Monday, May 7, 2012

The Divine Office

The liturgy accompanies the Holy Mass with the recitation of the Divine Office which, as Mediator Dei teaches “is the prayer of the Mystical Body of Christ, addressed to God in the name of all Christians and for their benefit, by priests, other ministers of the Church, and religious, who are assigned this task.”  The great dignity of the Divine Office lies in the fact that it is not a
private prayer, but the official public prayer of the Mystical Body of Christ, whose members do not pray alone, but with Christ their Head.  “When the Word of God assumed human nature, He intoned in His earthly exile the hymn which is sung in heaven through all eternity.  He joined to Himself the whole human community and united it with Himself in the chanting of this hymn of praise” (ibid.).  In the Divine Office, “Jesus prays with us as our Priest; prays in us as our Head…   Let us recognize then,” says St. Augustine, “our voice in His and His voice in us.”  What a wonderful gift! Jesus, the Son of God, associates our poor, miserable prayers with His great precious Prayer.

Although the Divine Office is of obligation only for priests and religious who are charged with it by the whole Church, it can be said that it is the prayer of the whole Christian people, in the sense that it is addressed to God “in their name and for their benefit.”  It is therefore highly praiseworthy for the laity to try to participate in it in some way...  Furthermore, they can offer to God at
every hour of the day and night the great Prayer of the Church, for their own special intentions and individual needs.  In this way they can make up for the deficiencies and the brevity of their own personal prayers.  Even in the midst of daily occupations, each one can unite himself from time to time by pious aspirations with the “perpetual praise” which the Church sends up to God in
the name of all Christians.

The Divine Office is made up, for the most part, of inspired texts taken from Holy Scripture.  This is why we cannot find vocal prayers that are more beautiful and more suitable for praising the Divine Majesty; in the inspired word, the Holy Spirit Himself “asketh for us with unspeakable groanings” (Rom. 8:26)  Then, too, these prayers are so rich in doctrine and unction that they help greatly to nourish our personal piety.  All these reasons make us understand that “the Divine Intimacy interior devotion of our soul must correspond to the lofty dignity of this prayer” (Mediator Dei), in
such a way that “our soul is in tune with our voice,” as St. Augustine says. Because the Divine Office is the prayer which the Church, together with Jesus, her Head, sends up to God, and because it is inspired by the Holy Spirit, it has great value in itself; but it will have no value for us, so as to increase our union with God and to draw divine blessings down upon us, if it does
not become our prayer, if we do not accompany it with our own personal devotion.  In the society of the faithful, the Church prays with the heart of her children, with our heart; and the more fervent and full of love this heart is, the more our prayer, the Prayer of the Church, will be pleasing to God. 

Even if the obligation of reciting the Divine Office is not involved, and a few brief prayers only are taken from the Breviary, it is well for all interior souls to try to grasp the spirit of this liturgical prayer and to make it their own.  It is a spirit of praise and adoration which desires to render to God perpetual worship in union with Christ and in the name of the whole Church, a spirit of
solidarity with Jesus, our Head, and with all the faithful, our brethren; it is a universal spirit which embraces the needs of the entire world, and prays in the name of all Christianity.  How the horizons broaden now with the intentions of our prayers!  We no longer feel alone in prayer; we have become little orantes beside Jesus, the Orante!
from Divine Intimacy
by Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, OCD

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