Chapter 9: How Many Psalms Are to Be Said at the Night Office
Feb. 11 – June 12 – Oct. 12
In winter time as defined above,
there is first this verse to be said three times:
“O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth shall declare Your praise.”
To it is added Psalm 3 and the “Glory be to the Father,”
and after that Psalm 94 to be chanted with an antiphon
or even chanted simply.
Let the Ambrosian hymn [Te Deum] follow next,
and then six Psalms with antiphons.
When these are finished and the verse said,
let the Abbot give a blessing;
then, all being seated on the benches,
let three lessons be read from the book on the lectern
by the brethren in their turns,
and after each lesson let a responsory be chanted.
Two of the responsories are to be said
without a “Glory be to the Father”
but after the third lesson
let the chanter say the “Glory be to the Father,”
and as soon as he begins it let all rise from their seats
out of honor and reverence to the Holy Trinity.
The books to be read at the Night Office
shall be those of divine authorship,
of both the Old and the New Testament,
and also the explanations of them which have been made
by well known and orthodox Catholic Fathers.
After these three lessons with their responsories
let the remaining six Psalms follow,
to be chanted with “Alleluia.”
After these shall follow the lesson from the Apostle,
to be recited by heart,
and the petition of the litany, that is “Lord, have mercy on us.”
And so let the Night Office come to an end.
One of the first things that hit me about this passage and applies to all of them on prayer and the Daily Offices, is how much time
Benedict’s people spent in prayer. When I first came to the RB and wanted to follow it, I was discouraged because there was just not enough time in the day to pray this much, commute to work on the train(1 hour), do my job (minimum 8 hours) commute home again (another hour), prepare meals, take care of life maintenance chores. Have you had a similar experience?
Then it occurred to me that Father Benedict was writing about a community where the members divide up all the various chores and tasks between them. Unlike I, they had help with everything that had to be done. Some did the laundry, some took care of food, others cleaned up the joint, etc. So I compromised with the RB and followed the example in the Book of Common Prayer of The Episcopal Church and used the Daily Offices therein: Morning, Noon, Evening and Compline. The commuter train is an anonymous environment so I would pray Morning and Evening Prayer on the train and as I worked in Copley Square,
Boston would pray Noon Prayers in Trinity Church and Compline just before I went to bed.
When I was testing my vocation for the life I now live, I thought I’d have to move on up to a “real” breviary. A friend gave me the
Monastic Diurnal Revised ( http://www.stmaryseast.org/diurnal.htm ) which I never got the hang of. I was flippin’ and floppin’, floppin’ and flippin’ from page to page and back again and then over here and then over there and then under that, I never felt I got any praying done, I was too busy trying to figure out where in the book I should be.
Then someone else gave me The Saint Helena Breviary (www.osh.org/writing/breviary ) which is easier to use, much easier.
Aha! I thought, now I’ll be a “real”monastic and pray all the monastic hours. Didn’t take because I’d spend so much time in prayer, I’d get very little of any of my other obligations met. And when my mother had a heart attack last year and I had to assume a greater caregiver role, it was back to the Book of Common Prayer and the 4 Daily Offices it contains.
This is a prayer schedule I can keep. My Kindle goes everywhere with me and fits into my purse, On it I have the Book of Common Prayer and a Bible. I used to carry my BCP and keep a Bible in the glove compartment of the car. No matter where I am, I can find the time to pray and honor the commitments the Lord has laid upon me. Which I think is the point of this passage for those of us not in monasteries and convents. Pray. Find a schedule to which we can commit, which we can keep and honor. Allow the room for the Holy Spirit to interact with us. Whatever it is. Maybe it is only 5 minutes a day that you can carve out for this. I really think that’s ok.