II. LITURGY OF THE HOURS – PRINCIPLES
A) Introducing the Liturgy of the hours
The Canticle of Praise, unceasingly hymned in heaven and brought into this world of ours by our High Priest Jesus Christ, has been faithfully continued by his Church throughout the ages, tough in a variety of forms. In course of time a liturgy arose within the local churches under the leadership of the priest as a kind of necessary complement to the Sacrifice of the Eucharist, the highest act of worship of God, at definite times and places extending this worship into the different hours of daily life.
Gradually a book of the Divine Office evolved as an effective means for this purpose. Throughout the centuries many changes were made in this common formula for celebrating the Office, but this is not to be wondered at because the book, called the Breviary, was designed to suit various ideas regarding it as they arose.
B) The principles which underlie the liturgy of the hours
1. The prayer of the whole people of God
The Office has been composed so that it is the prayer not only of the clergy but of the whole of the People of God, and religious and lay people can take part in it, and there are various forms of celebration so that it can be accommodated to the various groups, with their differing needs.
2. Making Holy the different times of the day.
Since the Liturgy of the Hours should sanctify, the different times of the day, in its revised form it can fitted into the actual hours of people’s daily lives. The most important Hours are Lauds as Morning Prayer and Vespers as evening prayer and those become the two hinges, as it were of the daily Office, the Office of Readings, while retaining its nocturnal character for those who wish to celebrate a vigil, is now of such a nature that its can be said at any time during the day, while Prayer during the Day has been so arranged that it can be said before noon, at midday or in the afternoon without committing any part of the four week Psalter.
3. A source of piety and nourishment for personal prayer.
So that voice and mind can be in more harmony and the Office be, in the words of the Constitution, a source of piety and nourishment for personal prayer, in this new book of the Hours there is a reduction in what has to be said, and yet a wider variety of texts, and such things as titles for the psalms, antiphons, psalm prayers and optional periods of silence have been put forward as a help towards prayerful meditation on the psalms.
4. New translation of psalms with canticles
In accordance with the request of the Council, use is made of a new translation of the Psalter. At Lauds some new canticles form the Old Testament have been added to increase the spiritual nature of this Hour, and at Vespers some of the rich and splendid canticles from the New Testament have been incorporated.
5. A wider treasury of the word of god
In the new series of readings from sacred Scripture there is a wider treasury of the Word of God. The readings have been chosen to harmonize with the readings at Mass. The passages in themselves show a unity of argument, and during the course of the year they try to present the principal chapters in the history of salvation.
6. Revised readings from the fathers of the church.
In accordance with the norms laid down by the Council the readings from the Fathers and other ecclesiastical writers have been revised to give a better selection.
7. The spiritual significance of the saints in the church.
Anything which is not historically true has been suppressed from this text, and so all lessons especially hagiographical lessons, have been revised so as to present rather the spiritual significance of the saints in the life of the Church.
8. Intercessions in the pattern of the prayer of the faithful
At Lauds intercessions have been added to consecrate the day in order to prepare for the work of the day, while at Vespers supplications have been added following the pattern of the Prayer of the Faithful. At the end of these intercessions and supplication the Lord’s Prayer is recited. Taking into account that it is also recited at Mass, this means that there is a return to the ancient Christian custom of reciting this Prayer three times during the day.