Numerous references to Christ were observed in the Psalms, including the prefiguration of His Divine Nature (“from the womb before the dawn I begot you”) and His crucifixion (“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Eminently suited to prayer, the Psalms had been quoted by Christ more than any other book, with the sole exception of Isaiah. The wide variety of psalms, expressing the whole range of human emotions, provided the early Christians with a collection of prayers satisfying nearly every need and occasion.
Psalm 141, for example, became the common prayer for evenings: “Let my prayer arise before you like incense, the raising of my hands like an evening oblation.” These prayers at fixed times were rightly understood to be the prayers of the whole Church as the people of God.
Taft provides an excellent analysis of the result: Communal prayer, once the only way, is now reduced to the better way to pray the hours. has now become an individual, personal obligation of the clergy as such.
And what was once the obligation of the entire Christian community in solidum . Not only did the Hours fall subject to this trend, the Breviary (the book containing the Hours) became synonymous with the very notion of private clerical prayer. The 150 Hail Marys of the Rosary emerged, at least partially, as a lay alternative to the 150 Psalms of the Divine Office.
Considering the potential value of the Hours for places where daily Mass is infrequent or non-existent, it is a mystery why its riches are not more fully explored.
Parish pastors may be pleased to discover that the Divine Office offers a way to deepen the liturgical life of their parish, while also fulfilling a goal of the conciliar reform.
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