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Sunday, February 15, 2009

Liturgy of the Hours

For my last two post I have pointed people to what is known as the, Liturgy of The Hours. Today I want to provide people with information about this:

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Liturgy of the Hours is usually recited in full in monastic communities.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.

The Liturgy of the Hours, along with the Eucharist, has formed part of the Roman Catholic Church's public worship from the earliest times. Christians of both Eastern and Western traditions (including the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, and Anglican churches) celebrate the Liturgy of the Hours under various names. Within Roman Catholicism, the Liturgy of the Hours is contained within the Roman Breviary. In Greek the corresponding services are found in the Ὡρολόγιον (Horologion), meaning Book of Hours. Within Anglicanism, the Liturgy of the Hours is contained within the book of Daily Prayer of Common Worship and Book of Common Prayer. Other names for the Liturgy of the Hours within the Latin Rite include the Divine Office, the Diurnal and Nocturnal Office, Ecclesiastical Office, Cursus ecclesiasticus, or simply cursus.



The early Christians continued the Jewish practice of reciting prayers at certain hours of the day or night. In the Psalms we find expressions like "in the morning I offer you my prayer"; "At midnight I will rise and thank you" ; "Evening, morning and at noon I will cry and lament"; "Seven times a day I praise you". The Apostles observed the Jewish custom of praying at the third, sixth and ninth hour and at midnight (Acts 10:3, 9; 16:25; etc.). The Christian prayer of that time consisted of almost the same elements as the Jewish: recital or chanting of psalms, reading of the Old Testament, to which were soon added readings of the Gospels, Acts, and epistles, and canticles such as the Gloria in Excelsis Deo. Other elements were added later in the course of the centuries.


By the end of the fifth century, the Liturgy of the Hours was composed of a Vigil or Night Service and seven day offices, of which Prime and Compline seem to be the last to appear, since the fourth-century Apostolic Constitutions VIII, iv, 34 does not mention them in the exhortation: "Offer up your prayers in the morning, at the third hour, the sixth, the ninth, the evening, and at cock-crowing".[3]

These eight hours were known by the following names:

Matins (during the night), sometimes referred to as Vigils or Nocturns; (or in Monastic usage the Night Office) it is now called the Office of Readings.

Lauds or Dawn Prayer (at Dawn)
Prime or Early Morning Prayer (First Hour = 6 a.m.)
Terce or Mid-Morning Prayer (Third Hour = 9 a.m.)
Sext or Midday Prayer (Sixth Hour = 12 noon)
None or Mid-Afternoon Prayer (Ninth Hour = 3 p.m.)
Vespers or Evening Prayer ("at the lighting of the lamps")
Compline or Night Prayer (before retiring)

Saint Benedict of Nursia (c. 480 – 543) is credited with having given this organization to the Liturgy of the Hours. However, his scheme was taken from that described by John Cassian, in his two major spiritual works, the Institutes and the Conferences, in which he described the monastic practices of the Desert Fathers of Egypt.



Judaism and the Early Church
As is noted above, the canonical hours stemmed from Jewish prayer. In the Old Testament, God commanded the Israelite priests to offer sacrifices of animals in the morning and evening (Exodus 29:38-39). Eventually, these sacrifices soon moved from the Tabernacle to the Temple built by Solomon in Jerusalem. During the Babylonian Exile, when the Temple was no longer in use, the first synagogues were established, and the services (at fixed hours of the day) of Torah readings, psalms, and hymns began to evolve. This "sacrifice of praise" began to be substituted for the sacrifices of animals.

After the people returned to Judea, the prayer services were incorporated into Temple worship as well. As time passed, the Jews began to be scattered across the Greco-Roman world in what is known as the Diaspora. By the time of the Roman Empire, the Jews (and eventually early Christians) began to follow the Roman system of conducting the business day in scheduling their times for prayer. In Roman cities, the bell in the forum rang the beginning of the business day at about six o'clock in the morning (Prime, the "first hour"), noted the day's progress by striking again at about nine o'clock in the morning (Terce, the "third hour"), tolled for the lunch break at noon (Sext, the "sixth hour"), called the people back to work again at about three o'clock in the afternoon (None, the "ninth hour"), and rang the close of the business day at about six o'clock in the evening (the time for evening prayer).

The first miracle attributed to the Apostles, the healing of the crippled man on the temple steps, occurred because Peter and John went to the Temple to pray (Acts 3:1). Also, one of the defining moments of the early Church, the decision to include Gentiles among the community of believers, arose from a vision Peter had while praying at noontime (Acts 10:9-49).

As Christianity began to separate from Judaism, the practice of praying at fixed times continued. The early church was known to pray the Psalms (Acts 4:23-30), which has remained a part of the canonical hours and all Christian prayer since. By 60 AD, the Didache, the oldest known liturgical manual for Christians, recommended disciples to pray the Lord's Prayer three times a day; this practice found its way into the canonical hours as well. Pliny the Younger (63 - ca. 113), who was not a Christian himself, mentions not only fixed times of prayer by believers, but also specific services—other than the Eucharist—assigned to those times: “they met on a stated day before it was light, and addressed a form of prayer to Christ, as to a divinity ... after which it was their custom to separate, and then reassemble, to eat in common a harmless meal. .”[9]

By the second and third centuries, such Church Fathers as Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and Tertullian wrote of the practice of Morning and Evening Prayer, and of the prayers at terce, sext, and none. The prayers could be prayed individually or in groups. By the third century, the Desert Fathers (the earliest monks), began to live out St. Paul's command to "pray without ceasing" (I_Thessalonians 5:17) by having one group of monks pray one fixed-hour prayer while having another group pray the next prayer.


[edit] Middle Ages
As the format of unbroken fixed-hour prayer developed in the Christian monastic communities in the East and West, longer prayers soon grew, but the cycle of prayer became the norm in daily life in monasteries. By the fourth century, the characteristics of the canonical hours more or less took their present shape. For secular (non-monastic) clergymen and lay people, the fixed-hour prayers were by necessity much shorter. In many churches and basilicas staffed by monks, the form of the fixed-hour prayers was a hybrid of secular and monastic practice.

In the East, the development of the Divine Services shifted from the area around Jerusalem to Constantinople. In particular, St. Theodore the Studite (ca. 758 - ca. 826) combined a number of influences from the Byzantine court ritual with monastic practices common in Asia Minor, and added thereto a number of hymns composed by himself and his brother Joseph (see Typicon for further details).

In the West, St. Benedict in his famous Rule modeled his guidelines for the prayers on the customs of the basilicas of Rome. It was he who expounded the concept in Christian prayer of the inseparability of the spiritual life from the physical life. St. Benedict was known to have said "Orare est laborare, laborare est orare" ("To pray is to work, to work is to pray"). Thus, the fixed-hour prayers came to be known as the "Divine Office" (office coming from the Latin word for work). The Benedictines began to call the prayers the Opus Dei or "Work of God."

As the Divine Office grew more important in the life of the Church, the rituals became more elaborate. Soon, praying the Office began to require various books, such as a psalter for the psalms, a lectionary to find the assigned Scripture reading for the day, a Bible to proclaim the reading, a hymnal for singing, etc. As parishes grew in the Middle Ages away from cathedrals and basilicas, a more concise way of arranging the hours was needed. So, a sort of list developed called the Breviary, which gave the format of the daily office and the texts to be used. The spread of breviaries eventually reached Rome, where Pope Innocent III extended its use to the Roman Curia. The Franciscans sought a one-volume breviary for its friars to use during travels, so the order adopted the Breviarium Curiae, but substituting the Gallican (French) Psalter for the Roman. The Franciscans gradually spread this breviary throughout Europe. Pope Nicholas III would then adopt the widely-used Franciscan breviary to be the breviary used in Rome. By the 14th century, the breviary contained the entire text of the canonical hours.


I will post the Liturgy of the Hours for this evening soon.
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> posted by Trevor Hammack at

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