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How Does a Real-Life Seminarian Use the Liturgy of the Hours in Verbum?

The best part about owning any given resource in Verbum is not necessarily the increased functionality that comes from the software’s various features and tools (although these are not insignificant!), but the sheer convenience of having all one’s theological reference works in a single, easily-accessible location. This is especially true when said works are large, heavy, and span multiple volumes. The Liturgy of the Hours is a prime example. When it comes to actually praying it, I don’t mind carrying around the one volume required for that day’s Office. But when I have to study it, the last thing I want to do is lug four thick volumes to the library to flip through thousands of thin pages in search of one or two key texts.

Last semester, I was enrolled in an “Advanced Preaching” class. As part of my required coursework, I was asked to prepare two reflections to be preached during our communal Morning and Evening Prayer, respectively. The only stipulation was that the reflections had to be drawn from the scriptural texts prayed during that liturgy (i.e., the Psalms, Canticle, and short reading). Noting that my first reflection would be preached on Thursday in the fourth week of Lent, I launched Verbum and got to work on my exegetical research.

I began by opening the Liturgy of the Hours resource and navigating (via the Table of Contents) to the relevant location in the Four-Week Psalter: Volume 2 > The Four-Week Psalter > Week IV > Thursday, Week IV > Morning Prayer. Skimming over the Psalms and Canticles, I was struck by the selection from Isaiah, which describes Jerusalem as a nursing mother. This isn’t a familiar image for many seminarians (for some, in fact, it may even be an uncomfortable one!), so I knew that was where I wanted to focus my attention.

After selecting this biblical passage upon which to preach, I opened the “Cited By” tool to see how this passage may have been interpreted by the Church. Interestingly, the “Church Documents” tab pointed me towards the Roman Missal, where this very text from Isaiah is used as the Entrance Antiphon for the Fourth Sunday of Lent—thus providing “Laetare” Sunday with its name: “Rejoice, Jerusalem, and all who love her. Be joyful, all who were in mourning; exult and be satisfied at her consoling breast.” The Church’s liturgy clearly associates the image of a nursing mother with joy. (Coincidentally, this passage from Isaiah is also highlighted in the Catholic Topical Index’s entry for “Joy.”)

I also noticed that the “Church Fathers” tab of the Cited By tool included a link to St. Jerome’s celebrated commentary on Isaiah. Clicking through to the full text, I discovered that St. Jerome interprets Jerusalem’s “abundant breasts” allegorically. They belong to the Church (as the italicized text preceding this passage in the Liturgy of the Hours suggests, with its quotation of Galatians 4:26), and “they supply the rational milk [cf. 1 Pet 2:2] of the Old and New Instrument [Testament?].” The faithful Christian is thus meant to “nurse with delight” at the “abundant breasts” of the Church’s life-giving scriptures.

Additional Posts Coming Soon on Using Liturgy of the Hours in Verbum

Liturgy of the Hours is available in Verbum.

Brody Stewart holds an MA in Theology from Mount Angel Seminary. He enjoys liturgical prayer, patristic biblical exegesis, and melodic death metal. You can view some of his work on his YouTube channel.

Why Should I Pray the Liturgy of the Hours?

By Brody Stewart

Most people may not realize it, but the Church has not one, but two great public prayers. The first is, of course, the celebration of Eucharist, the Mass, with which every Catholic is already familiar. Priests and consecrated religious, however, are just as familiar with the Church’s second great public prayer: the “Liturgy of the Hours,” also known as the “Divine Office,” or the “opus Dei” (“the work of God”). The Second Vatican Council described this prayer as “that hymn which is sung throughout all ages in the halls of heaven” (Sacrosanctum Concilium 83), “the voice of the bride addressed to her bridegroom” (84), and even “the very prayer which Christ Himself, together with His body, addresses to the Father” (84). This is not just flowery theological language. Along with the Eucharist, one might be so bold as to call the Liturgy of the Hours the “source and summit” of Christian prayer (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church 1324).

But what is the Liturgy of the Hours? At its core, it is a regular recitation of the scriptures and in particular, the Psalms, which have always been the prayerbook of God’s chosen people. Before the coming of Christ, Israel prayed the Psalms as a way to give collective voice to the breadth of their religious experience—i.e., the whole spectrum of sadness, joy, anger, frustration, and hope. But after Christ’s incarnation, death, and resurrection, a new light shone upon the Psalms: Christ himself came to be seen as the true subject of these songs. According to the author of Hebrews, Christ quotes a Psalm upon his entry into the world: “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; holocausts and sin offerings you took no delight in. Then I said, ‘As is written of me in the scroll, Behold, I come to do your will, O God.’” (Hebrews 10:5-7, quoting Psalm 40:7-9 [LXX]). So too did St. Peter, in his speech at Pentecost, put the words of Psalm 16 on the lips of the soon-to-be-resurrected Messiah: “you will not abandon my soul to the netherworld, nor will you suffer your holy one to see corruption. You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.” (Acts 2: 27-28, quoting Psalm 10-11). Perhaps most strikingly, Jesus himself quotes Psalm 22 as he dies on the Cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46, quoting Psalm 22:2). As Christians pray these ancient texts, they are mysteriously drawn into the eternal dialogue between God the Father and his beloved Son.

It should come as no surprise, then, that the Psalms became the privileged prayers of the early Church. St. Benedict tells us that the Desert Fathers were in the habit of praying all one hundred and fifty Psalms every single day, but for his own sixth-century monks, he concedes that the Psalter can be said over the course of one week (Rule of St. Benedict, ch. 18). In the present day, the practice of praying the Psalms remains unchanged, but their distribution has become even less daunting: the Psalter is now divided across four weeks instead of one. With such an accommodation, the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council extended an invitation and an encouragement for all the Christian faithful to take part in praying the Liturgy of the Hours (SC 100). For each member of Christ’s mystical body who heeds this call, “the whole course of the day and night is made holy by the praise of God” (SC 84), and St. Paul’s exhortation to “pray without ceasing” is fulfilled (SC 86, quoting 1 Thessalonians 5:11).

The Liturgy of the Hours is thus commended by Scripture, the Fathers of the Church, and the Second Vatican Council. One would be hard-pressed to find a more traditional or more Christian form of prayer. If such musings have convinced you to give it a go (and I hope they have!), then stay tuned for a follow-up post in which I will walk you through how to study the Liturgy of the Hours using the Verbum app.

Part Two Coming Soon: “How Does a Real-Life Seminarian Use the Liturgy of the Hours in Verbum?”

Liturgy of the Hours is available in Verbum.

Brody Stewart holds an MA in Theology from Mount Angel Seminary. He enjoys liturgical prayer, patristic biblical exegesis, and melodic death metal. You can view some of his work on his YouTube channel.

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