Shawn Tribe of New Liturgical Movement posted a piece a couple of days ago about the Divine Office, which ended with a quote from Fr William Busch which I found interesting :
The Breviary is secondary to the Missal. But though secondary the Breviary is intimately related to and inseparable from the Missal in the ensemble of liturgical prayer. The Breviary prayers encircle those of the Missal; they carry the radiance of the Mass throughout all the hours of the day; and they furnish a guiding norm for all private prayer . . . The growing love of the Missal signifies a trend throughout the Church toward liturgical prayer which may well bring many to use the Breviary, not exactly as the clergy use it, but according to their circumstances and in such way as the Hour Prayers did originally interest the faithful generally . . . We are familiar with the beautiful thought of the Mass as the continual oblation from the rising to the setting of the sun offered up from place to place as the morning light moves around the world. Why not be aware also of the unceasing chorus of the Church's official prayer from hour to hour . . .
I read this with interest, and I agree with almost all of it . . . except for the first sentence : because as far as I can see Fr Busch has this the wrong way round. After all, the Divine Office – as a continuous, daily, activity – came before the Daily Mass; and there are certainly many situations in which the Office continues even where the Mass is simply not practical as a daily exercise.
As a result, I believe that the Divine Office is the primary element of liturgy; even if the Mass is the more important . . . but it is from the Office that the patterns emerge; with the Mass picking them up; if only because the bulk of the Office should have been said by a priest before he says his Mass each day, and provided a thematic basis for it.
This is one of the reasons why I encourage everybody to say some part of the Office; not only because it roots them in the Church’s liturgy even when they can’t manage to get to Mass daily (as I often can’t), but also because it helps (in my humble opinion) to ground the entire Church in the everlasting cycle of prayer that the Divine Office forms . . . exactly the point with which Fr Busch concludes.
S. Dominic, whose Feast day is tomorrow, believed passionately in continuous prayer : it was said of him that he never spoke ‘except of God, or to God’, and I venture to believe that he must have valued the Divine Office as a central plank of prayer. I personally find the Divine Office a great blessing, precisely because it keeps me bedded in the liturgical life of the Church, even when I am (for various reasons) unable to take an active part in it; and I do suggest it enthusiastically to anyone else whose life sometimes keeps them apart from worshipping in Church on a daily basis . . . because then, even when you are alone, perhaps in difficult circumstances, by your participation in the primary element of the Church’s liturgy you can feel certain that you remain very much an active part of God’s ‘Church Militant here in earth’.