The Liturgy of the Hours (LOtH) in ancient method of prayer. They have their roots in Jewish traditions where God’s chosen people would gather together to pray during specific times of the day. After Christ’s resurrection, His Apostles, mostly Jewish men, continued this practice until the Church formalized it over the course of several hundred years.
In the LOtH, we pray the psalms and glorify God giving Him thanks and praise. The time in which we are encouraged to pray them are based on the schedule of urban Christianity of old. Typically, the faithful would gather together before work to pray morning prayer. Then, throughout the day, they would hear the bells ringing which would call their attention back to the intentional act of uniform prayer. These bells would toll usually at the hours of 9am, 12pm and 3pm. Once work was finished, they would gather together once more to pray evening prayer. While the history is a bit fuzzy, it is assumed that since the majority were of similar belief and activity, they laity would also join regularly in the LOtH. It was (and still is) a requirement for religious.
Then, the modern era hit.
The industrial revolution and capitalism quaked the holy exercise and we are still recovering from the shell shock. With tremendous urban expansion and civil order in disarray, the faithful began to deafen their ears to the Church bells ringing in the distance. Wavelengths of the shift-change whistles, machinery and sighs of exhaustion began to fill the air instead and the familiar practice of common prayer was placed on the conveyor belt that led to the wayside.
Today, the LOtH has made a significant comeback due to the advancement of technology and globalization. Apps have made it possible for people of all reading levels to access, share and even connect the LOtH with others via various social media networks. While we are miles away from the familiar unity of yesteryear (and by that I mean celebrating the Liturgy together in the same physical setting), we are inching our way towards a more unified melody in regard to Divine worship.
Unfortunately, there are several aspects of the contemporary that hold us back from achieving the utopian LOtH experience:
Discipline- If given the the 4 volume set of the LOtH, most would freak out. I know I did. I had to read another book, meet with my parish priest and fumble through the pages and ribbons for months before I grasped the proper order. Most folks aren’t as gung-ho as I was. In fact, most quit long before they even begin.
Understanding- Having downloaded the App, I was immensely impressed with the ease and flow of the technological version. However, I was equally, if not more, grateful that I had struggled through the 4 volumes first. Having gone through the paper copies gave me a sense of why we prayed certain portions and not others during certain feast days and solemnities. Had I just downloaded the App, I would have never noticed.
Time- American culture has its foundation in work. Work Work Work. When you get through work, you can do what you like, but until your work is complete, you have no right to go about enjoying life. We’ve got it all backwards; work should be for man, not man for work. Unfortunately, when we get a little extra time, we believe it should be for ourselves. We rest, we watch T.V. we go out… but we rarely go in. By that I mean we have difficulty contemplating Christ in our lives because we are too busy doing everything else.
Togetherness- The LOtH becomes a paradox of sorts. We go into our rooms, close our doors and pray it alone. It has become a private devotion for many as opposed to its original intent: a public showcase of communion and praise. We no longer live in small towns where the bells toll and everyone goes running to the Church doors with their hymnals ready to boom out the Psalms; we lay on our beds in the security of our own homes and read silently so as not to disrupt our own family members through the thin walls.
The current practice of the Liturgy of the Hours is bleak in comparison to the early Christians. If we desire to build the Church, it would be in our Parishes’ best interest to revive this ancient practice by giving it back to the people who so desperately thirst of unceasing connection to Jesus Christ.
How they can go about doing this up for grabs. Perhaps we can figure this out right now? Please leave your ideas in the combox below.