Vatican II & Liturgy - Part 10
“Christ Jesus, high priest of the new and eternal covenant, taking human nature, introduced into this earthly exile that hymn which is sung throughout all ages in the halls of heaven. He joins the entire community of mankind to Himself, associating it with His own singing of this canticle of divine praise. For he continues His priestly work through the agency of His Church, which is ceaselessly engaged in praising the Lord and interceding for the salvation of the whole world. She does this, not only by celebrating the eucharist, but also in other ways, especially by praying the divine office.
“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. Therefore, when this wonderful song of praise is rightly performed by priests and others who are deputed for this purpose by the Church's ordinance, or by the faithful praying together with the priest in the approved form, then it is truly the voice of the bride addressed to her bridegroom; It is the very prayer which Christ Himself, together with His body, addresses to the Father.
“Hence 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.
Priests who are engaged in the sacred pastoral ministry will offer the praises of the hours with greater fervor the more vividly they realize that they must heed St. Paul's exhortation: ‘Pray without ceasing’ (1 Thess. 5:11). For the work in which they labor will effect nothing and bring forth no fruit except by the power of the Lord who said: ‘Without me you can do nothing’ (John 15: 5). That is why the apostles, instituting deacons, said: ‘We will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word’ (Acts 6:4)” (Second Vatican Council, Sacrosanctum Concilium, para. 83-86).
The Divine Office, Liturgy of the Hours, or Breviary is not just for priests and religious. All the faithful are encouraged to take it up, especially the “hinge” hours of Morning and Evening Prayer. One of the most beautiful celebrations of Evening Prayer is done by our St. Joseph College Seminary at St. Ann Catholic Church in Charlotte. I encourage you to attend the next time they celebrate Sunday Vespers publicly, which will be at 5pm on April 24. Vespers is followed by a brief period of adoration and Eucharistic Benediction. More info can be found at www.stjcs.org/solemn-vespers/.