Perhaps you’ve noticed your priest at church, a small but thick pray book open in his hands. He was praying the breviary
Did you know that the breviary, also called the Divine Office and more recently the Liturgy of the Hours, is not just for priests? In its document on the Liturgy, the Second Vatican Council encouraged everyone to pray it?
This is an invitation for you to make the Liturgy of the Hours part of your daily prayer!
What is the Liturgy of the Hours? For fuller information, google Liturgy of the Hours for number of good articles and videos explaining this form of prayer.
Briefly, the Liturgy of the Hours is a form of prayer dating back to Old Testament times. Jesus himself prayed them, as did Mary! From the beginnings of the church, popes, bishops, priests, deacons, monks, cloistered nuns and lay people have prayed them.
There arefive “hours” – actually shorter arrangements of prayer (10-15 minutes each). The Hours consist of psalms, canticles, and readings from the Holy Bible. The two principal hours are Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer. Beginners should start with these two for daily use. The other hours are Office of Readings, Midday Prayer, and Night Prayer.
The Liturgy of the Hours is available in book form. There is the 4-volume edition, a 1-volume “Christian Prayer,” and even a thin “Shorter Christian Prayer.” Unfortunately many beginners have a hard time juggling the book form.
More recently the Liturgy of the Hours can be found as an app on your phone or laptop. There are several such Apps, but I recommend using the app iBreviary which was put together by the Franciscans of the Holy Land. It is free, although the Franciscans will ask for a donation from time to time. The App selects the prayers for each day. A variety of languages are offered on iBreviary – English, Spanish, Italian, and even Latin.
How do you use iBreviary? Every day begins with the Invitatory (Psalm 95). Other psalms are recommended for variety, but most people begin with Psalm 95. After praying Psalm 95, scroll down to Morning Prayer and begin. A hymn follows, then the psalms. It continues with a short reading from the scriptures, a responsory and the Benedictus (the prayer of Zechariah), followed by intercessions, the Lord’s Prayer, and a prayer for the day. Evening Prayer has a similar pattern.
Most people pray it alone, but many pray it with others. Husbands and wives sometimes pray it together, and some people even pray it with friends during Zoom sessions.
The psalms –from the Book of Psalms in the Old Testament – may be a bit complicated at first. Consult with a bible commentary for an overview of the psalms to help you understand and pray them. The psalms describe the conditions of real people and many people even today find that the psalms express their deepest feelings!
Please give the Liturgy of the Hours a try. Regular use as a morning, evening and night prayer will make this a very significant part of your prayer life.
Article by Fr. Mark Woodruff
Priest of Diocese of San Angelo
Posted with permission by Fr. Woodruff.