Prayersof the Catholic Church
The Liturgy of the Hours
The Liturgy of the Hours, Aka Divine Office, breviary, etc. is another commonprayer of the Church. Like the Mass, there is an official Rite or Liturgy toit, and it is required to be performed by priests and by rule of the order, bymany religious communities. It is fashioned in a number of parts for differenttimes of the day to honor Christ's admonition to "Pray Always". Someof you may have heard of the old Latin names like Complin, Vespers or Lauds,and wondered what they were. These are sections of the Divine Office.
For religiousorders living in community, the "major" hours are usually recited incommon as a service in the chapel or other appropriate place, while the"lesser" hours are sometimes set aside for private contemplation. Ingeneral, recitation in common or in community is preferred for all the hours.
The "Major" Hours
- Morning Prayer. The first Major "hour" of the day is also known as Matins or Lauds. For example purposes, lets say at 6 am, this prayer “hour” was intended to recall Christ’s resurection at dawn. It usually begins with the Invitatory, (see below), and consists primarily of a Hymn, a Psalmody –2 Psalms and an Old Testament Canticle, a reading, and the “Canticle of Zechariah”; Luke 1:68-79.
- Evening Prayer. The second Major hour is Vespers, generally associated with sunset – the beginning of the Jewish “day”. It consists primarily of a Hymn, a Psalmody –2 Psalms and a New Testament Canticle, a reading, and the “Canticle of Mary” or Magnificat; Luke 1:46-55.
- Night Prayer. The last Major hour is historically known as Complin (completion). It is prayer before sleep. It consists primarily of a Psalm, a reading, and the “Canticle of Simeom”; Luke 2:29-32. It is concluded with a song or prayer to the Virgin Mary.
- Office of Readings. This major hour has no official “correct” time; it depends on the needs of the community. It may be said at 4 am, it may be said at 1 pm, maybe during a meal; it depends. It consists of a Psalmody and readings from scripture and from other sources such as the early fathers.
- The Invitatory (Psalm 95, 100, 67 or 24) is not a separate “hour”, but said as an introduction to the first hour of the day, usually Morning Prayer or the Office of Readings.
The "Minor" Hours
- Prime (first) started as another name for Lauds, but became an hour of it’s own by taking two of the original 5 psalms from Lauds, leaving the latter with it’s present day 3 psalms. This prayer “hour” was intended to start the work-day, so say 7:30 to 8 ish.
- Terce (third hour-coresponds to 9 am). The Roman “day” was devided into 4 groups of three hours, and is likely the origin of Terce, Sext and None.
- Sext (sixth hour-coresponds to 12 noon). This hour recalls Christ being nailed to the Cross.
- None (ninth hour-coresponds to 3 pm). This recalls the hour of Christ’s death.
The Minor hours are often combined into a single “DaytimePrayer”. If said separately, thePsalmody is 3 each in the “gradual” group – Ps 120-128.
Check out The ebreviary site. Subscription is required, (although some are available for free/sample) but you can download Adobe Acrobat(PDF) format files of the daily Liturgy of the Hours suitable for printingworship aids, or for use on your Palm or other mobile device.