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Lord, Open My Lips

Lord, Open My Lips

“Lord, open my lips and my mouth will proclaim your praise.”
(Psalm 51:15)

These words ring out in the chapel, breaking the silence of the early morning. It is still dark outside and our community of sisters, albeit still a bit bleary-eyed, has gathered to begin the day singing the Divine Office. The words of the psalms fill the air: “It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to make music in your name, O Most High, to proclaim your love in the morning and your truth in the watches of the night!” (Psalm 92:2-3) How beautiful it is that the first words on our lips each morning are ones of prayer and praise!

Like all religious communities, the daily recitation of the Divine Office (also known as the Liturgy of the Hours) forms an integral and joyful part of our daily life of prayer.

As Jesus promised, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20) This scripture is fulfilled in a most beautiful way when we pray the Liturgy of the Hours together in community. However, we are not simply united with those praying with us in the chapel. As all priests and Religious are obliged to pray the Divine Office daily, we are united in prayer with the Church throughout the world.   The same psalms and canticles chanted by Carmelites Sisters in Alhambra, California are also being prayed by parish priests in refugee camps in Turkey, Cistercian Monks in Nigeria, and missionaries in Oceania. We truly are one body in Christ!

Jesus was “praying in a certain place, and when he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray…” (Luke 11:1) In praying the Liturgy of the Hours, we offer our prayer to the Father through Jesus Christ, in power of the Holy Spirit. As we hear in the Gospel of Luke, Jesus habitually went off alone and spent whole nights in prayer to His Father. Most certainly the psalms that He had learned as a boy in synagogue were among the prayers on His lips. Even now, when we pray the Divine Office, we are given the opportunity to enter into that intimate dialogue between the Father and the Son. In a beautiful and mysterious way, Jesus cries out anew to the Father through His Body, the Church.

“As the deer longs for streams of water, so my soul longs for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, the living God. When can I enter and see the face of God?” (Psalm 42:2-3) The prayers we lift up throughout the day embrace our own intentions as well as those of all people throughout the world. We pray for those who are sick and suffering and who cannot pray. We pray for the angry and disbelieving who refuse to pray. We pray for those who are too busy or distracted to pray. We pray for the lost and lonely who do not know how to pray. We pray the psalms of praise with those who are celebrating a new birth. We pray the psalms of lamentation with those bearing the burden of loss. In the Divine Office, we pray for and with all.

“From the rising of the sun to its setting may the name of the LORD be praised.” (Psalm 133:3) It is heartening to realize that at each hour of every day, there are faithful souls around the world sanctifying the day by praying the Liturgy of the Hours. Their prayers call down abundant and hidden blessings for the whole Church. These prayers beg pardon and grace for sinners. These loving prayers are a font of life and peace for the whole world.

InvitatoryLOTHLet us enter into this magnificent symphony of praise and petition!
“Lord, open my lips….” (Psalm 51:15)



Post and photograph of the Carmelite Sisters at prayer originally published on the website of the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles, used with permission.


Photograph of the Invitatory, Liturgy of the Hours, Liz Estler, June 2016.

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About Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles

PROMOTING A DEEPER SPIRITUAL LIFE THROUGH HEALTHCARE, EDUCATION AND RETREATS. The way of life of the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles is rooted in the Gospel, the Church, and the spirituality of Carmel as lived out through the charism of our foundress, Venerable Mother Maria Luisa Josefa of the Most Blessed Sacrament. In His merciful goodness, God has graced our Institute with the Carmelite charism which has its foundation in a long history and living tradition. Our vocation is a grace by which contemplation and action are blended to become an apostolic service of the Church as we promote a deeper spiritual life among God's people through education, healthcare, and spiritual retreats. We are called by God to be a presence inflamed within our world, witnessing to God's love through prayer, joyful witness and loving service. Our mission flows from each sister's profound life of prayer as Mother Luisita, our foundress, wrote, "the soul of each Carmelite raises herself to Christ, Who is her heaven, while her shadow falls in charity upon earth doing good to all people."

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  • Judy Silhan

    I’m not sure words can completely express my gratitude to you, Dan Burke, for sharing with me and the other students in your class, the beauty of the Divine Office. As these Carmelite sisters write, each of us, lay people, priests, or those in religious communities, are united in prayer with the church throughout the world. Realizing this, especially that I am praying with priests who are among the persecuted church in Syria, Iraq, or other ISIS targets, is truly heartwarming, and creates an awareness of what living one’s life for Christ really means.
    Getting up before dawn, prior to learning the untold benefits of spending time with our Lord and conversing with him about the new day He has given me, was not a practice I considered nor desired. Hearing you speak of the Liturgy of the Hours, Dan, was enough to draw me into attempting to get up earlier to be with Him. Reading this reflection from the Carmelite sisters sums up what I learned from you, and I remain forever grateful. God Bless you.

    • Dan Burke

      God is so very good.

  • Patricia

    The Liturgy of the Hours is the public communal prayer of the Church, following only the Mass in importance. All Christians are encouraged to pray the hours, although religious communities and priests are required to pray the hours.
    In many parishes, lay people also gather everyday to pray the Liturgy of the Hours together before morning Mass. They may be part of a parish payer group or just two or three committed people who gather to pray the Liturgy of the Hours together everyday, welcoming others to join them whenever they can.
    Many faithful Catholics also individually pray the Liturgy of the Hours everyday. You can buy the LOTH books or look online for each day’s readings. There are also online sites and apps that provide the daily readings. One even shows a turning earth showing all the people from around the world who are online praying the hours at the same time as you are.
    It really prioritizes your day for God to pray the hours in conjunction with your personal prayer and meditation time. Of course daily Mass is still the priority.
    Liturgy of the Hours by Father Dominic F. Scotto, is a good read on the history and importance of this communal prayer of the Church, and the Liturgical Reforms of Vatican II.

  • benjamin tettey

    “For forty years they wearied me,
    that generation.
    I said: their hearts are wandering,
    they do not know my paths.
    I swore in my anger:
    they will never enter my place of rest.” Help me understand this phrase

    • LizEst

      Hi benjamin tettey – After the Israelites left Egypt and were freed from Pharaoh, they wandered in the desert for 40 years. They had promised time and time again to follow God’s laws, which He gave them through Moses. They did not do that. They grumbled against Him, fell into idol worship and just did not act as God’s people should act. God did not allow any of that generation (including Moses) to cross into Israel, the Promised Land, the place of rest. The lesson for us in this, metaphorically, is that the same will happen to us if our hearts wander and love false gods (money, sex, pride, vanity, etc.), if we do not follow in God’s ways. We will not enter into the place of eternal rest and happiness with Him.

      Hope that helps. God bless you now and always benjamin tettey!

      • benjamin tettey

        Thank a lot my Sister for the insight. God bless you

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