Here are a few books that can enrich your understanding and experience of the Liturgy of the Hours. If any appeals to you, send a link to those who want to know what you want for Christmas. Or, to be really crass (as I sometimes am), order the book, toss it at your loved one, and say, "Here, give this to me for Christmas."
Clicking on the pictures will take you to each book at Amazon.
The School of Prayer is a wonderful, in depth introduction to the Liturgy of the Hours: what it is, where is comes from, why you should pray it. Best of all, commentary that a layman can understand in every psalm and canticle (from morning and evening prayer) in the 4-week psalter. If you want to know more about interpreting the psalms than what is in my own book, this is the next step up.
Most of you either have The Everyday Catholic's Guide to the LOTH or have absorbed most of what's in it through reading this blog. But if you are trying to explain to your friends why you love the Liturgy of the Hours--and want them to try it too--this is a quick and informative guide that will do a good job of getting them interested. Also, if you are still stumbling with those questions about finding the correct prayers for a saint's memorial, or whether a feast takes precedence over a Sunday, etc., chapter 7 is a great reference guide to keep handy.
Not to be confused with the first title on this list, Pope Benedict XVI's A School of Prayer is a beautiful collection of papal audience addresses given in 2011 and 2012. It's subtitle--The Saints Show Us How to Pray--is misleading, because only a few of these are about what particular saints taught. Most of them are about prayer traditions in the Bible, the prayer of Christ, liturgical prayer, and the psalms as prayer, and therefore, highly relevant to people like us who liturgically pray the words of the Bible, especially the psalms, and try to pray them in union with Christ! Chapter 7 , The People of God at Prayer: the Psalms, was to me worth the price of the book.
That's enough for today. More titles to come in my next post.
Feel free to use the comment section for any questions about the Liturgy of the Hours.
The new version has quite a few features that will improve the experience of those who already like it, and may even attract those who are less than totally on board with the current version.
First, there will be some newer voices reciting the psalms along with the best of the old. An effort has been made to cut down on recitations that were thought by many to be bit too dramatic, and thus, a distraction from prayer.
Second, there is now a feature to skip forwards and backwards--very handy for those who, for instance, do not use the psalm prayers. There are also several faster playback speeds,(similar to Audible books) so you can customize the liturgical hour to fit a short commute or other limited space of time available for prayer.
Third--and this is my favorite--you can download up to 21 days' worth of audio at a time! I live in a rural area with only a fair to middlin' wi-fi signal. Often as not, my DivineOffice audio files just won't load in the morning. But if the new version lives up to its' promise, I can go to the McDonald's in town every few weeks(where the signal is better) and get 21 days'' worth. Yay!
But first, Read the interview. Not only will you feel affirmed in your Divine Offishness by this account of a celebrity blogger who does Office of Readings, Lauds, and Vespers every day, but you will also enjoy (and maybe, like me, identify with) his remarks on distraction in prayer, such as:
"Sometimes I think I should just try to set aside some time to be distracted and then prayer will intrude." and, on Rosary: "Fifteen to twenty minutes of distracted prayer sometimes punctuated with actual meditation."
Please use today's post for Q&A time--any questions you have about using the breviary, breviary app, choosing the day's prayers, rubics, or whatnot. Fire away.
Welcome, new Coffee&Canticles follower Thomas! I hope our little community here supports, and encourages your love for the Liturgy of the Hours.
Wishing all readers in the USA a Happy Thanksgiving (and safe driving). To the rest of you, a pleasant week and a heart ready to begin the holy season of Advent this weekend.
This is a chapter of my upcoming book, But There's More! Catholic Stories to Amaze You. Naturally, many Coffee&Canticles readers will guess the "punch line" ahead of time.
“I, Paul, a prisoner for the sake of Christ....
When St. Paul wrote this epistle, so many years ago, he probably had no idea what an impact it would have. Naturally, he hoped it would console Christians, young in their faith, who were dismayed and frightened at Paul's arrest, imprisonment, and anticipated martyrdom. But did he have even an inkling that it would be treasured, read and re-read by generations and right up to the present day? Did he have any idea that his words from prison would have a more lasting impact on the Church than any of his oral preaching?
Short of a secret revelation from on high, probably not.
But what a letter! Full of praise for the mercy of God, Paul reassured his readers that God was his strength and solace in captivity. He spoke of how ardently he longed to be with the Lord. Still, ever humble, he asked for his disciples' prayers, that he might not falter before finishing his race. And he reminded them that persecution and martyrdom is a blessed share in the sufferings of Christ, the head of his mystical body. As you probably know, Paul was eventually beheaded by his captors. Reading his letter while meditating on what he was facing inspires modern Christians to face their own sufferings with courage as surely as it helped Paul's contemporaries in times long past.
But there's more.
Perhaps you would like to re-read this Pauline epistle for yourself, now that I've whetted your appetite. So, you may wonder which one is it? Ephesians? Colossians?
Well, you won't find this one in the Bible. This letter of St. Paul didn't make it into the canon of scripture.
Apocryphal? Oh no, St. Paul wrote it all right.
From a prison in Vietnam.
St. Paul Le Bao Tinh. By the time this St. Paul was born in 1793, Christianity had already been around in Vietnam for 200 years, due to the activity of Portuguese, French and Spanish missionaries. As in other Asian countries, brutal persecutions against Christians waxed and waned depending on the political climate. Paul grew up in one of the relatively peaceful interludes. He entered the seminary,but seems to have left after a while to pursue the life of a hermit.
In 1841, new persecution broke out. Paul was arrested and spent seven years in a Hanoi prison before he was granted amnesty. He returned to the seminary, finished his studies, and was ordained. He ministered in the hill country of Laos for several years, but was arrested once more, and summarily executed, in 1855. His letter, written to the seminarians of Ke-Vihn, appears in the Church's liturgy for the memorial of St. Andrew Dung Lac and companion, November 24th. It is found in the Office of Readings of the Liturgy of the Hours. Here is a small excerpt:
“In the midst of these torments, which usually bend and break others, by the grace of God I am full of joy and happiness, because I am not alone, but Christ is with me.He, my teacher, sustains the whole weight of the cross, burdening me but with a little and ultimate part: He himself does battle for me, not just as a spectator of my struggles; He the victor and perfecter of every battle. On his head is the splendid crown of victory, in which the members of his body also share.”
The 117 martyrs remembered on this day actually died over a period spanning more than a century. St. Paul Le Bao Tihn's death came about in the middle of this era. But his prison letter represents well the faith and courage of these men and women.
The Vietnamese martyrs were canonized in 1988 by Pope John Paul II.
So then, my son, let whoever reads this Book of Psalms take the things in it quite simply as God-inspired; and let each select from it, as from the fruits of a garden, those things of which he sees himself in need. For I think that in the words of this book all human life is covered, with all its states and thoughts, and that nothing further can be found in man. For no matter what you seek, whether it be repentance and confession, or help in trouble and temptation or under persecution, whether you have been set free from plots and snares or, on the contrary, are sad for any reason, or whether, seeing yourself progressing and your enemy cast down, you want to praise and thank and bless the Lord, each of these things the Divine Psalms show you how to do, and in every case the words you want are written down for you, and you can say them as your own. -from his letter to Marcellinus, On the Interpretation of the Psalms The rest of which (it's long) you can read here.
One of the main purposes of the Divine Office, with its prayers at fixed periods of the day, is the sanctification of Time, that priceless, ever fleeting commodity that we never seem to have enough of, but regularly waste much of what is given to us.
My daughter is currently a sophmore at TAC, and I'm happy that this is one of the fine priests that is (hopefully) having an influence on her spiritual and intellectual formation.
Father begins his lecture by discussing that nature of time. What is it, exactly? How is it related to memory? What is meant by the term "hour" as in "My hour has not yet come." (Jn. 2:4) This is not a short or easy read, but it is worthwhile AND it gets easier as you go along. Part II connects Time to Liturgy, and from that point you will be on more familiar ground as he talks about the prayer that we experience each day.
update: It looks like there was voting at the Bishops' meeting yesterday, and the items related to the Liturgy of the Hours were already voted on. Changes to the Revised Grail Psalms were approved, as was the supplement to the LOTH for all the new saints' offices. I'm sorry I missed the discussion of the Revised Grail Psalter yesterday. Did anyone catch any of it? But now I can go on my bike ride without worrying.
I wasn't home most of today and so did not tune into the US Bishops' meeting coverage on EWTN, although I gather that there wasn't any voting today. This means that the agenda items regarding the Liturgy of the Hours will probably be discussed tomorrow.
I'm kind of torn: the weather forecast for tomorrow promises what is likely the last sunny and mild day for a long, long time. I'd like to use it for one last ride on the Allegheny River bike trail, from about 10am til 1:30pm.
So, if any of you are watching EWTN at that time, and catch the bishops discussing the revisions to the Revised Grail Psalms and/or the new prayers for recently canonized saints' offices, please take notes and tell me what happened in the comments section below. Most religious news reporters barely even know what the Liturgy of the Hours is, so they would not pay much attention to this issue.
But if any of you Coffee&Canticles readers are tuned in, you will know exactly what is going on, right? I'd love to have a full report should I miss the televised discussion.
Yet another great post by a blogger that I somehow missed when it came out in August, even though this writer's blog is on my Feedly list.
Will Duquette is a lay Dominican who writes about, oh, all sorts of things on his Patheos blog. Here he describes the place the Divine Office has in his life, and the common problem many of us have of procrastinating over getting to one or more of the hours, even thought we still enjoy it immensely once we get past the obstacle of our (choose one or more: lazy, distracted, worldly, selfish) tendencies:
"Some days recently I’ve found doing my daily prayer to be quite difficult. I just don’t want to sit down and do it—there’s so much else calling for my attention that I’d rather do. Evening prayer only takes a few minutes, and yet I grudge those few minutes: in the time before I sit down to do it, it looms over me like a giant monolith, seemingly impassable. And that’s where mortification comes in. I’d been telling myself that I really needed to sit down and pray, I’d promised to do it, and spending time with God is good for me, and like that. But it’s simpler than that, really; when I am in that mood, sitting down to pray is a kind of mortification. I am giving over my own will, and seeking God’s will. The benefit I receive in sitting down to pray comes largely, when I am in this mood, from the simple act of choosing to sit down and pray." Here's the rest.
Late last night, I checked the index of celebrations to find all the feasts of Our Lord, and guess what was listed under that category?
The Dedication of the Lateran Basilica!!!
That's weird. How is that feast of Our Lord?
Then, this morning I saw this from alert reader M.J. Chait:
"The Archbasilica was dedicated to "the most holy Savior" (Sanctissimi Salvatoris) by Pope Clement XII. By extension, therefore, the feast of its dedication is a feast of the Lord."
So there we are. Thank you, M.J. Chait and also to Mike Demers who pondered along with me.
Okay. I just perused the General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours. I even got out my book just in case I knew something back when I wrote it that I'd since forgotten. I haven't found a thing.
So I'm willing to be vulnerable here! :) To show you that I'm not quite the expert on the Liturgy of the Hours that people think I am. Here goes:
By what logic or church regulation does the feast of the Dedication of St. John Lateran Basilica (November 9th) take precedence over the 32nd Sunday in ordinary time???
It's a feast, not a solemnity.
The General Instruction does say that feasts of Our Lord (e.g. Transfiguration, Exaltation of the Cross) falling on Sunday do take precedence over ordinary Sundays. But by what stretch can you say that the dedication of the Lateran basilica is a feast of Our Lord?
The Lateran is the Pope's diocesan cathedral,and just about the oldest church in western Christendom. Maybe that rates it a feast that usurps an ordinary Sunday. I just want to see where that is officially stated.
Maybe the writers of the General Instruction just plain forgot to say that the Lateran feast also rated precedence over Sunday?
Lots of the readers here are very well informed about all things liturgical and historical. So if any of you have some light to shed on this, shed away!
There are a couple of blogs by lay people in third orders who blog about what it's like to integrate the spirit of Carmel, or St. Benedict, or St. Francis, or St. Dominic into lives that include grocery runs, office jobs, small children, and whatnot.
It will be a future project for me to gather a list of these and publish the list here. Most of third orders impose part of the Liturgy of the Hours on their members, these bloggers are people who appreciate us Divine Office junkies, since they are of that happy crowd too.
In fact, a few of them follow this blog. So, all you third order guys (yes, I know Benedictines call themselves "oblates" rather than "third order") , if each of you will remind me of your blog address in the comments section, it will jumpstart my list. I have some of them already in my own blog reader, but don't want to miss anyone.
.... the Liturgy of the Hours helps my prayer stay on track. In it, scripture is right before me; thus I have 'grillwork' for my day. I am praying with the whole Church, right along with Father O'Neill and the monks in Sydney and the Toledo nuns. And, if I'm tempted to bypass prayer, I get help to carry me past my (laziness, in my case). ...In my haphazard life (and my very nature is 'haphazard'), I definitely need some of that structure I once dreaded. Otherwise, I wind up wasting entire days. ...Does my mind wander while I pray in this way? My mind wanders no matter how I pray. The Divine Office helps call the drifting mind back.
Does the Liturgy of the Hours lead me to the dry, lifeless prayer I feared? No. Sometimes I feel dry and lifeless, yes, but again: that would happen no matter how I pray. The printed words help me stay focused.
In some key ways, the Liturgy of the hours is a lens that helps me zoom right in on the presence and reality of God.
I've been going through a long list of bookmarked articles dating back to August, and feeling bad it took me this long. So I'll be sharing a piece of news, information, or inspiration every day for the next few days.
And do consider every one of these to also be a Q&A post, just in case there is something confusing you about the Liturgy of the Hours.
Welcome recently new blog followers Glen and Brian, and anyone else who has added Coffee and Canticles to their readers.
"Compassion is preferable to cleanliness. Reflect that with a little soap I can easily clean my bed covers, but even with a torrent of tears I would never wash from my soul the stain that my harshness toward the unfortunate would create." ~St. Martin of Porres
And I can't let November 3rd go by without mentioning St. Martin de Porres. He had such a humble,loving heart, and he liked small rodents such as rats. I happen to share one of these characteristics with him, and pray to him to obtain for me the other.
Now for some of those bookmarked articles. The Liturgy of the Hours and its upcoming revised translation will be on the agenda at the upcoming US Bishops meeting next week. The particular action items are two. The supplement with new prayers for saints canonized since 1984 will be considered and, I imagine, voted on. Also, the Revised Grail Psalms (which we've often talked about here before) might be revised a teeny bit more before they are approved for the American breivary. The article I'm referencing says that under discussion will be:
Modifications to the Revised Grail Psalms, originally approved in 2010 by the Vatican. The USCCB Committee on Divine Worship recommended improving the translation and its “sprung rhythm” to make proclamation and singing easier.
I would give a substantial bribe-- in the form of mass and rosary intentions for the provider-- to see the draft text of the proposed improvements. Does anyone out there have access?
Here is the link for everything you need. Scroll down for the second OOR reading, responsory and the concluding prayer. You may use the concluding prayer at each of the hours. If you have a great devotion to St. John Paul, you may wish to use the common of pastors/pope.
I just received a pre-release copy of O Day of Resurrection, the Liturgy of the House for Sunday, sung by the Benedictines of New Camaodoli hermitage.
I listened to most of it last night and the rest this morning. It includes Vigils, Lauds, Vespers, and Night Prayer. The readings are left out of this recording, as are the intercessions (assuming the monastic office even has intercessions? I really don't know) Everything else is there, and all is sung/chanted.
As I mentioned above, this is the monastic version of the Liturgy of the Hours, so it's a bit different from our breviary, which was designed for parish clergy, active religious, and lay people. So, for example, lauds and vespers have 3 psalms plus canticle, rather than 2 psalms. Also, each hour ends with a "troparion" which is more or less the same thing as an antiphon. The dictionary tells me that this troparion is meant to set the liturgical theme or mood for the rest of the day. Or maybe for the rest of the time until the next hour with its own troparion is said.
These hours are done entirely in English, with the exception of the Salve Regina at the end of Night Prayer, which is in Latin. The chant is sometimes Gregorian style (adapted for English) and sometimes Byzantine chant, which is in four (or more) part harmony. I especially liked the Our Father, which was adapted from a setting by Rimsky-Korsakov. The chanting is beautiful. Great music, clearly enunciated so that you can understand the words. And its a pleasure to hear all males voices. You hear much of that in a typical parish church. And if there's no monastery in your area--with a decent cohort of musically talented monks living there--audio recordings are the only way to experience this very beautiful and masculine beauty.
...which is why one and only one aspect of this recording annoyed me somewhat. The psalms and canticles used were one of those "inclusive" translations which goes out of its way to avoid masculine nouns and pronouns. So instead of: Let the sons of Israel say: his love endures forever. Let the sons of Aaron say: his love endures forever. the monks instead say:
Let the family of Israel say: God's love endures forever. Let the family of Aaron say: God's love endures forever. If you don't find this kind of thing tedious and irritating, good for you. There are historical and theological reasons why it bothers me, but I don't have to drag that up here. There are plenty of places on the internet giving reasoned arguments pro and con for inclusive language, so look them up and make up your own minds.
All in all, this is a very nice recording. It will give those of us who mostly recite the hours at home, privately or at most with one or two people a better sense of the Liturgy of the Hours as the public worship of the body of Christ, and will maybe inspire with the ideal of singing as a way to enhance, nay,to complete what we are doing when we pray it.
And do check out this video for sample of the monk's music and a peep at their home in Big Sur, California.
"In 2014, the Solemnity of All Saints on November 1 falls on a Saturday, with the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (All Souls’ Day) taking place on the following Sunday, November 2. The Secretariat of Divine Worship wishes to clarify the situation regarding the correct Mass and Office to be used during November 1–2.
Both All Saints Day and All Souls’ Day are ranked at no. 3 on the Table of Liturgical Days. Thus, on Friday evening, October 31, Evening Prayer I of All Saints is celebrated. On Saturday, November 1, both Morning and Evening Prayer II of All Saints Day are celebrated, though for pastoral reasons where it is the custom, Evening Prayer II may be followed by Evening Prayer for the Dead. For Sunday, November 2, the Office for the 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time is said, especially in individual recitation; the Office of the Dead may be used, however, if Morning or Evening Prayer is celebrated with the people (see Liturgy of the Hours, vol. IV, November 2).
On Friday evening, Masses are that of the Solemnity of All Saints. On Saturday evening, any normally scheduled anticipated Masses should be for All Souls’ Day. (If desired for pastoral reasons, a Mass of All Saints Day outside the usual Mass schedule may be celebrated on Saturday evening.)"
Liturgy of the Hours
Saturday, November 1, 2014
All Souls (anticipated)
Morning & Evening Prayer II of All Saints (EP of the Dead optional after EP II of All Saints)
Sunday, November 2, 2014
Individual recitation: Morning & Evening Prayer II of 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time
Once every four weeks, on Wednesday of week I in the Office of Readings, we get Psalm 18. With vivid imagery of storm and destruction, it describes, well, a very rough time for the psalmist, the dramatic arrival of God to rescue him, and finally, peace, rest, and confidence that he can do all things through the strength the Lord supplies. The notes in my Bible say that this psalm recalls David's rescue from, and victory over, the murderous Saul.
It's a great psalm. Great to read when you are in the midst of troubles or when you have just gotten past them.
Verse 20 of this psalm was a particular favorite of Mother Delores Hart, the 1950's movie- star- turned- Benedictine -nun, whose amazing story we read in The Ear of the Heart Poor Sister Delores had a very difficult struggle in her early years at Regina Laudis Abbey. She cried herself to sleep nearly every night. She seemed to have missed the memo (before she entered) that chanting the Office in Latin was the primary work of a Benedictine monastic--and she was terrible at Latin! But somehow the unshakable conviction that God wanted her there saw her through that long crisis.
One day, Sister Delores chanted Psalm 18 verse 20 (in Latin) and couldn't quite figure out what it meant, but somehow felt it had great significance for her. After prayers, she asked another nun for the translation, which begins "He brought me out to a place of freedom." Sister saw this as a sign that God was bringing her out of all her vocational difficulties, and so she took her firsts vows with confidence. She even made this verse the motto on her souvenir memorial card for her profession day.
Just one example of how the Liturgy of the Hours is both our public prayer on behalf of the Church, but also our very personal communication with God at the same time.
A couple weeks ago, as I was walking out of daily mass with a few of the other church ladies, I made some comment about the saint's memorial we had just celebrated--Padre Pio.
"What?" excalimed one of my friends, "Are you saying today was Padre Pio's feast? I thought it was some St. Pius something-or-other. Now I feel like I missed it!"
Which got me wondering why the Powers that Be had to call Padre Pio by the English (Latin?) version of his name. I mean, for cryin' out loud, everyone knows who Padre Pio is! Why try to hide his identity with "Pius" thus confusing him with the two sainted popes by that name who are already on the universal calendar.
But looking back through the calendar, I see it is pretty standard to translate names into English. Hence, we didn't see St. Francesco on October 4th, or St. Giovanni Bosco on January 31st. We do have two Frenchmen on our calendar in French: St. Therese (not Theresa) and St. Andre (not Andrew) Bessette. And I also notice St. Juan Diego (not St. John James) on December 9th. So what gives with Padre Pio?
End of rant. I hope you are all enjoying October weather and October saints.
If anyone has any questions or comments related to the Liturgy of the Hours, please use the comments section below.
We didn't celebrate the feast of St. Matthew the Apostle this year because September 21st fell on a Sunday this year. Sundays supersede most feasts. I'm sure St. Matthew does not mind. But as I was paging around in my breviary today,my eyes fell on Matthew's second reading, from St. Bede the Venerable:
"[Jesus] saw the tax collector and, because he saw him through the eyes of mercy and chose him..."
And I remembered that Pope Francis' personal motto, both when he was a bishop and now as pope, is miserando atque eligendo, which everyone has trouble translation from Latin, but means something like "having mercy and choosing," This is the passage the Pope's motto comes from. It was on the feast of St. Matthew many years ago that young Mario Bergoglio received his vocation to the priesthood.
Anyway, it was cool to come across this passage in the Office of readings and remember the special connection that it has to our pope.
Many of us who spend oodles of time working at computers welcome the switch to a print breviary for prayer time. It feels so good to detach oneself from screens and feel paper, rather than letter keys beneath one's fingers for a few minutes. Some people insist that they can pray with more focus when they use a book rather than a tablet or phone for prayer.
Be that as it may, there are always those days when one says "Thanks be to God and to Catholic web developers" and today is one of these. Unless you have the African breviary from Pauline editions in Kenya, you'd be missing out on the propers for St. Pio of Pietrelcina. Good old ibreviary.com has everything you need, including the saint's incredible description (in the Office of Readings) of receiving the stigmata for the first time in 1918.
DivineOffice.org doesn't seem to have this reading but it does have the rest. Same thing with Universalis.
"What advice/tips would you give someone to help spread awareness of the Liturgy of the Hours? This is one of the great hidden treasures of the Church that I'd like to get more people to know about. Sometimes I'll post a photo on Facebook of a deer with the "longing for running streams" quote and say where it's from. Or maybe there will be a reading/hymn from Morning/Evening Prayer that really stands out and I'll share that. I've run out of ideas. " I shared a few of my thought with Ed, but thought this might be a good question for all of you. You all love praying the psalms and canticles with their antiphons etc., in harmony with the feasts and seasons of the Church year. How do you get other people interested, or heck, even aware that this is actually a thing that lay people can do? This could be thru social media (as Ed has tried) or one on one with friends, co-workers, fellow parishioners, or even family members. Let's come up with a good list. I'll start. If good ones turn up in the comment boxes below, I'll try to past them in here. 1. Leave a breviary lying on your desk at work so that it will invite questions.
If I were a bishop or even a priest, I might want to use the Office of Readings for every saint's memorial that occurs between September 16th and 28th. It would mean avoiding nine out of twelve days of reading "99 Ways a Bishop is Likely to End up in Hell.", otherwise known as St. Augustine's sermon on Pastors.
As a layperson reading this, I have come to a few conclusions:
1. I'm really glad I'm not a bishop.
2. I can't imagine anyone wanting such a responsibility.
3. Since Augustine's warnings apply, to a lesser degree, to priests as well, it reminds us what an awesome (as in awe-full, or awful) responsibility they have as well, and how we laity have a very serious responsibility to pray for them as well as our bishops. A lot.
4. I'll bet this yearly dose of Augustine on Pastors, thought not pleasant, does good bishops and priests a lot of good. A yearly reminder to pray hard, work hard, be humble, and daily throw themselves on Christ's mercy.
5. Don't even want to think about not so good bishops and priests who read this and ignore it, or pat themselves on the back imagining that they are in no danger of the faults Augustine describes.
6. Even back in the early centuries, the clergy and hierarchy must have been an extremely mixed bag if this is what St.Augustine felt he had to tell them.
7.St. Augustine gave really long sermons.
Lately--like for the last six months--blogging has been like confession. I'm always promising myself to blog twice a week and go to confession once a month. In reality this turns into blogging every two weeks and confessing every six to eight weeks. If Dante was correct, I know which circle in purgatory I'll end up in. The one where people are made to run. A lot. This is to imitate Mary, who "made haste" to do what her vocation demanded of her, unlike us slothful procrastinators.
Then again part of my problem is not mere procrastination. I'm running out of new things to say! If any of you would like to comment on a particular day's office, or a particular psalm, reading, or antiphon, I'd love to look it over and publish it here as a guest post, assuming your command of basic English grammar is okay and your piece is not riddled with heresy. :)
The emerging fall weather (emerging in my part of the world since mid-August, for some strange reason) has had me out on my (recently purchased) bike, cruising along the lovely, flat bike trails along the Allegheny river and a local creek or two. A recent ride reminded me of one of the benefits of regularly praying the Hours: those psalms are always with you, and pop up into one's consciousness in response to all sorts of things. So I'm riding along, thinking what fun it is to be riding a bike again for the first time in decades. Just then, a bald eagle comes gliding up the river, passing within maybe twenty yards of me. After my shock and awe fades a bit, that verse from Psalm 103 about God "renewing your youth like an eagle's" pops up. How perfect for my rediscovery of the childhood joy of bike riding. (Here's an old post about how eagles get their youth renewed, and by the way this psalm will be in the OOR psalter tomorrow) A bit later, a doe with two fawns crosses my path. Although this regularly freaks me out when I'm driving around here, it's a lovely sight on a bike trail. The threesome was heading down to the river for a drink, presumably. I then reflected that in these parts, a deer need not "yearn" for running streams, since they can find them everywhere they turn. Finally, the raucous noise of several recently fledged crows, still demanding to be fed by their worn out parents, brought to mind the young ravens that call upon God for their food in Psalm 147. Now, I do have to add there was no verse when a porcupine waddled by, nor when I spotted turtles on a river rock, but I guess "all you beasts, wild and tame, bless the Lord" from the Daniel Canticle would have worked.
Last time I blogged here, it was to give a glowing review to the Hymnal for the Hours. Since then I've been happily wasting lots of time trying out not one, but several different new hymns for each hour. The hymnal gave many different selections for Sunday's Exaltation of the Holy Cross and yesterday's Our Lady of Sorrows, including several versions of the Stabat Mater, which one doesn't get to sing liturgically outside of lent, so that was exciting. (yeah,I know, the things a liturgy geek gets excited about.) Gregorian hymns are written in various modes (musical scales) other than ones that most modern western music uses (and by modern I mean since the year 1600!) So some of these hymn melodies sound better than others to my modern ears. But when I find one that I like, I like it a whole lot. Anyway, I am continually grateful to Father Weber for the great gift he has given us in arranging, editing, and sometimes translating these hymns. So today when I found out that his his book, Prayer of the Hours, is available as a free download. I just jumped for joy, and then jumped willingly through the hoops to set up an account at Lulu.com in order to get it. This book is 300 pages of Father's teaching notes on courses he gives about the Liturgy of the Hours. I haven't started it yet, but can't wait. It's sure to be something wonderful.
Okay. My son will be home from school shortly, so I have to go. If you have any questions or comments about the Liturgy of the Hours the comments section below is the place to put them.
When you read what the General Instruction for the Liturgy of the Hours has to say about hymns, you are left scratching your heard, wondering what all this has to do with the hymns we are actually given to sing (or, for the unmusical, read) each day.
Today, for example, the choices given to us for Morning Prayer today are "This Day God Gives Me" (tune: Morning Has Broken) or "God Father, Praise and Glory" . There's nothing wrong with either of these hymns. I like the lyrics to "This Day God Gives Me", although the melody is slightly grating because it is overused at my parish and has a bad 70s vibe dues to the popular cover of this hymn by Cat Stevens at that time. (yes, I know how much this dates me. I was in junior high at the time.) But that's just me. For all I know, these lyrics combined with that melody is veritable spiritual manna for some. Moving on to "God Father, Praise and Glory" I decide to select this one. It has a traditional melody, is a bit easier to sing if I have someone else doing Morning Prayer with me, and I also notice that the lyrics are more oriented towards God than the is "This Day God Gives Me". It's more about the greatness and goodness of God, the need to praise and adore Him, whereas the first selection is more about Me and how God is going to help Me today.
So I sing or say the hymn I've chosen. But I never really feel that I'm actually praying the day's liturgy until the hymn is done and I've started the psalms. And the General Instruction gives me some hints as to why I feel this way.
#173 says that the hymns of the LOTH are the "principal poetic part [of the Office] composed by the Church" The selections in our breviaries have been composed by various Christian composers, some of them of fairly recent copyright, some of them by non-catholics. They were not, by and large, composed specifically for the Divine Office. So that "composed by the Church" part is a little...fuzzy as it applies to what's in our breviaries.
#174 says the hymn is "traditionally concluded by a doxology" (a verse invoking the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, simliar to the Glory Be) Although this morning's two hymn choices do have this feature, there are many days in the four week psalter where the hymn choices do not end with a doxology.
# 175 and 176 says there are "two series" of hymns for each hour, and for when the Office of Readings is said either during the day or as a vigil during the night. I don't see any hymns denoted in my breviary as belonging to one series or another.
#178 refers to "the Latin hymns" being adapted to the nature of vernacular languages. This means that the ancient hymns written specifically for the Liturgy of the Hours, once having been translated into the vernacular, can have their ancient, traditional melodies adjusted or changed in order to accomodate the differences in syllable stress or grammatical structure or the vernacular language. We never get to see these hymns in our breviaries, whether in Latin or in translation. #178 does give permission to "introduce new compositions, provided that they suit the spirit of the hour" but does that mean we should only get new compositions and never see the old ones? Our bishops have made use of a legitimate "option" when they compiled our breviary in 1971, but their use of a single option has deprived the faithful of any other option. And, although I don't want to give more examples here, some of the choices we are given seem to be less suitable to the spirit of the hour than one might wish.
But the good news is that I can quit complaining! It is now possible to access the ancient, traditional, official hymns for the Liturgy of the Hours, translated from Latin and even, if you like to sing them, set to Gregorian melodies.
Thanks be to God for Father Samuel Weber and the Benedict XVI Institute for producing the Hymnal for the Hours. This hymnal contains hundreds of hymns from the Roman breviary--the traditional hymns that have been largely withheld from us. Each has been translated into English. These are translations that either have been gathered from other sources, or in some cases, translations made by Fr. Weber himself. Each has been set to Gregorian melodies. There are hymns for Morning and Evening Prayer (a two week cycle, so that you use one hymn for weeks 1&III; another for weeks II & IV), and also for Office of Readings, with both "daytime" and "vigil" cycles. There are hymns for the holy seasons, for the commons of saints, and also for each solemnity, feast, and many individual saint's memorials. There's even hymns for the daytime hours and for Night Prayer.
The Hymnal for the Hours is not the only way to access these beautiful, official liturgical hymns.(It's just the most complete.) I've already written about the Mundelein psalter, a single volume breviary which includes the same selections for the 4-week psalter and a smaller selection of the seasonal hymns. And if you are mainly interested in the texts rather than the music of these hymns, the ibreviary app generally includes a translation of the Roman hymn as its alternative (second) choice for Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer.
If you do buy the Hymnal for the Hours and are put off by the Gregorian notation (four line staff, square notes, movable clefs) then just get the iChant app, which gives you a virtual keyboard with a Gregorian staff superimposed on it. These chant melodies are for most part very easy to memorize, so once you've plunked them out a few times on iChant, and then sung them, they should stay with you forever.
And many thanks to alert reader Sid Cundiff who alerted me to the existence of the hymnal.