Faithful can soak up word of God in Liturgy of the Hours

Published: August 25, 2016

By Deacon Mike Cumnock
St. Mary Church, Batesville / St. Cecilia Church, Newport

One of my favorite summertime drinks is iced sun tea. It is easy to make during an Arkansas August. It just requires a little patience. Simply lay a few tea bags in water in a glass jar with a lid and place it in the sun. In three to five hours, the water magically becomes a clean refreshing liquid.

Recently, I participated in a retreat on praying the psalms. During the weekend, I realized that, in nearly 30 years as an ordained deacon, the psalms had permeated my being. Like sun tea, my being has become infused with the prayer of the Church.

Whenever you, as an individual, prays the Liturgy of the Hours you can take comfort in that you are not praying alone. The Liturgy of the Hours is prayed as the official prayer of the worldwide Church.

During our preparation for the permanent diaconate, we were presented with the Liturgy of the Hours, a psalm-based collection of prayers that has a history dating back to the early Church. Many early Christians devoted themselves to prayer at fixed times during the day.

Special times were devoted to prayer such as the last hour of the day, as dark approached, and the first hour when the daystar begins to appear. Slowly other hours were added and a pattern developed for individuals and communities to pray.

Ordained clergy and religious are expected to pray the Liturgy of the Hours, sometimes referred to as the Divine Office, every day, but the Church invites all her children to do so as well.

In studying the Gospels, it is clear that Jesus lived a life based on prayer and action, and that the Word of God, especially the psalms, were part of his daily prayer life. He participated in the services in synagogues and the temple, recited the prayers that were prescribed for observant Jews and taught his followers to pray in a new way through what has become known as the Our Father.

In that prayer, we are invited to: call Almighty God, our father; told that we are called to help bring the kingdom of heaven to earth; reminded that the Father provided the daily bread for those in the desert and will care for us; and to strive to forgive others. This prayer, along with many canticles is also incorporated in the Liturgy of the Hours.

When at Subiaco, or any other monastic community, I greatly enjoy praying the Divine Office with its members. Fortunately, we are blessed with several religious communities in Arkansas and they welcome guests to pray with them. I love that a group gathers to pray with one voice and am aware that even if a particular prayer doesn’t speak to me at that particular time, it probably speaks to the heart of someone gathered with me.

Whenever you, as an individual, prays the Liturgy of the Hours you can take comfort in that you are not praying alone. The Liturgy of the Hours is prayed as the official prayer of the worldwide Church.

We are strengthened by the knowledge that the Church is gathered in prayer unceasingly every moment of every day and night somewhere in the world. The Second Vatican Council reminds us that as a result “the one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church of Christ is truly present and active.”

The General Instructions of the Liturgy of the Hours states" “Jesus commanded us to do as he did … he said, ‘Pray,’ ‘ask,’ ‘seek,’ in my name.” He told us we should be “humble, vigilant, persevering.” Jeremiah 31 reminds us if we are exposed to the Word of God on a regular basis, “I will place my law within them and write it upon their hearts.”

Like sun tea, if we are exposed long enough to the word of God, it will seep into our very being. The Liturgy of the Hours is a great place to start.