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Divine Office Forum: The Little Hours

by Catherine Frakas 14 Mar 2002

The Little Hours QUESTION from Stephen+ on October 1, 2002 Dear Br Ignatius
As a former Anglican, I was used to having the complete order of service in one book, either the BCP or the Alternative Service. I was received into the RCC five years ago and have felt a bit light handed with only a Sunday Missal, so I invested in The Shorter Morning and Evening Prayer Book. This I have used somewhat erratically and with mixed success. I have now bought the complete Divine Office, in the UK it comes in three volumes. I have yet to go through the instructions included in Volume 1, but I am sure I will be able to make use of your course.
Hopefully, later this year I will be able to work from home. This will give me an opportunity to pray most of the hours, whilst waiting for files to download and during breaks & lunch. I have one question, if I may, concerning the Little Hours. I understand that it is the norm to pray it once, before noon, midday or afternoon. If you were to pray all three do you repeat the preamble before the specific reading for the Hour?
On a separate point concerning I was a little surprised by your comments. The site has been recommended by a number of Catholic sites on the Internet. The difference in wording is more to do with copyright than with flippancy. I feel that for many Christians a free imperfect version of the Divine Office has to be better than no version at all.
Yours in Christ
ANSWER by John-Paul Ignatius, OLSM on October 4, 2002 Dear Mr. Stephen:
I am not sure how the structure is done in the United Kingdom. The UK uses a slightly different translation than that used in the United States and I don't know if the structure is the same.
To to answer your question from what is in our Breviary the Day Hours are called Tierce (around 9am), Sext (around noon), and None (around 3pm).
Normally only cloistered religious pray all three as most people are active in work or ministry. But if you will have the time to pray all three Day Hours God will certainly bless you for it.
If you are using the complete set that include all of the hours including the Office of Readings, then you should see a section called Daytime Prayer that comes right after morning prayer for each day in the cycle. This will include the Readings and final prayer listed for Midmorning, Midday, and Midafternoon.
If you are saying all three Day Hours, then you would refer to the Midmorning reading and prayer at this section of the book.
For the other Day Prayers (noon and midafternoon) you should see a note at the end of the psalms that say something like: At the other hours, the complementary psalmody is used, page xxxx.
This complementary psalmody is usually located right after the Night Prayer Section.
Hope this is clearer than mud. :)
As to your comments about my criticism of I am afriad that the flippancy is indeed there. The reason for them using the translation they use is indeed due to copyright, but I take exception to their justification to provide their site without an approved edition. They state:

you should bear in mind that our versions of the texts are not all officially approved translations, and that some parts of the Liturgy (eg. responsories, antiphons, short readings) are not yet present. How much this affects you is up to your conscience and to the conscience of those who imposed the obligation on you. You might feel that this site was a resource to be used in the absence of your breviary, but not as a substitute for it if you had it with you.
The phrase, up to your conscience, is a common buzz word when used in this context of justifying an action that is otherwise not proper.
This is not a matter of conscience to break liturgical law. We are to follow out conscience when it is INFORMED. An informed conscience is one that is in union and obedience with Church Teaching and discipline.
We may, of course, use the universalis site as a way of devotion, but it is NOT the Divine Office we are praying when we do it against liturgical law.
The idea, therefore, that this site is better than nothing at all is a misunderstanding of the nature of the Divine Office. To say that an imperfect version is better than no version at all is to say that using an imperfect version of the Sacramentary at Mass is better than none at all.
The Divine Office is the LITURGY of the Church. Liturgy is regulated by Rome. We cannot upon our own authority change liturgy to suit ourselves even in special circumstances.
If we wish to pray the Official Liturgy of the Hours then we must us the proper and approved translation.
Secondly, it is not a matter of none at all. There is a website that has the proper translation: Click here thus there is no excuse to go to a site that has an unapproved version.
In addition, the one-volume edition of the Divine Office is available for about $25. Most anyone who is reading this can afford $25 if they truly desire to pray this beautiful prayer. And buying the book is a must. The online version cannot replace the book.
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