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Liturgy of the Hour

Liturgy of the Hour


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The Liturgy of the Hours 

The Liturgy of the Hours or Divine Office is the official set of daily prayers prescribed by the Roman Catholic Church to be recited at the canonical hours by the clergy, religious orders, and laity. The Liturgy of the Hours consists primarily of psalms supplemented by hymns and readings. Together with the Mass, it constitutes the official public prayer life of the Church. Upon ordination to any of the Holy Orders, the daily recitation of the Liturgy of the Hours becomes a canonical obligation. The Liturgy of the Hours also forms the basis of prayer within Christian monasticism..
In the Roman Catholic Church priests are required by canon law to pray the entire Liturgy of the Hours each day while deacons are required to pray the morning and evening hours. The Second Vatican Council also exhorted the Christian laity to take up the practice, and as a result, many lay people have begun reciting portions of the Liturgy of the Hours.

Canonical hours
Current usage focuses on three major hours and from two to four minor hours:
  • The Officium lectionis or Office of Readings (formerly Matins ), major hour
  • Lauds or Morning prayer, major hour
  • Daytime prayer, which can be one or all of:
    • Terce or Mid-Morning Prayer
    • Sext or Midday Prayer
    • None or Mid-Afternoon Prayer
  • Vespers or Evening Prayer, major hour
  • Compline or Night Prayer
All hours, including the minor hours start with the verse Ps 69(70) v.2 (whereas as did all offices before the Council except Matins and Compline) "God come to my assistance, Lord make haste to help me", followed by the doxology. The verse is omitted if the hour begins with the Invitatory (Lauds or Office of Reading). The Invitatory is the introduction to the first hour said on the current day, whether it be the Office of Readings or Morning Prayer. The opening is followed by a hymn. The hymn is followed by psalmody. The psalmody is followed by a scripture reading. The reading is called a chapter (capitula) if it is short, or a lesson (lectio) if it is long. The reading is followed by a versicle. The hour is closed by an oration followed by a concluding versicle. Other components are included depending on the exact type of hour being celebrated.
In each office, the psalms and canticle are framed by antiphons, and each concludes with the traditional Catholic doxology.

Major hours

The major hours consist of the Office of Readings, Morning (or Lauds) and Evening Prayer (or Vespers).
The Office of Readings consists of:
  • opening versicle or invitatory
  • a hymn
  • one or two long psalms divided into three parts
  • a long passage from scripture, usually arranged so that in any one week, all the readings come from the same text
  • a long hagiographical passage, such as an account of a saint's martyrdom, or a theological treatise commenting on some aspect of the scriptural reading, or a passage from the documents of the Second Vatican Council
  • on nights preceding Sundays and feast days, the office may be expanded to a vigil by inserting three Old Testament canticles and a reading from the gospels
  • the hymn Te Deum (on Sundays, solemnities, and feasts, except in Lent)
  • the concluding prayer
  • a short concluding verse(especially when prayed in groups)
The character of Morning Prayer is that of praise; of Evening Prayer, that of thanksgiving. Both follow a similar format:
  • opening versicle or (for morning prayer) the invitatory
  • a hymn, composed by the Church
  • two psalms, or parts of psalms with a scriptural canticle. At Morning Prayer, this consists of a psalm of praise, a canticle from the Old Testament, followed by another psalm. At Evenning Prayer this consists of two psalms, or one psalm divided into two parts, and a scriptural canticle taken from the New Testament.
  • a short passage from scripture
  • a responsory, typically a verse of scripture, but sometimes liturgical poetry
  • a canticle taken from the Gospel of Luke: the Canticle of Zechariah (Benedictus) for morning prayer, and the Canticle of Mary (Magnificat)for evening prayer
  • intercessions, composed by the Church
  • the Lord's Prayer
  • the concluding prayer, composed by the Church
  • a blessing given by the priest or deacon leading Morning or Evening Prayer, or in the absence of clergy and in individual recitation, a short concluding versicle.
     

Minor hours

The daytime hours follow a simpler format, like a very compact form of the Office of Readings:
  • opening versiscle
  • a hymn
  • three short psalms, or, three pieces of longer psalms;in the daytime hours when only one is said it follows a variable psalmody which usually opens with part of the longest psalm, psalm 118/119, when all three are said this psalmody is used at one of the hours, while the other two follow the complimentary psalmody which consists of 119/120-121/122 at Terce, 122/123-124/125 at Sext and 125/126-127/128 at None
  • a very short passage of scripture, followed by a responsorial verse
  • the concluding prayer
  • a short concluding verse (V. Benedicamus Domino R. Deo gratias)
Night prayer has the character of preparing the soul for its passage to eternal life:
  • opening versiscle
  • an examination of conscience
  • a hymn
  • a psalm, or two short psalms; The psalsm of Sunday - Psalm 90/91 or 4 & 133/134 - may always be used as an alterantive to the psalm(s) appointed on weekdays
  • a short reading from scripture
  • the responsory In manus tuas, Domine (Into YourHands, Lord)
  • the Canticle of Simeon, Nunc dimittis, from the Gospel of Luke, framed by the antiphon Salva nos (Save us Lord)
  • a concluding prayer
  • a short blessing (noctem quietam et finem perfectum concedat nobis dominus omnipotens. Amen.)
  • Marian antiphon without versicle and concluding prayer; either one of the four traditional seasonal antiphons, or Sub Tuum, or another antiphon approved by the local episcopal conference; the Regina Caeli is always used in Eastertide


Compiled by Ben Chang





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