20 October 2014

The Reform of the Daily Office - Part 2

What is the purpose of the Office?

In the first part of this series, I gave a brief overview of the reform of the Office in the Western Church, and discussed the concept of the Cathedral Office, the revival of which has never really occurred in widespread practice. At the conclusion of that post, I posed a series of questions.

Today I explore the first, and quite possibly the biggest question... what is the purpose of the Divine Office?

While answers could (and have!) taken up hundreds of pages, the cliche answer, 'the sanctification of time' still works as well as any other answer that one can develop. From the earliest days of Christianity, some form of daily prayer was understood to be a part of the Christian's walk. The Didache specifically mentions offering the Lord's Prayer three times daily, which seems to roughly correspond to the morning, afternoon, and evening temple prayers referred to in the Acts of the Apostles. This parallels the practices of both the Psalmist (Ps. 55:17) and Daniel (Dan. 6:10) in the Old Testament. Of course, there is also the example of David, who said that he praised God seven times daily, but at the moment I don't wish to focus so much on how many hours to pray as to why we pray at fixed times.

When state that we keep the hours for 'the sanctification of time' we are called to remember that we, while servants of an infinite God, are people who live lives governed, to some extent, by clocks. It doesn't matter of that clock is the intricate motions of the sun, moon, and earth in an annual cycle, or the flipping of the seconds on an iPhone app, time is passing, and we along with it. Each moment we live, we continue our journey down the river of faith that leads us, ultimately, to our heavenly home.

That said, the journey is fraught with distractions, disruptions, and yes, sinful inclinations. Left to our own devices, we would often neglect to spend time in thanksgiving and prayer. We are not the best at keeping Christ in the forefront of our minds. Yes we, baptized and renewed people, can still be distracted by a multitude of earthly enticements. That doesn't mean the enticements are intrinsically evil, mind you, just that they are distractions at times. Thus, the discipline of fixed hour prayer - regardless of the number of hours we keep, is intended to ensure that our focus is recalled on a regular basis to the blessings of God, who, to this day, reaches out to us when we reach out to him. In this way, we sanctify time.

Fixed hour prayer is not a panacea that will alleviate all trouble, distraction, or concern - but it is a powerful tool to keep our minds and hearts fixed on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.

In my next post, I'll consider the question: How many hours are appropriate to keep?


Rimbambo October 15, 2015 at 3:38 PM  

How many hours are appropriate to keep?

All original material (C) 2007-2010 by Father Robert Lyons.

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