Saint John the Evangelist Seminary

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Saint John the Evangelist Seminary


LTS: 502  Liturgy of the Hours

Course Syllabus 



Course Description

Prayer is the common duty of Christians, and prayer in common forms, nourishes, and challenges Christian faith.  This course will explore the origins, development, ritual components, and theological significance of Christian liturgical prayer, especially (although not exclusively) in the Western, Roman Catholic tradition.  The primary focus of the course concerns elements common to all Christian liturgical celebration rather than features specific to particular sacramental rites of the Church.  After a consideration of what makes certain forms of prayer liturgical, the course will examine daily prayer in the Christian tradition (Liturgy of the Hours, Divine Office), the essential components of Christian liturgical prayer (e.g., Word, assembly, ritual, and doxology), and the connections between liturgical and devotional forms of prayer.


Objective of the Course:

Through this course, students will:

·                  Acquire knowledge of the historical evolution, theological development, and ritual elements of liturgical prayer in preparation for further research and study and/or for service in church ministry.

·                  Learn to articulate the significance of liturgical prayer for the life of the Christian community.

·                  Explore recent developments in theology and culture that impact the practice of liturgical prayer.

·                  Develop theological foundations for preparing, engaging, and evaluating rich celebrations of liturgical prayer in the communities in which they worship.


Required Texts [and their abbreviations on the Syllabus]

Bradshaw, Paul F.  Two Ways of Praying.  2nd edition.  Maryville, TN:  OSL Publications, 2008.

[ISBN:  978-1-878009-59-3]

Guiver, George.  Company of Voices:  Daily Prayer and the People of God.  Revised edition.  Norwich,

Norfolk: The Canterbury Press, 2001.  [ISBN:  978-1-85311-394-9]



1.       Introduction:  What is Liturgical Prayer?

                        Read:  Guiver, 3-45 and Bradshaw, Chapter 3              . 


2.     The Prayer of the Church

                        Read:  Bradshaw, Chapter 4

If you own the four-volume set of the Liturgy of the Hours books, the General Instruction can be found in Volume I.

 3.    Patterns of Daily Prayer:  Ancient Models

                        Read: Bradshaw, Chapter 1 and  Guiver, 49-64

4.    Patterns of Daily Prayer:  Developments in the East and the West

                        Read:    Guiver, 65-83.

 5.     Patterns of Daily Prayer:  The Benedictine Office and the Medieval West

Read: (*) Rule of Benedict, chapters 8-20

Recommended:  Susan Boynton, “Prayer as Liturgical Performance in Eleventh- and Twelfth-

Century Monastic Psalters,” Speculum 82.4 (2007):  896-931.




1.  Praise and Intercession

Read: Guiver, 169-173


2.  Word, Psalmody, and Prayer

                        Read:  Guiver, 151-168 and  Bradshaw, Chapters 5-6                       


3.  Assembly and Ministry

                        Read:  (*) Mark Francis, “The Liturgical Assembly,” in Anscar Chupungco, ed., Handbook for Liturgical Studies, volume 2 (Collegeville, MN:  The Liturgical Press,                      1997): 129-143.


4.  Symbol, Ritual and the Body

                Read Guiver, 149-150 and Bradshaw Chapter 7                            


5.  Prayer in Motion:  Text, Song, Time, and Space   

                  Read:  (*) Nathan D. Mitchell, “Ritual Speech and the Logic of Metaphor,” in Meeting Mystery  (New York:  Orbis Books, 2006)  189-227




1.  Patterns of Daily Prayer:  Reformed Models, Protestant and Catholic

      Read:  Guiver, 115-146.


2.  Patterns of Daily Prayer: From Breviary to the Liturgy of the Hour

     Read: Robert F. Taft, “The Roman Office,” in The Liturgy of the Hours in East and West, 307-317.

 3.  Patterns of Daily Prayer:  Contemporary and Alternative Models

      Read:    Bradshaw, Chapter 8

 4.  Liturgical Prayer and Popular Devotions

                        Read:  Bradshaw, Chapter 2

 5.  Theology, Piety, and Prayer

                        Read:  Guiver, 104-114, 177-194, 212-213



Synthesis Papers


The general focus for all projects is how liturgical forms of prayer (and the historical, theological, and ritual rationale undergirding them) can either foster or hinder human attempts to engage and be engaged by God in prayer.  Depending on the particular interests and goals of the students, these projects might take various forms.  Since the option chosen will impact the format in which materials are submitted, there is no absolute minimum or maximum length for these projects, but a good general guideline is 8-10 pages of typed, double-spaced text.  Whichever option you choose, please obtain preliminary approval for your project ASAP

Option 1:  Write a research paper (8-10 double-spaced pages, with formal footnotes/endnotes and bibliography) on a particular aspect of liturgical prayer, preferably one that has not been treated extensively in class.  A research paper should consist of sustained investigation of a topic that demonstrates the student’s engagement with primary sources and secondary literature. Topics for the paper might include one of the central building blocks of Christian liturgical prayer (e.g., “Worship and the Word,” “The Relation between Ritual and Repetition”) or a historical topic (e.g. “Daily Prayer in the Rule of Benedict,” “The Reform of the Liturgy of the Hours after Vatican II”).

Option 2:  You have been invited to give a one-hour presentation on “Liturgical Prayer” as part of the adult education series in your local faith community.  Prepare the outline and presenter’s notes for such a presentation, along with any handouts (e.g. key “take-home” points, charts and/or diagrams, annotated bibliography with suggestions for further reading) or audiovisual materials you develop to accompany it.

Option 3:  Prepare a pastoral reflection (approximately 8-10 double-spaced pages) that represents your response (informed by class readings and discussions) to the following question:  What do you see as the future of the Liturgy of the Hours as common prayer?

Option 4:  Choose a contemporary Christian office book and write a book review, attending to the structure of the prayer, the organizing theological and liturgical principles, and the ease of use for ritual specialists and non-specialists.  Would you recommend this book for your praying community?  Why or why not?

Option 5:  Prepare a service of morning, evening, or night prayer for a particular praying community.  Develop a participation aid for the assembly and other ministers.  Please include an introduction providing an overview of the real or hypothetical community that might use such a service and commentary on the service itself, explaining the order of the service, its contents, and your rationale for structuring the prayer the way you did.

Option 6:  Musicians may opt to compose (a) musical piece(s) for use in liturgical prayer (for general use at morning, evening, or night prayer or for use on a particular feast or during a certain liturgical season).  Students selecting this option should also prepare a 3-5 page written explanation providing historical and theological support detailing what choices they made in composing the piece(s) and why.  For example:  What are these pieces trying to evoke?  How do the lyrics (if present) capture the key idea(s) of the time of day/feast/season in general and emphases particular to the student’s own tradition [if applicable]?  

Option 7:  Propose your own project that integrates historical, theological, and ritual consideration of some aspect of liturgical prayer with critical analysis and/or practical application.  Possibilities might include exploring certain forms of art (e.g., icons) as aids to liturgical prayer or preparing a series of sermons for use in the context of liturgical prayer.


Saint John the Evangelist Seminary
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