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The Poetry of the Breviary

In addition to being one of the public prayers of the Church and an important tool to study the Faith, the Liturgy of the Hours is a treasury of Christian poetry. The poems are collected in the fourth appendix of the Breviary. Here are a few selections:

De Profundis
 Out of my soul’s depths to thee my cries have sounded;
 Let thine ears my plaints receive, on just fear grounded.
 Lord, should’st thou weigh our faults, who’s not confounded?
 But with grace thou censur’st thine when they have erred,
 Therefore shall thy blessed name be loved and feared.
 E’en to thy throne my thoughts and eyes are reared.
 Thee alone my hopes attend, on thee relying;
 In thy sacred word I’ll trust, to thee fast flying,
 Long ere the watch shall break, the morn descrying.
 In the mercies of our God who live secured,
 May of full redemption rest in him assured,
 Their sin-sick souls by him shall be recured.

- Thomas Campion

A Hymn to God the Father
 Hear me, O God!
 A broken heart
 Is my best part:
 Use still thy rod
 That I may prove
 Therein, thy love.
 If thou hadst not
 Been stern to me,
 But left me free,
 I had forgot
 Myself and thee.
 For sin’s so sweet,
 As minds ill bent
 Rarely repent,
 Until they meet
 Their punishment.
 Who more can crave
 Than thou hast done:
 That gav’st a Son,
 To free a slave?
 First made of nought;
 With all since bought.
 Sin, Death, and Hell
 His glorious Name
 Quite overcame;
 Yet I rebel,
 And slight the same.
 But I’ll come in,
 Before my loss,
 Me farther toss,
 As sure to sin
 Under His Cross.
 
- Ben Jonson
 
To Keep a True Lent
 Is this a Fast, to keep
 The larder lean?
 And clean
 From fat of veals and sheep?
 Is it to quit the dish
 Of flesh, yet still
 To fill
 The platter high with fish?
 Is it to fast an hour,
 Or ragg’d to go,
 Or show
 A down-cast look and sour?
 No: ’tis a Fast to dole
 Thy sheaf of wheat
 And meat
 Unto the hungry soul.
 It is to fast from strife
 And old debate,
 And hate;
 To circumcise thy life.
 To show a heart grief-rent;
 To starve thy sin,
 Not bin;
 And that’s to keep thy Lent.
 
- Robert Herrick

Love
 Love bade me welcome; yet my soul drew back,
 Guilty of dust and sin.
 But quick-ey’d Love, observing me grow slack
 From my first entrance in,
 Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning,
 If I lacked anything.
 ‘A guest,’ I answer’d, ‘worthy to be here’:
 Love said, ‘You shall be he.’
 ‘I, the unkind, ungrateful? Ah, my dear
 I cannot look on Thee.’
 Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
 ‘Who made the eyes but I?’
 ‘Truth, Lord, but I have marr’d them; let my shame
 Go where it doth deserve.’
 ‘And know you not,’ says Love, ‘who bore the blame?’
 ‘My dear, then I will serve.’
 ‘You must sit down,’ says Love, ‘and taste My meat.’
 So I did sit and eat.

- George Herbert
Liturgy of the Hours is available in Verbum.

Studying the Faith With the Liturgy of Hours

By Fr. Devin Roza

I’m very excited that the Liturgy of the Hours has made it to Verbum! And in this blog post, I’d like to share with you a few ideas about how you can use the Liturgy of the Hours in Verbum to study our faith.

The Liturgy of the Hours is the official prayer of the Church and is prayed every day by priests, religious and laity around the world. And the liturgy isn’t just any prayer! The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains that “liturgy is a constituent element of the holy and living Tradition.” The liturgy, then, also is one of the ways we learn, transmit and live our faith.

This theological truth was summed up by Prosper of Aquitine in the 5th century when he said that “the law of prayer establishes the law of faith.” Theologians have condensed this idea in the Latin phrase lex orandi, lex credendi: “the law of prayer is the law of faith” (CCC 1124). As St. Irenaeus put it already in the 2nd century, “Our way of thinking is attuned to the Eucharist, and the Eucharist in turn confirms our way of thinking” (Against Heresies, IV, 18, 5, cited in CCC 1327).

So, if we want to study the faith that has been handed down to us from the apostles, one of the ways we can do so is by studying the liturgy. And with its many readings from the Church Fathers, Councils, and saints, the Liturgy of the Hours is a particularly privileged place to study our faith!

To give an example, one of my favorite readings is the one from Good Friday. In it, St. John Chrysostom, who was named bishop of Constantinople in 397, explains how Christ’s sacrifice on the cross was prefigured by the Passover Lamb:

If we wish to understand the power of Christ’s blood, we should go back to the ancient account of its prefiguration in Egypt. Sacrifice a lamb without blemish, commanded Moses, and sprinkle its blood on your doors. If we were to ask him what he meant, and how the blood of an irrational beast could possibly save men endowed with reason, his answer would be that the saving power lies not in the blood itself, but in the fact that it is a sign of the Lord’s blood. In those days, when the destroying angel saw the blood on the doors he did not dare to enter, so how much less will the devil approach now when he sees, not that figurative blood on the doors, but the true blood on the lips of believers, the doors of the temple of Christ.

What a powerful image of what it means to receive Christ in the Eucharist! If the ancient angel “passed over” those doors which had been sprinkled in the blood of the Passover Lamb, how much more would the angel of death now “pass over” those believers who have the blood of Christ, the true Passover Lamb, on their lips, “the doors of the temple of Christ.”

This is just one example of the richness of our faith which the Liturgy of the Hours makes available to us! To help begin unlocking some of this richness, here are 4 tips to study the faith with the Liturgy of the Hours.

Add the Liturgy of the Hours to your Lectionary Layout

Verbum has a great Lectionary Layout, that allows you to study readings of the day, together with the prayers from the Mass of the day. You can also add the Liturgy of the Hours to the default Lectionary layout, and Verbum will open it to whatever date you selected. This can be a great way to remember to read the 2nd reading from the Office of Readings, which is an especially fruitful way to study the Liturgy of the Hours. Let’s see how!

To open the Lectionary Layout, the easiest way is from the Home Page, using a Lectionary card, which allows you to select the date (make sure you have all resources closed before clicking on the card, or it will only open the Lectionary, not the entire layout!):

Now, add the Liturgy of the Hours to the Layout that was opened. Place it wherever you would like it, and feel free to make any other changes you would like! Finally, activate the tabs that you would prefer to be selected by default.

You’re now ready to save your updated layout! To do so, open the Layouts menu, and under the section called “Home Page Layouts”, click on the arrow to the right of “Lectionary”, and choose “Replace with current layout.” Verbum will indicate that you have customized this layout by adding the word “Custom” in grey:

The next time you open the Lectionary Layout from the Home Page, Verbum will remember that you had added the Liturgy of the Hours. Not only will it include it, but it will open it up to whatever date you have selected from the Home Page!

Feel free to customize the Lectionary Layout as much as you like! And no worries – you can always go back to the default layout by choosing “Restore default layout.”

Use the Today button

Even without the Lectionary Layout, you can always navigate to “Today” in the Liturgy of the Hours. To do so, open the sidebar by clicking on the hamburger icon, and scroll up to the top of the table of contents. Click on Today, and the Liturgy of the Hours will navigate to today’s Liturgy!  

Search for topics within the Liturgy of the Hours

We saw how St. John Chrysostom explained how Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross, and the Eucharist, were prefigured by the Passover Lamb. What if I want to see what else the Liturgy has to say about the Passover? In Verbum this is simple, with search.

I could begin by running an Inline Search for “Passover”. To do so, click on the Inline Search button (the magnifying glass), type in Passover, and press Enter.

Verbum returns 57 times where the word Passover appears. A text from St. Gaudentius of Brescia (4th century) quickly catches my attention:

And so, now that you have escaped from the power of Egypt and of Pharaoh, who is the devil, join with us, all of you, in receiving this sacrifice of the saving passover with the eagerness of dedicated hearts. Then in our inmost being we shall be wholly sanctified by the very Lord Jesus Christ whom we believe to be present in his sacraments, and whose boundless power abides for ever.

St. Gaudentius is speaking to the newly baptized, who will be able to receive Christ in the Eucharist for the first time, after having “escaped from the power of Egypt and of Pharaoh, who is the devil” through baptism.

If you will be doing a lot of searches inside the Liturgy of the Hours, open a dedicated search panel, and place it next to the Liturgy of the Hours. This will allow you to better see the context of your search results! For example, a search for blood NEAR side quickly allowed me to find this text by St. Andrew of Crete, from the feast of the Triumph of the Cross.

Use Fulfilled in Christ: The Sacraments

One final tip. I wrote the book Fulfilled in Christ: The Sacraments as a guide to the prefigurations and symbols of the sacraments that are found in the Bible, the Catechism, and in the Liturgy, including the Liturgy of the Hours! It contains over 1000 references to the Liturgy of the Hours already classified and organized, including the readings from the Church Fathers and saints. If you’re curious about what the liturgy of our faith has to say about how the Manna in the desert prefigured the Eucharist, or how Nathan’s forgiveness of David is seen as prefiguring the sacrament of confession, or dozens of other types and symbols of the sacraments, this book is for you! (Note that Verbum is still implementing the hyperlinking between Fulfilled in Christ and the Liturgy of the Hours, so in the future this resource will be even more useful, but even now it can be useful as an index of topics and readings in the Liturgy of the Hours).

Conclusion

I’m convinced that the liturgy is an important path that God offers us to deepen in our faith and in our understanding of the Tradition handed down to us from the apostles. I’m very excited that the Liturgy of the Hours is now available in Verbum; there is no other platform where the liturgy can be studied as easily and as fruitfully.

Fr. Devin Roza taught as adjunct professor at the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum from 2016-2020. He is currently a doctoral student in Sacred Scripture at the Pontifical Biblical Institute. He is the author of Fulfilled in Christ: The Sacraments. A Guide to Symbols and Types in the Bible and Tradition.

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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