by Margo Borders
My alarm clock rings. I check my phone; it’s 7am, and I am dazed. Why am I getting up at this hour again? I sit up in bed and peek out my door to see girls quietly shuffling in their pajamas with cups of freshly brewed coffee in their hands down the stairs. I creep down the stairs with them, and we settle in on the couch to start our day together with prayer.
This group of girls on the campus of a fellow Jesuit university is part of the laity in the Church who commits to praying the Liturgy of the Hours, or Divine Office, regularly. I stayed with with them for a week and was surprised when we woke up almost every day of the week at 7am to pray morning prayer. Nowhere else would you find college students more than willing to get up so early to pray together as a way to start their day. Their Catholic community’s tradition of praying together goes back for years and shows the incredible nature of this often unknown Catholic devotion.
Liturgy of the Hours started as a continuation of the Jewish practice of reciting prayers at different hours of the day. The early Christians continued this practice, reciting the psalms and readings from the Old Testament, as well as readings from the Gospels and other New Testament writings. Priests, as well as certain religious orders, undertake the obligation of reciting the Liturgy of the Hours on a daily basis, and it is an optional devotion for the laity. Although the original Divine Office consisted of eight offices, the modern Liturgy of the Hours consists of five offices, three of them being “major hours” that are commonly celebrated. Most people will recite morning prayer, or Lauds, evening prayer, or Vespers, or night prayer, or Compline.
For me, the beauty of the Liturgy of the Hours is the way it punctuates your day with prayer. In 1 Thessalonians, Paul calls us to “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.” In praying the psalms and reflecting on scriptural passages, the Divine Office gives us a way to constantly orient our hearts towards Christ in a concrete way.
Praying the Divine Office also gives us a way to participate in the religious life of the Church. In praying the same prayers as the priests, bishops, and religious around the world, we come into communion with the universal Church. Many saints of the Church have spoken about the graces that the Divine Office bestows. When speaking about the importance of the psalms in the Liturgy of the Hours, St. Alphonsus Marie de Liguori said, “there is no doubt that, when recited with faith and fervor, they merit treasures of grace, according to the infallible promise made by our Lord that he would hear whoever prays to him.”
The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, says the Liturgy of the Hours is “truly the voice of the bride herself addressed to her bridegroom. It is the very prayer which Christ Himself together with His Body addresses to the Father.” As Lent draws to a close, Liturgy of the Hours may be a good way to try to punctuate your day with Christ, to pray unceasingly to Him who is unceasingly with you.