Monastic priere, the divine office
Liturgy of hours
- The Liturgy of Hours
At times, their achievements seem to us to be more heroic than spiritual, and this is certainly what we would feel if we went through all 150 psalms every week, and so, in various reforms and adjustments through the ages, the schedule has been made rather more human.
The last batch of reforms, completed in 1970 and revised in 1985, has made the Liturgy of the Hours usable not only by priests and religious but also by lay people who have a living to earn and a life to lead.
Here is the basic structure:
Also known as Morning Prayer. It is meant to be said first thing in the morning. There is a hymn, two psalms (or bits of psalms if they are long), an Old Testament canticle (basically a psalm that happens not to be in the Book of Psalms), a short reading, and prayers of intercession. In public celebration, it is possible for Mass to follow straight on from this Hour.
- The Little Hours : Terce, Sexte and None
Also known as Evening Prayer or Evensong. This Hour takes us from the bustle of the day to the calm of evening. There is a hymn, two psalms, a New Testament canticle (usually a hymn from St Paul or a song of triumph from the Apocalypse), a short reading, and prayers of intercession.
Sundays and important feasts are considered to start the night before (like the Jewish Sabbath) and have so-called "First Vespers" on that night.
Also known as Night Prayer, and sometimes combined into the public celebration of Vespers. It is the last prayer of the day, and sums up all that went before, as we examine our consciences and offer the actions of the day to God.
- The office of readings
This is a splendid innovation of the latest reforms. Unlike the other Hours, it can be said at any time of day at all, whenever time and energy and circumstances allow you to pray and meditate. Moreover, it contains more substantial material for meditation, in the form of a solid Bible reading of a chapter or so. Then comes the glory of the whole Liturgy - a second reading, which is not biblical but is taken from the earliest centuries of the Church, or from old homilies whose very authors have been forgotten, or from the writings or biographies of the saints.