The Liturgy of the Hours, or ‘Divine Office’ is the collection of daily prayers marking the hours of each day. The five hours of the Liturgy of the Hours are called Canonical Hours. The Divine Office was initially exclusively associated with Christian monasticism: it was structured according to the Rule of Saint Benedict. The arrangement of the Hours was developed further in the Middle Ages: the hours of prayer were appointed in the Breviary. The previous structure of the Liturgy of the Hours was composed of 8 Hours, including lauds and vespers. Following the Second Vatican Council, the structure of the canonical Hours was simplified, and every Christian is now encouraged to pray it.
The Divine Office is a set of prayers of praise, lament, and thanksgiving spread throughout the day. The prayers are taken from Psalms and other Biblical texts. A day of Divine Office is organized in ‘Hours’: “By tradition going back to early Christian times, the divine office is devised so that the whole course of the day and night is made holy by the praises of God.” (Sacrosanctum Concilium).
The Liturgy of The Hours described in the Breviary was composed of eight services, or Hours, marking important moments of the day and night:
Vigil: during the night, between midnight and dawn (also called ‘Matins’)
Lauds: at dawn
Prime: During the first hour after sunrise
Terce: During the third hour after sunrise (around 9 a.m.)
Sext: During the sixth hour after sunrise (around noon)
None: During the ninth hour after sunrise (around 3 p.m.)
Vesper: During the beginning of the evening (around 5 p.m)
Compline: At night, before or after sunset.
Prayers are structured around three cycles: the cycle of the Hours (canonical Hours), the psalter (the recital of 150 Psalms), and the cycle of liturgical seasons (important celebrations during the year, such as Advent, Lent, Easter…).
Since the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, the practice of the Liturgy of the Hours is no longer exclusive to monastic Orders, and it was also simplified to be more accessible to every Christian!
The three ‘Minor’ Hours (Tierce, Sext, and None) were merged to form what is now called the Daytime Prayer
Prime Hour was canceled
The Office of Readings is the replacement of the Vigil. It can be prayed at any time of the day.
The psalter is structured around a four-week cycle to recite all 150 Psalms (it was formerly based on a single week cycle)
The Liturgy of the Hours is devised in five hours (three Major Hours and two Minor Hours):
The Office of Reading: it can be prayed at any moment of the day (Major Hour)
The Morning Prayer, or Lauds (Major Hour)
The Daytime Prayer (Minor Hour)
Evening Prayer, or Vespers (Major Hour)
Compline (Minor Hour)
The Divine Office places prayer at the center of the day: Christians reciting the Liturgy of the Hours sanctify their lives by planning daily encounters with the Lord from morning to evening. It helps you entrust every moment of your day to God. With the Liturgy of the Hours, prayer becomes more than just a passive activity, it becomes part of your life!
From the days of the Primitive Church, it was recommended that every Christian includes prayer into their daily routine, just like St. Paul enjoined us to “Rejoice evermore, pray without ceasing!” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-17)
Christians around the world reciting the Liturgy of the Hours are united in prayer and contemplation, as they are all praying with the same Holy texts. During the Hours it is also common to make petitions for the entire world. The Liturgy of the Hours is a beautiful and important prayer for the life of the Church.
“Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:16-17).
The Liturgy of the Hours is devised in five Hours, during which prayer and intercession are made, taken from the Scriptures. The general structure of an Hour is as follows:
Scripture reading (‘Capitulum’)
Canticle from the New Testament (ex. The Canticle of Zechariah for Lauds, Magnificat for Vespers, The Song of Simeon for Compline)
Litanies (ex. Kyrie)
‘Our Father’ (for Lauds and Vespers)
Concluding Verse or Blessing
Hozana understands the power of praying with a community: on Hozana, you have access to a wide variety of spiritual programs that connect you with your Christian brothers and sisters around the world: enjoy a time of meditation by reading and praying with the Daily Gospel. Join a novena to St. Teresa of Avila and learn to practice mental prayer! Dive deeper into your faith by reflecting on the words of the Fathers of the Church.