Let nothing, therefore, be put before the Work of God.” (Rule of St. Benedict, 43)
In answer to the Psalmist who wrote “seven times a day do I praise you, Lord” (Ps 119, vs 164), Christians throughout history, especially monks and nuns, have practiced a communal form of prayer known as the Officium Divinum. This could be loosely translated as the task of heaven, or the divine commission, but is traditionally rendered as the Divine Office. Other terms for this ancient practice include the Liturgy of the Hours (Liturgia horarium) or, as St. Benedict refers to it in his Rule, the Work of God (Opus Dei).
Like the prayers said in synagogues and homes by Jesus and the apostles, and by many Jewish generations before, the greatest part of the Divine Office is simply the singing of Psalms and the reading of Scriptures.
Today, the monks of Holy Cross Abbey come together in prayer seven times daily, starting at 3:30 in the morning (yes, 3:30 AM). We invite you to join us in this ancient prayer, whether in our chapel or from your own homes as described below. Here’s the schedule, or Horarium, for our communal prayer. These liturgical “hours” or “offices” can also be prayed using the embedded webpage below.
3:30 am – Vigils
7:00 am – Lauds, followed by ~7:25 am Mass
10:00 am – Terce (private, in workplaces)
12:20 pm – Sext
2:00 pm – None
5:30 pm – Vespers
7:30 pm – Compline
3:30 am – Vigils
7:00 am – Lauds
9:50 am – Terce
10:00 am – Mass
12:20 pm – Sext
2:00 pm – None (privately)
5:30 pm – Vespers
7:30 pm – Compline
Every day for well over 1500 years, monks have used this Liturgy of Hours to help the Church fulfill Our Lord’s command to “pray without ceasing,” and keep watch, waiting in hope for His second coming. (See Matthew 26:41, Luke 21:36, and 1 Thess 5:17.) Following the prayer of Israel, of Jesus and of the apostles, it has been the unceasing prayer of the universal Church throughout history, and it remains the prayer of Holy Cross Abbey today.
We invite you to pray with us!
Wherever you find yourself today, you can pray with us. It can be as simple as pausing to pray the Lord’s Prayer at this very moment or around the same time as the monks’ schedule, or you could consider praying one or two, or the full Liturgy of the Hours, embedded at the bottom of this page, on your own schedule.
Many have come to Our Lady of the Holy Cross on retreat or to mass or for one of our services. So many have said “I wish I could do this more often,” but time and our busy lives make that hard.
Yet the church calls all of us to this prayer. The Liturgy–the Mass, or Divine Liturgy, first, and the Liturgy of Hours, second–is the life-blood of the Mystical Body of Christ. We encourage you to breathe with the psalms and let your heart beat as one with the church in the rhythm of the Liturgy of the Hours. In doing so, you can join the monks who stand daily in choir at Our Lady of the Holy Cross Abbey, as well as the millions of other Christians who pray the Divine Office.
The four volumes of the Breviary are the official Catholic standard and therefore are sometimes referred to as the Liturgy of the Hours, but there is also an easier one-volume version called Christian Prayer, or even the Shorter Christian Prayer. You may decide you want to pick up one of these books.
There are also many helpful websites for praying the divine office, including Divineoffice.org, universalis.com, and ibreviary.org; the Episcopal Office is at dailyoffice.org. On these sites you can find all seven offices of the church, including the so-called ‘minor offices’ of Terce, Sext and None. The web versions and mobile apps make it easy by eliminating the need for three or four ribbons and the initially daunting task of figuring out what page in the book you are supposed to be on.
Finally, while you’re here, we invite you to do two each things to get started. Let us know if there is anything you want us to pray for, under “Contact Us”, so we can remember your intentions as we pray. Then simply scroll down to the bottom of this page and find the Divine Office for today–or come back and use this page to pray with us daily. It’s that easy!
Make a habit of it, not a burden
Many lay people and most clergy make a point of praying the Liturgy of the Hours during the day. They don’t always get to do all seven offices, but many people start and end their day with this prayer.
We believe you will find praying with us a wonderful addition to your spiritual life. Each day you will settle in with us and join us in choir to praise God. And we promise, if you get into the habit of this prayer, you will find yourself missing it when you don’t do it. It becomes part of your life and something you can’t do without.
While we want you to enjoy the riches of this prayer, however, we know you have busy lives; it’s hard to find time to pray the Office everyday. Don’t worry about it! If the demands of your vocation prevent you from praying a full “hour” of the Office, perhaps you could stop for a moment and say the Lord’s Prayer as your Office. Bottom line is–don’t make it into a burden. If your goals for prayer are unrealistic, you may be tempted to cease praying altogether.
If you can pray with us from day to day, in any of these ways, you join your voice to our Abbey choir, the Church, and the choirs of angels. Together–and we, the brothers of Our Lady of the Holy Cross Abbey, mean together–we will offer up a worthy prayer to our Lord. Joined to Christ and one another in the one mystical Body, we all offer immeasurably greater praise to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
What do the names mean?
Most of the names of these rituals of prayer were adopted directly from the Latin terms for the time of day at which they were to be prayed. Terce, Sext, and None are prayed at the tertia (third), sexta (sixth), and nona (ninth) hour of the day, using the ancient reckoning of daylight hours. Vespers means the “evening hour” of prayer, and Compline–in Latin, completorium–is the prayer in repentence, praise, and thanksgiving “for things done,” at day’s end.
Lauds is the name which is not o’ [the] clock. Lauds means “The Praises [of God],” as again, some of you knew or guessed, because it ends with Psalms of praise–traditionally, with Psalms 148, 149, and 150.
Vigils follows the o’clock naming pattern, but deserves at least a footnote or two. A vigil is a “night watch.” Vigils also came to be known as matins, meaning “in very early morning”; ironically, however, the prayer “of the early morning” can be prayed the night before–which makes more sense if the ritual is thought of as a night watch, or vigil.*
*To solve a small mystery for our readers: during Holy Week, you may be familiar with the office of Tenebrae. (For those unfamiliar, Tenebrae is a special Vigil of light and darkness and the strepitus, “great noise,” that is prescribed has sent shivers down many a spine, commemorating the death, entombment, and Resurrection of the God who became man to save us.) Tenebrae is actually the Office of Vigils, or Matins, for the Holy Triduum–Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday. In many parishes where gathering the people before dawn is difficult, however, the Vigil of Tenebrae (“Darkness”) is recited in the evening on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday of Holy Week.
The mother of all Vigils, of course, is the Easter Vigil. It is said that all liturgy is prayed in memory, imitation, or anticipation of the great liturgies and mysteries of Holy Week, and the greatest liturgy of all is the Easter Vigil. Pray with us, then, in our hope of rising soon with Christ to everlasting life!
Office of Readings can be prayed at any time of day (monastic Vigils or Matins is properly prayed at night, before dawn).
Morning Prayer (Lauds or “The Praises” at dawn)
Evening Prayer (Vespers)
Night Prayer (Compline, before going to bed, when the hours of our day are over, done, complete, and finished, whether we will or no.)
You can get started by praying one of the liturgical hours right here: