The Daily Office
Some 25 years ago I discovered a form of prayer that has its origins in the monastic communities of the early christian centuries, particularly in the west. It is various called the Daily Office, or Divine Office, or Liturgy of the Hours. My initial introduction to this came in the form of a little volume purchased at the bookstore of Luther Theological Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota: Herbert Lindemann, ed., The Daily Office: Matins and Vespers, Based on Traditional Liturgical Patterns, with Scripture Readings, Hymns, Canticles, Litanies, Collects, and the Psalter, Designed for Private Devotion or Group Worship
(St. Louis: Concordia, 1965). Although its language is somewhat dated, it's a marvellous book, filled with all the riches of the Christian ages, some of which were familiar to me but much of which were not.
The daily office is a form of prayer growing out of the canonical hours observed in the monasteries. These are spaced about three hours apart and, in the western tradition, include Matins, Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers and Compline. Hence the name Liturgy of the Hours. Each of these offices consists of the following items more or less in order: opening versicle (e.g., Psalm 51:15 or 70:1); followed by Psalm 95 (for Matins) or another canticle; one or more additional psalms; readings from Old Testament, Epistles and Gospels; another canticle (e.g., the Te Deum
, the Benedictus
); the Kyrie
("Lord have mercy!"); petitions; the Our Father; collects; and a closing doxology or benediction. The prayers and readings are structured according to the traditional church calendar.
Outside the monasteries the canonical hours have been abbreviated into two or three daily prayer offices, usually Matins and Vespers, and sometimes Compline as well. In the Book of Common Prayer
two daily prayer offices are prescribed: Morning Prayer
, which combines Matins and Lauds, and Evening Prayer
, a combination of Vespers and Compline.
What if we lived in communities where morning, evening and night prayer were prayed on a daily basis? Muslims pray five times a day of course. There is something rather awe-inspiring in seeing such huge numbers of people prostrating themselves before God so often. I have posted a pdf document devoted to the Daily Office
, which includes the two rites of Matins and Vespers, a table for reading the Psalms, and the two-year Daily Office lectionary. The lectionary was probably put together some 30 years ago or so and is found in the liturgical books of several denominations. For other resources, look here
At some point I may post something I wrote a decade ago about daily prayer.
Labels: canticles, hymns, liturgy, Psalms