Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Praying with the Church

What is Evening Prayer?

You don't have to be a monk to pray like one!
Every Wednesday evening students gather at the Catholic Student Center at 6:30 for a free home-cooked meal and fellowship together.  But more happens on Wednesday evenings at CCM than just dinner.  For those who wish to arrive early, we meet in the chapel at 5:30 for Adoration and conclude at 6:00pm by praying Evening Prayer together.

So what is Evening Prayer?

Also called Vespers (its name in Latin), Evening Prayer is part of the Liturgy of the Hours.  So what is the Liturgy of the Hours?

As the name implies, it is part of the official liturgy of the Church.  Liturgy means literally, "the work of the people," and refers to that public and corporate prayer offered by the faithful, not just as individuals but specifically as members of the Body of Christ, for and on behalf of the Church.  The liturgy we think of most often when we hear the word is the Mass (which consists of two parts, the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist).  But every sacrament in the Church has its own liturgy, such as the Rite of Baptism, or the Nuptial Rite for marriage and so forth.

Rather than being associated with a sacrament, the Liturgy of the Hours is associated with time and our day-to-day lives.  It consists of prayers and petitions, mostly centered around the Psalms, offered at certain hours throughout the day, at morning, daytime, evening and night.  The purpose is to sanctify our whole day to God.

Have you ever heard a priest talk about praying the Divine Office or the Breviary?  Those are other names for the Liturgy of the Hours.

It surprises many to discover that priests are not required by Church law to offer Mass every day (though most do).  However, they are required by law to pray the Liturgy of the Hours daily.  This tells us just how important the Church considers this form of prayer.  Who else is required to pray the Liturgy of the Hours?  All clergy (including deacons), as well as professed religious (nuns, sisters, monks, friars, etc.) are required to pray all or part of the Liturgy of the Hours.

As lay people, the Christian faithful are encouraged, though not required, to also pray the Liturgy of the Hours as much as they are able.  Today, there are apps and web sites designed to help people pray the Liturgy of the Hours on the go, even without books, making it easier now than ever for the lay faithful to join in this daily prayer of the Church.

If you've never experienced this sort of prayer, we encourage you to come give it a try.  It only takes about 15 minutes, and we serve dinner afterwards.  We are trying something new this year, which is to pray Evening Prayer together in song.  The Liturgy of the Hours consists mainly of psalms, which are meant to be sung, after all.  We find that singing the prayer lends an added element of sanctity to the office, and -- even though it may seem counter-intuitive -- actually makes it easier to follow along and participate.  We use simple psalm-tones which you can pick up in just a few seconds.

Please do consider joining us any Wednesday at 6:00 for sung Vespers this semester.  God will reward your effort and devotion!

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