Last week, I began talking about the Divine Office as a daily devotion. Today I want to go into some specifics.
Each day, the Divine Office consists of a number of distinct sets of prayers, the Hours. I usually pray three of them. I begin my day with Morning Prayer, also known as Lauds. After work, or sometimes after the kids go to bed, I will pray Evening Prayer, also known as Vespers. And just before going to bed, I will pray Night Prayer, also known as Compline.
The intriguing thing about the Divine Office is that it changes every day. There’s a four week cycle of psalms and canticles that you go through by default; and then there are particular psalms for particular feast days. In addition, there are other prayers and antiphons that change day by day.
All of this change is a good thing, because it means the Office is always new each day; and on the other hand over time all of the psalms become old friends. On the other hand, it means that getting started with the Divine Office is tricky. You need a book called a breviary, to begin with, and then you need to learn how to use it. In addition, there are websites and iPhone applications devoted to the Divine Office that will serve you the day’s prayers with no fuss.
The easiest Hour to start with is Night Prayer because it is the shortest and simplest. It operates on a seven-day cycle that repeats over and over again week after week; every Monday the prayers are the same as the previous Monday, and they are spelled out in full in one place in your breviary.
There are many on-line resources; my favorite at the moment is Daria Sockey’s blog Coffee and Canticles, which is all about the Divine Office. Alternatively, there may be a group at your parish that meets to say the office. At my parish, for example, there’s a group that meets for Morning Prayer right before the daily mass.
Next time, I’ll have a few things to say about my own experiences with the Divine Office.