Lord, Open My Lips
“Lord, open my lips and my mouth will proclaim your praise.”
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.
Let 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.