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. 


  1. This may be a duplicate.

    I thought Vigils was another name for OOR. Can you clarify? I use the 4-volume.


    1. The answer to that is yes and no. There is an office of Vigils for the eve of Sundays and Solemnities. This includes doing the OOR for the Sunday (or solemnity) some time after you say Evening Prayer I. Next, before saying the Te Deum, go to appendix I in your breviary (page 1915 in my edition of the 4-volume LOTH), say the three canticles, then choose the correct resurrection gospel reading from the list on page 1918. After that you conclude with the Te Deum and the prayer that would conclud the OOR for that Sunday or feast. And that is the complete office of Vigils. OOR by itself is the equivalent of the old Matins.

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  2. Here's a question. When is the first 'hour' that should have the inventory said with it.

    If I pray the Office of Readings with Morning prayer in the morning I obviously pray the Inventory then. But what about when I pray the Office of readings at 01:00 or the middle of the night with Morning prayer at sunrise. I can never decide if the Inventory is said with Morning prayer or Office of readings.

    Or if I anticipate the Office of Readings the night before, lets say 21:00 and then say morning prayer the next day at dawn. Is the Inventory said when I say the first 'hour' of the day, technically the 21:00 Office of Readings. Or do I say it at the dawn recitation of Morning prayer which would be the first 'hour' of the day according to the sun and the clock?

    Thank you for your blog and book! I've enjoyed them both. I've been regularly praying the Office again for the past two years.

    1. That is a good question. If you go to the General Instruction tab above (which takes you out of this blog and over to the EWTN document library) and scroll down to paragraphs 34 and 35 you will see the sum total of what I could tell you about this topic. How to interpret that is another story. The literal sense would indicate that you'd do your invitatory before the Office of Readings. But I think there is also a "spirit of the law" way to view this as well. Do you have a psychological sense of your new day in God's company beginning at midnight or at sunrise? As to 21:00--if you then say Night Prayer after this, then clearly your OOR belonged to the previous day. Lastly, keep in mind that the General Instruction frequently exhorts us laymen to adapt things to our own situation. So in the end, you should do what seems appropriate to your life and schedule.

    2. I think 60 also suggests that you do the invitatory before the OOR if you say it the previous evening.

      The Invitatory has always been awkward; in the pre-V2 breviary it was always attached to Matins and is clearly intended to be a preface to the whole day, but because of the practice of "anticipating" Matins to the previous day, it was frequently said before Compline and sometimes even before Vespers.

      It's been a while since I looked at the Bugnini book, but IIRC there was serious debate about the role of the Invitatory in the LotH and even some proposals to scrap it altogether. The option to read it before MP is the first thing you pray in the day, or to omit it entirely, was apparently a compromise.

    3. Thanks, Chris, for the information. The history of how these things came to be is always interesting. I'd prefer that on this blog you not use the term "Bugnini book". That strikes me as dismissive or maybe hostile to the Liturgy of the Hours as it is currently prayed by the majority of clergy and laity. There are ways to express support for older forms of the breviary without having to snipe at the newer.

  3. And thanks for your kind words about the blog and book.

  4. Thank you, that was helpful. (And thanks for the follow up discussion. I was going to have to ask the same thing about the invitationary.)