The structure of the liturgy
"Seven times a day I praise you", says Psalm 118(119), and the Liturgy of the Hours follows this pattern.
For details of each hour, look at the links on the left.
Lauds (Morning Prayer) and Vespers (Evening Prayer) are the two major hours of each day, providing an opportunity for prayer and dedication before starting work and prayer and thanksgiving afterwards.
Compline (Night Prayer) is designed to be said last thing at night. It is short and simple. Indeed, it can be made even shorter and simpler by using Compline for Sunday night on every night of the week - in which case it can be learnt by heart and recited from memory.
The Office of Readings is designed for any time of day. As its name implies, it has two long readings in it: one from Scripture and one from the Fathers of the Church.
Terce, Sext and None are known collectively as the "Little Hours" (or, more respectably, as the Daytime Hours). They are quite short, and intended for use during breaks at work.
The office of Prime
There used to be one more office, Prime, which came between Lauds and Terce. It was abolished in the reforms of 1970.
The manner of its introduction was this: around the year 382, in one of the monasteries near Bethlehem, a problem arose, because after the night offices (which corresponded to the more modern Matins and Lauds), the monks could retire to rest. The lazier ones then stayed in bed until nine in the morning (the hour of Terce) instead of getting up to do their manual work or spiritual reading. The short office of Prime, inserted a couple of hours before Terce, solved the problem, by calling them together to pray before they went out to their tasks.
After the major reforms of 1970, some additional revisions were made to the Liturgy of the Hours in 1985. Many English editions of the Liturgy do not yet include these revisions, because it would be so expensive to reprint the books; but the second Latin edition does. The following are the main changes, as summarised in the decree of the Congregation for Divine Worship dated 7 April 1985:
- The New Vulgate translation of the Bible, formally adopted in 1979, replaces the previous translation of the biblical texts in the long and short readings of the Liturgy.
- Certain texts in the old translation are omitted from the new one, or have a different meaning in the new translation. These have been replaced as necessary.
- The psalm texts have similarly been revised according to the New Vulgate.
- The responsories in the Office of Readings have been revised according to the New Vulgate, except where strong reasons exist for leaving them unchanged (long tradition, established music, liturgical significance).
- Many new antiphons for the Benedictus and Magnificat have been added for Sundays and feast days, taken from the appropriate Gospels.
- The psalms are numbered according to both the Greek (Septuagint) and Hebrew numbering.
We are using this second Latin edition as the basis of everything that we do.