(All of the Summer in the Little Oratory posts can be found here) This chapter is one of my favorites in the book. We’re going to talk about the Breviary! (Or the Liturgy of the Hours–LOH for short!)
I’ve always been attracted to this prayer. I remember as a teenager going through prayer books and reading about the LOH, and trying to replicate it with a notebook and the Book of Psalms. Needless to say, it didn’t quite work. This was before Internet shopping and Amazon, so I had no idea what these books looked like, let alone how I’d get one. But I loved the idea of prayer all through the day, and praying with the entire Church. And this desire was one of the big things that drew me toward my Lay Dominican vocation, because as a Lay Dominican, we’re required to say at least lauds and vespers daily. (It’s not binding, like it is for a priest–if we miss, it’s not a huge deal. But we’re supposed to make it a priority in our daily lives.)
At first, I know–the LOH can seem crazy complicated. You get this huge book (or books, if, like me, you have the four volume set), and it’s got all these parts and colored ribbons and how do you know where you’re going and what is happening?!
There is–believe it or not–a general outline to the office. It looks like so, no matter what is happening that day–Easter, Christmas, St. Benedict, whatever:
- Inventory (Morning prayer only). This is Psalm 95 (most of the time–you can use two other psalms if you want, but I always use psalm 95)
- Three psalms and canticles. Usually two psalms, one canticle.
- A reading
- Another canticle: in the morning, it’s Zechariah’s prayer from Luke, in the evening, it’s the Magnificat (both, coincidentally, are in chapter 1 of Luke)
- Intentions (pre-set in the book–you don’t have to make up your own!)
- the Our Father
- Concluding prayer
That’s it. Eight parts.
What makes it confusing is….what precisely goes in those eight parts.
Stick with me. 🙂
The best way to learn to say the hours is to have someone teach you. That’s how we do it in our Dominican chapter; the office is one of the first things inquirers learn to do, in an hour long class dedicated to it. It’s also helpful if you have the book in front of you. But I’m hoping my pictures will give you some idea!
This is the current LOH book. I use the 4 volume set. This is the third volume, for the first part of Ordinary Time (the second one is green).
Each volume has these ribbons in the binding. (You can see I also use post-its because I do not think they give us enough ribbon!)
You can use these to mark different parts of the book. Everyone has their own way of using the ribbons. I use mine to mark the Office of Readings, the morning canticle, the current day in the psalter, and feast days.
When it’s time for the office, this is what I open my book to (Post inventory. I have that memorized)
There’s a hymn. This is optional, but if I know it, I like to sing it. 🙂 During Advent/Christmas and Lent/Easter there’s a section of appropriate hymns in the beginning of the book as well.
So, I sing the hymn, and I turn the page to:
The psalms/canticles. In the book above you see the end of the canticle, the last psalm, the reading, and the responsory.
After the responsory, it’s time for the morning canticle, which is above (marked with red ribbon.)
Then I flip back: Intercessions and closing prayer.
The cycle is roughly the same for evening prayer as well. For Office of readings, it’s three psalms, then the readings.
For Feasts, like today, you have this:
You have the saint’s name in bold under the date. The red notation underneath tells us what it is: A feast, a memorial, whatever. St. Bonaventure gets a memorial. There’s a short paragraph about the saint.
Then see that red writing? That’s where the prayers for today come from. Since St. Bonaventure is a Doctor of the Church, he’s really complicated. Doctors the Church are the most complicated, I think, because you have two different sorts of things to juggle. But usually it would just say “Common of Virgins” or “Pastors” or whatever. There you get antiphons, etc that are particular to the saint.
After that you see Office of Readings in bold. Following that is the second reading proper to the feast. So instead of reading whatever the second reading is for Tuesday, July 15, I’ll read this.
For complicated feast days, you can use divineoffice.org, which I love. Also, if you get lost in where you are in the office, this site will tell ya.
So that is the office. I love it. I know it sounds complicated, and some of it is out of date now (the prayers are the old translation of the liturgy, and they don’t have saints like St. Therese of Lisieux and St. Hildegard as Doctors of the Church), and some of the saint name spellings are wrong, but I still love it. It does take some work to learn. If you have any questions, feel free to ask! But it is a wonderful way to pray with the whole church, and get into the liturgical rhythm of the year, learning about each saint as his or her feast day comes by, and really loving that cycle