The Divine Office

We find the origins of the Liturgy of the Hours in the Old Testament. The psalms, the 150 prayers in the Old Testament, are the real basis of the Liturgy of the Hours. Throughout the Old Testament, we see the Jews praying the psalms. They prayed the psalms at regular hours. Jesus Himself knew the psalms, quoted the psalms, and prayed the psalms. Jesus not only prayed the psalms: He fulfilled them and revealed their deepest meaning. Jesus, Who is the fullness of God’s revelation, also reveals the fullness of the psalms. So, for example, the words “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” [Psalm 22:2] were the prayer of someone whose heart was in anguish and who cried out to God in a time of desperate need. These words as prayed by Jesus on the Cross, as they rise from His heart to the heavenly Father, now have a new richness for us. They reveal to us the heart of Jesus and His prayer in His time of suffering. The same is true of all the psalms: All acquire a wonderful new richness in Jesus.

The Liturgy of the Hours as we have it today comprises five daily times of prayer:

+ a prayer upon beginning the day (Morning Prayer),
+ another for the mid-hours of the day (Daytime Prayer), another for the evening
   (Evening Prayer),
+ one for the end of the day (Night Prayer),
+ and finally, a more meditative time (Office of Readings) that may be prayed at
   any time of the day.

These five times of prayer are named “Hours,” not because each requires an hour of prayer, but because they build prayer into the cosmic hours of the day as they unfold. The shortest of these Hours may be prayed in five to ten minutes, the longest in fifteen to twenty minutes.