1. The relationship between the Eucharist and the Liturgy of the Hours is clearly stated in the General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours: “The Liturgy of the Hours extends (see PO 5) to the different hours of the day the praise and thanksgiving, the commemoration of the mysteries of salvation, the petitions and the foretaste of heavenly glory, that are present in the eucharistic mystery, ‘the center and apex of the whole life of the Christian community’ (CD 30). The Liturgy of the Hours is an excellent preparation for the celebration of the Eucharist itself, for it inspires and deepens in a fitting way the dispositions necessary for the fruitful celebration of the Eucharist: faith, hope, love, devotion and the spirit of self-denial.”17
2. As we have seen, the Eucharist, as a principle of Christian moral life, causes one to live the rest of life in preparation of the gifts to be offered at Mass and in execution of the dismissal mandate to love and serve the Lord. But this extension of the Eucharist, like all Christian activity, must be formed and structured by prayer. The Church provides the Liturgy of the Hours to serve as the common act of prayer, suitable for shaping life in preparation for and following through upon the Eucharist.
“Christian prayer is above all the prayer of the whole human community, which Christ joins to himself (cf. SC 83).”18 The Lord Jesus and his body pray together, as if in chorus, to the Father. This communion in prayer will be clearer if those who pray the Hours study and meditate upon Scripture, in reading which our word and God’s word are at one.
Additional aspects of the Liturgy of the Hours are to be noted. It constantly gathers and presents to the Father the petitions of the whole Church. All pastoral activity must be drawn to completion in the Liturgy of the Hours and must flow from its abundant riches. In this chorus of prayer, the Church more perfectly manifests what she is, for her identity as body of Jesus is kept continually in actuation; the injunction to pray without ceasing, which cannot be fulfilled by any one individual, is corporately fulfilled by the Church as a community.19
3. All aspects of the rich complexity of the Eucharist itself can be distinguished in the Liturgy of the Hours. In this Work of God, Jesus prays, his Church is united with him in prayer, and the whole course of life is sanctified (see SC 83–84). Participating in the Liturgy of the Hours, one not only fulfills a duty of the Church on her behalf but shares in the nobility of the Church, the bride of the Lord Jesus, who stands before God and sings to him (see SC 85). In this earthly choir of unending prayer, the endless liturgy of heaven is anticipated and experienced (see SC 8).
The revision of the Liturgy of the Hours after Vatican II is intended to make this prayer more accessible and fruitful, and also to make it a source of devotion and nourishment for personal prayer (see SC 90). The hope of the Church in revising the Liturgy of the Hours is that it might “pervade and penetrate the whole of Christian prayer, giving it life, direction and expression and effectively nourishing the spiritual life of the people of God.”20 This being so, it is unfitting if this prayer is restricted almost entirely to the clergy and religious. The Church wishes the worship of the Hours to be celebrated in parishes, to serve as family prayer, and to be recited by laypeople generally.21
Any supposition of conflict between personal, private prayer and the Liturgy of the Hours must be rejected. By using the variants provided by the Church, the Liturgy of the Hours can be adapted; on the other hand, by conforming minds to voices, those who pray can adapt themselves to this Liturgy, as they ought to do. In doing this, the Liturgy of the Hours attains its full impact as a principle of Christian moral life: “If the prayer of the Divine Office becomes genuine personal prayer, the relation between the liturgy and the whole Christian life also becomes clearer. The whole life of the faithful, hour by hour during day and night, is a kind of leitourgia or public service, in which the faithful give themselves over to the ministry of love toward God and men, identifying themselves with the action of Christ, who by his life and self-offering sanctified the life of all mankind.”22 The Hours are the suitable and ecclesially provided formative prayer of the liturgy of life to which every Christian is called.
Many people would accept and enter into the Liturgy of the Hours more willingly if they were not put off by the psalms, which are its backbone. They need to be reminded that these songs are divinely given; the Spirit provides them for us to use to respond to God’s other revelations of himself. Moreover, the psalms contain all of the basic spiritual attitudes which we must seek to cultivate: humility, meekness and resignation, detachment, faithfulness, mercy, yearning for perfection, the will to make peace, and the surrender of oneself to the will of God.
The Liturgy of the Hours is entrusted in a special way to those in holy orders. They must say it for and on behalf of those they are called to serve. Moreover, in the Liturgy of the Hours they can find not only a source of devotion and strengthening of personal prayer, but nourishment for pastoral and apostolic activity. No one who hopes for apostolic fruitfulness should forget that success depends primarily upon the Holy Spirit, and so is most effectively achieved by prayer, rather than by anything else one might choose to do. Finally, since the Liturgy of the Hours is service of the word, faithfulness to it ensures the reception of the word, with its life and power, into the lives of those who ponder it.23
17. Apostolic Constitution on and the General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours, Liturgy of the Hours, 1:29.
18. Ibid., 17.
19. Ibid., 9 and 31–34.
20. Ibid., 16.
21. Ibid., 34, 36, and 39.
22. Ibid., 18.
23. Ibid., 37–38.