The Divine Office, also known as the Liturgy of the Hours, is a group of psalms, hymns, prayers, Biblical and spiritual readings formulated by the Church for chant or recitation at stated times every day. The book that contains this collection is called the Breviary, or Psalter. It has a four-week cycle in which the one hundred and fifty Psalms of the Bible are distributed.
The Liturgy of the Hours has an express purpose in the life of the Church. The General Instruction states: "Compared with other liturgical actions, the particular characteristic which ancient tradition has attached to the Liturgy of the Hours is that it should consecrate the course of day and night." (n. 11)
Sanctifying the Hours
Just as the passage in Psalms says, "Seven times a day I praise you," the Church has set apart seven different times of the day and night for prayer: The Office of Readings (also called Matins) is the first Hour. It is usually prayed shortly after midnight. Since Vatican II this Hour is prayed mostly by monks and cloistered nuns. Morning Prayer (or Lauds) and Evening Prayer (or Vespers) are the two major Hours or hinges on which the Liturgy of the Hours turns. The Church everywhere prays together to acknowledge the Creator and His mighty works every morning and evening. Then there are the shorter Hours: Mid-Morning Prayer (Terce), Midday Prayer (Sext), and Mid-Afternoon Prayer (None). At the close of day, before retiring, Night Prayer (Compline) is prayed. This is the last Hour of the Liturgy of the Hours.
Prayer of the Church
The Liturgy of the Hours is usually communal prayer. The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (nn. 84-85) states: "It is the very prayer which Christ Himself, together with His Body, addresses to the Father. Hence all who take part in the Divine Office are not only performing a duty for the Church, they are also sharing in what is the greatest honor for Christ's Bride; for by offering these praises to God, they are standing before God's throne in the name of the Church, their mother."
Daily participation in the Eucharistic Sacrifice of the Mass and praying the Liturgy of the Hours, or Divine Office, is the main work of our community. We gather four times a day in the chapel ÷ morning, midday, evening, and night. The rest of our schedule revolves around these Hours. This is where we are spiritually nourished and strengthened to carry on our ministry of evangelization.
Sister Rita, DLJC