As we wrap up the 34th Week of Ordinary Time and get ready to begin yet another liturgical new year, I want to encourage everyone with a 4 volume set of the Liturgy of the Hours to make time to read the Apostolic Constitution Promulgating the Divine Office (page 11) and the General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours (page 21) in the front of Volume I for Advent and Christmas. These two documents are invaluable when it comes to understanding the nature of the Church’s prayer and why it is so important for us as Catholics. If you have the single volume Christian Prayer book, you can find an abridged version of the General Instructions beginning on page 8.
In his book Praying the Liturgy of the Hours: A Personal Journey, Fr. Timothy Gallagher OMV candidly admits his struggles with praying the Liturgy of the Hours throughout his priesthood. While he always remained faithful to his vow to pray the Office, he often saw it as competing with various other interests, responsibilities, and types of prayer. It wasn’t until he took the advice of his spiritual director to read the General Instructions that he understood for the first time the true nature of the Liturgy of the Hours. And this was thirty-three years into his priesthood! In the end, reading the General Instructions transformed the way Fr. Gallagher prayed the prayer of the Church - it even led him to write two books on the Liturgy of the Hours.
I am convinced this can be true for you as well. If you have been praying the Liturgy of the Hours for years, try making it a habit to pray the General Instructions at the beginning of each Advent. If needed, this will rekindle flames of devotion and remind you of why you make the sacrifices necessary to pray the Church’s prayer as a lay person under no obligation. If you are just getting started, there is no better way to begin. The General Instructions will help you understand the Liturgy of the Hours theologically, spiritually, and practically. And if you have yet to be convinced to make the Liturgy of the Hours at least part of your prayer discipline, try reading the General Instructions so at least you know what you are missing out on! Just know that if you do read it, you won’t want to miss out on this inestimable treasure of our Catholic faith.
I plan to start reading both the Apostolic Constitution and the General Instructions starting this week. Join me and together let us grow in our understanding, love, and devotion to the Liturgy of the Hours!