To be read: February 20, June 21-22, October 23
We have already arranged the order of the psalmody for Vigils and Lauds. Now, let us arrange the other Hours. 2At Prime three psalms are to be said, each followed by the Gloria Patri (Glory be to the Father…). 3The hymn for this Hour is sung after the opening verse “O God, come to my assistance…” (Ps 69:2), before the psalms are begun. 4Then, after the completion of three psalms, one lesson is read, a verse, the Kyrie eleison, the collects and dismissal. 5At the third, the sixth, and the ninth Hours, the prayer will be said in the same order; that is, the opening verse, the hymn proper to each Hour, three psalms, a lesson with versicle, the Kyrie eleison, the collects and dismissal. 6If the community is large, let these Hours be sung with antiphons; but if small, let them be said without a refrain. 7The office of Vespers should be limited to four psalms with antiphons. 8After these psalms a lesson is to be recited, a responsory, an Ambrosian hymn, a versicle, the canticle from the Gospel (Magnificat), the litany, the Lord’s Prayer, the collects and dismissal. 9Compline is limited to three psalms, which are to be said without an antiphon. 10After these the hymn is sung for this Hour, one lesson, the versicle, Kyrie eleison, collects, the blessing, and dismissal.
In order to read all 150 Psalms in one week, there needs to be a schedule to follow. This chapter sets the number of Psalms to be read at both the daytime hours and the evening hours, the psalmody for Vigils and Lauds having already been explained. The little hours of Prime, Terce, Sext, and None are very simple and dealt with in verses two through six. Then Vespers and Compline are explained in the remaining verses. All of this not an effort to create a legalistic form to follow; it is Benedict’s effort to help the community to maintain relationship with the Lord while laboring during the day.
It is important to phone home, to stay in touch with one another, to keep the relationship spark burning. Miranda and I stay connected even when we are apart from one another—when Miranda is at work, or when I’m out of town, etc. We phone home. The little hours are our call home during the worldly hours of our day. It our way to keep the spark kindled in the midst of our daily, secular routine. It is not crucial that we follow a prescribed order of service, or read the established number of psalms. What is important is that we maintain our lively relationship with the Lord while walking through the maze of this world. It is too easy to lose our way without a guide, and the Liturgy of the Hours provides that guide.
Vespers and Compline are the offices for the time of day to be settling down. The number of the psalms is limited and the services are simple. It is important to put the day’s events in the hands of the Lord, and to commend the night hours to His care. We, in our modern era—the 24 hour news cycle—tend to clutter our minds before retiring for the night with both unimportant and disturbing thoughts and images, leaving our unguarded imagination to run wild in our dreams. To fill our minds with images of the Lord’s grace is a much more satisfying and healthy approach. We can end the day watching the evening news, or renewing our relationship with the Lord in the service of Compline. To close the day with the words, “Into Your hands I commend my spirit” is very hard to beat.