Keeping Sunday holy when we cannot gather for Mass: Liturgy of the Hours

Keeping Sunday holy when we cannot gather for Mass: Liturgy of the Hours

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For Christians, Sunday is unlike any other day of the week. We believe that Sunday is the original feast day; the day of the Creator’s work; the weekly Easter; the first day; the eighth day; the day of the gift of the Spirit, of Christ-Light, of faith; an indispensable day. This is why Sunday is the principle day Christians gather to pray and celebrate the Eucharist.

However, when that Sunday gathering is not possible in our usual ways, we can still honor the Lord’s Day and mark it as a reminder that, in Christ, we have eternal life. By keeping this day holy, even when circumstances prevent us from being together as a parish, we can still be spiritually united in prayer and serve as a sign to the world that Christ has conquered death.

One significant way that Christians have prayed each day, whether alone or with a community, is through the Liturgy of the Hours. This ancient practice, with origins in the Old Testament, continues to be a daily prayer discipline for religious communities today.

Even if we are not part of a religious community, praying the Liturgy of the Hours, especially on Sunday, can be a way for us to sustain ourselves and one another in common prayer during these unusual times. You can pray the Liturgy of the Hours anywhere, on your own or with a group. The leader for the prayer can be any Christian; it does not need to be a priest or a deacon. You will need a Bible or Internet access to find the Scripture passages.

The Liturgy of the Hours has two parts. First is a section giving praise to the Father through Christ that consists of prayerful reading or singing of the psalms and canticles (poetic passages from the Bible) and a Scripture passage. Having remembered God’s blessings, the second part invites us to offer prayers for ourselves and the world.

There are two specific times when we pray the Liturgy of the Hours. As the sun rises on our day, we pray Morning Prayer to honor the risen Christ. As the sun sets, we pray Evening Prayer to recall Christ’s love for us in his dying on the Cross. There are no exact times for praying these two “hours,” as long as you do them around their related time of day. You can pray both hours on Sunday or just one of them as your schedule allows. The resources below are adapted versions of the Liturgy of the Hours used by the Catholic Church.

In addition to prayer, we can keep holy the Lord’s Day by doing works of mercy. Some things you can do even when you cannot gather with others: write a note or call a friend or family member who might feel lonely this day; donate money to organizations assisting those in need; make mealtimes this day more special; read or create something beautiful.

During this unusual time of crisis, we grieve that so many are unable to gather together for the Sunday Eucharist. Let us offer our hunger and sorrow in solidarity with those around the world who regularly go without the Sunday Eucharist because of illness, lack of ministers, or isolation. May Christ, who is present wherever two or three are gathered in his name, bring us all healing and peace and unite us together in his Spirit of love.

Lenten Liturgy of the Hours for use at home when we cannot gather for the Eucharist

Third Sunday of Lent, Year A

Fourth Sunday of Lent, Year A

Fifth Sunday of Lent, Year A

Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion, Year A

For daily prayer


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