To be read: February 19, June 20, October 22
As the Prophet says: “Seven times a day I have given praise to You”(Ps 118:164). 2This sacred sevenfold number will be fulfilled by us if we perform the duties of our service at the time of Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers, and Compline; 3for it was of these hours during the day that he said: “Seven times a day I have given praise to You”(Ps 118:164). 4For the same Prophet says concerning Vigils: “At midnight I arose to give praise to You”(Ps 118:62). 5Therefore, let us offer praise to our Creator “for His righteous ordinances” at these times: Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers, and Compline; and “let us rise at night to praise Him”(cf Ps 118:164, 62).
This is Benedict’s exhortation and presentation of the methodology for praying constantly (1 Thess. 5:17). The Liturgy of the Hours, as Benedict presents it in this chapter, is one way the Church has sought to answer affirmatively this imperative of St. Paul. The Psalmist’s assertion that “seven times a day will I praise thee,” (Psalm 119:164) and his claim that “at midnight I will rise to praise thee” (Psalm 119:62)helped determine the hours of prayer and praise for the early Church fathers. And the traditional Jewish hours of prayer observed by the Apostles influenced “the little hours.” It is here, in these chapters (chapters 8-20), that Benedict codified the number and times of the hours, and established the rotation of psalms.
For most Christians prayer, at best, is caught between hours of work, family, and recreation. Prayer becomes the afterthought of the day, not its heart. On the other hand, the Liturgy of the Hours places prayer as the constant, and brings our work, our meals, our family time, and recreation into the context of worship, prayer and praise. Our work comes under the cover of the Work of God—the Opus Dei. The Hours create a rhythm which prompts us at key moments throughout the day to return our attention to God. With practice and repetition this recitation of the offices becomes second nature. Hours missed suddenly become empty moments which call us to prayer, and remind us of our dependence upon God for our being. This rhythm of prayer invites us into intimacy with God and that intimacy grows into a heart for “constant prayer.”
This is not something that we need to dive into immediately, but it is a goal for which we can work in order to receive the benefits that the Church has experienced for 1500 years. Work with your spiritual director to gain experience in how to enter into the fulness of the Work of God. Find a partner who will work alongside you as you seek the rhythm of the hours. Encourage one another and pray for each other, that we may all learn to “pray constantly” (1 Thess. 5:17).