The Mass & The Liturgy of the Hours: The Work of God

Post Date: July 2, 2021
Author: Sacred Heart Blog

If you have ever been to the 7:00 am daily Mass here at Sacred Heart you have probably wondered what was going on. The Mass probably seemed a little different and everyone was reading prayers from a book with a lot of ribbons. Well, I am here with answers!  Here at Sacred Heart we have a tradition of praying the Liturgy of the Hours, also known as the Divine Office, within the context of the Mass. Normally the Liturgy of the Hours is prayed outside the context of Mass but can be combined with Mass in the manner which we do here at the parish. The Liturgy of the Hours is part of the official liturgy of the Church and flows from and towards the Mass itself. Unlike many other forms of prayer in the Church, the Liturgy of the Hours, like the Mass itself, is the official public worship of the Church. Thus, the Liturgy of the Hours is not just a devotional prayer, but part of the worship of God Himself. This is why priests, deacons, and religious are bound to pray the Liturgy of the Hours every day and have done so for ages upon ages.   

The Liturgy of the Hours is based around the book of Psalms, along with other selections from scripture, which tie into the liturgical calendar of the Church. Also, some of the Church’s most ancient hymnody was composed for the Divine Office and it is one of the main sources of true Catholic hymnody. The Divine Office “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.” (SC 84). The two most important or “hinge” Hours are Morning and Evening Prayer (Lauds/Vespers). These each include a Gospel canticle: the Canticle of Zechariah from Luke 1:68-79 for Morning Prayer (known as the Benedictus), and the Canticle of Mary from Luke 1:46-55 for Evening Prayer (known as the Magnificat). Morning and Evening Prayer also include intercessions that flow from the scriptures and Psalms that are prayed. With all this, then, the Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours form a continual sacrifice of praise to God the Father from His Church.   

The five Hours of the Divine Office are: 

The Office of Readings 

“The office of readings seeks to provide God’s people, and in particular those consecrated to God in a special way, with a wider selection of passages from sacred Scripture for meditation, together with the finest excerpts from spiritual writers.” (General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours [GILH], no. 55). 

Morning Prayer 

“As is clear from many of the elements that make it up, morning prayer is intended and arranged to sanctify the morning.  St. Basil the Great gives an excellent description of this character in these words: “It is said in the morning in order that the first stirrings of our mind and will may be consecrated to God and that we may take nothing in hand until we have been gladdened by the thought of God, as it is written: ‘I was mindful of God and was glad’ (Ps 77:4), or set our bodies to any task before we do what has been said: ‘I will pray to you, Lord, you will hear my voice in the morning; I will stand before you in the morning and gaze on you’ (Ps 5:4-5).” 

Daytime Prayer 

“Following a very ancient tradition Christians have made a practice of praying out of private devotion at various times of the day, even in the course of their work, in imitation of the Church in apostolic times.” (GILH, no. 74-75). 

Evening Prayer 

“When evening approaches and the day is already far spent, evening prayer is celebrated in order that ‘we may give thanks for what has been given us, or what we have done well, during the day.’ We also recall the redemption through the prayer we send up ‘like incense in the Lord’s sight,’ and in which ‘the raising up of our hands’ becomes ‘an evening sacrifice’ (see Ps 141:2). This sacrifice ‘may also be interpreted more spiritually as the true evening sacrifice that our Savior the Lord entrusted to the apostles at supper on the evening when he instituted the sacred mysteries of the Church or of the evening sacrifice of the next day, the sacrifice, that is, which, raising his hands, he offered to the Father at the end of the ages for the salvation of the whole world.’ Again, in order to fix our hope on the light that knows no setting, ‘we pray and make petition for the light to come down on us anew; we implore the coming of Christ who will bring the grace of eternal light.’”  (GILH, no. 39). 

Night Prayer 

“Night prayer is the last prayer of the day, said before retiring, even if that is after midnight” (GILH, no. 84). The Psalms that are chosen for Night Prayer are full of confidence in the Lord.” 

If you are interested in buying a copy of the Liturgy of the Hours, and a guide on how to use it, you can purchase one at our parish gift shop. I hope to see you at the 7:00 am Mass so that together we may worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness! 

– Fr. Mark  

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