As readers of this blog know I have used The Divine Hours:A Manual for Prayer (Phyllis Tickle) for many months now. I have repeatedly found it a fruitful guide to daily fixed-hours of prayer and devotion. I do not follow the prayers every hour, or half-hour, using the guide. I try, and still fail, to follow the four designated times each day, if possible. These are: The Morning Office (between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m.), The Midday Office (between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.), The Vespers Office (between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m.) and Compline (before retiring for bed in the evening). The word office came into modern English useage via the Latin word opus, which meant "work." When we think of the word office we think of the place where we work. But it also refers to an activity, such as running for "office" or holding an "office." Thus the word still carries the idea of an activity.
For St. Benedict the fixed-hours of prayer were "the work of God," or "the offices." The idea behind this was that the striking of these hours reminded one that each hour really belonged to God and as a result they were "divine," thus the "divine hours," or opus dei. To offer the prayers of the divine hours is to serve before God, or to assume "the office" of an attendant upon the divine. It is to do the work of praise or to serve before God’s majestic throne as part of the priesthood. When I pray the divine hours I am reminded that millions pray similarly, as a universal priesthood, the world over. It is a great to be reminded that my prayers and praises join with a multitude in the entire chuch militant and triumphant who acknowledge God’s divine sovereignty over their lives and time.
The Prayer Appointed for the Week is:
Most loving Father, whose will it is for us to give thanks for all things, to fear nothing but the loss of you, and to cast all our care on you who cares for us: Preserve me from faithless fears and worldly anxieties, that no clouds of this mortal life may hide from me the light of love which is immortal, and which you have manifested to us in your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
The Concluding Prayer of the Church ends the Morning Office:
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought me in safety to this new day: Preserve me with your mighty power, that I may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all I do direct me to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen.
Besides Bible readings and others prayers of intercession for friends this is how I greeted this new day. I find it guides me enough to help me get on track but it also frees me enough to allow me to add to it various other aspects of spiritual practice that help me grow in the knowledge of Christ. Given that I greet most new days with great physical weakness I need this discipline more than most I am quite certain.