As some readers of this blog already know, I devoutly recite the Divine Office almost every day. It is a habit that has been growing with me since last September. Therefore, I thought that I would write about this important prayer here and try to explain what it means to me and others who recite.
First of all, the Divine Office is a prayer that is universal and is said by the entire Church. While other devotions may be considered private or local, the Divine Office is recited by the whole of Holy Mother Church every single day. This means that hundred of thousands and millions of priests, religious, and laypeople are praying it together. When one prays the Divine Office, therefore, one can truly say that he or she is praying with the entire Church.
Second of all, the Divine Office is a devotion that grows on you the more you say it. I must confess that I have not been consistent with reciting the Divine Office. I have taken vacations, experimented with various breviaries, and even thought that I could get away from it for a while. With every return, however, this devotion grows on me. Why? There are a variety of reasons for this and some of them are much more easily explained than others.
One of the important things about the Divine Office is that as one prays it daily, one grows in one’s faith and learns about the saints. In the Benedictine breviary I use, there are daily readings from the Scriptures, the Fathers of the Church, and the Gospel of the day. Every day, therefore, there is an opportunity for us to learn about Our Lord, Our Lady, and ourselves. Reciting the Divine Office, therefore, is a way to grow in one’s faith and to understand it better. Indeed, the Divine Office can be seen as a catechism course that one takes one’s entire life.
The Divine Office is also a way for us to be in consistent contact with God. From Matins and Lauds in the morning to Vespers and Compline in the evening, we are constantly uniting ourselves to God and asking His blessing on our work, our sleep, and our daily bread. Indeed, the Divine Office makes the day fulfilling and uniquely consecrated to God. Although many people do not pray the entire Office, there are many religious communities and laypeople that pray Lauds and Vespers since these are the most important parts of the Divine Office.
In the Divine Office, one also comes to understand the psalms in a profound way. The psalms were composed by the Prophet David and his followers centuries ago in Israel. Sometimes, it may be difficult to understand what these particular songs have to do with us or why they are even in the Divine Office. Yet the psalms have always been at the center of the Church’s prayer life. From the time of Jesus and the apostles, the psalms were the cornerstones of their daily prayer. In these 150 hymns, there are petitions for many different purposes and intentions. There psalms that are said for the dying and others that are associated with the coming of the Messiah. Still others petition for help from enemies and victory over them, while others are offered in thanksgiving. Whatever the purpose, the psalms help us to pray because they are written in language that any human being can understand. After all, they discuss our most profound needs and touch upon our deepest desires.
If you are interested in praying the Divine Office, there are many different books that are available. Traditional breviaries tend to sell for high prices on ebay, but you can also find them at one of the book dealers listed in the links of this blog. Failing this, one can pray “Christian Prayer,” which is a one volume short breviary that contains the Office mandated by Pope Paul VI albeit in ICEL translation. Whatever you do, stick with it and God will richly reward you.
Our Lady of the Angels, pray for us!