Office of Readings & Prayer during the Day

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Veníte, exsultémus Dómino, jubilémus Deo, salutári nostro : præoccupémus fáciem ejus in confessióne, et in psalmis jubilémus ei.
O come, let us sing unto the Lord ; let us heartily rejoice in the God of our salvation. Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving ; and shew ourselves glad in him with psalms. (Ps. 94)

[Note: sadly the first part of the this tutorial will be next to useless to all but those using the larger Office books which include a full Office of Readings; Christian Prayer, etc., are unfortunately deficient in this regard.]

Matins -- The Office of Readings

Matins is the oldest Office of the Roman Breviary -- hence its nickname the "Parent" Office -- and historically the longest. It consisted of Opening Versicles, the Invitatory (Ps. 95), a hymn, and a number of "Nocturns". Either there was one Nocturn of nine Psalms, interstices (responsory, Our Father, and Absoltuion) and three scripture lessons; or, there were three Nocturns of three Psalms, interstices, and three lessons.

Following the reforms promulgated in Laudis Canticum, matins or the Office of Readings has now been simplified in terms of structure. The structure is now:

  • Opening Versicles;
  • three Psalms, with Antiphons and doxology, as previously explained for Lauds, Vespers, and Compline;
  • a reponsory (i.e. a versicle and response);
  • two readings, each followed by a reponsory
  • (on feasts and solemnities, the Te Deum with doxology); and
  • a concluding prayer.

Opening Versicles

The Opening Versicles would normally be:
V. "Lord, open my lips",
R. "And my mouth will proclaim your praise".
-- a sign of the cross is traditionally made by the thumb over the mouth at these words.

The Invitatory (Ps. 95) is then said, but can be optional in private recitation. This is a "hymn of adoration to God", as an "introduction to the Sabbath liturgy of the synagogue. The Church has placed it at the beginning of each day's Divine Office"(1).

However, if the Office of Readings is not the first Office of a particular day (this is called "anticipation" and takes place after Evening Prayer; see below), the Versicles would instead be:

V. "God, come to my assistance"
R. "Lord, make haste to help me."
"Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: as it was in the beginning, is now and will be for ever. Amen."

-- An Alleluia is said outside Lent. These are all listed in the Ordinary/"Common Texts".


The Hymn is generally taken from the Psalter, though obviously if the Proper of Seasons, the Proper of Saints, or the Commons mandate a particular other Hymn, then this would be said.


Three Psalms/Canticles are then said as per Morning, Evening or Night Prayer. Again, they may come from the Psalter, the Propers or the Commons. Each is preceded by an Antiphon, and followed by a doxology and Antiphon.

The final Psalm is followed by a Responsory.


The Readings are not listed in the Psalter. For ant given feast, the second reading will generally be given in the Proper of Seasons/Saints. The first reading is often taken from a Common, but do not worry, as the Proper of Seasons/Saints will always direct which Common to reference. For Solemnities and other very important liturgical days, sometimes both readings are given.

Each Reading is followed by a Responsory.

For me, the readings are the joy of the Office of Readings. In them we find spiritual nourishment; whilst I find the Psalms and Canticles of the other Hours (and indeed of this Hour) speak to me on an emotional and subconscious level, the Readings imbue direct catechesis and learning, at the same time as allowing us to pray.

Te Deum

If it is a Sunday outside Lent, a Solemnity or feast, the canticle Te Deum is then said, followed by a doxology (Glory Be).

Concluding prayer and Closing Versicles

If another Office will not immediately follow (see below), then a prayer is said. It is preceded by "Let us pray", but is not often listed for the Office of Readings. Most often we find the direction "As in Morning Prayer". The this Office then ends (traditionally whilst making the sign of the cross) V. "Let us praise the Lord", R. "And give him thanks".

Prayer during the Day

Prayer during the Day consists of:

  • Opening Versicles;
  • a Hymn;
  • three Psalms, preceded by Antiphons, and followed by a doxology and Anitphon;
  • a short scripture reading;
  • a responsory; and
  • Concluding prayer and Closing Versciles (as per Office of Readings above).

The material is usually drawn from the Psalter.

A problem arises because the Office of Prayer during the Day represents three traditional Offices (i.e. terce, sext, and none), and can still provide the material for all three. If you only wish to pray one Hour during the day, then it is simply a matter of following the directions for the reading and prayer according to whether it is AM, noon, or PM.

However, if you wish to pray the three Hours of terce, sext and none, it is slightly more complicated. Your Office book will hopefully have a section entitled "Complementary Psalmody". To explain this in a nutshell, one Hour will take its Psalmody from the regular 4-week Psalmody, whereas the other two will come from the complementary Psalmody. Personally, I do not pray more than one Office during the day, so I cannot really advise or comment further; even for the clergy, only one is mandated(2).

A note on conjoining Offices

The General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours does provide for the joining together of the various Offices with each other or Mass. Some combinations are prohibited (e.g. Office of Readings with Mass, except for on Christmas Eve), whereas others are explicitly described.

I personally do not like conjoining Offices because it means I have not been faithful to the tradition of veritas temporis (correspondence of the Hour to the time of the day(3)). However, from a practical point of view, I recognise that -- particularly for the laity -- this is necessarily in the hectic lives we live, if one does want to pray particular Hours of the Office, e.g.:-

  • unless I "anticipate" the Office of Readings, by praying it the night before (after Evening Prayer, but before Night Prayer), I am forced to pray it and Morning Prayer together; and
  • often, I have not had a chance to pray Prayer during the Day actually during my working day, so I often join it with Evening Prayer.

Practically, this generally means omitting the final prayers of the first hour, and omitting the opening versicles and hymn of the next. However, for a full explanation, please do check GILOH §§ 93-99. Methods are also given for adding further scriptural readings to Evening Prayer I to form, for example, a vigil prior to a Solemnity/major Feast.


Having now covered all the Hours of the modern Divine Office, this is my last planned post on the Liturgy of the Hours. If there are any outstanding questions, queries, suggestions, etc., I would be more than happy to cover them, even by a further post if that is required. Feedback is very welcome, as I have learned things by writing these posts.

Last time, Matthew asked me if I could comment on the older pre-Vatican II Breviarum Romanum. In short, I cannot, because I am not well-enough acquainted with it. However, the commentary on the website looks promising. Oh, and some good news: these and other goodies will be collated into a web-resource in the New Year.

In the meantime, I hope you have all gained something from these posts, so we can recite the Liturgy of the Hours, and "celebrate the praises of the Creator of the universe with dedication" (dubia, op. cit.).

(1) Socias, Handbook of Prayers, p. 47
(2) c.f. GILOH §77, CDW Dubia no 2330/00/L
(3) c.f. GILOH §7


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