The Liturgy of the Hours: A Change in Perspective

19 September 2007

When I initially became serious about the Liturgy of the Hours —about two years ago now— I viewed it very much as a duty, as something I owed to God and gave, in very prescribed manners and prescriebd times.

And while we all owe God praise and thanksgiving, God also expecting petitions and love, I don’t see the Liturgy of the Hours quite in this way anymore.

My students and their fellow Jews see their morning, midday, and evening prayers as temporary substitutes for the Temple sacrifices; initially, I too saw my praying the Divine Office in the same way: a duty, an obligation, something I filled or not, depending on whether I did it and did it right.

I still see the Divine Office as the fulfillment of an obligation, in the same way that I am obliged to do, say, and even feel certain things for my loved ones, things are now more complicated than that.  These thoughts are certainly influenced by spiritual direction.

The Divine Office does not seem that burdensome, if it ever did.   While I always prayed the Divine Office because I wanted to, settling down to pray Matins and Lauds or Vespers and Compline feel very different recently.  They feel something like a warm phone call to a wife or husband in another city; a begining- or end-of-the-day checking-in and exchange of tender words of love, longing, and caring.  I know that this sounds touchy-feely, and maybe even a little bit unbelievable, but it’s the truth.

Also, sometimes when it is my turn to put the Little Guy to bed, I’ll feel quite tired and pray the Rosary while I wait for him to fall asleep.  Often on those nights, I’ll skip Vespers.  But, in some sense, I haven’t.  God gave my wife and I this incredible gift of our son, and to some extent reading him some books, talking to him before he falls asleep, and praying silently while he drifts off is a kind of informal, non-liturgical Vespers, a very lovely, quiet service.

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2 Responses to “The Liturgy of the Hours: A Change in Perspective”


  1. ISTM you’re on the right track!

    Regarding praying the Rosary instead of Vespers on some nights, in your state of life (husband and father) that sounds entirely correct.

    (Digression: a husband and father having some kind of liturgical life at home as he should is a reminder and promoter of his priestly role – yes, in the sense of baptismal priesthood, a priestly people – as the head of his household. Yes, headship. After all an abbot’s title in Latin and English means ‘father’.)

    As IIRC you explained to me earlier, Benedictine oblates only have to do two offices, any of them, a day. Just right for you and many others.


  2. Oblates are only expected to do what they can, and really that means some kind of Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer, preferably adapted from the Benedictine Liturgy of the Hours.

    a husband and father having some kind of liturgical life at home as he should is a reminder and promoter of his priestly role – yes, in the sense of baptismal priesthood, a priestly people – as the head of his household. Yes, headship.

    Fogey, I really don’t see myself as the head of my household. My wife and I are equal partners in our relationship, in our lives, and in our family. A priestly role in a family’s life is for all its members. Frankly, I find your comment sexist and offensive.

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