“The whole life of the faithful, hour by hour, during day and night, is a kind of liturgy, or public service, in which the faithful give themselves over to the ministry of love toward God and men…For this reason the Hours are recommended to all Christ’s faithful members.”
-Pope Paul VI
Note in the quote above, that the Liturgy of the Hours are not intended to be the daily devotion of priests and religious, but “all Christ’s faithful”. The old Divine Office, which was much more time-consuming, was not intended for the laity, but the Liturgy of the Hours is for all Catholics.
Helping families learn to pray the Liturgy of the Hours is one of our main objectives in the Classical Liberal Arts Academy. To help, we broadcast the hours (with instructions) daily on CLAAradio.com. Get your prayer book and join us at prayer times to learn how to pray the Liturgy of the Hours.
Morning Prayer: 6:00a EST
Midday Prayer: 12:00p EST
Evening Prayer: 6:00p EST
Night Prayer: 9:00p EST
Hymns of the LotH
If you know how to read music, singing hymns is no problem. Many Christians, however, cannot read music and quickly realize that they don’t know the tunes to the hymns used throughout daily prayer.
First, we should understand that the hymns are poems and can be read as such whenever we don’t know the tunes or feel comfortable singing them. In the daily readings of the hours, we read the hymn lyrics as poems for the sake of simplicity.
Second, you should make a commitment to listen to and learn Christian hymns. The best way to do this is to listen to CLAAradio.com. Spend some time on Sunday afternoons listening to hymns. It’s a great use of the Lord’s Day and will benefit your prayers throughout the week.
Third, as you begin to become more comfortable with Christian hymns, you should notice that beneath every hymn in the prayer book, the name of the melody and the meter of the tune are given. For example, on p. 687 in the Liturgy of the Hours, we see the hymn, “On This Day, the First of Days“. Underneath the text of the hymn, you can find the melody name: “Gott Sei Dank” and the meter: “77.77“. This information is important! The hymn lyrics can be sung to any tune with that same meter. If you go to an online hymnal like the popular NetHymnal and simply enter the melody name in the site’s search box. You may get lucky and find the exact hymn you’re looking for. Or, you will find another hymn that uses the same melody. That’s no problem. Learn the tune, then sing the LOTH lyrics. What’s great, though, is that when you learn a tune, you will also be able to sing all the other songs that have the same meter or have been set to that melody. A handful of melodies can help you sing hundreds of hymns. You won’t always find the hymn in the LOTH (some are unfortunately modern and known by few), but you will find many there.
Buying a Breviary
To pray the Liturgy of the Hours, you will need your own breviary (BREE-vuh-ree), or prayer book. When you invest in a breviary, you will have two basic options: the one volume abridged version, called “Christian Prayer”, and the full four volume “Liturgy of the Hours” set.
The ultimate difference between the two is in the Office of Readings. If you desire to pray/read the Office of Readings, you will need the 4 volume set. The Office of Readings includes a complete year’s worth of daily readings from Scripture and the Church Fathers that correspond to the Church calendar.
However, if you intend only to pray Morning and Evening Prayer or maybe add Midday and/or Night Prayer, you will only need the one volume version. This edition is so easy to use that our 6 year-old son managed it by himself during our daily prayers.
Most people end up buying Saints’ biographies and Bibles anyway, but tend to have a hard time bringing them all together into a profitable routine of personal devotional reading. Instead of that, it may be best to bet the four volume set and make the Office of Readings your primary source for daily readings on the saints and in the Scriptures. You can always read more if you find the selections leave you desiring more, but we tend to “bite off more than we can chew” when it comes to starting devotions. This is why the Office of Readings is so helpful.
Praying in Latin
It’s not realistic to think that a layman can pray the tradtional Divine Office. It was much more intense and time-consuming than the modern Liturgy of the Hours. For example, in the old Divine Office, the psalter was recited weekly, whereas now it is recited monthly. Fortunately, the Catholic Church has published the Liturgia Horarum, a Latin version of the modern prayer book. Information can be found here: http://universalis.com/latin.htm.