on my treadmill, of course. Literally (sometimes) and figuratively as well. The past week had me pedaling in so many different directions, I am still not sure which way I am turned. Hopefully, toward Mt Carmel parish for Saturday morning's talk (since I am the speaker).
On and off the treadmill, I have been preparing for the talk by re-reading a series of books on the Liturgy of the Hours. The thing that strikes me most about this "Prayer of the Church" is that in the early Church, it was taken for granted that believers would pray at least three times a day (morning, noon and evening), and highly recommended that they would pause during their day's work, whether at home or in the Forum, and offer a few minutes of praise to God when the public bells rang at the 3rd, 6th and 9th hours of the Roman "clock." Then there was the prayer at midnight. In all, "seven times a day I praise thee," as the Psalmist had written, was the Christian ideal. And we're not talking monasteries here, just ordinary Christians. (There weren't any monasteries yet.)
Once Christianity was no longer a treasonable offense, Christians were expected to get together, along with the bishop, for morning praises. It was so much the prayer "of the people" that the bishops had to find ways to motivate the clergy to participate! Quite the opposite of our present situation in which the clergy are the ones entrusted with the praying of the "Hours" to the extent that most people think of them as the "priests' prayers."
Perhaps it was the Office's success in the monastery that led to its practical demise as a prayer of the people. In the monasteries, the bare-bones, easily memorized morning and evening psalms got embelleshed with additional antiphons, titles (to guide the interpretation and praying of the psalm), chants and sermons. Book on top of book got added to the Office until another book, the "Breviary" had to be created as a kind of index to all the different parts. Even monks who couldn't read were out of the running and had to pray a "little" office of limited proportions, or else just substitute the Psalms entirely with "Hail Mary's" (the origin of the rosary).
But I have news for you. The Liturgy of the Hours is the "people's" prayer in the Church. It is a primary expression of our baptismal priesthood, both as a "continual sacrifice of praise" and through our intercessions. And, like the Mass and other sacraments, it was revised after Vatican II to be a little more user-friendly and approachable.
It's really do-able now.
As long as you can read.
(If you are planning to come to my talk on Saturday, you did not get it all here. This is only 10% of it. So you may still want to come.)