The Liturgy Of The Hours is a four-volume set of leather bound books that contain three year’s worth of prayers to be prayed daily by Catholic priests and nuns. Originated from the Jewish ritual of praying at the third, sixth, ninth, and twelfth hour the prayers continued in that vein by early Christians.
By the fifth century A.D., the Christians had accumulated enough prayers, psalms, and biblical passages to constitute eight daily prayers which were then bound into books so that monks could pray them all together in the monasteries. At the time, this was a rather elaborate ritual as the prayers were sung in Latin with a psalter (song leader). (When you think of monks chanting in monasteries, this is what they were doing.)
Over the years, these prayers were edited, added to, and subtracted from by a succession of popes until Pope VI made the latest, and most dramatic of changes in 1965, cutting those eight daily prayers down to a required five and allowing for translations to be made in the English. This resulted in the four volumes we use today and opened them up to be able to be prayed by the laity: aka you and me.
For this reason, whenever I crave a more intimate devotion with the Divine, I make like a nun and pray like one. I crack open the appropriate The Liturgy Of The Hours volume and pray the five prayers preordained for the day:
The Office Of Readings
The Morning Prayer
The Daytime Prayer
The Evening Prayer
The Night Prayer
The problem is that the books are not chronological, which makes them a disaster to decipher. You can’t just open up to January 1st, for example, to read that day’s Office, Morning, Daytime, Evening, and Night prayers. No, you have to hunt for each prayer throughout your copy. And interestingly enough, despite asking every priest I have come into contact with this past year, I haven’t met a single one who knew how to do it (because now there’s an app for that).
That means we need to rely on this pamphlet. It lists all the days of the year and the page numbers for each prayer. All you have to do is know which season we are currently in (Book I is Advent, Book II is Lent-Easter, Book III is Ordinary Time Weeks 1-17, and Book IV is Ordinary Time Weeks 18-34), then open that book to the pages mentioned in the pamphlet for that day’s prayers.
You can buy The Liturgy Of The Hours here, and the pamphlet here. You can get the app here. Or you can do what I do and have a shortened version of it mailed to your doorstep monthly in the form of Magnificat Magazine. It contains a morning prayer, the mass (the readings said at church that day), and an evening prayer, plus a meditation written by early Christians for every date of the month; thus eliminating the need to go hunting through each book. All you have to do is turn to today’s page (AMAZING).
Try praying The Liturgy Of The Hours for a day, a week, or a season and see if it increases your prayer life and deepens your relationship with the Divine. I know that whenever I’m in need of something more in-depth, reading The Liturgy Of The Hours dramatically increases my devotional life. It’s as if God speaks directly to me through the words written on those pages.
I hope He does the same for you.