Re-Reading Sacrosanctum Concilium: Article 86

Vatican website translation:

86. Priests who are engaged in the sacred pastoral ministry will offer the praises of the hours with greater fervor the more vividly they realize that they must heed St. Paul’s exhortation: “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:11). For the work in which they labor will effect nothing and bring forth no fruit except by the power of the Lord who said: “Without me you can do nothing” (John 15: 5). That is why the apostles, instituting deacons, said: “We will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4).

Latin text:

86. Sacerdotes sacro pastorali ministerio addicti eo maiore fervore Horarum laudes persolvent, quo vividius conscii erunt sibi observandum esse monitum Pauli: “Sine intermissione orate” (1Thess 5,17); operi enim in quo laborant Dominus solus efficacitatem et incrementum dare potest, qui dixit: “Sine me nihil potestis facere” (Io 15,5); propterea Apostoli, diaconos instituentes, dixerunt: “Nos vero orationi et ministerio verbi instantes erimus” (Act 6,4).

Slavishly literal translation:

86. Priests who are devoted to the sacred pastoral ministry will discharge complete the praises of the Hours with greater fervor insofar as they will be more vividly conscious that the admonishment of Paul is to be observed: “With ceasing pray [pl.]” (1 Thessalonians 5:17); for to the work in which they labor the Lord alone, who said: “Without me you [pl] can do nothing” (John 15:5), can give efficacy and increase; moreover the Apostles, instituting deacons, said: “We will be intent upon prayer and the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4).

Continuing the theological foundation for the reform of the Liturgy of the Hours begun in art. 83, art. 86 explicitly considers the responsibility of priests in pastoral ministry to pray the Liturgy of the Hours. This should not be seen as a backing away from the notion of the Divine Office as the work of the entire Church: clerics, members of religious communities, and laity. Rather it wants priests to remember that their pastoral work will be fruitless without a foundation of prayer, as the quotation from John makes explicit. The article cites the Pauline injunction of constant prayer to the Thessalonian community that the early Christian communities took with great seriousness, deciding that one of the ways to follow that injunction was by instituting communal prayer at fixed hours during the day and night (cf. art. 84). While the citation of Acts 6:4 may be read in an extended sense as a justification for the Liturgy of the Hours in the lives of bishops and presbyters, it is somewhat less apropos here since deacons are bound to the recitation of the Divine Office as well as priests.

Pray Tell readers may wish to discuss the role of the Liturgy of the Hours in the lives of priests assigned to pastoral care. In the decades leading up to the Council, the Divine Office was often criticized as out of touch with the spiritual needs of active priests and proposals that it should be replaced by a certain length of daily spiritual reading for those charged with parish work, teaching or chaplaincies, etc., appear in the materials sent in by bishops in preparation for the Council. Pray Tell readers might want to discuss how permission for clerics to pray the Office in the vernacular may have been a response to this desire, as well as the effect detaching the Office of Readings from middle-of-the-night Vigils to a free-floating “hour” that could be prayed whenever convenient in an active cleric’s life changes some of the focus of the Liturgy of the Hours on the sanctification of time.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *