Friday, September 2, 2016

It's Not About You! Or, is it?

credit: Liturgy Memes (like us on Facebook)

I couldn't resist sharing this punny meme today. Not just because the Carly Simon pop tune, "You're So Vain" brings back memories of my childhood, but because this meme actually does bring up an issue about the Liturgy of the Hours.  

Some people might not "get" the LOTH because on any given day, the psalter does not express their feelings, e.g. psalms of sorrow when all is well with their worlds, or joyful psalms when they are in the midst of suffering.    But it's precisely a virtue of liturgical prayer that it breaks us out of the narrow confines of our own feelings and makes us think and pray as members of the Body of Christ. No matter what we happen to feel on any given day, we are supposed to pray the psalms in the voice of the Church on behalf of its members. There are always suffering souls to pray for, and there are always happy souls with whom we can rejoice. So we have to get over ourselves and pray with the heart of the Church; with the heart of Christ.

But once we submit to this discipline, a funny thing happens. We start finding a verse here and an antiphon there that jumps out at us so forcefully that it seems to have appeared in the day's Office as a "sign" or a message addressed to us by the Lord.   And why not? Even as we pray on behalf of the Church for the world,  we are also among the little sheep for whom the Church is praying.

So although it might be vain to expect each day's psalms to reflect our moods and needs, it's not vain at all to find elements in them that are deeply applicable to our personal situation.

God's Word will do that to you. 


  1. " we are supposed to pray the psalms in the voice of the Church on behalf of its members."

    Excellent point, Daria

  2. I agree, personally it inspires me to be more diligent when reciting the LOTH

  3. This is unrelated, but I thought you or your readers might be interested. I had always heard that prior to 1911, Sundays in ordinary time were hardly ever celebrated because so many feasts outranked them. I actually sat down with the 1908 English breviary and worked out what this year would have been like under the old calendar. Here are all the Sundays after Trinity (until Advent):

    June 5: Sunday in the Corpus Christi octave
    June 12: Most Sacred Heart of Jesus
    June 19: Juliana de'Falconieri, Virgin
    June 26: John and Paul, Martyrs
    July 3: The Most Precious Blood of Jesus
    July 10: The Holy Relics (I guess just of saints generally)
    July 17: Commemoration of the Holy Bishops of Rome
    July 24: Sunday
    July 31: St. Ignatius
    Aug 7: Gaetan, Confessor
    Aug 14: Sunday
    Aug 21: St Joachim, father of the BVM
    Aug 28: Most Pure Heart of the BVM
    Sep 4: Sunday
    Sep 11: The Holy Name of the BVM
    Sep 18: The Seven Sorrows of the BVM
    Sep 25: Ninian
    Oct 2: The Holy Rosary of the BVM
    Oct 9: Motherhood of the BVM
    Oct 16: Purity of the BVM
    Oct 23: Patronage of the BVM
    Oct 30: Sunday
    Nov 6: Sunday
    Nov 13: Sunday
    Nov 20: Edmund, King of the East Angels

    So in 6 months only 6 regular Sundays would have been celebrated. That would make for a very different experience at Mass. I'm especially interested in the large number of Marian feasts, most of which had are gone now.

  4. It's always tricky to keep a healthy balance between the sanctoral and temporal cycles. If you look at the development of Roman calendar between 1570 and 1910, it's clear that the pendulum had swung too far to the sanctoral side, with a bunch of Counter reformation saints and personal devotions (Sacred Heart etc.) getting double-rank feasts and outranking Sundays.

    But it seems to me we have fallen recently into the opposite error of overephasizing the temporal cycle and losing the festal character of so many ancient and important days, not to mention the richness of our various Octaves. This is most evident post-1970, but the process started well before with the two Piuses (X and XII) and is also evident if you compare 1908 to the 1962 calendar of the traditional Roman rite.

    On Daria's broader post: spot on. Liturgical prayer challenges you, on a deeper and more significant level than any personal devotions, to get out of yourself and conform your soul to the voice of Holy Mother Church. I forget right now who famously wrote that the Mass is a jewel in its setting, which is the Divine Office - and the Office itself is a jewel whose setting is the Cosmos.

    1. The late Hungarian musician, professor and liturgist Dr. László Dobszay put it this way: "The Office is not only adoration of God, but is also an effective means of forming a liturgical consciousness. The Mass mostly contemplates the work of salvation as a single comprehensive reality; the prism of the Office unfolds it in its manifold color." (The Restoration and Organic Development of the Roman Rite, ch. 15: The Divine Office)

    2. It is interesting--that balance or tension between sanctoral and temporal celebrations. As someone who grew up with the temporal emphasis, I look at the list you posted above and think "that's just not right." On the other hand, many people are more moved by the example of faith lived out in the lives of the saints (and Our Lady) and so emphasizing their feasts, even on Sundays, might be of greater benefit to them. Fortunately, it's not my decision to make or even my place to give advice about, so I try to embrace and love whatever it is that the Church gives me, now, in the time in which God has placed me. I've seen the quote about jewel/ setting and mass/Divine Office attributed to different people, but the part you add about the cosmos is new to me.

  5. Some days I feel like I'm holding a conversation with the Office, on others it plumbs the depths of my soul, and then there's the occasional weather report (I shelter under your wings until harm passes by).

    And, lately, it seems to be commenting on politics, and not very favorably.

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  7. In a different vein: Just a reminder that yesterday was the first celebration of the feast day of St. Teresa of Calcutta. Anybody observe (what I assume is) the optional memorial? I assume the appropriate prayers would have been the Common of Holy Women (For Those Who Worked for the Underprivileged).

    1. Yes, it didn't occur to me yesterday, but you are right. I assume this is an optional memorial at this point, in which case you would do the psalter of the day and then continue with either the common of virgins/underpriveleged as you suggests, OR continue with the weekday psalter but finish up with the concluding prayer from the common. I'm guessing it will be an obligatory memorial in India. Naturally, it will be a feast in all of St. Teresa's religious houses and for any clerical or lay affliates.

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  9. While this comment is totally off topic, I do not know of another way to contact you. I am wondering about the psalmody used at the Little Hours. In the resources which I have seen, the psalmody for the Little Hours used only one antiphon for the three psalms used at the little hours. The same practice seems to happen with the Benedictine Thesaurus, and the present 4 Volume Set for the Breviary when it is a Solemnity, Feast, or the office is taken from the common of saints or from the season. But for Ordinary Time, each psalm has its own antiphon. I am wondering about the history of this practice. Which is the more ancient practice and what is its origin? Why did the most recent Liturgy of the Hours shift the pattern for Ordinary Time? Thanks.

    1. Peter, I"m not a history expert by any means. I believe that the multiple antiphons in the psalter during ordinary time is a development that came with the Vatican II revision of the Divine Office. There is a Facebook group called Breviary and Divine Office Discussion Group where members are mostly interested in the older versions or alternative breviaries such as the Anglican or various monastic breviaries. You might find more answers there.

  10. Thanks for your reply. I tried that group. I am looking for the history of a minor point for which I cannot find even a footnote! From everything that I studied on this point, it seemed to me that the most recent edition of the Liturgy of the Hours shifted the practice, but only partially and not totally. The Benedictines seems to keep the original pattern of 1 antiphon for the three psalms. I am grateful for your reply. You are doing a very good thing with your page. It is a gift when people pray the office and help others to pray it.