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Information on the
Liturgy of the Hours

Prot. no. 1000/71
From ancient times the Church has had the custom of celebrating each day the liturgy of the hours.  In this way the Church fulfills the Lord's precept to pray without ceasing, at once offering its praise to God the Father and interceding for the salvation of the world.

The Second Vatican Council showed the importance of the traditional discipline of the Church and desired to renew that discipline.  It was, therefore, very concerned to bring about a suitable restoration of this liturgy of prayer so that priests and other members of the Church in today's circumstances might celebrate it better and more effectively (see Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, number 84).

Now that this work of restoration has been approved by Pope Paul VI in the apostolic constitution Laudis canticum of November 1, 1970, this Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship has published the Latin book for the celebration of the liturgy of the hours in accordance with the Roman Rite, and it declares that the present edition is the typical edition.

Anything to the contrary notwithstanding.

From the Office of the sacred Congregation for Divine Worship, Easter Sunday, April 11, 1971.

Arturo Cardinal Tabera
Annibale Bugnini

Apostolic Constitution            >>Top<<

The Divine Office Revised by Decree of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council:

Paul, Bishop, Servant of the Servants of God, For an Everlasting Memorial:

The hymn of praise that is sung through all the ages in the heavenly places and was brought by the high priest, Christ Jesus, into this land of exile has been continued by the Church with constant fidelity over many centuries, in a rich variety of forms.

The Liturgy of the Hours gradually developed into the prayer of the local church,  a prayer offered at regular intervals and in appointed places under the presidency of a priest.  It was seen as a kind of necessary complement to the fullness of divine worship that is contained in the eucharistic sacrifice, by means of which that worship might overflow to reach all the hours of daily life.

The book of the Divine Office, gradually enlarged by many additions in the course of time, became a suitable instrument for the sacred action for which it was designated.  However, over the generations quite a number of changes were introduced in the form of celebration, including the practice of individual recitation.  It is not strange, therefore, that the Breviary, as it was sometimes called, underwent many transformations, sometimes affecting the principles of its arrangements.

The Council of Trent, unable, because of shortness of time, to complete the reform of the Breviary, left this matter to the Apostolic See.  The Roman Breviary, left this matter to the Apostolic See.  The Roman Breviary, promulgated by our predecessor, Saint Pus V in 1568, achieved above all what was earnestly requested, the introduction of uniformity in the canonical prayer of the Latin Church, after this uniformity had lapsed.  

In subsequent centuries, many revisions were made by Sixtus V, Clement VIII, Urban VIII, Clement XI, and other popes.

Saint Pius X promulgated a new Breviary, prepared at his command.  The ancient custom was restored of reciting the 150 psalms each week, and the arrangement of the psalter was entirely revised, to remove all repetitions, and to harmonize the weekday psalter and the cycle of biblical readings with the office of the saints.  In addition, the office of Sunday was raised in rank and dignity, to take general precedence over feasts of saints.  

The whole work of liturgical revision was undertaken again by Pius XII.  For both private and public recitation of the office he permitted the use of the new translation of the psalter prepared by the Pontifical Biblical Institute, and established in 1947 a special commission with the responsibility of studying the question of the breviary.  In 1955 all the bishops throughout the world were questioned about this matter.  The fruits of this process of consultation were first seen in the decree on the simplification of the rubrics, published March 23, 1955, and in the regulations for the breviary which were issued by John XXIII in the Codex of Rubrics of 1960.  

Though he sanctioned only part of the liturgical revision, Pope John XXIII was aware that the fundamental principles on which the liturgy rests required further study.  He entrusted this task to the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, which in the meantime he had summoned.  The result was that the Council treated the liturgy as a whole, and the Hours in particular, with such thoroughness and skill, such spirituality and power, that there is scarcely a parallel to it in the entire history of the Church.

While the Vatican Council was still in session, it was our concern that after the promulgation of the constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, its decrees should be put immediately into effect.  For this purpose we established a special commission within the Consilium for the Implementation of the Constitution on the Liturgy.  With the help of scholars and specialists in the liturgical, theological, spiritual, and pastoral disciplines, the Consilium worked with the greatest zeal and diligence over a period of seven years to produce the new Liturgy of the Hours.  

The principles underlying it, its whole arrangement as well as its individual parts, were approved by the Consilium and also by the Synod of Bishops of 1967, after consultation with the bishops of the whole Church and a very large number of pastors, religious, and laity.

It will be helpful to set out the principles embodied in the new Liturgy of the Hours, together with its detailed structure:

  1. As required by the constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium, account was taken of the circumstances in which priests engaged in apostolic works find themselves today.  The Office has been drawn up and arranged in such a way that not only clergy but also religious and indeed laity may participate in it, since it is the prayer of the whole people of God.  People of different callings and circumstances, with their individual needs, were kept in mind, and a variety of ways of celebrating the office has been provided, by means of which the prayer can be adapted to suit the way of life and vocation of different groups using the Liturgy of the Hours.

  2. Since the Liturgy of the Hours is the means of sanctifying the day, the order of this prayer was revised so that the canonical hours could be more easily related to the chronological hours of the day in the circumstances of contemporary life.  For this reason the hour of Prime was suppressed, Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer, as hinges of the entire office, were assigned the most important role and now have the character of true morning and evening prayer; the Office of Readings retains its character as a night office for those who celebrate it during the night, but is suitable for any hour of the day; the Daytime Prayer, Midmorning, Midday, or Midafternoon, is so arranged that those who choose to say only one Hour may say the most suitable to the actual time of day, without losing any part of the four-week psalter.

  3. To ensure that in celebrating the Office mind and voice may be more easily united, and the Liturgy of the Hours become in reality "a source of devotion and nourishment for personal prayer." [ACON-001] in the new book of Hours, the quantity of daily prayer has been considerably reduced, variety in the texts has been notably increased, various aids to meditation on the psalms are provided, for example, titles, antiphons, psalm-prayers, while optional periods of silence are suggested.

  4. In accordance with the ruling by the Council, [ACON-002] the weekly cycle of the Psalter has been replaced by an arrangement of the psalms over a period of four weeks, in the new version prepared by the Commission for the New Edition of the Vulgate Bible which we ourselves established.  In this new arrangement of the psalms, some few of the psalms and verses which are somewhat harsh in tone have been omitted, especially because of the difficulties that were foreseen from their use vernacular celebration.  In addition, some new canticles from the Old Testament have been added to Morning Prayer to increase its spiritual richness, and canticles from the New Testament now increase the beauty of Evening Prayer.  

  5. In the new cycle of readings from holy Scripture there is a more ample selection from the treasury of God's word, intended to harmonize  with the cycle of readings at Mass.  The passages provided in general a certain unity of theme and have been chosen to present, in the course of the year, the principal stages of history of salvation. 

  6. In accordance with the norms laid down by the Ecumenical Council, the daily reading from the works of the Fathers and Church writers has been revised in such a way that the best of the writings of Christian authors, especially of the Fathers, is included.  Besides this, an optional lectionary will be prepared with a fuller selection of the spiritual riches of these writers, from which more abundant fruits may be achieved.

  7. Anything that is not in harmony with historical truth has been removed from the text of the Liturgy of the Hours.  Moreover, the readings, especially those in honor of the saints, have been revised in such a way that, first and foremost, the spiritual image of the saint and his significance for the life of the Church emerge and are placed in their true context.  

  8. Intercessions (precÚs) have been added to Morning Prayer to proclaim the consecration of the day and to offer prayer for the day's work about to begin.  There is also a short act of supplication at Evening Prayer, drawn up in the form of general intercessions.  The Lord's Prayer has been restored to its position at the end of these prayers.  Since the Lord's Prayer is also said at Mass, this change represents a return in our time to early Christian usage, namely of saying this prayer three times in the day.  Now that the prayer of Holy Church has been renewed and entirely revised in accordance with its very ancient tradition and in the light of the needs of our day, it is supremely to be hoped that the Liturgy of the Hours may pervade and penetrate the whole of Christian prayer, giving it life, direction and expression and effectively nourishing the spiritual life of the people of God. 

We have, therefore, every confidence that an appreciation of that "unceasing"  prayer [ACON-003] which our Lord Jesus Christ entrusted to his Church will take on new life, since the Liturgy of the Hours, distributed as it is over suitable intervals of time, continually strengthens and supports that prayer.  The very celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours, especially when a community is assembled for this purpose, expresses the genuine nature of the praying Church and is seen as a wonderful sign of that Church.  

Christian prayer is above all the prayer of the whole human community, which Christ joins to himself. [ACON-004]   Everyone shares in this prayer, which is proper to the one body as it offers prayers that give expression to the voice of the beloved spouse of Christ, to the hopes and desires of the whole Christian people, to supplications and petitions for the needs of all mankind.

This prayer takes its unity from the heart of Christ, for our Redeemer desired "that the life he had entered upon in his mortal body with supplications and with his sacrifice should continue without interruption through the ages in his mystical body, which is the Church." [ACON-005]  Because of this, the prayer of the Church is at the same time "the prayer of Christ and his body to the Father." [ACON-006]  We must recognize, therefore, as we celebrate the Office, our own voices echoing in Christ, his voice echoing in ours. [ACON-007]

To manifest this quality of our prayer more clearly, "the warm and living love for holy Scripture" [ACON-008] which is the atmosphere of the Liturgy of the Hours must come to life in all of us, so that Scripture may indeed become the chief source of all Christian prayer.  In particular, the praying of the psalms, which continually ponders and proclaims the action of God in the history of salvation, must be embraced with new warmth by the people of God.  This will be achieved more easily if a deeper understanding of the psalms, in the meaning in which they are used in the liturgy, is more diligently promoted among the clergy and communicated to all the faithful by means of appropriate catechesis.  The wider range of Scripture readings provided, not only in the Mass but also in the new Liturgy of the Hours, will enable the history of salvation to be constantly recalled and its continuation in the life of mankind effectively proclaimed.  

Because the life of Christ in his mystical body also perfects and elevates for each member of the faithful his own personal life, any conflict between the prayer of the Church and personal prayer must be entirely rejected, and the relationship between them strengthened and enlarged.  Mental prayer should draw unlimited nourishment from readings, psalms, and other parts of the Liturgy of the Hours.  The recitation of the Office should be adapted, as far as possible, to the needs of living and personal prayer, so that as the General Instruction provides, rhythms and melodies are used, and forms of celebration chosen, that are more suited to the spiritual needs of those who pray it.  If the prayer of the Divine Office becomes genuine personal prayer, the relation between the liturgy and the whole Christian life also becomes clearer.  The whole life of the faithful, hour by hour during day and night, is a kind of leitourgia or public service, in which the faithful give themselves over to the ministry of love toward God and men, identifying themselves with the action of Christ, who by his life and self-offering sanctified the life of all mankind.  

The Liturgy of the Hours clearly expresses and effectively strengthens this most profound truth, embodied in the Christian life.

For this reason the Hours are recommended to all Christ's faithful members, including those who are not bound by law to their recitation.  

Those who have received from the Church a mandate to celebrate the Liturgy of the Hours are to complete its entire course dutifully each day, keeping as far as possible to the appropriate time of the day; first and foremost, they are to give due importance to Morning and Evening Prayer.

Those who are in holy orders, and are marked in a special way with the sign of Christ the Priest, as well as those consecrated in a particular way to the service of God and of the Church by the vows of religious profession, should not only be moved to celebrate the Hours through obedience to the law, but should also feel themselves drawn to them because of their intrinsic excellence and their pastoral and ascetical value.  It is extremely desirable that the public prayer of the Church should be offered by all from hearts renewed, in acknowledgment of the intimate relationship within the whole body of the Church, which, like its head, cannot be described except in terms of a Church that prays.

May the praise of God reecho in the Church of our day with greater grandeur and beauty by means of the new Liturgy of the Hours, which now by Apostolic authority we sanction, approve, and promulgate.  May it join the praise sung by saints and angels in the court of heaven.  May it go from strength to strength in the days of this earthly exile and soon attain that fullness of praise which will be given throughout eternity "to the One who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb." [ACON-009]  

We decree that this new Liturgy of the Hours may be brought into use as soon as it is published.  Meanwhile, the episcopal conferences should see to the preparation of editions of this liturgical work in the vernacular and, after approval and confirmation by the Apostolic See, should fix the date when vernacular versions may or must be used, either in whole or in part.  Beginning on the day when these vernacular versions are to be used for vernacular celebrations, only the revised form of the Liturgy of the Hours is to be followed by those who continue to use Latin.

It is lawful, however, for those who because of advanced age or for special reasons experience serious difficulties in observing the new rite, to continue to use the former Roman Breviary, in whole or in part, with the consent of their Ordinary, and exclusively in individual recitation.  

We wish that these decrees and prescriptions be firm and effective now and in the future, notwithstanding, to the extent necessary, Apostolic Constitutions and Ordinances issued by our predecessors, and other prescriptions, even those deserving particular mention and derogation.

Given at Rome, at Saint Peter's, on the feast of All Saints, November 1, 1970, the eighth year of our Pontificate.

Paul VI, Pope

General Instruction on the Liturgy of the Hours
Table of Contents   >>Top<<

Chapter 1:  The Importance of the Liturgy of the Hours or the Divine Office in the Life of the Church

Chapter 2:  The Sanctification of the Day - The Different Liturgical Hours:

Chapter 3:  The Different Elements in the Liturgy of the Hours:

Chapter 4:  Various Celebrations Throughout the Years:

Chapter 5:  The Rites for Celebration in Common:

General Instruction on the Liturgy of the Hours            >>Top<<
Chapter 1
The Importance of the Liturgy of the Hours            >>GI-Contents<<
or the Divine Office in the Life of the Church

1.  Public and common prayer by the people of God is rightly considered to be among the primary duties of the Church.  From the very beginning those who were baptized "devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the community, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers" (Acts 2:42).  The Acts of the Apostles give frequent testimony to the fact that the Christian community prayed with one accord. [GEN1-001]

The witness of the early Church teaches us that individual Christians devoted themselves to prayer at fixed times.  Then, in different places, the custom soon grew of assigning special times to common prayer, for example, the last hour of the day, when evening draws on and the lamp is lighted, or the first hour, when night draws to a close with the rising of the daystar.  

In the course of time other hours came to be sanctified by common prayer.  These were seen by the Fathers as foreshadowed in the Acts of the Apostles.  There we read of the disciples gathered together at the third hour. [GEN1-002]  The prince of the apostles "went up on the housetop to pray, about the sixth hour" (10:9); "Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour" (3:1); "about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing to God" (16:25).  

2.  This kind of common prayer gradually took shape in the form of an ordered round of Hours.  This Liturgy of the Hours or Divine Office, enriched by readings, is principally a prayer of praise and petition.  In fact, it is the prayer of the Church with Christ and to Christ.

I.  The Prayer of Christ:  

Christ the Intercessor with the Father

3.  When he came to give men and women a share in God's life, the Word proceeding from the Father as the splendor of his glory, "Christ Jesus, the high priest of the new and eternal Covenant, took our human nature and introduced into the world of our exile that hymn of praise which is sung in the heavenly places throughout all ages." [GEN1-003]  From then on the praise of God wells up from the heart of Christ in human words of adoration, propitiation and intercession, presented to the Father by the head of the new humanity, the mediator between God and mankind, in the name of all and for the good of all.

4.  In his goodness the Son of God, who is one with his Father (see John 10:30), and who said on entering the world:  "Here I am!  I come, God, to do your will" (Hebrews 10:9; see John 6:38), has left us testimony to his own prayer:  when his mission is revealed by the Father, [GEN1-004] before he calls the apostles, [GEN1-005] when he blesses God at the multiplication of the loaves, [GEN1-006] when he is transfigured on the mountain, [GEN1-007] when he heals the deaf mute, [GEN1-008] when he raises Lazarus, [GEN1-009] before he asks for Peter's confession of faith, [GEN1-010] when he teaches the disciples how to pray [GEN1-011] when the disciples return from their mission, [GEN1-012] when he blesses the little children, [GEN1-013] when he prays for Peter. [GEN1-014]

The work of each day was closely bound up with his prayer, indeed flowed out from it.  He would retire into the desert or into the hills to pray, [GEN1-015] rising very early [GEN1-016] or spending the night as far as the fourth watch [GEN1-017] in prayer to God.

We are right in believing that he took part in public prayers, in the synagogues, which he entered on the Sabbath "as his custom was," [GEN1-019] and in the temple, which he called a house of prayer, [GEN1-020] as well as in the private prayers which devout Israelites would recite regularly every day.  He used the traditional blessings of God at meals.  This is expressly mentioned in connection with the multiplication of the loaves, [GEN1-021] the Last Supper, {GEN1-022] the meal at Emmaus, [GEN1-023] he also joined with the disciples in a hymn of praise. [GEN1-024]

To the very end of his life, as his Passion was approaching [GEN1-025] at the Last Supper, [GEN1-026] in the agony in the garden [GEN1-027] and on the cross, [GEN1-028] the divine teacher showed that prayer was the soul of his messianic ministry and paschal death.  "In the days of his life on earth he offered up prayers and entreaties with loud cries and tears to the one who could deliver him out of death, and because of his reverent attitude his prayer was heard" (Hebrews 5:7).  By a single offering on the altar of the cross, "he has made perfect for ever those who are being sanctified (Hebrews 10:14).  Raised from the dead, he is alive for ever and makes intercession for us. [GEN1-029]

II.  The Prayer Of The Church:

The Commandment To Pray

5.  Jesus has commanded us to do as he did.  On many occasions he said: "Pray," "ask," "seek," [GEN1-030] "in my name." [GEN1-031]  He gave us a formula of prayer in what is known as the Lord's Prayer. [GEN1-032]  He taught us that prayer is necessary, [GEN1-033] that it should be humble, [GEN1-034] vigilant, [GEN1-035] persevering, confident in the Father's goodness, [GEN1-036] single minded and in conformity with God's nature. [GEN1-037]

The apostles have handed on to us, scattered throughout their letters, many prayers, especially of praise and thanksgiving.  They warn us that we must be urgent and persevering [GEN1-041] in prayer offered to God [GEN1-040] in the Holy Spirit [GEN1-038] through Christ. [GEN1-039]  They tell us of its sure power in sanctifying [GEN1-042] and speak of the prayer of praise, [GEN1-043] of thanksgiving, [GEN1-044] of petition [GEN1-045] and of intercession on behalf of all. [GEN1-046]

Christ's Prayer Continued By The Church

6.  Since man depends wholly on God, he must recognize and express this sovereignty of the Creator, as the devout people of every age have done by means of prayer. 

Prayer directed to God must be linked with Christ, the Lord of all, the one mediator [GEN1-047] through whom alone we have access to God. [GEN1-049] in such a way that there is an intimate bond between the prayer of Christ and the prayer of the whole human race.  In Christ and in Christ alone the religious activity of mankind receives its redemptive value and attains its goal.

7.  There is a special, and very close, bond between Christ and those whom he makes members of his body, the Church, through the sacrament of rebirth.  Thus, from the head of all the riches that belong to the Son flow throughout the whole body, the fellowship of the Spirit, the truth, the life and the sharing of his divine sonship, manifested in all his prayer when he dwelt among us.

The priesthood of Christ is also shared by the whole body of the Church, so that the baptized are consecrated as a spiritual temple and holy priesthood through the rebirth of baptism and the anointing by the Holy Spirit, [GEN1-050] and become able to offer the worship of the New Covenant, a worship that derives, not from our own powers but from the merit and gift of Christ.

"God could give no greater gift to mankind than to give them as their head the Word through whom he created all things, and to unite them to him as his members, so that he might be Son of God and Son of man, one God with the Father, one man with men.  So, when we speak to God in prayer we do not separate the Son from God, and when the body of the Son prays it does not separate its head from itself, but it is th eone savior of his body, our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who himself prays for us, and prays in us, and is the object of our prayer.  He prays for us as our priest, he prays in us as our head, he is the object of our prayer as our God.  Let us then hear our voices in his voice, and his voice in ours. [GEN1-051]

The excellence of Christian prayer lies in this, that it shares in the very love of the only begotten Son for the Father and in that prayer which the Son put into words in his earthly life and which still continues unceasingly in the name of the whole human race and for its salvation, throughout the Universal Church and in all its members.

The Action Of The Holy Spirit

8.  The unity of the Church at prayer is brought about by the Holy Spirit, who is the same in Christ, [GEN1-052] in the whole Church, and in every baptized person.  It is this Spirit who "helps us in our weakness" and "intercedes for us with longings too deep for words" (Romans 8:26).  As the Spirit of the Son, he gives us "the spirit of adopted sonship, by which we cry out: Abba, Father" (Romans 8:15; see Galatians 4:6; 1 Corinthians 12:3; Ephesians 5:18; Jude 20).  There can be no Christian prayer without the action of the Holy Spirit who unites the whole Church and leads it through the Son to the Father.

Prayer at Community Prayer

9.  It follows that the example and precept of our Lord and the apostles in regard to constant and persevering prayer are not to be seen as a purely legal regulation.  They belong to the very essence of the Church itself.  The Church is a community, and it must express its nature as a community in its prayer as well as in other ways.  Hence, when the community of the faithful is first mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles, it is seen as a community gathered together at prayer "with the women and Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and his brothers" (Acts 1:14).  "There was one heart and soul in the company of those who believed" (Acts 4:32).  Their oneness in spirit was founded on the word of God, on the brotherly communion, on the prayer and on the Eucharist. {GEN1-053]

Though prayer in one's room behind closed doors [GEN1-054] is always necessary and to be encouraged [GEN1-055] and is performed by the members of the Church through Christ in the Holy Spirit, yet there is a special excellence in the prayer of the community.  Christ himself has said: "Where two or three are gathered together in my name, I am there in their midst." (Matthew 18:20)

III.  The Liturgy Of The Hours: 

The Consecration Of Time

10.  Christ has taught us the necessity of praying at all times without losing heart (Luke 18:1).  The Church has been faithful in obeying this instruction; it never ceases to offer prayer, and makes this exhortation its own:  "Through him (Jesus) let us offer to God an unceasing sacrifice of praise" (Hebrews 15:15).  The Church satisfies this requirement not only by the celebration of the Eucharist but in other ways also, especially through the Liturgy of the Hours, which is distinguished from other liturgical actions by the fact that it consecrates to God the whole cycle of day and night, as it has done from early Christian times.  [GEN1-056]

11.  Since the purpose of the Liturgy of the Hours includes the sanctification of th eday and of the whole range of human activity, its structure has been revised in such a way that, as far as possible, each Hour might be celebrated once more at the proper time and account taken of the circumstances of life today [GEN1-057]

Hence, "in order that the day may be truly sanctified and the Hours themselves recited with spiritual profit, it is preferable that they should be recited at the hour nearest to the one indicated by each canonical Hour." [GEN1-058]  

The Liturgy Of The Hours and The Eucharist

12.  The Liturgy of the Hours [GEN1-059] extends to the different hours of the day the praise and thanksgiving, the commemoration of the mysteries of salvation, the petitions and the foretaste of heavenly glory, that are present in the eucharistic mystery, "the center and apex of the whole life of the Christian community." 

The Liturgy of the Hours is an excellent preparation for the celebration of the Eucharist itself, for it inspires and deepens in a fitting way the dispositions necessary for the fruitful celebration of the Eucharist: faith, hope, love, devotion and the spirit of self-denial.

The Priesthood of Christ in the Liturgy of the Hours

13.  In the Holy Spirit, Christ carries out through the Church "the work of man's redemption and God's perfect glorification," [GEN1-061] not only when the Eucharist is celebrated and the sacraments administered but also in other ways, and especially when the Liturgy of the Hours is celebrated. [GEN1-062]  In it, Christ himself is present, in the assembled community, in the proclamation of God's word, "in they prayer and song of the Church." [GEN1-063]

Man's Sanctification

14.  Man's sanctification is accomplished [GEN1-064] and worship offered to God, in the Liturgy of the Hours, in an exchange or dialogue between God and man in which "God speaks to his people . . . and his people reply to him in song and prayer." [GEN1-065]

Those taking part in the Liturgy of the Hours have access to holiness of the richest kind through the lifegiving word of God, to which it gives such great importance.  The readings are drawn from Sacred Scripture, God's words in the psalms are sung in his presence, and the intercessions, prayers and hymns are steeped in the inspired language of Scripture. [GEN1-066]

Hence, it is not only when those things are read "that are written for our instruction" (Romans 15:4), but also when the Church prays or sings, that faith is deepended for those who take part, and their minds are lifted up to God, so that they may offer him spiritual worship and receive grace from him in greater abundance. [GEN1-067]

Praising God with the Church in Heaven

15.  In the Liturgy of the Hours the Church exercises the priestly office of its head and offers to God "unceasingly" [GEN1-068] a sacrifice of praise, that is, a tribute of lips acknowledging his name.  [GEN1-069]  This prayer is "the voice of the bride herself as she addresses the bridegroom, indeed, it is also the prayer of Christ and his body to the Father," [GEN1-070]  "All therefore who offer this prayer are fulfilling a duty of the Church, and also sharing in the highest honor given to Christ's bride, because as they render praise to God they are standing before God's throne in the name of Mother Church." {GEN1-071]

16.  When the Church offers praise to God in the Liturgy of the Hours it unites itself with that hymn of praise which is sung in the heavenly places throughout all ages; [GEN1-072] it also receives a foretaste of the song of praise in heaven, described by John in the Book of Revelation, the song that is sung without ceasing before the throne of God and of the Lamb.  Our close union with the Church in heaven is given effective voice when "we rejoice together and celebrate the praise of God's glory, when all who have been redeemed in the blood of Christ from every tribe and tongue and people and nation (see Revelation 5:9) and have been gathered into the one Church glorify the one and triune God in one canticle of praise." [GEN1-073]

This liturgy of heaven was commonly foreseen by the prophets as a victory of day without night, of light without darkness: "The sun will no more be your light by day, and the brightness of the moon will not shine upon you, but th eLord will be your everlasting light" (Isaiah 60:19; see Revelation 21:23, 25).  "There will be a single day, known to the Lord, not day and night, and at evening there will be light" (Zechariah 14:7).  Already "the end of the ages has come upon us" (see I Corinthians 10:11), and the renewal of the world has been irrevocably established and in a true sense is being anticipated in this world." [GEN1-074]  We are taught by faith the meaining of our temporal life also, so that we look forward with all creation to the revealing of God's sons. [GEN1-075]  In the Liturgy of the Hours we proclaim this faith, we express and nourish this hope, we share in some degree the joy of everlasting praise and of that day which knows no setting.

Petition and Intercession

17.  Besides the praise of God, the Church in the Liturgy of the Hours expresses the prayers and desires of all the Christian faithful; indeed, it prays to Christ, and through him to the Father, for the salvation of the whole world. [GEN1-076]  The voice of the Church is not just its own; it is also the voice of Christ, since its prayers are offered in the name of Christ, that is, "through our Lord Jesus Christ," and so the Church continues to offer the prayer and petition which Christ poured out in the days of his earthly life. [GEN1-077] and which have therefore a unique effectiveness.  The ecclesial community thus exercises a true maternal function in bringing souls to Christ, not only by charity, good example and works of penance, but also by prayer. [GEN1-078]

This work of prayer belongs especially to all who have been called by a special mandate to carry out the Liturgy of the Hours: to bishops and priests as they pray in virtue of their office for their own people and for the whole people of God, [GEN1-079] to other sacred ministers and also to religious.  

The Apex and Source of Pastoral Activity

18.  Those then who take part in the Liturgy of the Hours bring growth to God's people in a hidden but fruitful apostolate, [GEN1-081] for the work of the apostolate is directed to this end, "that all who are made sons of God through faith and baptism may come together in unity, praise God in the midst of the Church, share in the sacrifice and eat the supper of the Lord." [GEN1-082]

Thus by their lives the faithful show forth and reveal to others "the mystery of Christ and the genuine nature of the true Church.  Its characteristic is to be . . . visible, yet endowed with invisible realities, fervent in action, yet devoted to contemplation, present in the world, yet a pilgrim and a stranger." [GEN1-083] 

In their turn the readings and prayers of the Liturgy of the Hours form a wellspring of the Christian life, which is nourished at the table of Sacred Scripture and the writings of the saints, and receives strength from the prayers.  Only the Lord, without whom we can do nothing, [GEN1-084 can give, in response to our request, power and increase to what we can do, [GEN1-085] so that we may be built up each day in the Spirit into the temple of God, [GEN1-086] to the full stature of Christ, [GEN1-087] and also receive greater strength to bring the good news of Christ to those outside. [GEN1-088]

Harmony of Mind and Voice

19.  Mind and voice must be in harmony in a celebration that is worthy, attentive and devout if this prayer is to be made on their own by those taking part in it, and be a source of devotion, a means of gaining God's manifold grace, a deepening of personal prayer and an incentive to the work of the apostolate. [GEN1-089]  All should be zealous in cooperating with God's grace, so as not to receive it fruitlessly.  They should seek Christ, penetrating ever more deeply into the mystery of Christ through prayer, [GEN1-090] and so offer praise and petition to God with the same mind and heart as the divine Redeemer when he prayed to God.   

IV.  The Participants in the Liturgy of the Hours:

a)  Celebration in Common

20.  The Liturgy of the Hours, like other liturgical actions, is not something private but belongs to the whole body of the Church, which it manifests and influences. [GEN1-091]  Its relation to the Church is most clearly seen when it is celebrated by a local Church in the presence of its bishop in the company of his priests and ministers, [GEN1-092] for in the local Church "the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church of Christ is truly present and active." {GEN1-093]  Such a celebration is therefore most highly recommended.  When the Liturgy of the Hours is celebrated, in the absence of the bishop, by the chapter of canons or other priests, it should always follow the proper times for the Hours, and as far as possible the people should take part.  The same is to be said of collegiate chapters.

21.  Where possible, the principal Hours should be celebrated communally in church by other groups of the faithful.  The most important of these groups are the local parishes, the cells of the diocese, established under a pastor acting for the bishop.  These "represent in some degree the visible Church established throughout the world." [GEN1-094]

22.  Hence, when the faithful are invited to the Liturgy of the Hours and come together in unity of heart and voice, they show forth the Church in its celebration of the mystery of Christ. [GEN1-095]

23.  Those in holy orders or with a special canonical mission [GEN1-096] have the responsibility of initiating and directing the prayer of the community; "they must work hard to ensure that all entrusted to their care may be united in prayer." [GEN1-097]  They must therefore see to it that the faithful are invited - and prepared by suitable instruction - to celebrate the principal Hours in common, especially on Sundays and feast days.  [GEN1098]  They should teach them how to make the celebration a sincere prayer, [GEN1-099] they should therefore give them suitable guidance in the Christian understanding of the psalms, so that they may be led by degrees to a greater appreciation and more frequent use of the prayer of the Church. [GEN1-100]

24.  Communities of canons, monks, nuns and other religious which celebrate the Liturgy of the Hours by rule or according to their constitutions, whether in the common rite or in a particular rite, in whole or in part, represent in a special way the Church at prayer.  They are a fuller sign of the Church as it continuously praises God with one voice, and they fulfill the duty of "working" above all by prayer, "to build up and increase the whole mystical body of Christ, and for the good of the local Churches." [GEN1-101]  This is especially true of those who follow the contemplative life.  

25.  Sacred ministers, and all clerics (not otherwise bound to a common celebration) living in community or assembling together, should arrange to say at least some part of the Liturgy of the Hours in common, particularly Morning and Evening prayer.

26.  It is strongly recommended that religious of either sex, not bound to a common celebration, as well as members of any institute of perfection, should gather together, by themselves or with the faithful, to celebrate the Liturgy of the Hours or part of it.

27.  Gatherings of the laity - for prayer, apostolic work, or any other reason - are encouraged to fulfill the Church's office [GEN1-103] by celebratinig part of the Liturgy of the Hours.  The laity must learn, especially in liturgical actions, how to adore God the Father in spirit and in truth, [GEN1-104] and be reminded that through public worship and prayer they are in touch with all mankind and can contribute in no small degree to the salvation of the whole world. [GEN1-105]

Finally it is desirable that the family, the domestic sanctuary of the Church, should not only pray together to God but should also celebrate some parts of the Liturgy of the Hours as occasion offers, so as to enter more deeply into the life of the Church. [GEN1-106]

b)  The Mandate of the Liturgy of the Hours

28.  The Liturgy of the Hours is entrusted to sacred ministers in such a special way that even when the faithful are not present it should be recited by individuals with the adaptations necessary under these circumstances.  The Church commissions them to celebrate the Liturgy of the Hours in order that, at least in their persons, the duty of the whole community may be carried out regularly and reliably, and the prayer of Christ continue unceasingly in the Church.

The bishop represents Christ in an eminent and visible way and is the high priest of his flock; the life in Christ of his faithful people may be said to derive from him and depend on him. [GEN1-108]  He should then be the first of all the members of his Church in offering prayer.  In the recitation of the Liturgy of the Hours his prayer is always in the name of the Church and on behalf of the Church entrusted to him. [GENL1-109]

Priests, united as they are with the bishop and the whole presbyterium, are themselves representative in a special way of Christ the priest, [GEN1-110] and so share the same responsibility of praying to God for the people entrusted to them, and indeed for the whole world. [GEN1-111]

All fulfill the ministry of the good Shepherd who prays for his sheep, that they may have life and so be brought into perfect unity. [GEN1-112]  In the Liturgy of the Hours, which the Church sets before them, they are not only to find a source of devotion and a strengthening of personal prayer [GEN1-113] but must also nourish and foster pastoral and missionary action by abundant contemplation, and so bring joy to the whole Church of God. [GEN1-114] 

29.  Hence, bishops and priests and other sacred ministers, who have received from the Church the mandate of celebrating the Liturgy of the Hours (see no. 17), should recite the full sequence of Hours each day, as far as possible at the appropriate times.

They should, first and foremost, attach due importance to those Hours that are, as it were, the hinge of the Liturgy of the Hours, that is, Morning and Evening Prayer, which should not be omitted except for a serious reason.

They should faithfully recite the Office of Readings, which is above all a liturgical celebration of the word of God.  In this way they fulfill daily a duty that is particularly their own, that is, of receiving the word of God into their lives, so that they may become more perfect as disciples of the Lord and experience more deeply the unfathomable riches of Christ. [GEN1-115]

In order to sanctify the whole day more perfectly, they will have also at heart the recitation of the Daytime Hour and Night Prayer, to round off the whole "Work of God" and to commend themselves to God before retiring.

30.  It is most fitting that permanent deacons should recite daily at least some part of the Liturgy of the Hours, to be determined by the conference of bishops. [GEN1-116]


(a)  Cathedral and collegiate chapters should celebrate in choir those parts of the Liturgy of the Hours that are prescribed for them by common or particular law.  

In private recitation individual members of these chapters should include those Hours that are recited in their chapter, besides the Hours prescribed for all sacred ministers.  [GEN1-117]

(b)  Religious communities, bound to the recitation of the Liturgy of the Hours, and their individual members, should celebrate the Hours in accordance with their own particular law, but observing the prescription of no. 29 in regard to those in holy Orders.

Communities bound to choir should celebrate the whole sequence of the Hours daily in choir; [GEN1-118] when absent from choir their members should recite the Hours in accordance with their own particular law, but observing always the prescriptions given in no. 19.

32.  Other religious communities, and their individual members, are advised to celebrate some parts of the Liturgy of the Hours, in accordance with circumstances, for it is the prayer of the Church and makes the whole Church, scattered throughout the world, one in heart and soul. [GEN1-119]

This exhortation applies also to lay people. [GEN1-120]

c)  The Structure of the Celebration

33.  The Liturgy of the Hours, while it combines those elements that are found in other Christian celebrations, is arranged according to its own laws.  It is so constructed that, after a hymn, there is always psalmody, then a long or a short reading of Sacred Scripture, and finally intercessions.  

In a celebration in common or in individual recitation the essential structure of this liturgy remains the same, that is, it is a conversation between God and man.  Celebration in common reveals more clearly the ecclesial nature of the Liturgy of the Hours; it makes for the active participation of all, each in his own role, by means of acclamations, dialogue, alternating psalmody and similar elements, and allows greater scope to variety of expression. [GEN1-121]  Hence, whenever it is possible to have a celebration in common, with the faithful present and actively sharing in it, this kind of celebration is to be preferred to one that is individual and as it were private.  [GEN1-122]  It is also preferable to sing the Office in choir and in community as opportunity offers, in accordance with the nature and function of its individual parts.

In this way the apostle's exhortation is obeyed: "Let the word of Christ dwell in you in all its richness, as you teach and advise each other in all wisdom by psalms, hymns and spiritual canticles, singing thankfully in your hearts to God" (Colossians 3:16; see Ephesians 5:19-20).