Learn the Divine Office in Lent

Well, Day 1 of Lent was pretty rich. Got to lector at Mass for one of my favorite readings and psalms, which was neat. Got to spend more time at a doctor’s office than I wanted to for something so minor, but that was good, as it gave me a chance to finish Robert Hugh Benson’s Lord of the World, (free on Kindle, kids!) and I think I needed the downtime. The quiet allowed a deeper submersion into Lent, but I still haven’t gotten that book recommendation post done, sorry.

Speaking of deeper submergence — for those of you still feeling like you have not “found” what it is you’re supposed to do with your Lent, in terms of prayer, sacrifice or education — it struck me again, yesterday that there is no better way to really cast out into the depths of this season, and no better way to develop a very good habit, indeed, than to use Lent to learn to pray The Divine Office (aka The Liturgy of the Hours) which is the prayer of the church. If you allow it, it can become a constant wellspring of refreshment, as Father Bevil Bramwell notes here.

I can tell you that praying the Office
has changed me (I’ve moved from “greatest beast in nature” to a being something of a badger), as I have written recently:

[The Liturgy of the Hours has] wrought deep changes to my personality and understanding, but they’ve done it slowly . . .psalm line by psalm line.

It is in the psalmody that one begins to feel truly united with the whole Church; to light a candle in the gloaming, open a breviary and chant “God, come to my assistance/O Lord, make haste to help me” is to begin the prayers of vespers just ended in one time zone, not yet begun in the next; one gets a sense of the continuum, the sacredness of time and the oneness of eternity. The whole of the human condition is contained in the psalms; we meet our true selves there, in all of our weakness, folly, pride, hope, exasperation and sorrow; the Liturgy of the Hours daily ignites a truly humbling encounter, with God and with oneself. Last November, Pope Benedict XVI concluded a series of talks on the psalms — which he called “a school of prayer” — by urging all Christians, not just clergy and religious, “to pray the psalms, to become accustomed to using the Liturgy of the Hours, lauds, vespers and compline.” It is marvelous advice, especially during Lent; a prescription against all of our ills, administered by the Divine Physician.

There are all kinds of ways to begin familiarizing oneself with the Office, and none of them are taxing. An easy and very, very fruitful beginning may be made with a subscription to Magnificat Magazine, which — aside from the daily lectionary and some truly wonderful meditations — gives you a kind of abbreviated Morning and Evening prayer and Compline. I can never recommend Magnificat enough.

And of course there is this breviary, which is what I started with, but does not include the Office of Readings. It’s still excellent.

But you can also check out DivineOffice.Org, which gives you the whole shebang — the full Hours in eye-pleasing text plus an audio option if you prefer, or want to pray the office with a few human voices joining in.

I used to write about the Office more than my schedule has permitted, lately. In this post I tried to express what one morning’s Office of Readings became for me. Sometimes I wish I had the time to resume the podcasts I used to do, of Vespers or Lauds and Compline, but DivineOffice.org does it better than I did, anyway.

Brandon Vogt’s latest book giveaway this week is Phyllis Tickle’s Eastertide: Prayers for Lent Through Easter from The Divine Hours, of which he writes:

contains Morning, Mid-Day, and Evening prayers for each day during this season, all in the form of the Divine Office. If you’ve never heard of the Divine Office (also known as the Liturgy of the Hours), or have been too intimidated to approach it, this is a helpful doorway into the practice.

Worth entering for!

Also, check out the Magnificat Lenten Companion for Kindle and in small booklet form.

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About Elizabeth Scalia