican II, it has become the practice to "call" the laity to recite Lauds (Morning Prayer) and Vespers (Evening Prayer). Morning prayer helps us consecrate the work of the day to God. Evening prayer concludes our day with a series of intercessions for the People of God and then closes with the Our Father. 

History

As with the majority of prayer forms, this one also comes from Jewish synagogue prayer, through prayers of private devotion, and from two related but distinct public prayers: parish or cathedral celebrations, and monastic prayer forms recited in monasteries for centuries.

The two were merged in The Breviary of the Council of Trent (1568) and became the norm for the Liturgy of the Hours until Vatican II allowed for adaptations that would better suit the variety of Communities who pray the Hours today.  (Adapted from The New Dictionary of Catholic Spirituality, ed. by Michael Downey, Liturgical Press, 1993.) 

Resources

     Church Documents

  • Laudis Canticum” Apostolic Constitution, Paul VI, 1970.

     Books
    
(Each of these provides a variation on the form of the Liturgy of the Hours.)

  • Seven Sacred Places, Macrina Wiederkehr, Green Press, 2008.
  • A Book of Hours, using Henri Nouwen writings, Robert Waldrum, Seabury Press, 2009.
  • A Book of Hours, using Thomas Merton writings, Kathleen Deigman, Green Press, 2007.

     Website

  • www.universalis.com   Note: This site prints the Liturgy of the Hours for each day and also includes a history of the development of the Liturgy of the Hours.

Nurturing Devotion

  • Spend 15 minutes on the website named above to learn how to use the site to pray the Hours and to discover the richness of this daily prayer.
  • During Advent and Lent, many parishes offer the opportunity to pray the Liturgy of the Hours. Evening Prayer (Vespers) is often said weekly. Ask around to see where you may attend the Liturgy of the Hours or form a small group yourself.