THE DIVINE OFFICE

17. December 2006, 21:15 | by WD Milner | Full Article |

Also known as the Liturgy of the Hours.

The liturgical offices of the Church, which marked the daily and nocturnal passage of time in monasteries, were called “opus Dei”, the ‘work of God’ (not to be confused with the organisation of the same name), and constituted the major work of the monks. In the early monastic period of the fourth century, these offices were divided into two groups, the diurnal (“by daylight”) and the nocturnal (“at night”).

Note that “nocturns” is not the name of a particular office, but is a collective name for those offices that are performed at night.

The diurnal offices symbolized the major events in the Passion of Jesus or the “Hours of the Cross”:

  1. Terce (tertia hora): the third daylight hour, symbolizing the time of the trial and condemnation of Jesus by Pilate.
  2. Sexte (sexta hora): the sixth daylight hour, symbolizing the Crucifixion.
  3. Nones (nona hora): the ninth daylight hour, symbolizing the time of Jesus’ death on the Cross.

The nocturnal offices symbolized the “vigil” over Christ’s body on Saturday prior to His resurrection from the dead on Easter:

  1. Vespers (lucernalia, “the time when lamps are lit”) was originally a sunset service, occuring just after dark. St. Benedict called this office “Vespertina” resulting in the name we know it by today.
  2. Matins (originally vigilae): was symbolically a midnight vigil, signifying an apocalytpic or eschatological belief that Jesus would return soon and the end of the world could come.
  3. Lauds (laudes matutinales) was timed to end just before dawn. The name derived from the opening words of Psalms 148 and 150, which are prominent in this service.

These older offices were supplemented in later times by two additional offices:

  1. Compline (Completum): developed out of the final blessing before sleep and held just before bedtime, “completing” the work of the day, the addition of Compline meant that Vespers was split from the nocturnal “vigils” and became a diurnal office.
  2. Prime (prima hora): the first hour before daylight, added to the offices circa 382 apparently because the time between Lauds and Terce was so long that the monks stayed in bed and missed Terce. Addition of this office forced the monks to get out of bed at dawn.

The restructured offices in the later medieval period (and the approximate time of day) were:

Diurnal offices

  • Prime (sunrise)
  • Terce (mid-morning)
  • Sexte (noon)
  • Nones (mid-afternoon)
  • Vespers (sunset)

Nocturnal offices

  • Compline (before retiring to sleep)
  • Matins (Vigils) (midnight)
  • Lauds (Matins) (pre-dawn)

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Categories: ,
Keywords: liturgy,liturgy of the hours,divine office,monastic,prime,terce,sexte,nones,vespers,complince,matins,vigils,nocturn

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