A simple introduction to praying the Liturgy of the Hours
When we first pick up a breviary, a prayer book, some book for praying the Liturgy of the Hours (Daily office, Prayer of the Church, breviary, Daily Prayer) the details of what is suggested can overwhelm us. Even more: if we are not used to praying liturgically, starting out can feel extremely unnatural - even false.
The intention of this page is to give the basic skeleton of praying the Liturgy of the Hours. Helping people to see the wood for the trees.
Here’s a parallel example. When you are first beginning to drive (let’s make it a manual car). Turning left appears something like this: indicate left, slow down, check rear-view mirror, brake, clutch in, out of gear 4, into gear 2, clutch out, check left and right, and straight ahead traffic turning right across my path, check traffic lights, turn, accelerate, clutch in, change to gear 3, check indicator has turned off automatically,…
When you have been driving for a while, you don’t even notice you are doing these things. Automatically. Your focus is on the driving, and enjoying the journey, including the people with you in the car. When you start praying the Liturgy of the Hours (or liturgical prayer generally) the focus can be on the details. After time, the details will rightly move into the background and this form of praying the scriptures with the church (in space and time) will come to the fore.
Another example. New shoes feel stiff and awkward when you first purchase them. At first the focus is on the uncomfortable shoes. As we regularly wear them, we cease to notice the shoes. Even are unaware of our feet. And just enjoy the walking. If you have never worn shoes at all before – wearing shoes can appear very unnatural. “God made us without shoes” (we should always pray extemporarily). It takes time to find that shoes enhance our God-given walking. It takes time to find liturgy enhances our God-given praying.
The basic framework of an Office
Introduction – Word of God – Prayers
IntroductionVerse and response [Glory be…]
[Hymn sung (or said)] might be omitted
Word of GodPsalms (and canticle)
Each psalm may be preceded by an antiphon, concluded with Glory be… and the antiphon again
Gospel canticle (eg Benedictus, Magnificat, Nunc Dimittis)
PrayersIntercessions and/or thanksgivings
Collect of the day
Concluding verse and response
Other significant points
Posture This might be simple or complex, eg. Standing for the hymn and Gospel canticle
Singing a simple chant for the psalms
Taking turns dividing the group (if you are praying with others) saying one or two verses of the psalm turn by turn. Some office books clearly divide the psalm. There needs to be a leader, scripture reader, prayer leader.
Silence and pace
Once the basics are clear, an excellent place to reflect on the fine details of praying the Liturgy of the Hours is at Liturgy of the Hours an amalgamation of an excellent series of introductory articles.
Other online resources for the Liturgy of the Hours