Rule of St. Benedict: Chapter 9: How Many Psalms Are to Be Said at the Night Office, February 11, 2017

February 11, June 12, October 12
Chapter 9: How Many Psalms Are to Be Said at the Night Office

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 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,
the verse
and the petition of the litany, that is “Lord, have mercy on us.”
And so let the Night Office come to an end.

Some thoughts
The Night Office is not one that I have observed. No, I am very much a product of my times and I like my solid eight, preferably nine, solid hours of sleep. Lately, though, due to pain, anxiety, or stress, I find myself awake in the wee hours and I find the best way to use that time is in prayer.
After having read a couple of articles recently about the “two sleeps” it would appear tht this business of a solid eight hours of sleep is some sort of new-fangled invention because ancient and medieval people approached sleep as a two-part deal. They’d go to bed, sleep for four hours or so, and then do something else for a couple of hours. Such things as eating, writing, cooking, making babies, visiting the neighbors were done in those two hours and then people would go back to bed.
Reading that article suddenly made the whole Benedictine hours of prayer make so much more sense to me. Getting up- in the middle of the night to pray was not an intrusion or a sacrifice of needed sleep, it was based on the sleeping habits which prevailed. It was their normal practice.
I don’t know when humans departed from the two-sleeps scheme, but I have found it lovely in that in those nights when I can’t sleep to get up, make a cup of chamomile tea, and reach for my PrayerBook, my Bible, the Psalms, my prayer lists and pray.
Aside from getting my mind off my troubles or aches and pains, it focuses my attention on the Most High and what could be a better place to focus?

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