Sunday, January 11, 2015

Office of Readings Time: Lifestyle vs. Tradition

This query recently came in from Patrick Beherac, who by the way has an interesting and informative blog about American saints, both canonized and potentially so,   Here is his question:

I've been doing the Hours since November, sometimes bungling a day but I'm getting the hang of it. I started adding in Readings about a week ago and ran into a snag. I'm a night owl, and get more out of Readings in the evening than the morning, but on Saturdays and before Solemnities it looks like the day changes at Evening Prayer 1. On a normal day, I pray EP after work, Readings in the evening, and NP before bed. Is there any guidance as to whether I ought to reverse those on Saturdays and before solemnities? I know whatever way works for me is "okay," but as long as I'm still forming habits, might as well try to form good ones.

There are several answers to this question. 
As Patrick noted, the Office of Readings may be done at any time of day. 
The Office of Readings is the post-Vatican II version of the hour of Matins, which monastic orders would chant in the middle of the night--midnight or in the wee small hours of the morning.  In fact, this practice still goes on in many monasteries  and abbeys today. 
There are two modified versions of this practice. One is to pray the Office of Readings the previous evening, as a kind of "vigil". Another is to do it first thing in the morning  just prior to Morning Prayer (lauds). The idea is that in either case, the OOR becomes the first hour of that day's liturgy. 
If you use the "evening before" option, note that Night Prayer is still the last hour you pray before bedtime. So even though when I use the "evening before" method and pray Office of Readings for Wednnesday January 14th on the night of  Tuesday the  13th, I still use Tuesday's Night Prayer afterward, before I go to bed. 
So if Patrick wants to continue reading the OOR in the evening, but wants to be more traditional, he should pray the following day's OOR in the evening. People who do this might also like to try the extra office of Vigils on the eve of Sundays and solemnities. You would need a 4-volume breviary for this, or else use the vigils button on ibreviary. (Not sure if other apps include vigils.)
On the other hand, if Patrick has, through habit, gotten used to doing the OOR of the actual calendar day in the evening, he is free to continue. It will, as he pointed out, feel awkward on  Sundays and solemnities. Perhaps on these days he could do his  OOR a bit earlier, so it is before Evening Prayer I of the Sunday/solemnity.