20 October 2014

What is LOH?

[[Hi Sister Laurel, in your next to last post you referred to LOH along with liturgy of the Word with Communion. What is LOH? Do only hermits do it?]]

Oops, my bad! I should have written it out! LOH is an abbreviation for Liturgy of the Hours. This is also called Divine Office, Office, the Hours,  and the Work of God in the Benedictine tradition. The Office is a series of 7 "hours" (referring to the hours of the day the prayer is done, not to the length of the Office) where psalms, readings, canticles, etc are prayed to sanctify the entire day. The LOH (Liturgy of the Hours) is actually the official prayer of the Church and the Church encourages everyone whether priest, religious, or lay person to pray the Office each day as a means of praying WITH the whole Church. After all, the Church is meant always to be the Church at prayer and one symbol of the Church is the person with upraised arms.

The number of hours one undertakes (there are 7 total) depends upon a number of factors including state of life, time available, personal preference in prayer types or forms, and so forth. Priests are required canonically to say their Office and most religious do some portion of the office each day. Laity are encouraged to do at least morning prayer (MP) and Evening Prayer (EP) and Compline or night prayer if they can. I find most lay persons can manage MP and NP more easily than they can EP. Compline, considered a "minor hour", is also the least variable of the hours as well as the simplest and can be incredibly comforting and calming before bed. It is the hour where we commend our spirits to God in preparation for sleep and for death. Lauds and Evening Prayer, along with the Office of Readings (OOR) or (sometimes still called) Matins are known as the major hours. Besides these there are three other "minor hours" which puctuate the day of work, etc so one may reconsecrate the day and make the whole of it prayer.

Monastics tend to pray at least five of the hours each day and many do all seven. I tend to do 3 or 4 of the hours during the Spring and Summer months and 5 during the Winter months when I am inside even more. (I also do more of the hours when I am ill, for instance because I do less of other forms of prayer or lectio, etc.) Otherwise, I find praying more of the Office fragments my day more than it assists it to be prayer. My personal favorite hour is Compline (which comes from the Latin for "complete" or completion). If someone is just starting to pray Office I tend to suggest they start with Morning Prayer (Lauds) and end their day with Compline. As one gets used to doing this one can add other prayer periods. This enables one to get used to really praying an hour before jumping into more of them and also to accommodate the other parts of one's schedule that are still quite demanding.

Some parishes include Morning Prayer or Lauds as a daily thing. Some do Vespers (EP) at least once or twice weekly. Some use this prayer only on major feasts or during Holy Week, Easter, and Christmas. It is great when this can happen -- to whatever extent. Some parishes and dioceses use a version of Morning Prayer with Communion for days when there is no priest. This also seems to work well. In any case since Office is the official prayer of the Church everyone in the Church who can reasonably do so is encouraged to pray at least some portion of the seven hours because it is not a private prayer but communal which unites one with the praying community everywhere. It is a consideration of this prayer, especially its dialogical portions like, "Dominus vobiscum" ("The Lord be with you"), which, because they were also prayed by hermits in physical solitude, caused Peter Damian to think and speak of the hermit as an ecclesiola and profoundly related (and responsible for remaining profoundly related) to the rest of the Church. The Divine Office helped ensure this for the hermit by instilling a truly communal sensibility.