MOUNT ANGEL — One of the many gifts that Benedictine monastic life has to offer the world is the Liturgy of the Hours (Divine Office, the work of God), which monastics and oblates pray every day, following the rhythm of the day and night. Praying the Liturgy of the Hours is the opportunity to sanctify our day with the psalms, hymns and Scripture readings. It is the opportunity to pause throughout the day and night and reflect on God’s goodness to us each day, to praise God, and to remember who we are as beloved sons and daughters of God. Praying the Liturgy of the Hours prepares us to go back into the world and be a healing presence. This beautiful gift of prayer forms and informs our journey to everlasting life with God.

The Liturgy of the Hours is a beautiful framework for a monastic day or anyone’s day, beginning in the morning with praise of God and dedicating our lives to God. We then pause midday to remember that God is the inspiration for our words and actions, to remind us that all we do is for God, a time to refocus our energies. It renews us for the afternoon until we reach vespers. Vespers is a time to give thanks and praise God for all the graces of the day, all the people we have encountered, loved and served. Finally, compline (night prayer) concludes our day as we put all the people of our world and ourselves in the protection of God, with all his angels and saints for the night. If we awake during the night, we can pause and say a silent prayer for all those who work during the night, those who are in war zones, those who are hungry and homeless, and those who are first responders. We can also pray night vigils. Every pause we take during the day and night is an opportunity for us to place our hope in God alone.

Praying with my community brings me deep-down hope, whether in times of difficulty or in times of calm and joy. Hope is more than optimism; it is a deep trust in our loving, faithful God, no matter what happens: COVID-19, wildfires, ice storms, power outages, national tragedies or personal difficulties. God is Emmanuel. God is with us in every place, every time, in every circumstance. We do not have to fear. “God is our strength and refuge, an ever-present help in distress.” (Psalm 46)

The psalms in the Liturgy of the Hours, found in the Old Testament, are prayers for every season of the heart. The psalms name the realities of what is happening somewhere in the world and in our own lives. I find praying the psalms very comforting in this time of uncertainty with the threat of the pandemic upon us.

The psalms speak to every emotion and heartbreak of the human soul. In the psalms I can lament; I can plead to God for safety from evil; I can cry out to God in my distress and afflictions; I can give thanks to God for deliverance and protection; I can pray for justice and peace for those who are suffering from poverty and persecution. I love praying the psalms; they speak powerfully to me today. “My God is a rock where I take shelter.” (Psalm 94:22) “Lord, you have been our refuge, age after age.” (Psalm 90:1) “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.” (Psalm 23:1) The psalms in the Liturgy of the Hours provide us words of hope, words when we have no words of our own to express our sorrow, our sadness, our dismay, our fears — and our hopes and joys. In God alone is my soul at rest. He alone is my rock, my stronghold, my fortress: I stand firm. (Psalm 62)

I encourage you to explore this prayer of the church. You can use the iBreviary app on your phone, or some of the daily missalettes, like “Give Us This Day” or “Magnificat,” which contain a short version of the Liturgy of the Hours. Come to a monastic community and join the religious in prayer or check with your parish community as many parishes have Lauds before daily Mass. For those who want to check out the Rule of Saint Benedict, Saint Benedict has 18 chapters on the Liturgy of the Hours, the Work of God.

 

Sr Dorothy is spiritual director and retreat presenter at Queen of Angels Monastery in Mount Angel.