ARTICLE II.—THE MEANS TO ADOPT FOR THE PIOUS RECITATION OF THE BREVIARY.
A.—THE MEANS TO ADOPT BEFORE THE RECITATION.
Preparation is necessary before beginning every prayer, for the Holy
Ghost says, "Before prayer prepare thy soul, and be not as a man that
tempteth God" (Ecclesias. 18. 23). This preparation necessary before
other prayers is above all necessary before the recitation of the
Divine Office, which is the greatest of all prayers. Two kinds of
preparation are necessary, the remote and the proximate.
The remote preparation demands the removal of all obstacles which
impede prayer, and the greatest of all prayers, the Church's official
prayer. The chief or capital obstacles which impede or prevent a pious
recitation of the Breviary are: sin, the passions, the absorbing
thoughts of creatures and the ignorance of the Divine Office. And the
means to remove these obstacles are to purify the conscience, science,
to mortify the passions, to guard the sense and to have an intelligent
knowledge of the duty and requirements of a proper fulfilment of the
daily task of the saying of the Canonical Hours.
first means is to purify the conscience from sin, for sin hinders
prayer. But what effect has sin on the recitation of the Office? The
Office is a prayer, an elevation of the soul to God, and as all writers
on ascetics teach, sin is a chain that binds us to earth; it is, says
St. Francis, as birdlime which impedes the soul in its flight upwards.
Prayer is a conversation with God, but a soul loving sin cannot
converse with God; "Peccatores Deus non audit" (St. John, ix.
31). Prayer is an intimate union with God, but a soul resting in sin
can have no intimate union with God; there can be no intimate union
between light and darkness, between sanctity and sin, between good and
evil; in a word, between Christ and Belial. Quae participatio, quae societas lucis ad tenebras? Quae conventio Christi el Belial?
The second means of procuring fervent prayer is the mortification of
the passions. It is not enough to secure fervour in prayer that our
souls should be free from sin; we must struggle to master our passions.
This point is important—for a soul upset by its passions, anger, pride,
etc., cannot with fervour recite the Hours, for it cannot converse with
God, it cannot elevate itself to God, it can have no true union with
God. It cannot converse with God, for God will not converse with an
unmortified soul for three reasons. First, He will not speak if there
be no one to listen, for the Holy Ghost tells us "Where there is no
hearing, pour not out words" (Eccli. xxxii. 6). God wishes a soul in
converse with Him to be calm and still, for God is not in the
earthquake (3 Kings, xix. ii.). Again, even if God speaks to an
unmortified soul, it cannot hear Him as the passions fix its attention
on worldly matters. And even when such a soul tries to listen and to
understand, the passions surging and warring drown all sound and sense
of holy things. For, "the animal man perceiveth not these things that
are of the spirit of God, for it is foolishness to him and he cannot
understand, because it is spiritually examined" (I. Cor. ii. 14). The
human soul cannot truly unite itself to God if the passions are not
conquered, because by their very nature they are opposed to God and
hence inspire estrangement from, and disgust for, holy things.
Thirdly, the senses must be guarded. Our five senses can impede the
recitation of the Office because they present to our souls images of
the things which occupy them, and they can draw our will towards the
pleasures which correspond with these objects. It is necessary for the
worthy, attentive and devout saying of the Office that each sense be
guarded. The sense of sight should be guarded from gazing at objects at
hand, persons, books, landscape, etc. The sense of hearing should be
guarded in flying from the company of evil speakers, calumniators,
detractors, those who speak of worldly affairs or who give evil
counsel. It is necessary, too, to guard the tongue from evil speech. "I
have set a guard to my mouth, when the sinner stood against me" (Psalm
38, 2); and it is well to guard against too frequent or too long
conversations, which fill the soul with thoughts disturbing to a
prayerful disposition. The sense of touch should likewise be guarded,
for St. Thomas says that the sense of touch is the maintenance of the
other senses (1 P. q. 76, a. 75). And when the foundations of a house
commence to fall asunder, the walls, the frame and the roof totter and
fall. So it is with the senses; when the sense of touch is disturbed
the other senses quickly complete the ruin.
knowledge is needed for the valid and for the licit recitation of the
Hours? Must the person know the meaning of the words read? No such
knowledge is necessary, for God hears the prayer of the ignorant and
illiterate and of the babes. To the chief priests and scribes, who
hearing the children crying out the Saviour's praise in the temple,
Christ said "Yea, have you not read 'Out of the mouths of infants and
sucklings thou hast perfected praise'" (St. Matth. xxi. 15-16), St.
Augustine defended from the sneers of the learned, those who prayed to
God in rude and barbarous words, or words which they did not
understand. "Noverint non esse vocem ad aures Dei nisi animi affectum" (De Catech.
Rud. C.I.). The Church has bound religious, both men and women, to say
the Office in choir, even though they may not understand Latin.
Nevertheless, it is highly desirable that those who understand Latin
should understand what they read daily in the Breviary. God, the
Church, the practice of the saints, our own intelligence, our spiritual
advantage, demand that every priest should read with knowledge so that
with more certainty he may read attentively and devoutly.
For (1) the Holy Ghost warns us to sing wisely, Psallite sapienter
(Ps. 46.8); (2) that priests may sing wisely, may say the daily Office
piously is the reason and end of liturgical studies of the psalms and
of the Breviary in theological colleges; (3) the saints who wrote so
piously and so learnedly on the psalms and on psalmody are for ever
impressing this matter of intelligent recitation. St. Augustine wrote, "Et quare dicta sunt, nisi ut sciantur? Quare sonuerunt nisi ut audiantur? Quare audita sunt nisi ut intelligantur"
(Tract xxxi. in Joan). Again, commenting on psalm 146, he writes,
"David teaches that we sing wisely; let us not seek the mere sound for
the ear, but a light for the soul." St. Thomas Aquinas commenting on
"For I pray in a tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is
without fruit" (I. Cor. xiv. 14) wrote "Constat quod plus lucratur
qui orat. Nam, ille qui intelligit reficitur quantum ad intellectum et
quantum ad affectum; sed mens ejus qui non intelligit est sine fructu
refectionis." And (4) our own intellect tells us that the Breviary
should be read intelligently and devoutly. One of the ends of the
Church in imposing the Divine Office as an obligation is, that by
honouring the holy mysteries, or the holy memories of the saints, we
may raise our hearts and souls to God, as St. Paul wishes us, "May the
God of patience and of comfort grant you to be of one mind towards one
another according to Jesus Christ, that with one mind and one mouth you
may glorify God" (Rom. xv. 5-6), an effect that cannot be produced by
the recital of words which are not understood. It is almost impossible
to avoid very grave distractions and to sustain attention if there be
not a good knowledge of the matter and form of the Hours recited.
It seems irrational that, priests should spend daily more than an hour
reading words that they understand not at all, or very imperfectly; and
that the beautiful and sublime thought and language of the book of
psalms, which are admired by all educated men, should be, to those who
read them every day for years, nothing but a tinkling cymbal, vox et praeterea nihil.
This is often the case even with priests who practise piously and
methodically mental prayer. And yet nowhere are such beautiful acts of
faith and confidence in God's power expressed as in the Psalms (e.g.,
3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 10, 12, 16, 19, 25, 27, 30, 34, 43, 54, 55, 56, etc.);
no more sublime expressions of praise exist than in the Psalms 8, 9,
17, 18, 20, 21, etc. Time spent in studying the history of the
Breviary, the structure and the growth of the contents of each Hour,
the meanings of the prayers and hymns, is time well spent.
B.—THE IMMEDIATE PREPARATION FOR THE RECITATION OF THE HOURS.
First. It is necessary to foresee from the reading of the Ordo
what is to be said, and to mark all the psalms, lessons, responses,
antiphons and prayers. By this practice, St. Bonaventure says, all is
recited and recited in order. Libri et alia necessaria ad officium praeparantur et legenda studiose ante praevisa, quando et quomodo sint dicenda dicuntur (Intit. Novit, p. I., c. 4). Unless this matter be arranged before the prayer, Aperi
is begun, a priest is certain to suffer from distractions, to run the
risk of violating the rubrics and to lose some of the spiritual profit
which arises from preparation. This point of preparation is attended to
by all thoughtful priests and it was ever the practice of the great
students and lovers of liturgy.
Second. It is necessary
to recollect ourselves. This is simply to draw off from profane
thoughts the mind and the heart, and to apply them to the sublime work
of conversing with God, which we do in the Divine Office. This
recollecting of our wandering thoughts before prayer is impressed on us
by Holy Scripture, by the example of the saints, and by our own common
sense. Holy Scripture warns us "Before prayer prepare thy soul and be
not as a man that tempteth God" (Ecclus. 18. 23). And as typical of the
preparation made by saintly priests, the example of St. Charles
Borromeo may be mentioned. The saint always spent a quarter of an hour
in preparatory prayer before beginning the Church's official prayer.
The Venerable John D'Avila made the same practice general amongst his
disciples. This holy man narrates, how one day he met a priest of the
Society of Jesus, who asked him to recite the Hours with him, and that
before beginning their prayer the Jesuit fell on his knees, saying,
"There are some who speak of saying the Office as if it were a trifle.
Come, they say, let us say our Hours together, and so immediately
begin. This is showing very little appreciation for so holy a duty, for
it well merits a few moments at least of recollection" (Bacquez). Our
own common sense tells us not to rush heedlessly to begin any important
work. To converse with God is a work of sublime importance which needs
preparation, so that it may be done attentively.
We must invoke God's aid by prayer. No prayer is more suitable than the
prayer given as a preparatory prayer in the Breviary, "Aperi, Domine, os meum
... Open Thou, O Lord, my mouth to bless Thy holy name; cleanse my
heart from vain, evil and wandering thoughts; enlighten my
understanding, inflame my will, that so I may worthily, attentively and
devoutly recite this Office and deserve to be heard in the presence of
Thy Divine Majesty. Through Christ our Lord. Amen. O Lord, in union
with that divine intention wherewith Thou whilst here on earth didst
Thyself praise God, I offer these Hours to Thee."
Fourth. To unite ourselves with Jesus Christ. In the prefatory prayer "Aperi, Domine," we say "Domine, in unione,"
etc. In Baptism, Christians are united to Jesus, to His life, to His
spirit. He is the Head of the Church and we are its members. And this
union should be a real, explicit, vivifying union when we fulfil our
ministry of social prayer. This union with Christ is sought for by
Himself, by the Apostles, by the Church, and is practised ever by God's
saints. The words of the prayer should be reduced to action.
1. Christ our model in all things is our model in prayer, and so He
teaches us that when we pray we must say "Our Father, Who art in
Heaven," that is, to use His very words and sentiments. And this desire
of our Lord, that souls should be united to Him in prayer, has often
been manifested by Him to His saints. To St. Gertrude He said, "My
daughter, behold My Heart; look upon It in future as supplying your own
defects. When you would pray, ask It to help you to give My Father the
homage you owe Him. I shall be ever ready to second you as soon as you
call Me to your aid." St. Bernard, schooled in this practice by the
Holy Ghost, knew all its sweetness: "David," he says, "rejoiced of old
to have found his heart to pray to his Master and his God–Invenit servus tuus cor tuum ut oraret te oratione hac
(II. Kings viii. 27). And I, that I may pray, have found the heart of
my King and my Brother, of my sweet Saviour; shall I not then also
pray? Yes, certainly, for I am, too, happy, as I have, if not the Heart
of Jesus in place of mine, at least have I mine in that of Jesus"
(Bacquez, p. 191).
2. St. Paul recommends us to offer
our prayers through Jesus Christ. "By him, therefore, let us offer the
sacrifice of praise always to God, that is to say, the fruit of lips
confessing to His name" (Heb. xiii. 15).
3. The Church wishes this union with Christ and mentions it several times in her prayers, Per Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum. She expresses her wish in the preparatory prayer, Aperi, Domine;
she wishes the words and sentiments of the psalms to be applied to
Jesus, the Saviour, whom David typified, and to whom the psalms in
great number relate. And in the frequent repetition of the Pater Noster, we speak Christ's sentiments and words.
4. The lives of the saints furnish many examples and precepts of this
union with Christ in our prayer. To the examples of St. Gertrude and
St. Bernard many others can be added. Several such examples are quoted
by Bacquez in his work on the Office.
5. The remembrance
of the sublime work of the Office should aid in its fervent recitation.
Priests should remember the words of St. Alphonsus: "After the
sacrifice of the Mass the Church possesses no treasure so great as the
Divine Office." "It is God's Church, the Spouse of Christ, who has done
me the honour of choosing me for this great work—me, in preference to a
hundred others. She puts into my hand her holy book of heavenly
language, and asks me to read its words before God, to unite with the
angels and saints in honouring God."
6. To propose some
particular intention before the recitation of the Hours begins, and to
renew it during the recitation is an excellent means of guarding
against distractions and mechanical routine. It sustains during the
prayer the fervour with which it was begun. St. Bonaventure said to
priests "Give great attention to the signs (i.e., to the directions, about kneeling, standing, sign of cross, etc.), greater attention to the words, and the greatest attention to the (particular) intention."
But what intention ought we to have?
We should have general intentions and particular intentions. We must
have the general intentions of the Church, whose ambassadors we are. We
must pray that God be known and adored, loved and thanked and praised.
We must pray that the Church have freedom, that she may be exalted,
that the kingdom of Christ may spread and flourish, that the Pope and
clergy of the world may be blessed and guided by God, that holy souls
may be confirmed in virtue and that sinners may be converted.
We should have also some particular intentions in reading our Hours.
Thus, we may pray to obtain a more lively faith, a greater hope, a more
ardent charity, greater meekness and humility, greater patience,
detachment from the world, greater fraternal charity, help in keeping
vows—in a word, an increase of virtues, especially those in which we
may have great wants. Again, a priest may and should beg God to help
him and guide him by his light and grace, in doubts, in trouble, in
crosses, in his daily work as a priest, in his parish, in his schools,
in his college. Particularly and fervently should a priest pray for
success in his religious instruction in school, in church, in the
pulpit. For St. Augustine tells us that success in this matter depends
more on prayer than on preaching (De Doc. Christ., Lib. 4, chap. 15). And at every Hour a priest should pray for a happy death.
Before saying his Hours, a priest may form a special intention of
praying for others, his superiors, his parents, his brothers and
sisters, his benefactors, his friends, his enemies, for those who have
asked for prayers, for some one in sorrow, for some one in sin, for a
soul in purgatory. Of course, these prayers benefit the priest who
offers them, for as St. Gregory the Great said so well, "Plus enim pro se valere preces suas efficit qui has et pro aliis impendit" (Moral II. 25).
SECTION: Article III.—Aids During The Recit…
Article I. —Rules For Pious Recita…