Thursday, August 21, 2014

St. Pius X on the Divine Office

I don't have to write a blog post today because Pope St. Pius X has already done it for me.

In today's Office of Readings he tells us about the psalms, their place of pride in the liturgy (mass and office), and why the psalms form us in the mind and heart of Christ. I know you can get it online, but just to make it easy for those of you who don't regularly do the Office of Readings, here it is:

From the apostolic constitution Divino afflatuof Saint Pius X, pope
(AAS 3 [1911], 633-635)

The song of the Church


The collection of psalms found in Scripture, composed as it was under divine inspiration, has, from the very beginnings of the Church, shown a wonderful power of fostering devotion among Christians as they offer to God a continuous sacrifice of praise, the harvest of lips blessing his name. Following a custom already  established in the Old Law, the psalms have played a conspicuous part in the sacred liturgy itself, and in the divine office. Thus was born what Basil calls the voice of the Church, that singing of psalms, which is the daughter of that hymn of praise (to use the words of our predecessor, Urban VIII) which goes up unceasingly before the throne of God and of the Lamb, and which teaches those especially charged with the duty of divine worship, as Athanasius says,the way to praise God, and the fitting words in which to bless him. Augustine expresses this well when he says: God praised himself so that man might give him  fitting praise; because God chose to praise himself man found the way in which to bless God.

The psalms have also a wonderful power to awaken in our hearts the desire for every virtue. Athanasius says: Though all Scripture, both old and new, is divinely inspired and has its use in teaching, as we read in Scripture itself, yet the Book of Psalms, like a garden enclosing the fruits of all the other books, produces its fruits in song, and in the process of singing brings forth its own special fruits to take their place beside them. In the same place Athanasius rightly adds: The psalms seem to me to be like a mirror, in which the person using them can see himself, and the stirrings of his own heart; he can recite them against the background of his own emotions.Augustine says in his Confessions: How I wept when I heard your hymns and canticles, being deeply moved by the sweet singing of your Church. Those voices flowed into my ears, truth filtered into my heart, and from my heart surged waves of devotion. Tears ran down, and I was happy in my tears.

Indeed, who could fail to be moved by those many passages in the psalms which set forth so profoundly the infinite majesty of God, his omnipotence, his justice and goodness and clemency, too deep for words, and all the other infinite qualities of his that deserve our praise? Who could fail to be roused to the same emotions by the prayers of thanksgiving to God for blessings received, by the petitions, so humble and confident, for blessings still awaited, by the cries of a soul in sorrow for sin committed? Who would not be fired with love as he looks on the likeness of Christ, the redeemer, here so lovingly foretold? His was the voice Augustine heard in every psalm, the voice of praise, of suffering, of joyful expectation, of present distress.

How's that for inspiration to pray the Liturgy of the Hours with renewed commitment and enthusiasm?

And now, if you have any questions, please submit them in the comments. 

6 comments:

  1. Hi Daria, I posted this coment on Aug 11, but I think you missed it... If you would be so kind to give me a hand would greatly appreciate it!

    Hello Daria, with respect to your comments, personally, living in South America is living a bit "upside-down" with respect to the Northern Hemisphere, especially at Christmas time with the heat, no Hymns, and no Carols, and no snow ... those are the things I miss most...
    As I am very much of a new boy with the things of the LOTH, I have some doubts which I would appreciate your assistance. My doubt at the present time is, why is there a difference in the content of the various DO's you post on your blog (ie. Universalis, Divine Office, iBreviary etc) - at the present I am using Universalis in my quite moments, but use Divine Office when I am walking or motoring because of the Podcast - even so, there's a notable difference between them and others. At the same time what is the "official" LOTH and could you give me your recommendation on what I should use to pray the "Hours" ( presently everything I do with respect to the LOTH is online or using the various Apps that's available) - so, how I should proceed - after all, as you put in your book: "A thing really worth doing is worth doing even badly - G.K.Chesterton's maxim" ... that's where I find myself now, but I thought you might give me a hand to do it well "Como corresponde, cara a Dios!!!" as they say down here...

    Norman

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    1. So sorry, Norman. I do recall writing a response to you the first time, but apparently when I pushed "publish"--it didn't. Now then...Universalis, at least in its free version, uses a public domain translation of the psalms, so you will notice differences between that and the "official" translation that ibreviary and divineoffice.org use. (Universalis will give you the other, copyrighted translations but you have to pay for that.) In addition, you will occasionally see differences between the prayers or psalms chosen in ibreviary vs. divine office.org. This can be because: a. the administrators of each site made (legitimate) different choices from several options that might be available on any given day or b. one of them has made a mistake in what they chose! This latter problem does not happen often, but it does happen. My own choice when I wish to use an app is usually ibreviary, unless I need to use a podcast because I have to be in the car, and then I switch to divineoffice.org. But I like using a book best of all, since there is something more aesthetically pleasing about that.

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  2. Just one more thing Daria. You say above " I like using a book best of all"
    What would that edition be?

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  3. Hi Daria, I have a question for you and any homeschoolers out there: Is there a preferred method to sharing Psalms with Fourth-Graders (10-11 years old)? Thanks.

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    1. For starters there's a wonderful new book on family prayer that makes special mention of the Liturgy of the Hours. The book is called The Little Oratory by Leila Marie Lawler and David Clayton.
      To be more specific, I'd start with using your regular religious instruction period to talk to them about the book of psalms and go over one or two of them each day. Use your own knowledge of the psalter to pick ones you think the kids would understand or like. Those in Night Prayer are good ones. Maybe have them learn a few by hears, starting with #117 which is so short that they will be pleased to have memorized a psalm in about 3 minutes! Discuss how psalms fulfill the various types of prayer (praise, petition, thanksgiving, contrition) and how we can pray them in relation to our personal feelings and needs, or those of others or of the church as a whole. You can also point out the prophetic/messianic/christological meanings, and ask them to imagine Jesus praying a psalm and what He was thinking as He prayed them. You can't explain this to them all at once, but over the course of a week or two, I think. Gee! Maybe I ought to write some lesson plans! Or maybe you can do this. Also, there's a homeschooling mom, Melanie Bettonelli, who has a wonderful mom-blog called The Wine Dark Sea, and she has had some great posts in the past about sharing the psalms with her little ones. You might see what ideas you can get from her.

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