Prayer, The Good Fight

In our reflections on the Liturgy of the Hours we have looked into various aspects.  This evening I want to finish up by looking at its importance in the evangelizing work of Holy Mother Church.

At the end of Mass the faithful are dismissed; not to leave and turn their attention to other aspects of their life, but to take forth the graces that participating in the Mass gives and use them in the world – helping to sanctify it.  The dismissals used in the English version of the Novus Ordo are beautiful but are not as clear and powerful as the Latin dismissal ‘Ite Missa Est’ – ‘Go, you are sent’.

But we are human, and as such our attention and understanding wane the farther we are from Mass.  The church is very aware of this; in fact, in years past the great liturgical seasons were sometimes referred to as tides, which ebb and flow (Christmastide, Eastertide and so forth).  Yes, mankind tends to allow important events, and their effects to fade. It is the same with Mass; for some it takes a while, others it is almost immediate – just look at the parking lot after Mass.

Participation in the Liturgy of the Hours is a medicine against this waning, this fading, of the fruitfulness of the Mass. Participation in the Liturgy of Hours 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[1] The Liturgy of the Hours allows us to retain the graces from Mass by keeping them in the forefront of our thoughts and burning brightly in our hearts. It also helps us prepare for the next celebration of the Mass. St. Rose of Lima, talking about prayer said: ‘Apart from the cross, there is no other ladder by which we may get to heaven.[2] The Liturgy of the Hours fulfill her words by extending the sacrifice of the Mass through prayer.

In addition, our participation in the Liturgy of the Hours is also a communal participation in Christ’s Priesthood – His work in the redemption of mankind. St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein) wrote: ‘Every true prayer is a prayer of the Church; by means of that prayer the Church prays, since it is the Holy Spirit living in the Church, Who in every single soul ‘prays in us with unspeakable groanings.’ As with all prayer, but even more so, the Liturgy of the Hours is an important tool in our ability to wage the good fight against the enemy.  Whether we pray individually, or together, the Divine Office is a prayer of the Church (militant and triumphant). In it we offer the prayers of the church, prayers for the church, prayers for specific people and on and on. By this constant effort of prayer we align ourselves with the Heavenly Hosts who are fighting the same battle but on a different plane; and together we all add our efforts to those of Christ Himself.

I want to end my reflection with another one, a beautiful reflection from Blessed Card. Ildefonso Schuster, who was Archbishop of Milan from 1929 to 1954. This reflection was written in the last year of his life – he was too week to follow the Divine Office very attentively but nevertheless understood and needed to participate.

I close my eyes, and while my lips murmur the words of the Breviary which I know by heart, I leave behind their literal meaning, and feel that I am in that endless land where the Church, militant and pilgrim, passes, walking towards the promised fatherland. I breathe with the Church in the same light by day, the same darkness by night; I see on every side of me the forces of evil that beset and assail Her; I find myself in the midst of Her battles and victories, Her prayers of anguish and Her songs of triumph, in the midst of the oppression of prisoners, the groans of the dying, the rejoicing of the armies and captains victorious. I find myself in their midst, but not as a passive spectator; nay rather, as one whose vigilance and skill, whose strength and courage can bear a decisive weight on the outcome of the struggle between good and evil, and upon the eternal destinies of individual men and of the multitude.[3]

[1] General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours (GILH) #12
[2] St. Rose of Lima
[3] Meditation by Bl. Card. Schuster (found on 9/19/15)


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