Sunday, 11 October 2015

The Everyday Catholic's Guide to the Liturgy of the Hours, by Daria Sockey

Daria Sockey, The Everyday Catholic's Guide to the Liturgy of the Hours, 2013 Servant Books

I find the Liturgy of the Hours inspiring. When we pray the Divine Office, we are joining a cosmic choir, a choir of all the Catholic Church bringing together prayer and praise to heaven at every time of the day. Daria Sockey also finds this inspiring and so has written a very helpful handbook for saying the Liturgy of the Hours.

She begins with a short introduction to the breviary, explaining a little bit about its historical background. She then goes on to explain why Catholics should say the Divine Office, arguing that after the mass, the Office is the second most important liturgy of the Church. She points out that when we say the Liturgy, we are joining with millions of Christians around the world, making real that proposition in the creed about the 'communion of saints.' The Divine Office demonstrates the priestly capacity of the entire people of God in the Church. The Liturgy of the Hours also enables us to pray with the words of Scripture, bringing the Bible into our devotions. It also has us praying as Christ prayed, that is with the Psalms.

She reviews the various printed editions of the Divine Office, both US and UK, along with digital breviaries. She suggests that a printed breviary can function as a sacramental, having a permanence that digital editions do not share. She discourages readers from using daily offices that are not approved by the Catholic Church, as they do not provide the full benefits of participating in the Liturgy of the Hours. I am conscious that when I say the Anglican Book of Common Prayer I am not joining in with the Catholic Church's chorus of global praise. Yet I am joining in with our Anglican brethren and also with our Ordinariate Catheolics, who use the Customary of Our Lady of Walsingham as an office. I think there is something very special about using the official Divine Office, but I still use the BCP on some weeks, because I love the prayer book language. I also say the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary on some weeks. I would have liked Sockey to have said a bit more about the Little Office, as some Catholics use it as an alternative to the Liturgy of the Hours.

The author goes through each of the hours and their components offering practical advice as to how to say them with devotion. She also explains how to use the propers, keeping the liturgical calendar of the Church. She states that when using the Divine Office alone, one should feel free to leave out the hymn, which is certainly what I do. I like her description of the Marian antiphon as 'asking the Mother of God to tuck us into bed,' probably the most memorable statement in this book.

We also get a chapter on the Psalms, which addresses complaints such as the violent nature of some Psalms and that they are a bit depressing. She suggests it is a very positive thing that the Office has us say specific psalms regardless of how we feel. It is good to say joyful psalms when we feel down and good to say sorrowful psalms when we feel happy. This is one of the things that I came to love about Catholicism, having come from an easy-going Charismatic Evangelical background. The Catholic Church gives us duties and requirements to do regardless of how we feel. I am a little unhappy with the author's recommendation of C.S. Lewis' Reflections on the Psalms. CS Lewis wrote many good books, but Reflections on the Psalms is unfortunately not one of them. It shows his Achille's Heel, a weak and liberal view of the inspiration of Scripture.

I would say this is an excellent and valuable guide to using the Liturgy of the Hours.

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