It should be pretty obvious to you that I am not a member of the Roman Catholic Church. In fact, I am an Anglican-Catholic, a protestant of sorts, who is out of communion with the Church of Rome. But I am catholic (please see the Blog Manifesto for more information on how this works exactly). And my Anglican-Catholic faith is a sacramental faith and we have much in common with the Roman Catholic Church and indeed all of the various catholic churches around the world– whether in communion with Rome or not. And we have much in common with our fellow sacramental protestant churches around the world as well such as Lutheranism, Calvinism and episcopalism. I pray the Liturgy of the Hours despite having an official canonical prayer structure approved within the Book of Common Prayer (I would argue that Divine Office is a parish style of the older Breviary, but we do not need to get into that right now). There are also many Anglican-Catholics who pray the unapproved but very well designed Anglican Breviary. There are also many Roman Catholics traditionalists who pray an older form of the Breviary.
In this post I will share five simple reasons why I pray the Liturgy of the Hours and why the Liturgy of the Hours is the best alternative for any sacramental Christian. Perhaps during Lent you are looking for a way to enhance your prayer life and searching online about the Liturgy of the Hours is how you ended up here…if that is the case, I hope this post will help persuade you to consider starting to pray the Liturgy of the Hours today.
Reason One: The Office of Readings
I’ve written before on the richness and beauty of the Office of Readings of the Liturgy of the Hours. It is the evolution of Mattins and provides Biblical readings and readings from patristic readings from the church fathers. I truly believe that the Spirit was at work in our church fathers when they developed and approved the new form of Mattins in the Liturgy of the Hours and that this Office was modified to address the direct needs of the faithful. It is a giant door into which the faithful from all walks of life can enter into the history and tradition of the church through regular prayer. Hands down, the Office of Readings is the number one reason why I pray the Liturgy of the Hours and why I will never consistently pray older versions of the Breviary, no matter how deep I go into traditional catholicism.
Reason Two: The Common Lectionary
Most sacramental Christian denominations use the Revised Common Lectionary with its three cycles of Gospel readings. The English translation of the Liturgy of the Hours reflects the themes of the lectionary at Mass in the Gospel Antiphons during Morning/Evening Prayer. While some churches still call their various Sunday services by different titles (the old Ordinary Time count versus counting from Epiphany and Pentecost), the readings remain the same. You will have occasions when the title of the day itself is not the same, but the themes and readings will all line up and work. This is a very strong point for praying the Liturgy of the Hours over traditional Breviaries which will not lined up neatly with the RCL if that is what your parish is using regularly. As a side note: if you are a traditional Roman Catholic who attends Mass in the extraordinary form than you will find the Liturgy of the Hours lectionary will not line up and an older Breviary form will work best, but I find it a huge drawback of the extraordinary form that the lectionary does not line up entirely and this should be addressed by your Bishops (in my humble opinion).
Reason Three: Clear Language
The English translation of the Liturgy of the Hours uses the Grail psalms and the New American translation of Scriptural texts. The psalms are translated taking into account their musical nature and flow well reading in prose, chant or song. The language is not strictly traditional like we find in the Anglican Breviary (thou, thee, etc) but it is strong and accurate language that reflects the true meaning of the psalms themselves. The language used in the Bible readings is clear and understandable for the typical lay person and will sound familiar to the RSV used in church. There is no doubt that the Liturgy of the Hours provides the clearest modern language out of all of the Breviary options available.
Reason Four: A Reflection of Unity
If you’ve read the Blog Manifesto, you will understand how Anglican-Catholics view the larger catholic church beyond the confines of the particular churches such as the Roman or Orthodox churches. We share a common lectionary and a very common form of Mass as well as an approach to sacramental worship that has very nearly no differences. It makes sense as well that we are capable of sharing a common Breviary and common book of personal and communal prayer outside of the Mass. The Liturgy of the Hours can be that vector. I find a common connection to all devout Roman Catholics who I speak with on the grounds that we share a common prayer book, and in fact we can signify that unity by sharing in prayer together– which is more often what ends up happening. It is a powerful tool of Christian unity.
Reason Five: Access to Resources
You can find the Liturgy of the Hours in many forms in many places. From the four-volume English translations, to the one-volume Christian Prayer book, and the various Shorter Christian Prayer and day prayer options there are many books available to purchase and own. There are also many apps and resources online to access the prayers when you are away from your books. There are message groups and subreddits geared to praying the Offices regularly and offering assistance when needed. There are also hashtag groups on Twitter dedicated to building prayer lives around the Liturgy of the Hours. The more people praying and engaging in the Hours, the more resources seem to be popping up and this makes the Liturgy of the Hours a powerful draw for anyone looking to develop a stronger prayer life.