What is Divine Office?

“From ancient times the Church has had the custom of celebrating each day the liturgy of the hours. In this way the Church fulfills the Lord’s precept to pray without ceasing, at once offering its praise to God the Father and interceding for the salvation of the world.”  — Office of the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship.

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So what is the Liturgy of the Hours?

Liturgy of the HoursThe Liturgy of the Hours is the prayer of the whole People of God. In it, Christ himself “continues his priestly work through his Church.” His members participate according to their own place in the Church and the circumstances of their lives. The laity, too, are encouraged to recite the divine office either with the priests, among themselves, or individually.

The celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours demands not only harmonizing the voice with the praying heart, but also a deeper “understanding of the liturgy and of the Bible, especially of the Psalms.”

The hymns and litanies of the Liturgy of the Hours integrate the prayer of the psalms into the age of the Church, expressing the symbolism of the time of day, the liturgical season, or the feast being celebrated. Moreover, the reading from the Word of God at each Hour with the subsequent responses or troparia and readings from the Fathers and spiritual masters at certain Hours, reveal the deeper meanings of the mystery being celebrated, assist in understanding the psalms, and help one prepare for silent prayer. The lectio divina, where the Word of God is so read and meditated that it becomes prayer, is thus rooted in the liturgical celebration.

The Liturgy of the Hours, which is like an extension of the Eucharistic celebration, does not exclude but rather (in a complementary way) calls forth the various devotions of the People of God, especially adoration and worship of the Blessed Sacrament.

The worship “in Spirit and in truth” of the New Covenant is not tied exclusively to any one place. The whole earth is sacred and entrusted to the children of men. What matters above all is that, when the faithful assemble in the same place, they are the “living stones,” gathered to be “built into a spiritual house.” The Body of the risen Christ is the spiritual temple from which the source of living water emanates. Incorporated into Christ by the Holy Spirit, “we are the temple of the living God.”

Source: Catechism of the Catholic Church, Part Two, Section One, Chapter Two.

The English translation of The Liturgy of the Hours (Four Volumes) ©1974, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation. Readings and Old and New Testament Canticles (except the Gospel Canticles) are from the New American Bible © 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C.. Used with permission. All rights reserved. The DivineOffice.org website, podcast, apps and all related media follows the liturgical calendar for the United States. The 1970 edition of the New American Bible as published in the Liturgy of the Hours is approved for use only in the United States. DivineOffice.org website, podcast, apps and all related media is © 2006-2021 Surgeworks, Inc. All rights reserved.

169 thoughts on “What is Divine Office?

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  16. Which of the current Hours correspond to which traditional names like Lauds, Vespers, etc? Is there a traditional Hour corresponding to today’s Invitatory?

    • I believe morning prayer = Vigils, mid-morning prayer = Lauds, mid-afternoon prayer = None, evening prayer = Vigils and night prayer is Compline.

      • Actually, The Office of Readings can be done at any hour.
        In Monastic life generally done during VIGILS which are during the night-time (3:00 A.M. in Cistercian monasteries, 5:-5:30 A.M. usually in Benedictine. but,

        Moring prayer is LAUDS and is oriented toward praise of God as we awaken. It includes the Canticle of Zechariah.

        Then there are three “little hours” TERCE in the morning, the ‘third’ hour,
        SEXT , at noon, the ‘sixth hour’ and
        NONE at 3 P.M. the ‘ninth hour’. These’ little hours’ are shorter in duration. 3 short psalms and a short Biblical reading.

        VESPERS is evening prayer, usually early evening (4:30-5:30) and has the Canticle of Mary

        COMPLINE is night prayer as in ‘it’s time for bed’ as opposed to vigils :’it’s time to wake up’.

        This format gives rhythm to the day and the psalms generally fit that rhythm really well. Listen to birds some morning and evening and you can hear and feel that rhythm even in them. They sing differently.
        Compline is the last office of the day. It usually consists of Psalm 4 and 91, the canticle of Simeon, (“Now you let your servant go in peace..”.) prayers.

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  18. My name is Chris Northrop. I am not Catholic at least not yet. I do have a deep love for our Lord and a love for the faith and His Church.

    I want to learn the most ancient prayers of the Church and I heard about the liturgy of the hours through a YouTube conversation that Father Mark Goring up in Ottawa, Canada was having with another priest about St Joseph.

    • Brother Christopher, Bless the Lord for your ardent desire to know the ancient prayers. If you will, I want to share my experience with the Liturgy of the Hours. More than 10 years ago, I came upon this wonderful resource of worship. I started with the morning and evening prayers. And because of “time constraints”, my Liturgy of the Hours time was inconsistent. Over time though, as I prayed, I began to appreciate how this Christian prayer brought me closer to God. Now, I always look forward to start my day with the Invitatory, Office of Readings and Morning Prayers. While I thought Midday Prayer was optional for me, I found myself praying it very often. I also found rest at night after praying the Evening Prayer and Night Prayer. I like that part of Examination of Conscience each night. God bless you brother.

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