Tomorrow will mark two months since I got serious about praying the Divine Office. Although there have been some interruptions here and there, I have found that my recitation has deepened my spiritual life on several levels.
First of all, the Divine Office has deepened my discernment process. When I began to pray from my Benedictine breviary around Sexagesima Sunday, I was still in a place of wondering. I felt that I was being pulled in two places at once. I was attracted to the Franciscans, while the Benedictine way of life tugged at me from the other end. To put it another way, I was being torn between Martha and Mary. Should I go and devote myself to others or spend my life in contemplation?
By praying with the Benedictines every day by using their Office, I found that it fit perfectly into my own daily life. As I have written elsewhere, the Benedictines try to strike a balance between work and prayer. On the one hand, every Benedictine monastery is involved in some kind of ministry. Yet the Benedictines do not move outside of their monasteries to minister. In fact, the monastery is their home and office although they may have “offices” elsewhere in the world.
The other thing that the Divine Office has taught me is how rich the seasons of the ecclesiastical year are. While many people talk about Lent and Paschaltide, few realize that the Divine Office contains a great deal of food for thought. The Doctors of the Church speak to me daily about the life of Christ and challenge me to live better than I am living now. There is always a Magnificat and Benedictus antiphon that I carry with me throughout the day. Every day, even during an octave, is different because there is something new there. Indeed, the Divine Office rolls in perfect synchronization with the rest of the ecclesiastical year.
It also seems to me that I have gained a deeper appreciation of the psalms also. The psalms are some of the most sublime poems ever written by a human being. Each one contains a kernel of truth about our spiritual lives in Christ. They fill every single need imaginable from complaint to utter joy. In the psalms, we find reflections of our own selves as well as those of others.
Praying the psalms does not mean reciting a poem endlessly, but rather entering into a deep state of meditation. Since the Benedictines recite the entire psalter in one week, one is constantly coming back to the same texts over and over again. Yet every time one returns, there is always something new there. Even in familiar psalms, there is something to be gained. During Holy Week, the entirety of Psalm 119 was read during the Little Hours. How beautiful it was as I meditated on Our Lord’s suffering. Suddenly, it made perfect sense.
The Divine Office is a tool to deepen our relationship with Christ and to understand Him. Of course, other people will prefer saying chaplets or meditation. Yet the Divine Office has always been the liturgical prayer par excellence. When one recites it devoutly, one truly is praying with the Church.
Our Lady of the Angels, pray for us!
St. Benedict, pray for us!