When I recite the Liturgy of the Hours, the prayer of the Church Universal, I have noticed that there is a growth from just “saying the Divine Office” to that of “having the Liturgy of the Hours be the occasion where I stand before Christ and am the words I recite.” Here are a few thoughts about Liturgy of the Hours from a broken-down, old Lay Cistercian.
I SAY THE DIVINE OFFICE: I can recite the words in the Liturgy of the Hours either publically or privately. My point is this, I approach the Divine Office with this lowest level of spiritual awareness without much thought with more obedience to the externals of reading the words. I can go deeper when I am aware that the Holy Spirit is there whenever anyone recites this Office, no matter where they are, no matter what their faith persuasion is, no matter what their level of spiritual awareness. There is one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, and we join together whenever we say this public prayer of the Body of Christ to say Jesus is Lord.
I PRAY THE DIVINE OFFICE: Growing in my capacitas dei (more Christ and less me), I am aware that the words are prayer for me, a vehicle for me to stand in the presence of Christ Jesus and give glory and praise to the Father through the Son, using the power of the Holy Spirit. Both the Eucharist and the Liturgy of the Hours are public prayers, those which bind us together with Christ as we lift our hearts and minds to God. The Liturgy of the Hours is the perfect vehicle to use for this Catholic Universal prayer. We lift our minds and hearts to be next to the heart of Christ in prayer. St. Benedict wrote his Rule to elaborate on praying the Liturgy of the Hours for the monks. Each day is a prayer unto itself based on the Calendar of Saints. Preserve for centuries in the Church, it is our collective reparation for the sins of omission and commission that individuals and the Church make in our quest to have in us the mind of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:5).
I SHARE WHAT I PRAY: Nothing that comes from God does so without transforming the reality around it. We may not see any change happening when we pray together. Remember that where two or three are gathered in His name, there Christ is present. This awareness allows the Holy Spirit to get our attention. This awareness is an act of our will to choose God at the moment rather than our comfort. Liturgy of the Hours depends I do this and do not seek my comfort by watching an NFL rerun of Green Bay Packers. My choices have consequences. Sharing is at the center of what love is. God shared Himself through Christ. He shared Himself by overshadowing Mary to prepare humanity to receive the inconceivable. His death on the cross and resurrection paid the price of our redemption and allowed us to become adopted sons and daughters of the Father. He shares how to go to Heaven and be happy and fulfilled as a human being by being aware on earth of what Heaven is like right now. One of those ways is the Liturgy of the Hours and other Cistercian practices. I am obliged to share with others as Christ did with me.
I ENTER INTO THE WORDS OF THE LITURGY OF THE HOURS AND FEEL WHAT THE AUTHOR OF THE PSALMS MEANT: This awareness means when I pray, “Out of the depths, I cry to you, O Lord. Hear my prayer,” that “I” is me right now. I feel the words as my words. I open myself to the transformation from words the world uses to that of the Word. These are not just the words of the author but my words, with my cry for mercy and forgiveness, with my situations.
READ A PSALM FOR THE FEELING Psalm 130
A song of ascents.
Out of the depths* I call to you, LORD;
2Lord, hear my cry!
May your ears be attentive
to my cry for mercy.a
3If you, LORD, keep account of sins,
Lord, who can stand?b
4But with you is forgiveness
and so you are revered.*
5I wait for the LORD,
my soul waits
and I hope for his word.c
6My soul looks for the Lord
more than sentinels for daybreak.d
More than sentinels for daybreak,
7let Israel hope in the LORD,
For with the LORD is mercy,
with him is plenteous redemption,e
8And he will redeem Israel
from all its sins.f
Try to focus on feeling the words of the Psalmist as your own.