My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Awaking the Dawn--Morning PrayerLike most Catholic converts I eventually began wondering about the meaning of some of the terms tossed around casually by long-time Catholics ... Divine Office, breviary, and Liturgy of the Hours. Eventually, using several sources over time, I figured it out, but I'd have had a much easier time if this book had been available back then. (Just to get any other newcomers up to speed, the Liturgy of the Hours together with the Mass is the official prayer of the Roman Catholic Church which must be offered at various times of day by clergy and religious. Regular Catholics can pray it if they like. It is mostly made up of of psalms, hymns, and readings.)
Morning Prayer is one of the two principal Hours of the day on which the day's liturgy--and our own day--should hang. Hence, the Church's reference to Morning and Evening Prayer as the "hinges" of the liturgical day. That makes sense on the natural level. Our day's activity begins in the morning, and winds down in the evening. It is fitting to sanctify this beginning and ending of our daily work with liturgical prayer.
Although the entire Liturgy of the Hours is about offering to God a sacrifice of praise, no other Hour seems more praise-oriented than Morning Prayer. It's Latin name--Lauds--means just that: praises. And this makes sense, because to the mind of the Church, every morning recalls the most amazing and glorious thing that ever happened: the resurrection of Jesus. We are often told that every Sunday is a "little Easter." In the Liturgy of the Hours, nearly every morning of the year, for a few minutes at least, is a little Easter. The idea of every morning commemorating the resurrection goes back to the earliest centuries.
Daria Sockey has written a comprehensive, useful resource to the daily prayer of the Catholic Church which is built around the idea of "praying without ceasing." Sockey's book is succinct and clear. She answers all the questions I can imagine, from history to nuts-and-bolts to inspirational.
I myself was mildly interested in the Liturgy of the hours but the book was interesting enough that I read the entire thing, although I don't see myself praying the LOTH, at least anytime soon. However, it is packed with good, thoughtful commentary on prayer and that is something I need all the time.
There was certainly a time when I wondered why we were supposed to praise God so much. Was the Lord eternally fishing for compliments, like a once-beautiful woman now past her prime? So egotistical that he needed us telling him how wonderful he was every single day? ...Whether you have any interest in praying the Liturgy of the Hours or are simply a mildly interested questioner, this book is highly recommended.
... Simply put, God does not demand our praise because he needs it, but because we need it. It is for our benefit, not his. If the whole world neglected to utter a single word of praise to God, he would not be hurt of diminished in any way. But we the non-praisers, would be sadly crippled.
Praise--call it admiration or appreciation--is the most natural thing response in the world to beauty, truth, and goodness. You are not in the least worried about offending a beautiful sunset by not praising it. On the contrary, you just can't help it. Your heart leaps, and words such as, "Wow! That's incredible!" come to your lips. And then--this is important--you aren't satisfied with having praised the sunset by yourself. You open the door to the house and call to your spouse and children, "Quick! Come see the sunset before it's gone. Isn't that amazing! Look at that red streak over there. The golden border on the top of the purple..."
God, our Creator and Redeemer, the answer to the heart's deepest longings, is obviously the most worthy object of our praise. When we recognize our place in the universe ... praise of God is the only fitting response. (And that praise just as with the sunset, is largely composed of inviting others to praise him, as well.) To not recognize this is to be spiritually disabled.)