Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Reading for Spiritual Formation

If asked 'What should I read for spiritual formation, to help me to think with the Church,' there are many books one could recommend. The Bible, of course, but even there it helps to have some direction beyond the readings given for daily Mass.

Throughout the world among both laity and religious, the liturgical unity of the Catholic Church, beyond the Mass itself, is represented not in commercial hymnals but rather in The Liturgy of the Hours or, as it is alternatively known, The Divine Office. This is the basis of common worship within the Catholic Church, although its use is scattered outside the clergy. It is the one liturgical document which crosses various internal boundaries. In addition to extensive readings from the Psalms and other Scripture, the Hours includes a selection of hymns.

The four volume edition, while expensive, is more useful than one volume abridgments. There is also a fairly complete version available online.

In a recent general audience, Pope Benedict XVI remarked: “I would like to renew my call to everyone to pray the Psalms, to become accustomed to using the Liturgy of the Hours: Lauds, Vespers, and Compline.

The Liturgy of the Hours has designated readings for each day and for every special day in the liturgical calendar. It also includes various hymns and even an appendix of poetry.

For example, for this Thursday in the 4th week of Ordinary Time, the office of readings include 2 Thessalonians 1:1-12 and an extract from the Catecheses of St Cyril of Jerusalem. The readings in the monthly cycle of the Hours include:

Psalm 44, 143:1-11, 147:1-11, 128, 129, and 144 as well as Isaiah 66:10-14, Romans 8:18-21, 1 John 3:23-24, Wisdom 1:1-2, Hebrews 12:1-2, Revelation 11:17-18, 12:10-12 and various hymns, prayers and intercessions.

However, since this Thursday falls on February 2th, the feast of the Presentation of Our Lord, there are also special readings: Psalms 2, 19A, 45; Exodus 13:1-3, 11-16 and a sermon by Saint Sophronius about being receptive to the Eternal Light. Additional readings for the Hours (for example, for Morning Prayer [also called Lauds] and Evening Prayer [also called Vespers]) include readings from Isaiah, Psalms, Colossians as well as various prayers, hymns, and intersessions.

This is the first of what I hope will be weekly postings on this blog regarding the Liturgy of the Hours and I hope to hear your comments. Also, we invite you to join us in praying the Morning Office on Wednesdays at 10am, in the Vaughan Center at St Ambrose.

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