Liturgy of the Hours

Some years ago I purchased a book entitled “Christian Prayer”, an amended version of the Liturgy of the Hours prayers. I  wanted to pray along with at least the Morning Prayer from the daily prayer of the Church – this is called the “Liturgy of the Hours”. I was unable  to determine which psalm and hymn accompanied each day’s prayer in the book I had purchased, as the psalms and prayers change daily. There is also a paper guide which can be purchased to help with the Christian Prayer book, but even that guide wasn’t helpful to me.

On many mornings in the Morning Prayer there is a long passage from the book of Daniel, Chapter 3 to be read and studied. I had little experience or knowledge of the Book of Daniel at that time except for some remembered childhood stories of “Daniel and the Lion’s Den”.  So after several months of attempting to pray the morning prayer of the Church, I returned to praying an alternate prayer, similar to but shorter than the Liturgy of the Hours. This shorter prayer is from the Magnificat magazine, which I had followed for several years.

Last fall I found an app for my phone called “Universalis” which provided everything I needed to be successful at reading and praying along with the Liturgy of the Hours. Once I began reading the morning prayer regularly, I found that I loved the variety and beauty of the psalms and prayers that were presented each morning. The passage from the book of Daniel, Chapter 3, verses 52 through 90, was presented often, as I expected. Since my first attempt at praying the Liturgy of the Hours morning prayer, I had come to recognize that the passage from Daniel was a “litany”. Understanding the form of the passage from Daniel helped me to overlook  the repetitive nature of the passage from Daniel.

A litany is described as “A liturgical prayer consisting of a series of petitions recited by a leader which alternates with fixed responses by the congregation.” We often pray litanies such as the Litany of the Sacred Heart at specific times in our Church during our worship on First Friday feasts of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Daniel Chapter 3 describes the trials of the Jewish captives who refused to worship the golden statue of Nebuchadnezzar and were condemned to be burned in a furnace. The men walked into the flames and began praying to the Lord. As the flames grew higher, the men continued to pray and praise God. The flames did not touch the men in the furnace and an angel was seen walking in the flames with the men. The inside of “the furnace became as though a dew laden breeze were blowing through it.” Hearing the men sing and seeing the angel walking with them, Nebuchadnessar ordered that the men be released as he realized that he had no power over them.

Here are some verses from Daniel, Chapter 3:

“Bless the Lord, all you works of the Lord, praise and exalt Him above all forever.

Angels of the Lord, bless the Lord, praise and exalt Him above all forever.

You heavens, bless the Lord, praise and exalt him above all forever.…” and this continues for quite a few verses until the last verse: “Bless the God of gods, all you who fear the Lord: praise him and give him thanks, because His mercy endures forever.”

A verse from the Daniel passage “jumped out at me” one morning: “Light and darkness, bless the Lord; praise and exalt him above all forever”  I remember reading in Genesis how God said “Let there be light, and there was Light”, but I never thought about the darkness. If there wasn’t light then surely it would be dark, but then I realized that without God, there was nothing – no light, no darkness, nothing! How can I have missed that important fact all these years?

Praying with the Liturgy of the Hours these past months has opened my eyes in many ways. I have discovered the beauty of Psalms I seldom read; I began to understand passages in other books which I usually avoided and I have become more familiar with the writings of early Fathers of the Church who provided homilies and letters to their congregations. Many of these letters and homilies are included in the readings which accompany the Morning Prayer.

I still love the Magnificat, the little book of daily readings which I have subscribed to for many years, but I have come to find comfort in praying the daily prayer of the Church: the Liturgy of the Hours thanks to a little app for my phone entitled “Universalis”.

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