||The Jews, Greeks,
and Romans divided the hours between sunrise and sunset into 12 parts, and
the Jews devoted certain of those intervals to prayer:
Evening and morning, and at noon I will speak and declare: and he shall hear
Seven times a day I have given praise to thee, for the judgments of thy justice.
Now, when Daniel knew this, that is to say, that the law was made, he went
into his house: and opening the windows in his upper chamber towards Jerusalem,
he knelt down three times a day, and adored and gave thanks before his God,
as he had been accustomed to do before.
As I was yet speaking in prayer, behold the man, Gabriel, whom I had seen
in the vision at the beginning, flying swiftly, touched me at the time of
the evening sacrifice.
This Old Testament
practice was carried on by the Apostles:
Now Peter and John went up into the temple at the ninth hour of prayer.
Acts 10: 3
This man saw in a vision manifestly, about the ninth hour of the day, an
angel of God coming in unto him and saying to him: Cornelius.
And on the next day, whilst they were going on their journey and drawing
nigh to the city, Peter went up to the higher parts of the house to pray,
about the sixth hour.
And Cornelius said: Four days ago, unto this hour, I was praying in my house,
at the ninth hour and behold a man stood before me in white apparel and
And at midnight, Paul and Silas, praying, praised God. And they that were
in prison heard them.
.. and were carried
on by the earliest Christians. These Old Testament time divisions developed
into the Church's "canonical hours" or "offices" at which prayers (psalms,
canticles, antiphons, responsories, etc.), known, together with the Holy
Mass, as "The Divine Office" (Officium Divinum), the "Liturgical Office,"
"The Liturgy of the Hours," or "The Breviary" are said (the latter term also
applying to the books which contain the prayers). St. Benedict (A.D. 480-543)
writes of the canonical hours in the Rule he wrote for his religious Order:
As the Prophet
saith: "Seven times a day I have given praise to Thee," this sacred sevenfold
number will be fulfilled by us in this wise if we perform the duties of our
service at the time of Lauds, Prime, Tierce, Sext, None, Vespers, and Complin;
because it was of these day hours that he hath said: "Seven times a day I
have given praise to Thee." For the same Prophet saith of the night watches:
"At midnight I arose to confess to Thee." At these times, therefore, let
us offer praise to our Creator "for the judgments of His justice;" namely,
at Lauds, Prime, Tierce, Sext, None, Vespers, and Complin; and let us rise
at night to praise Him.
These prayers of
the Divine Office are most often said by religious and clergy (in fact, they
are obligated), but because they are liturgical in nature, i.e., they are
"the work of the people," they should be offered publicly in churches (especially
Matins and Vespers). When they are celebrated publicly, there are established
norms for postures and such, but these prayers are often said, also, by lay
individuals and families, some saying only certain offices as they are
comfortable with, have the time for, and as it feeds their souls (usually
Matins, Lauds, and Vespers).
The canonical offices are below. I include the Novus Ordo version for
Names of Canonical
Hours used by Traditional Orders
Names of the
Canonical Hours used by Novus Ordo
This office originally
consisted of four "watches," or "vigils": 6PM-9PM, 9PM-Midnight, Midnight-3
AM, and 3 AM-6 AM.
Later it consisted of three "nocturnes," 9-Midnight, Midnight-3 AM, 3 AM-6
Originally this office was known as "Vigils" or the "Night Office," but because
the next office, Matins, ended up being the closing part of Vigils, often
they both began to be called "Matins." Some traditional Orders still keep
Some of the stricter
religious Novus Ordo orders (especially the contemplative ones) might still
keep Vigils in some form or another, but most don't
See above and below. Matins, called "Orthros" in the Eastern Churches, includes
the three Nocturnes that once belonged to Vigils.
The sunrise office
known as "Matins" has been transformed into the "Office of Readings" which
can be said at any time of the day.
The word means "The Praises." Matins and Lauds were originally one, single
office sung at dawn. After Vigils started to be callled "Matins," Matins
started to be called "Lauds."
Lauds or "Morning
Prayer" or "The Praises"
(the "first hour")
(the "third hour")
(pronounced like "terse")
"The Little Hours" or "Prayer through the Day," they are still called
individually "terce," "sext," and "none." Only one of these short offices
is obligatory for clergy/religious or those wanting to pray the complete
noon (the "sixth
(the "ninth hour")
(rhymes with "bone")
Vespers or "Evening
Prayer" or "Evensong"
after sunset, before
Compline or "Night
One can get most
of the Breviary's prayers from the Internet, here at
http://breviary.net/. If you buy a Breviary,
I heartily recommend buying a pre-Vatican II version. The language is much
richer and not castrated, there are no worries about modernist thought creeping
in, etc. Try
Press for these needs.