Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Lauds Points Us In The Right Direction Every The Morning (LOH 6)

In my latest discussion on the Liturgy of the Hours we take a look at Morning Prayer, also known as Lauds.  One may pray the Office of Readings first, which traditionally has been prayed in the middle of the night, but Lauds is specifically designed to start us on our daily journey.

The Structure of the Office


"The Birth of St. John the Baptist" by Giuliano Bugiardini
    First, a few words on the structure of this office.   If it’s the first office of the day we start with the Invitatory; otherwise, as in the other offices, we start with “Lord open my lips/and my mouth will proclaim your praise” followed by a “Glory be . . . “.   This is followed by the psalmody where, unlike the Office of Readings, where there are three psalm readings, we find two psalms with an Old Testament canticle of comparable length in between.  All three are followed the “Glory Be”, and are bracketed by antiphons.  The particular reading and antiphons follow a four-week cycle, and there may also be other antiphons for particular times, such as Holy Week or Easter.

     Next comes a brief scripture reading, normally only a couple of verses.  These vary more widely by the season (there are different readings for Advent, Christmas Season, Lent, Easter) and, often by particular Holy Days.  This is followed by a three-part responsory, which also varies according to the liturgical calendar.  For Today, Wednesday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time, the responsory is:
            
I will bless the Lord all my life long
                - I will bless the Lord all my life long

With a song of praise ever on my lips,
                -  all my life long

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,
                - I will bless the Lord all my life long

     The Canticle of Zechariah (called the Benedictus from it's first word in Latin) always follows the responsory.  This Gospel Canticle is the song of praise proclaimed by Zechariah after his voice has been returned to him at the naming of his son, John the Baptist. It is also preceded and followed by antiphons determined by the liturgical calendar.
     The office ends with a series of intercessions and a closing prayer which, yet again, accord with the season or Holy Day.

Our Daily Orientation

     I have always appreciated the way in which this office “orients” me at the beginning of the day.  Any morning prayer or offering should be expected to direct our attention to our relationship with our creator, of course, and Lauds certainly does that.  In addition to that, the canticles are passages that we might not ordinarily see: the Canticle of Hannah, for instance,(1 Samuel 2:1-10), a precursor to Mary’s Magnificat; a canticle from the prophet Habakkuk, chapter 3, that includes the evocative line “decay invades my bones”; or the triumphant song chanted by the Hebrews after the crossing of the Red Sea (Exodus 15:1):

            I will sing to the Lord, for he is gloriously triumphant,
            Horse and chariot he has cast into the sea . . . .

This last is reputed to be one of the oldest (at least in its present form) passages in the Bible.
     But the office of Morning Prayer does even more.  It does not just orient us as individuals to God: It orients us to the whole scope of Salvation history.  For instance, every Friday the penitential Psalm 51 opens the office:

            Have mercy on me God, in your kindness.
            In your compassion blot out my offense.
            O wash me more and more from my guilt
            And cleanse me from my sin.

This prayer and others in the Office remind us of the fact that on Friday we focus in a special way on Christ’s suffering for our salvation. When we faithfully pray the Divine Office we always start our day knowing how that day fits in the Big Picture, throughout the week and throughout the liturgical year.
     We also start our day with a specific celebration of the liturgical season, or a particular solemnity or saint’s day, which has a much greater impact than if we should happen to remember it (or not) at some point during the course of the day.  The overall effect is that it brings us out of ourselves and unites us in prayer with the entire Church, which is saying the same prayer throughout the world, and which lives the same faith throughout time.  What better way to greet the new day?


Below are some resources for anyone interested in exploring the Liturgy of the Hours -

Websites:
Universalis.com – This was the first website I encountered with the text of the LOH.  It does have the full text of all the daily prayers, although, at least in the free version available online, many of the translations are not the approved ones.  They do say that the translations in the App version are the standard ones.

Ebreviary.com – Full texts of all the prayers, which are designed so that they can be printed as booklets for group prayer – but you need to buy a subscription to gain access to most of the site.

Divineoffice.org – My favorite LOH website.  It contains the full approved translations of most of the canonical hours (although there is only one hour for Daytime Prayer).  There are also audio versions of each hour which include recorded hymns and recitation of the prayers, either spoken or chanted.

Books:
There are various one-volume books entitled Christian Prayer that contain most of the Liturgy of the Hours.  The best choice available is this one [here], although it is not complete (particularly the Office of  Readings), and hasn’t been updated since 1976.  I prefer this one [here] from the Daughters of St. Paul, which contains everything except the long readings from the Office of Readings (which are available from the websites above).  It also dates from 1976, however, and, even worse, seems to be out of print.

The Gold Standard is the four-volume Liturgy of the Hours [here].  It’s all there, but it involves a sizable financial investment (well over $100 for the whole set)