Divine Office Today

Every community that prays the Divine Office, however large or small that community might be, should be aware of being a praying Church which represents the Universal Church. For those in more contemplative and monastic communities the Opus Dei is a special charism, that is, gift of the Holy Spirit. It could be said that the Holy Spirit bestows the gift or charism of prayer, or a ministry of prayer, to the individual members and to the contemplative community as a whole. The monastic community is one that has received the call to “pray without ceasing.” This does not mean a perpetual presence in church, but rather a call to “pray always,” in whatever occupation is being undertaken. The prayer is for the Church and the good of all, outwardly directed, for “the growth of the Body of Christ” as Saint Paul calls it in Ephesians 4:15. This does not discount the charism of perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament to which some contemplative communities are devoted. Many parishes today also maintain this venerable custom.

By a “ministry of prayer,” the praying Church, the monastic choir, continues the work of salvation through Christ present in Word and in Sacrament when the Eucharist is celebrated. The two modes of public liturgical prayer–the Divine Office and the Mass–are great testimonies to Christ-in-our-midst. Christ is present in the assembly that gathers and proclaims God’s Word, and the assembly receives Christ truly present in the bread and wine, his Body and Blood, at the Eucharist.

The monastic choir is also a dwelling place of the Holy Spirit, who bestows the particular charism or ministry of prayer. The praying community should be attentive to the action of the Holy Spirit, who inspires a deeper longing for the living God. This is compared in the Psalms to a “deer that yearns for living streams.” We do this when we are attentive to God’s living Word and his desire to bring us to good actions and words. This is the work of the Holy Spirit in the assembly of monks or whenever “two or three are gathered” in Christ’s name.

Christ is present in our liturgical prayer uniting himself with the praying community in a relationship of Master and disciple, Head and member, Bridegroom and bride, Creator and creature. The members of the praying community–the monastic choir–are in communion with their Head, Christ, and participate in Christ’s saving work. The ritual celebrations of the Divine Office are a strong means of entering into a dialogue of praise and contemplation of the God who saves us.

The Opus Dei thus becomes a powerful part of every day and thus should not be neglected for other matters, however urgent they might be. So many monastic communities today have dropped Vigils, for example, because of the demands of the apostolate or other works, or even because the priority of getting more rest is preferred to the Work of God. Those who have the leisure to spend more time with God, so to speak, should diligently carry out the full round of Offices in the monastic tradition.

The Liturgy of the Hours is not the same as the Eucharistic Sacrifice, but the two are intimately connected in the one saving work of Christ, who comes to us in many forms. When we partake of the Office or the Mass, we are invited to “taste and see how good the Lord is” who loved us and gave himself up for us, as we recall at every Mass and Office when we participate through Word and Sacrament in a sacrifice of praise. We bring the gifts of self and all we have, including bread and wine, to the Lord’s altar so that God may consecrate us and our gifts and accomplish the two-fold purpose of all liturgical action: the sanctification of souls and the glorification of God.

In 1970 Pope Paul VI wrote some challenging and encouraging words in his Apostolic Constitution Laudis canticum, 8:

“May divine praise resound more and more splendid and beautiful in the Church of our time; may this praise unite itself to the praise which the saints and angels make sound in the celestial dwellings and, increasing its perfection in the days of this earthly exile, may it approximate more and more that full praise which is eternally rendered ‘to him who sits upon the throne and to the Lamb'” (cf. Revelation 5:13).