Sunday Compline 2/21/10

[This is a talk that I gave on the topic of the Liturgy of the Hours.  The talk was given in the form of a homily during Sunday Night Prayer.]

We come together this evening to celebrate Compline, or Night Prayer.  For those who may be unfamiliar with the Liturgy of the Hours, I thought I would offer an explanation of the Liturgy of the Hours.  First, let’s define the term.  “Liturgy” is the official public worship of the Church and it is distinguished from private devotion.  “Liturgy” is public worship which is given to us by the Church: it is the official prayer of the Church and is meant to be a prayed in public.

The Mass is the highest form of liturgy, but it is not the only form of liturgy.  Within the Mass, we have the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist.  All the Sacraments, even when not celebrated within the context of the Mass, are forms of liturgical prayer: they are public worship.  The Liturgy of the Hours is yet another form of liturgy, or public prayer of the Church.

Liturgy has a two-fold purpose: through the liturgy, we give honor and praise to God, which is to say that we worship God through the Liturgy.  Through liturgical prayer, we also obtain many blessings for ourselves and for others.  When we pray the Liturgy of the Hours, we approach God together with Christ through His Bride the Church.  The Catechism teaches us that the Liturgy of the Hours is the voice of the Bride, the Church, addressed to her Bridegroom: Christ.

The Liturgy of the Hours gets its name from the fact that it is prayed at certain ‘hours’ throughout each day.  Each prayer is called an “hour,” not because it takes an hour to pray, but because it is done at a particular hour or part of the day.  There are five “hours” total: Morning Prayer, Mid-day Prayer, Evening Prayer and Night Prayer and then another “hour” known as the Office of Readings, which may be prayed at anytime during the day.  The point of the Liturgy of the Hours is to consecrate the entire day to God by stopping at various times of the day and refocusing on God.  It is set up so that the whole course of the day is made holy by the praise of God.

The prayers of the Liturgy of the Hours are taken almost entirely from Scripture: most especially from the Psalms.  The Psalms were written as prayers that were meant to be sung.  The Psalms are Scripture and therefore inspired by God.  When we pray Scripture, we take the words that God has given to us and we offer them back to Him.  The Psalms express a whole range of human emotions and offer to God many different forms of prayer.  In the Psalms we find praise sung to God for His greatness and we find remorseful sorrow for sin.  Some Psalms communicate great confidence and trust in God and other Psalms cry out to God for help from the depths of distress.  The Psalms are beautiful and powerful prayers.

The Liturgy of the Hours is meant to be the prayer of all the people of God.  The Liturgy of the Hours leads us to a deeper understanding of the liturgy and a deeper understanding of the Bible, because the prayers are almost entirely composed of Scripture.  By spending time with Scripture, we allow God’s Word to speak to our hearts.  By breaking up the day with prayer, we gain God’s assistance and grow in our relationship with Him.

Even if you do not pray the Liturgy of the Hours, it is very helpful to stop at various times of the day and connect with the Lord in prayer.  It does not have to be a long prayer; we can just take a moment, from time to time, during the day and turn our minds toward God.  We can thank God for the good things that are happening in our life.  We might stop and ask God for help if we are facing difficulties.  If we connect with God regularly throughout the day, we will find that we have more peace in our lives.  When I say that we will have more peace, I do not mean that our lives will become perfect and worry-free; I mean that God will give us the grace to have inner-peace, even in the midst of trials.

Sometimes we can be tempted to think that we are too busy to stop and pray during the day.  It is precisely when we are too busy to pray that we most need to pray.  In the seminary, I noticed that there was often a temptation that would come at the end of semesters.  As things became more and more hectic, with term papers due and exams to study for, I found that I was tempted to pray less so that I could “get everything done.”  When I gave in to the temptation to pray less, I found that I was more stressed out and anxious.  When I resisted the temptation and took the time to pray, despite the busyness, I found that I had more peace and was less stressed out, and still managed to get everything done.  God will give us the grace and the strength that we need, if we ask Him for it.

Lord Jesus, help us to remember to turn our thoughts to You often throughout the day.  Help us, Lord, to do all that we do out of love for You.  May we put all our trust in You; draw us ever closer to Yourself.  Amen.

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