Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Divine Office Glossary for Beginners

Since many new readers are visiting Coffee&Canticles via the Catholic Exchange homepage, I thought I'd run this post from last year.

Time to acquire your  cool liturgical vocabulary. Impress your friends!

Divine Office or Liturgy of the Hours: official prayer of the Catholic Church, constituting, along with the Mass, the Church's liturgy. A repeating cycle of psalms, biblical readings, and other prayers, coordinated to the liturgical season and/or the feasts of the Church. The word "office" comes from a Latin word meaning "service" or "ceremony".

Breviary: the book in which one finds the Divine Office. Usually titled "Christian Prayer." The full breviary contains four volumes. One volume breviaries contain the full morning, evening, and night prayer for the year, but not the full Office of Readings. Some one volume breviars also contain the full office of Day time prayer.

Antiphon - the verse said before and after each psalm and canticle. The antiphon usually gives a point on which to focus while praying the psalm. The antiphon is often a key to understanding the Old Testament psalm in the light of its fulfillment in Jesus.

Canticle - a psalm-like passage from a part of the Bible other than the book of Psalms.

Invitatory - The psalm that is recited before the first liturgical hour that you say each day. Usually Psalm 95

Benedictus - Latin for the Canticle of Zachariah
Magnificat - Latin for the Canticle of Mary
Nunc Dimittis - Latin for the Canticle of Simeon

Morning Prayer/Lauds - one of the two main hours or "hinges" of the liturgical day, morning prayer may be said any time from when you wake up until mid -morning.

Evening Prayer/Vespers - the other main hour or "hinge" of the liturgical day, evening prayer may be said between 4 and 7PM.

Night Prayer/Compline - to be said later than evening prayer, usually close to bedtime. This last hour of the day speaks of sleep, resting in God with trust, death and eternal rest in heaven.

Daytime Prayer - a liturgical hour with 3 subdivisions: Mid-morning (terce); midday (sext); midafternoon (none). The general custom is to choose one of these, according to what suits one's schedule. Monastics (or anyone who is a real Divine Office fanatic)  may still use all three.

Office of Readings-  This is the longest of the hours, due to its two lengthy readings. It may be prayed at any time of day, although generally it is done preceding morning prayer, or after evening prayer on the previous day. In monasteries where it is still customary to get up in the middle of the night to pray, the Office of Readings is the hour that is prayed.   The Office of Readings consists of psalms followed by two longer readings; one from the Bible and one from the writings of the fathers/doctors/saints of the Church. Read in private, it takes fifteen to twenty minutes. Well worth the effort if you have the time.  You will not find the OOR in the one-volume Christian Prayer book.

Ordinary - rather inadequate instructions on how to pray the office, buried about one-third of the way through the breviary. Feel free to ask me questions in the combox  if  the ordinary leaves you with unanswered questions.

Proper of Seasons-the first third of the breviary. It gives all the readings and prayers substituted for what's in the 4 week Psalter during the seasons of  Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter.

Proper of Saints - gives the dates, and prayers for saint's feasts and memorials, plus directions on which of the Commons to use if you want to do the day's  hours  in honor of  the saint, rather than just going with the psalter.

Commons - these are all purpose or generic offices for celebring a feast of Our Lady or of a saint, with headings such as Apostles, Martyrs, virgins, holy men, pastors, doctors of the church, etc.


2 comments:

  1. I've been reading the Hours since 1975 but it's a pleasure to read and learn from you.

    -Mike Demers

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  2. Thanks, Mike! You'be been at it about 4 years longer than I have. I'm glad to have "old-timers" here, because this is meant to be as much a Divine office "fan" site as it is a learning site.

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