Liturgy of the Hours
Winchester Bible, fol.120v. Second Kings (England)
The central focus of the monk's liturgical prayer is the Psalms. The book of Psalms is a hymnbook comprised of hymns of praise and worship, prayer for guidance and protection, pleas for forgiveness, petitions for life's needs and songs of thanksgiving for God's blessings. They were the prayers of Jesus and are the daily prayers of the monks here at the Abbey.
Vigils, the first prayer of the day, is derived from the Latin word for vigilare, meaning to be watchful, vigilant, alert. Sung during the midnight hours, Vigils is considered a night prayer and reminds the monk to be ever watchful and prepared for God's coming. This period of silence during the night is a time for the monk to seek inner quiet, to be prepared for the coming of Jesus and the arrival of a new day.
Lauds, the second prayer of the day, is named from the Latin word Laudare, meaning praise. Here the monks chant songs of praise for the wonder and splendor of a new day, the glory of all creation and the glorious gift of light, especially the divine light. It is a call to conversion, a call to bring new life and light into the darkness of one's consciousness.
Terce, the Latin word for the third hour of the day, originated in Roman times when the day was divided into twelve hours. Day began at sunrise so the third hour coincides approximately with 9 am. Since Jesus was condemned to death at this hour, it recalls the beginning of his walk to Calvary. Also, the Holy Spirit came upon the church at this hour on the first Pentecost (Acts 2:15).
Sexth, the sixth hour in Roman time, is considered to be 12 noon in modern times. It is a time to be quiet and present to our selves in order to combat the "noonday demon," that is, the temptation to get preoccupied with ambitions of daily life while forgetting God. It also recalls the hour of the start of Jesus' crucifixion.
None was the ninth hour in Roman time and is about 3 pm. At this time of the day it is appropriate to reflect upon all things as passing, particularly our own passing from life to death and from death to new life. In reflecting on our own death we are also reminded of the death of Jesus, for this was the hour of his death.
Vespers, from the Latin vespera meaning evening, signals the day's end and the beginning of night. It calls the monks to quiet, peaceful reflection on the passing day and the sense of fulfillment derived from having done God's will. It also celebrates the lighting of the lamps, symbols of lives illuminated by faithfulness to God.
Compline, derived from the Latin word completus, meaning complete, serves to remind the monk of the day's fulfillment. Here the monk's prayer is one of gratitude for the gifts of the day and also a prayer for God's protection throughout the night. It is with Compline that the Grand Silence begins.
Pray the Hours
Please select from the list below