Monday, January 05, 2009

Another Aspect of the New Liturgical Movement: The Divine Office

The Divine Office is a treasure of the Church and is something, it seems to me, which needs to be earnestly and seriously explored as a part of our pursuit of, and participation in the new liturgical movement.

It seems to me this should be of some serious consideration also for our own day to day prayer lives -- given the priority this prayer of the Church has and how it further connects us with the liturgical life and calendar of the Church -- but for the purpose of this post I am most especially considering this matter from the perspective of parish liturgical life.

I would like to encourage our parishes and parish priests to give thought to how they might adopt the tradition of sung parish Vespers in their own parishes, and to help inspire this consideration, these excerpts from Sacrosanctum Concilium on the Divine Office seem worthwhile:

By tradition going back to early Christian times, the divine office is devised so that the whole course of the day and night is made holy by the praises of God.


all who render this service are not only fulfilling a duty of the Church, but also are sharing in the greatest honor of Christ's spouse, for by offering these praises to God they are standing before God's throne in the name of the Church their Mother.


The divine office, because it is the public prayer of the Church, is a source of piety, and nourishment for personal prayer. And therefore priests and all others who take part in the divine office are earnestly exhorted in the Lord to attune their minds to their voices when praying it. The better to achieve this, let them take steps to improve their understanding of the liturgy and of the bible, especially of the psalms.


the divine office is the voice of the Church, that is of the whole mystical body publicly praising God


All who pray the divine office, whether in choir or in common, should fulfill the task entrusted to them as perfectly as possible: this refers not only to the internal devotion of their minds but also to their external manner of celebration.

It is, moreover, fitting that the office, both in choir and in common, be sung when possible.


Pastors of souls should see to it that the chief hours, especially Vespers, are celebrated in common in church on Sundays and the more solemn feasts. And the laity, too, are encouraged to recite the divine office, either with the priests, or among themselves, or even individually.

Sacrosanctum Concilium (para. 84-100)

This consideration has been on my mind for some time now, and just today the NLM was sent photos by St. Gabriel's Church in Stamford, Connecticut, a parish that has been steadfastly pursuing the project of Pope Benedict's new liturgical movement for some while, both through the reform of the reform and through the usus antiquior.

Recently they celebrated parish Vespers for the (transferred) feast of the Epiphany. This is nothing new to St. Gabriel's as their public sung Vespers has been featured here on the NLM before. Father La Pastina also reports as well that they will be having Vespers again on the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul.

A few images from their sung vespers and Benediction on the Feast of the Epiphany:

Evidently there might be challenges and hurdles to overcome in order that the Divine Office might be introduced into a parish's liturgical life, but surely these are surmountable with some creativity and will.

Perhaps some of our parish priests could use the comments to discuss their trials, concerns and successes in this regard. Or perhaps they might share what they have already done.

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