Liturgy of the Hours / Breviary / Divine Office

What is the difference between these:

Liturgy of the Hours
Divine Office

Am I correct in my understanding that priests are obligated by Canon law to recite all prayers daily in the Liturgy of the Hours? How many of the lay faithful do this? Any? How much of a committment would it be for a lay person to do this?


They are all names for the same thing. Priests, depending on if they belong to an order or are secular, have to pray specific parts of the Liturgy of the Hours but not all (unless specific to the order). Monastics, (who are not priests but religious) since it is their focus, pray all the parts of the Liturgy of the Hours. A lay person may pray all or part of the Liturgy depending on their life circumstance, that is if they are married and raising children, the children and marriage come first.

I would only add…to clarify:

the LOH and Breviary are the same thing…but the Divine Office of the Hours is one of the daily hours that is prayed in the LOH/ Breviary…there are Seven Hours (1-7):

Morning LOH (1)
Daytime LOH (mid morning…midday…mid afternoon)…(2,3,4)
Evening LOH (5)
Nighttime LOH (6)

Office of the Hours (7)…that can be prayed any hour between 1201 and 2359 hours of the Day…it is the one hour that includes three psalms (no canticle) usually its one of the longest psalms broken into thee parts with three different antiphons…and a psalm prayer at the end…THEN (and this is really the distinguishing part of the Divine Office)…there is a biblical reading (usually Old Testament…sometimes New Testament)…followed by a homily…apologetic work…or a Counsel writing for instruction/reflection…meditation. My bottom line difference is that the Divine Office…is one of the Hours of the LOH…it is not synonymous with or can be used as one of the general names for the breviary or the LOH.

Hope this helps and is clear.

Pax Christi

Just to add, depending on what you intend to do, there are different arrangements of the Liturgy. For example, the Benedictines have their own arrangement. Many other monastic orders do as well. There is a Liturgy of the Hours that is common to the Church as a whole, the most likely you will use. There is also the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin.

Here’s a link to how to read the Liturgy:

(These are for March 26)
Here’s a link to the Hours:

Office of Reading
Lauds (Morning Prayer)
The Little Hours (Terce, Sext, and None)
Vespers (Evening Prayer)
Compline (Night Prayer)

I’ve always heard Divine Office is synonymous with the other two.

The 7th hour you note I’ve always heard referred to as the “Office of Readings.”

See the General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours:

When you say “Office of the Hours”, you are in fact referring to the Office of Readings. There is no such hour called “Office of the Hours”.

And no, the Divine Office is NOT “one of the hours”… it IS the Liturgy of the Hours. Just open any volume of the breviary or LOTH to the first page. There should be a title that says “Divine Office”.

Also, the Breviary is the name of the *book *that contains the prayers for the LOH/Divine office.

[As no one has yet noted it explicitly]

The Office of Readings may be prayed at any hour of the day (not just the latter half), or “even during the night hours of the previous day, after evening prayer has been said.” (GILOH #59).


All three are terms for the same thing. The breviary is the book itself. The American version has “The Liturgy of the Hours” printed on the four-volume set that priests use. The one volume version is subtitled “Christian Prayer.” The three-volume British version is entitled “The Divine Office,” but all terms are interchangeable.

Indeed. In fact, even in the U.S. edition, the cover page makes it very clear:

The Divine Office
Revised by Decree of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council
and published by decree of Pope Paul VI

The Liturgy of the Hours IS the Divine Office.

The Divine Office is the name for the official daily praye of the Church. It is composed of seven offices, prayed at different parts of the day. The Liturgy of the Hours is the name for the standard form in the Roman Rite. Various monastic communities, such as the Benedictines have different forms of the Divine Office, often derived from the Liturgy of the Hours. Prior to the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, the standard form of the Divine Office of the Roman Rite was the Breviarum Romanum, or the Roman Breviary. Breviary also became the name associated with the books themselves, a custom the is still often used today, in spite of the name change.

Functionally they’re the same, but there are some nuances of meaning:

  1. The Divine (or Daily) Office is a generic name for the Church’s official daily non-sacramental liturgical prayer, customarily spread over the course of the day.

  2. The Liturgy of the Hours is another name for the daily office; it’s also the title of the four-volume set of books containing the Catholic Church’s current Office. (There were lots of medieval and renaissance “books of hours” published for the use of pious lay people.)

  3. Before the rise of the mendicant orders (principally Dominicans and Franciscans) in the 13th century, monasteries required a number of books in order to chant the Office: psalters, antiphonaries, hymnaries, collectaries, lectionaries, etc. But itinerant Dominican and Franciscan preachers couldn’t carry a whole library with them as they traveled, so they combined all those texts into a single small book called the breviary. That’s the “brief” – “breve” – part of “breviary”: one book instead of many.

Yes, clergy (and religious) are obligated to pray the office every day. They don’t have to pray all three of the midday hours, though; they may choose one and omit the others.

Not enough lay people, IMHO, have enough exposures to the Office to take it on as a discipline. Starting with Lauds and Vespers (Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer) doesn’t take too much time – maybe 15 minutes for each. Then as you get familiar and comfortable with the Office and the book you could begin to add in Compline and the midday hour (very brief) or the Office of Readings (somewhat longer).

I’ve been praying the Office for almost 30 years now, and it’s absolutely fundamental to my spiritual life.

I have lived in England, Singapore and Australia where the 3 volume Divine Office is used. It is not referred to as the Liturgy of the hours over there, although it is the same thing using a different translation. The UK Divine Office uses the Grail translation of the psalms and includes the chant marks for chanting the Office. The US 4 volume LOH covers the same material but uses a different translation that is better suited to recitation than chanting.

A breviary is what we called one volume of the Office. For example, I need to go get my breviary - referring to current volume that we were using, or I need to mark my breviary (place markers where the next Hour of the Office was to be recited.

The UK version does not use a single prayer for midday, although this can be done by choosing one Hour from either Terce, Sext or None (before noon, midday or after noon).

Matins is another term for the Office of Readings and in addition to the psalms, there are two long readings as well. This Hour of the Office can be ‘anticipated’, that is, it can be prayed the evening before or any time on the actual day - for example, Thursdays Office of Readings (sometimes the term “Office of …” is used to refer to a particular hour of the Office - can be done on either Wednesday evening or any time on Thursday.

The Benedictines of the Ancient Observance use the Roman monastic diurnal which preceded Vat 2, and it is chanted in Latin, The page is divided into two columns with one side in Latin and the translation into English on the opposite side. They also continue to do the Hour of Prime, which was eliminated after Vat 2.

Any version of the psalms may be used while reciting the Liturgy of the Hours, so in my convent, we currently use different books with different translations for different Hours. We chant some of the Office, so we use psalms designed for chanting sometimes, but we also use different English translations for Morning, Evening and Midday Prayer. For Night Prayer (Compline), we use the 4 volume LOH set,and we also use the antiphons from this for the Propers.

Our Catholic liturgy is very rich and varied, and depending on which country you are in, whether you chant or not (Grail psalms are great for this), which translation you prefer, and which Order you belong to (if you are a religious), there is a wide variety of choice.

For a newbie in the US, I recommend either Christian Prayer or Shorter Christian prayer - both 1 volume books, but they don’t contain ALL of the same info in the 3 or 4 volume sets naturally - but enough to get started and to pray, especially for a busy person who lives in the world.

My favorite is the UK 3 volume set with the Grail translation but I am learning to love the variety of my community using the 4 volume LOH and the different books of psalm translations. It’s a very personal thing - but all of it is the official prayer of the Church, meant to sanctify the day by praying to God at different times throughout the day.

With due respect, I’m not sure that is correct, or at least: I am not sure that you can pray with any version that you want and call it participation in the Divine Office, The Official Prayer of the Church. :confused:

From the fact that some translations note that they are approved for public use by one bishops’ conference or another, I infer that *not every *translation is so approved. (To my knowledge, the Latin *edition typica *may be publicly used anywhere)


Correct. If using an approved version, it’s liturgy. If not, it’s a private devotion (like the Rosary). I’m of the mind that if I’m going to go through all the trouble, I may as well pray an official version.

I alternate between one of the monastic versions of the Divine Office, and the LOTH. The former when I have more time on my hands, the latter if I’m busier, as it’s much shorter. As an oblate, I am obliged to pray at least part of the Divine Office as my life situation allows (and as my kids are all grown, I pray the whole thing), but not under penalty of sin as oblation is a promise, not a vow. The monastic version I use is the same one as the abbey I’m associated with. That version prays the entire psalter in a week, though I use one of the approved variants that spreads it over two weeks.

I misspoke.Any approved version may be used, but that still leaves a wide variety of them. I am a Carmelite nun and we use several different versions, depending upon the Hour we are praying and whether we are chanting it or not. Sorry for any misunderstanding. I assumed the word ‘approved’ when I should not have.

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