A Prayer to be said for the Office.
Open, 0 Lord, my mouth that I may bless Thy Holy Name : cleanse my heart from all vain, perverse, and hurtful thoughts : enlighten mine understanding, kindle mine affections, that I may say this Office worthily, attentively, and devoutly, and merit to be heard before the Presence of Thy Divine Majesty. Through the Christ our Lord. Amen.
Lord, in union with that Divine Intention wherewith Thou Thyself, whilst on earth, didst pay praises to God, I pay these Hours to Thee.
(1) This prayer is not of obligation ; but it is useful for it reminds us of the dispositions we should have in our hearts when saying Office.
(2) Open, 0 Lord, my mouth. —We cannot do anything towards our salvation without the help of God. We cannot even pray to any purpose without His Grace. We are before Him as the dumb child in the Gospel [St. Mark ix. 7.], or as Jeremias when the word of the Lord came to him. A, A, A, Lord God ! behold I cannot speak; for I am a child [Jer. i. 6.]. He opens our mouth by giving us grace to praise Him as He desires. Our mouth is the instrument wherewith the Divine Head of the Church worships the Father in our name ; according to the word of Isaias : I have put My words in thy mouth and I have covered thee in the shadow of My hands [Ibid. li. 16].
(3) Cleanse my heart. —For out of the heart, our Lord tells us, proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies [Matt. xv. 19.]. Having, then, been the seat of all iniquities it must be cleansed by contrition, before being filled with the feelings and intentions of our Lord.
(4) From vain,perverse, and hurtful thoughts. —These are the three kinds of thoughts that spoil prayer. Vain thoughts, as the word implies, mean empty thoughts. At all times, but specially in prayer, our heart ought to be filled with thoughts of God. Perverse thoughts are those which are "turned away" from their proper object. Hurtful thoughts are such as are unfitting to the time, place and object of our prayer.
(5) Enlighten mine understanding. —Four of the gifts of the Holy Ghost, to wit: Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Knowledge, are given us for the perfection of our intellect by knowing the things of God. They shed upon the soul a light which sin, if mortal, quenches, or if venial, dims. This is a prayer for a good use of these four gifts which are always in our soul when we are in a state of grace.
(6) Kindle mine affection. —That is, stir up my cold heart to will the things which my Reason, enlightened by the Four Gifts, tells me are right and fitting. To move the will is a special work of the Holy Ghost, who gives us another Three Gifts for the very purpose, viz., Fortitude, Piety, and the Fear of the Lord. The word " kindle" suggests the idea of a fire. It is the same thought that we have in the hymn Veni sancte spiritus, " Warm with Thy fire our hearts of snow."
The love of God, which is the perfect operation of our will, is a fire that burns out all sin. We cannot have to do with God without becoming better or worse ; more on fire with His love, or colder : For He is like a refiner's fire [Mal. iii. 2.]. " Death to the wicked, Life to the good," as St. Thomas sings in the Lauda Sion. So we pray that our heart may burn within us, and that our will may be powerfully moved by the Three Gifts of the Holy Ghost.
(7) That I may say this Office. —Let these words remind us that we have to put on the Lord Jesus Christ [Rom. xiii. 14.] when we begin to praise God in our Office, for all the merit and power of the Church's Prayer comes from the fact that it is said in union with the Incarnate Word.
(8) Worthily, attentively, and devoutly. —The three conditions of public prayer are : That we should be worthy to appear as representatives of the Church, that is, free from sin ; that we should attend to the nature of our prayers; and that we should be devout, that is, acting in accordance with the will of Him Who uses us.
(9) That I may merit to be heard. —Speaking in the name of Jesus and in His very Person, we merit to be heard as He was for His reverence [Heb v. 7.].
(10) Through the Christ. —The definite article has been inserted here to call attention to a point which is often overlooked. Christ is an adjective, and not a noun or proper name. It is one of the titles of our Lord and means "the Anointed." Through the Anointed One our Lord. We get the idea of the anointing of our Lord from the unction of the Holy Ghost, which filled the Sacred Humanity, and made Jesus the Priest, the King, and the Prophet of God's people. There is a reference to this in one of the Psalms of the Little Office. Therefore God, Thy God, hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness [Ps. xliv. 9.] ; and in the prophecy of Isaias : The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,' wherefore the Lord hath anointed Me to preach the gospel unto the meek [Isaias Ixi. I.]. This thought, then, that Christ is an adjective, reminds us of our Lord's Office of Priest, King, and Prophet, by which He fulfils His mediatorship.
(11) Lord in union with that Divine Intention, &c. —All sanctity consists in having our will in union with that of our Lord. This prayer brings us at once into harmony with Him. As He deigns to use us, we are bound to enter intelligently into His designs : otherwise, we are not giving the reasonable service [Romans. xii. 1.] He requires. His intention on earth was to do His Father's Will, and to worship Him with Adoration, Thanksgiving, Reparation and Entreaty. We must share in these ends to do His work. Mark the words didst pay praises. Jesus paid, on behalf of all Creation, the debt of worship to His Eternal Father.
(12) I pay these Hours to Thee. —The Office is a debt we owe to God and man. Like St. Paul we must say : I am a debtor to the Greek and barbarians, to the wise and the foolish [Romans. i. 14.]; that is, as vowed to Christ, and set by His Church to offer up her Prayer; we have to pray in the name of all men, therefore we are debtors to those who do not pray for themselves or who know not how to pray. We come before the Throne of Grace as representatives of all Humanity and we discharge our debt by the Office.