February 20, June 21, October 21
Chapter 17: How Many Psalms Are to Be Said at These Hours
We have already arranged the order of the psalmody
for the Night and Morning Offices;
let us now provide for the remaining Hours.
At Prime let three Psalms be said,
separately and not under one “Glory be to the Father.”
The hymn of that Hour
is to follow the verse “Incline unto my aid, O God,”
before the Psalms begin.
Upon completion of the three Psalms
let one lesson be recited,
then a verse,
the “Lord, have mercy on us” and the concluding prayers.
The Offices of Terce, Sext and None
are to be celebrated in the same order,
the “Incline unto my aid, O God,” the hymn proper to each Hour,
three Psalms, lesson and verse,
“Lord, have mercy on us” and concluding prayers.
If the community is a large one,
let the Psalms be sung with antiphons;
but if small,
let them be sung straight through.
Let the Psalms of the Vesper Office be limited to four,
After these Psalms the lesson is to be recited,
then the responsory, the Ambrosian hymn, the verse,
the canticle from the Gospel book,
the litany, the Lord’s Prayer and the concluding prayers.
Let Compline be limited to the saying of three Psalms,
which are to be said straight through without antiphon,
and after them the hymn of that Hour,
one lesson, a verse, the “Lord, have mercy on us,”
the blessing and the concluding prayers.
I wonder if I have mentioned that by the “Ambrosian hymn” Benedict refers to the Te Deum, a wonderful canticle.
All these instructions about when to pray what can be daunting. Fortunately for us, it’s all been figured out and published in breviaries and prayer books. Whew, we don’t have tom figure it out for ourselves,
Long before I knew that non-monastics had access to monastic breviaries, I started using the Daily Offices in The Episcopal Church’s Book of Common Prayer. There is a lectionary at the back that tells me what Scriptures to ponder on any given day. I find it quite simple to use.
Eventually, I learned about the Anglican Breviary and eagerly purchased it only to discover that I could not make head or tails of it so back to the BCP.
Then I learned of the Monastic Diurnal Revised and purchased it. I honestly do not know how those nuns at St. Mary’s find their way through. All that flipping and flopping, flopping and flipping from one page to the other. Oh, my.The only part of it that makes any sense to me is the special volume for the Triduum because on Holy Thursday one starts praying and everything is printed in the order in which it is used. Very straight forward.
Then someone gave me the St. Helena Breviary and it much easier to use. Here’s the thing, though, having used the Book of Common Prayer for many years now, that is the book I use.
Whatever prayer book or breviary you select, and I recommend it highly, may I make a suggestion. Once you’ve selected your book and learned how to use it, stick with it for years. Let the offices of that book be absorbed into your subconscious by the constant repetition. The words, the prayers, the Scriptures will change you at a far deeper level than you will be cognizant of at the time.
Even if you think you are bored with the book and want to pray from a different one, I would say, “Please don’t.” Yes, I know the Benedictine promise of stability means that one promises to stay in the monastery that admitted one, but we are not in one so we must find other ways to honor the promise of stability. One way is to stick with one’s local church. Another way is to stick with the prayer book.