Liturgy of the Hours
- Benedictine Communal Prayer
How did Liturgy of the Hours come to be?
The Divine Office or Liturgy of the Hours had its beginnings in the early Church. Christians would gather several times a day to pray the psalms and read Scripture. Eventually the periods of prayer grew to seven during the day as the Christians tried to live out our Lord's instruction to "Pray always." In monasteries another "Hour" was added in the middle of the night.
Do the Hours have a value beyond custom and history?
As liturgy, the Hours are the prayer of the whole Church. When we pray them we are joined to the praying Church all over the world. At every moment, somewhere in the world, the Church is praising God at every hour of the day and night. We know that the Church is the Body of Christ (1 Cor. 12). When the Church prays, Christ prays. When two or three are gathered in His Name, Christ is present. In praying the Hours, we are the voice of Christ praising God and praying for His people.
Why does the Church use such ancient prayers as the psalms?
These prayers are ancient, but they continue to speak to the core of our humanity. And they are more than human wisdom. They are the inspired Word of God. These are the prayers Jesus prayed while He walked on earth. What could be more appropriate than His Body, the Church, continuing to pray the same psalms today?
Why is the Liturgy of the Hours important to the Benedictine Sisters of Elizabeth?
The communal praying of the Liturgy of the Hours has always been central to Benedictine spirituality. Benedict ruled zeal for the "Work of God," as he called it, a criteria for acceptance into the monastery. In his Rule he tells us that this work is so important that when the bell rings, we are to stop whatever we are doing and hasten to the Work of God. Our prayer is not an interruption of our work, but an opportunity to participate in God's work. Benedict reminds us to pray so that our minds are in harmony with our voices. God is working, and if our minds and heart are open to His action, He will transform us. Since this is liturgy, a prayer of the whole Church, its transforming power extends to all.
For Benedict and his spiritual children, it is a prayer of devotion and praise. It is where God is present in the community in a special way. It is a prayer that is offered at various times of the day to remind us that all time is sacred. All time is a time to encounter God.
"If today you hear his voice,
harden not your hearts."