In these days of no Mass and plenty of time at home, we are encouraged to deepen our spiritual lives by various means. The most important of these is the Liturgy of the Hours, or the Divine Office. The Liturgy of the Hours is the daily prayer of the Church, marking the hours of each day and sanctifying the day with prayer. They fulfil St Paul’s exhortation to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). There are seven hours:
- Office of Readings
- Morning Prayer
- Daytime: Mid-morning Prayer
- Daytime: Midday Prayer
- Daytime: Afternoon Prayer
- Evening Prayer
- Night Prayer
Priests, nuns and other consecrated persons are canonically required to pray five of the hours (Office of Readings, Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, Night Prayer and one of the daytime prayers). Lay people are also encouraged to pray the Liturgy of the Hours. Praying the office from your home puts you in spiritual communion with everyone around the world who prays these prayers every day.
If you have ever attended a Holy Hour during Lent or Advent, you would have prayed the Night Prayer with Fr Antonio just before the Benediction.
Each of the five canonical Hours includes selections from the Psalms that culminate in a scriptural proclamation. The two most important or hinge Hours are Morning and Evening Prayer. 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). The Gospel canticle acts as a kind of meditative extension of the scriptural proclamation in light of the Christ event.
This seven-minute video explains The Liturgy of the Hours in simple language.
Note that the video shows the four-volume Liturgy of the Hours which is used in the USA. In the UK, we use the three-volume version. The three volumes are available from Amazon:
The three volumes are pricey and can be quite complicated to use. For this reason, if you are completely new to the Liturgy of the Hours, it is recommended that you start off with the one-volume Morning and Evening Prayer. It also includes Night Prayer.
Alternatively, the Universalis website offers a free online version of the Hours, presenting the prayers in a straightforward manner without you having to find the right texts from various sections which you would have to with the books.