Friday, February 3, 2012

Vocabulary Review for Beginners

One problem that newcomers have with learning the Divine Office is the sheer amount of vocabulary one must acquire. Particularly frustrating is that there is more than one name for some things. We use the names Morning Prayer, Daytime Prayer, etc., but at the same time the Latin-derived  names for the hours are still used, certainly in Rome and many other countries, but also by many in the English-speaking world. The use of the newer, plain English terms began after the Vatican II revision of the Divine Office, which was also the point at which Liturgy of the Hours became its  preferred name. (I mostly use Divine Office here because it has fewer keystrokes and makes the blog title less bulky.)

If you are seriously into praying the Liturgy of the Hours, you'll want to know the alternate terminology. I mean, suppose you're at a Third Order Dominican cocktail party. It would be nice to have the a little context when someone says, "A funny thing happened just before Vespers..." or "Did you notice that psalm in Lauds today  where it says..."
So here's the basics for aspiring  liturgy geeks:

Lauds = Morning Prayer. "laude" means praise or honor.When someone graduates "cum laude" he is being praised or honored for high acheivment. Although all of the psalter praises God, the selections in Morning Prayer lean even more heavily,  towards   praise, joy, and thanksgiving than the other hours. Picture yourself, arms raised, praising, "lauding" God as you face the sunrise, and you won't forget that Morning Prayer = Lauds.

Vespers = Evening Prayer.  "Vesper" is the Roman name for the evening star. We should pray evening prayer between 4:30 and 7:30pm. Most  of year--unless you live near one of the poles--the evening star should appear somewhere in that block. Well,maybe  not in the summer. But you get the idea.

Matins=Office of Readings.If you studied French in high school, you will recognize matin as "morning".  Although the revision of the Office  now permits the Office of Readings to be done at whatever time of day is convenient, including as a sort of "vigil" on the previous evening after Vespers, it was traditionally done before Lauds.

Daytime Prayer
The Latin names for the three daytime prayer times are   ordinal numbers.
Terce=Mid-Morning. The third hour, or nine AM. Remember how at Pentecost, Peter protested that the apostles could not be drunk because it was only "the third hour"? This is why the concluding prayer at mid-morning prayer often refers to the coming of the Holy Spirit. The hour of Terce commemorates Pentecost every day.
Sext= Midday. The sixth hour, noon, when Our Savior was crucified.
None=Midafternoon. The ninth hour, when Jesus died. If you habitually say midafternoon prayer as your daytime hour, you'll notice that its concluding prayers refer to the time Our Lord hung on the cross on a couple of weekdays.  On two other days, ninth hour events from the Act of the Apostles are referenced: the apostles' practice of going to the temple to pray at this time (thought to be one of the roots from which the Divine Office grew), and the vision of the angel to Cornelius.
Most people who say a daytime hour tend towards the same one. (It's nearly always mid-afternoon for me.)But the thought of all these special clock-based commemorations makes one want to mix it up now and then, or maybe try, at least some of the time, to do more than one daytime hour.
Last of all:
Compline=Night Prayer The word "compline" is not Latin. It is thought to be a Middle English/Old French derivative of the Latin completa: complete. So, Night Prayer completes your day.

End of lesson. You will find other Divine Office vocabulary if you scroll down a little on my Getting Started Page