15 June 2009

The Recitation of the Divine Office

By the Divine Office God is honored, the fury of the enemy is repelled, and the divine mercies are obtained for sinners. But to attain these ends it is necessary to recite the Office in a proper manner: it is necessary to say it carefully and devoutly.

Carefully, by pronouncing the words distinctly; devoutly, that is, with attention, as Cassian teaches: “Let that be considered in the heart which is uttered by the lips.”

“How,” asks Saint Cyprian, “can you expect that God will hear you when you do not hear yourself?” Prayer made with attention is the odoriferous incense that is most agreeable to God, and obtains treasures of grace; but prayer made with voluntary distraction is a fetid smoke that provokes the divine wrath, and merits chastisement. Hence, while we recite the Office, the devil labors strenuously to make us say it with distractions and defects. We should, then, take all possible care to recite it in a proper manner.

It is necessary to enliven our faith, and to consider that in reciting the Divine Office we unite with the angels in praising God. “We begin here upon earth the Office of the inhabitants of heaven,” says Tertullian. We then perform on earth the Office of the citizens of heaven, who unceasingly praise God, and shall praise Him for an eternity. “Hence,” as Saint John Chrysostom remarks, “before we enter the church or take up the breviary we must leave at the door and dismiss all thoughts of the world.”

In reciting the Divine Office we must take care that our affections accompany the sentiments contained in what we read. It is necessary, says Saint Augustine “we must pray when the Psalmist prays, sigh when he, sighs, hope when he hopes.” It is useful to renew our attention from time to time; for example, at the beginning of every psalm. We must be careful not to give occasion to mental distractions. How can he who recites the Office in a public place, or in the midst of persons who are jesting and amusing themselves, how, I ask, can he say it with piety and devotion?

Oh! what treasures do they lay up who daily recite the Divine Office with devout attention! Saint John Chrysostom says that they are filled with the Holy Spirit. But, on the other hand, they who say it negligently lose great merits, and have to render a great account to God.

~Saint Alphonsus Liguori~