EVENING PRAYERBOOK: SUNDAY VESPERS, LITURGY OF THE HOURS: THE PRAISES OF GOD — AN UNCOMMON DIALOGUE

Patmos, 2004 157 pages, $24.95 To order: (570) 685-5168 or http://www.patmos.us

The Church has been expressing its hope that the laity would come to know the Liturgy of the Hours ever since the Second Vatican Council.

In his 2001 apostolic letter Novo Millennio Ineunte (At the Beginning of the New Millennium), Pope John Paul II concluded that it “is important to devote greater pastoral care to promoting the Liturgy of the Hours as a prayer of the whole people of God. … If, in fact, priests have a precise mandate to celebrate it, it is also warmly recommended to lay people.”

The problem is that the breviary is not something you can simply open and run with. It requires some instruction.

Beginners are often frustrated and confused, having to flip back and forth from “Ordinary” to “Hymns” to “Psalter” to “Proper of Seasons.”

In addition, there are various rubrics accompanying the prayers (sign of the cross, bowing, knowing when to sit or stand) that can further complicate the learning process.

To the rescue comes Evening Prayerbook. This workbook contains vespers for every Sunday and major feast day of the year. Each two-page spread contains everything needed for each evening — no search-and-flip missions required. Parenthetical comments on gestures and rubrics are in the margins. Especially helpful to those who do not have the guidance of a priest or religious is the tutorial page, which carefully explains each prayer and rubric, and how to alternate responses for vespers in a group setting.

Less essential, but certainly well worthwhile, is the artwork on the margins of each page. Here are lovely designs, reminiscent of old illuminated manuscripts and color-coordinated to the liturgical season of each Sunday's evening prayer.

The book's foreword, by Wayne Hepler, will both inform and motivate the reader to investigate the Liturgy of the Hours. Hepler seasons his own enthusiasm for liturgical prayer with copious quotes from the magisterium. Referring to Dies Domini (The Lord's Day), he writes:

“The Holy Father reminds us in his gentle way that Sunday isn't over when Mass is over. How fitting it would be indeed if after Mass, the football game, naps, or visiting family, the faithful would come together with the whole Church throughout the world and complete their Sunday with the celebration of Sunday Vespers?”

“There is no other prayer like the Liturgy of the Hours,” Hepler continues. “It is the official public prayer of the Church for every day of the liturgical year celebrating the life of Jesus Christ in its Seasons, Feasts, and Saints — especially in the morning and evening. It is the ‘very prayer which Christ himself, together with his body addresses to the Father’ (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Chapter 4).”

Hepler is certain that praying just one hour of Sunday vespers regularly will “be the introduction into the love affair of a lifetime.” Many of his readers will no doubt end up similarly persuaded.

Evening Prayerbook will be immensely helpful to pastors who need a simple resource for introducing their parish to the Divine Office. Recitation of evening prayer takes between 10 and 15 minutes: a modest investment with an eternal return.

Daria Sockey writes from Cincinnati.