LITURGY OF THE HOURS FOR BEGINNERS (like myself)

Liturgy of the Hours is a cornerstone Cistercian practice that I perform each day to place me in the presence of Christ. I don’t say prayers to become holy, rather I am holy because these prayers allow me to open my heart to Christ. It is Christ who is holy. It is only through, with, and in Him that I can approach the Father with fitting praise and glory using the energy of the Holy Spirit. This is a page that will offer you the Lay Cistercian practices that I do each day and some additional commentary on the official prayer of the Universal Church, the Divine Office. Some of you may wish to begin the discipline of the daily recitation of one or more of the seven hours of this public prayer. I am not advocating that you do these practices. Rather, I am sharing what I do as one who tries to adapt the Rule of St. Benedict as interpreted by Cistercian practices and charisms and the constitutions of the Cistercian Order (Trappist), as I understand it. I offer these as no expert in anything but as one who tries to seek God every day using silence, solitude, work, prayer, and practice to move from my sinful self to having in me the mind of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:5).

PRAYING THE LITURGY OF THE HOURS DAILY — If you wish to begin to recite the Liturgy of the Hours in your life, I recommend that you begin with the Morning Prayer. An excellent on-line source for the Liturgy of the Hours is http://www.divineoffice.org. With this daily site, you can recite the Morning Prayer by reading it off of your home computer or cell phone. Take your time in learning about the Liturgy of the Hours, it has been taking shape since the time of St. Benedict and his Rule (c. 540 a.d.).

http://www.divineoffice.org

FIVE PRACTICES THAT HAVE HELPED ME COMMIT TO PRAYING THE LITURGY OF THE HOURS

  1. When I think of prayer as part of my Lay Cistercian principles (silence, solitude, work, prayer, and community), I don’t see it apart from other prayers I do (e.g. Eucharist, the Rosary, Lectio Divina, and Reading Scripture each day), but rather it is inclusive of all of them. There is one prayer.
  2. Each day, I begin my day sitting on the edge of my bed and asking God for mercy for all my sins, failures to see Him in others, and all times I was just plain oblivious of anything except my own needs). I make a commitment to try to do better this day, with God’s grace and the power of the Holy Spirit helping me. This all takes less than one minute. What is important is that I do it every day.
  3. Before I begin my Liturgy of the Hours, I take a second to ask God to be merciful to all those I have included in my Book of Life, those who have died and I had added to this book and for all those in Purgatory and on earth who might need prayers but are not known to me. Think this task is too big for God?
  4. I try to recite three of the seven hours of the divine office each day: invitatory, Office of Readings Morning Prayer, and Evening Prayer. During this COVID-19 shut-down, I recite these hours in private.
  5. I try to be conscious that this is the official public prayer of the Church (along with Eucharist) and that, somewhere in the world, a continuous chant of praise and glory goes to the Father on behalf of all humanity, asking for mercy for the sins of the Church, for forgiveness and reparation for all of our sins, help with the transformation from self to God, and finally to seek the God’s will be done with the presence of the Holy Spirit in this day’s happenings. None of these prayers are limited just to Catholics although the Catholic Universal Church prays them each day.

The music of Gregorian Chant

The following comes from a URL that is a bit squirrely with its selection (e.g. Gnostic hymns), but the rest of it seems to be authentic. If not, I need to know that.

LITURGY OF THE HOURS AS PRAYER

  1. SLOW DOWN — I found out that, if I slow down my praying, especially my verbal prayer, I can focus on the words. The goal in Liturgy of the Hours is not to “get through it” but to pray it so that I can become what I pray. Slow down!
  2. FEEL WHAT YOU PRAY — Once I do slow down and keep from slipping back into racing through prayers, I try to feel what the author writes with the passion with which it is written. Read the verse from Psalm 1 three times. First just to savor the words; secondly, for the ideas as they relate to you; third, to feel what the psalmist felt about God. (I am spacing out the words for you to digest their concepts and feel their meaning for you.)

1 Blessed is the man who does not walk

in the counsel of the wicked,

Nor stand in the way* of sinners,

nor sit in company with scoffers.a

2 Rather, the law of the LORD* is his joy;

and on his law he meditates day and night.b

3. He is like a treec planted near streams of water,

that yields its fruit in season;

Its leaves never wither;

whatever he does prospers.

II

4 But not so are the wicked,* not so!

They are like chaff driven by the wind.d

5 Therefore the wicked will not arise at the judgment,

nor will sinners in the assembly of the just.

6 Because the LORD knows the way of the just,e

but the way of the wicked leads to ruin.

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/psalms/1

3. LINK THE FEELING TO YOUR IMMEDIATE LIFE SITUATION — Just reading the Liturgy of the Hours means I have the reward of completing my prayer. If I don’t lift my mind and heart (feeling) to God through what I pray, I have not reached the purpose of prayer, my transformation into what I read. The Psalms, or any Scripture passage, speaks to me because I ask for the humility to receive the profound meaning it contains and obey the message God wishes me to have. I find that I can read the Psalms five different times and each time receive a completely different meaning, based on what I am doing that day to seek God.

4. EACH DAY I MUST FOCUS WHEN I READ THE LITURGY OF THE HOURS – Because I am an adopted son of the Father, I try to make room for God in my life by making time each day to be with the one I love. The act of struggling to be present to God to the best of my ability is part of my prayer. It is the time I take to prepare and be present to God, even on bad days, or days when I am not feeling well.

5. PRAYING WITH OTHERS IS MY GOAL — During this COVID 19 pandemic, I have not been able to attend the Liturgy of the Hours at our parish. They link their prayers each day (Office of Readings, Morning Prayer, and Evening Prayer) with me at home. The Church Universal also links an unceasing prayer of praise and glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and forever. The God who is, who was and who is to come, till the end of the ages. Amen and Amen. –Cistercian doxology

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