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Brookline Carmel Bulletin                        

May 7, 1961

Cogitatio Sancta

(Holy Meditation)


The Divine Office


Although we customarily consider the Holy Sacrifice and the Divine Office as separate entities they are in reality two faces of the same coin.  Or, more exactly, the Sacrifice of the Mass is an integral part of the Divine Office, its logical culmination.  In his brilliant encyclical on the Liturgy Mediator Dei, Pope Pius XII made this quite clear.  The Divine Office is the public and official prayer of the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ.  It continues and perpetuates the hymn of praise to God begun by Jesus at the first moment of His Incarnation just as the Holy Sacrifice perpetuates in time the Sacrificial death of Jesus on the Cross.  Unquestionably, then, the same relationship exists nowadays between the Office and the Mass, as there existed between the prayer life of Christ and the Sacrifice of Calvary.  That the Redemptive Passion and Death of Our Divine Saviour was the central theme around which His prayer revolved and the goal toward which it was oriented is distinctly set forth in the Epistle of St. Paul to the Hebrews (10,5-7):  “Therefore, in coming into the world he says, ‘Sacrifice and oblation thou wouldst not, but a body thou has fitted to me:  In holocausts and in sin-offerings thou has had no pleasure.  Then said I, ‘Behold I come’ – (in the head of the head of the book it is written of me) – to do thy will, O God.”


The prayer of Jesus consisted in the offering to God of the sentiments that welled up in His Heart as He reviewed the infinite perfections of God as evidenced by His designs for Mankind.  Then He considered, too, the progress of the work, and the part He was destined to play in it, the natural thing for Him to do was to offer Himself unreservedly to the Father that the plan might be brought to a perfect fulfillment.  We have more than one indication of the great joy Jesus derived from His daily encounter with God the Father in Prayer.  He would frequently omit needed sleep to spend whole nights in communing with His Father, and on one recorded occasion, he could not contain Himself but exulted publicly in God:  In that very hour He rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, ‘I praise thee, Father, Lord of Heaven and Earth, that thou didst hide these things from the wise and the prudent and didst reveal them to little ones.  Yes, Father, for such was thy good pleasure’.”  What, then, must have been the outbursts of adoration, love and thanksgiving that He sent spiraling Heaven-ward as a most sweet odor of incense when He was alone in the silence and solitude of His retreats in the desert or on the mountains?


We cannot overemphasize the outstanding dignity and value of the Divine Office, stemming as they do from the fact that it is Jesus Himself who prays in and with His Church.  It is offered for His intentions – the Honor and Glory of His Father – and reiterates His requests for the spiritual and temporal welfare of souls.  It is invaluable also for the spiritual education it affords.  From a practical point of view it is also of utmost importance.  It is the faithful image of the prayer of Jesus outlined above and thus is capable of putting the person who prays it into the same frame of mind that Jesus took with Him up to the summit of Calvary.  In other words, it is the ideal preparation for the daily celebration of Mass.  After having read the Psalms and selections from Sacred History (the Lessons), after having absorbed a recapitulation of some Holy Doctrine (the Chapters), after having had his faith in a seasonal or festive Mystery confirmed (the Hymns and Versicles), the man of good will is naturally inclined to make in turn a total offering of himself to the Father’s designs.  His one desire is to see God’s plan for men brought to completion, and he intends to contribute to it by the faithful discharge of his own duties and obligations.  He may not voice it in words, but He repeats in sentiment the words of Jesus:  A body thou has fitted to me…Behold I come…to do thy Will, O God”.


The Psalms constitute the principal part of the Divine Office.  In praying them we at once give public testimony of His perfections and attributes and find ample cause to rejoice in Him.  The Psalms speak of His sublime goodness and perfection not in an abstract way, but in concrete terms:  by recounting His marvelous deeds and His moral attributes.  He is presented as Omnipotent by those psalms, which treat of creation.  They show us His Wisdom by singing of the way He uses the poor, the lowly and the foolish to confound the proud and the worldly wise.  We see His Justice in the examples they bring forth of how He vindicates the rights of the widowed, the homeless and the oppressed, and in the victory of the just man over the wicked.  The Mercy of God is clearly revealed in the countless instances of His fatherly solicitude and His children, and of the speed with which He forgives their numberless failures and infidelities in order to restore them to pristine dignity.  How can we not rejoice in God when we read of these and similar things?  As humans we are the perfect foil for God.  Against the background of our miseries the surpassing holiness of God is most vividly revealed.  It seems we are made in such a way that we bring out the best in Him.  We even seem to extort it.  The intricacy of the Divine Office and the length of time needed to complete it daily are most probably the reason why the faithful at large are not required to take part in it.  But certainly all should try to acquaint themselves with the Psalms.  They teach us how to pray.  In them we can find the thoughts, the sentiments, the words themselves that best express the most profound and intimate of our religious aspirations.

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