The first thing our Liturgical Institute community does together every day is pray. At 8.30 every morning we gather in the chapel for Morning Prayer of the Church. This prayer is known to many of you as the Office, or the Liturgy of the Hours, or the Breviary. At 6.30 each evening we gather again, this time for Evening Prayer of the Church. Throughout the day the Prayer of the Church continues as we in our own time each pray the psalms and reading of Mid-Morning, Midday and Mid Afternoon prayer. Last thing at night, Night Prayer of the Church is prayed – after “Holy Hour” there are always people visiting the chapel for this prayer before bed.
The purpose of the Prayer of the Church every day, is to extend the grace of the daily Mass throughout the hours of the day. When one lives in this rhythm, the beauty of the pattern becomes visible, audible and tangible. The simplicity and beauty of the chant that carries the prayers, is the ultimate in relaxation in the midst of daily busyness and anxiety.
The Prayer of the Church is the Prayer of the Church because it is Prayer WITH the Church. Other devotions and private prayer are good and necessary. But the Prayer of the Church is never a private prayer. Even when I pray this prayer in my room at Mundelein, or when the sister prays in her convent cell, we are together praying the Liturgy of the Church. The prayer of the Church is not prayed by me today because I feel like doing this, but rather because it is my work – I do it because I do not do it for myself. As a priest this is my prayer WITH the Church and FOR the parish and church every day.
Every day around the world more and more lay people are discovering the beauty of this prayer and choosing to make this the pattern of their daily prayer.
There are many websites which make it easy to pray the Prayer of the Church throughout the day. Some of these are downloadable onto smart-phones. You might like to look at Universalis. There are also many small and relatively inexpensive prayer books that contain the psalms, readings and other prayers of the four-week cycle.
Well all of that by way of introduction …
…to the beauty of the Office of Readings. Somedays these readings seem a little obscure and don’t really speak clearly to me. But I know that is more to do with me than the readings. Some days I am more open than other days.
I found today’s readings on the beauty of friendship especially powerful.
Often people will choose the Genesis “It is not good for man to be alone…” reading for their wedding as a text about marriage. Well, yes, but not only. Much more, this is a reality of the human condition. Human people need friendship. To reduce friendship to a marriage relationship, or to limit true friendship to the sexual relationship, is a failure to appreciate the beauty and the breadth of the gift of human friendship.
In the introduction to the day’s Office we read:
Let us accept friendship. Let us accept it as a true and passionate gift of God. Let us accept it in others without reading anything else into it – “repressed” or not. Let us rejoice if it is given to us, be glad if it is given to others. Jonathan loved David not because of what he could get out of him, but because he was David: let us celebrate this motiveless love of the Other, an echo of the pure love of Heaven. We ought to love everyone like that: but one should at least start somewhere.