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The term Divine Office means divine duty and refers

to the obligation of all clergy in the

Celtic Orthodox Church to daily offer the Divine Sacrifice

of the Mass and daily pray the Benedictine Monastic Diurnal

commonly called the Monastic Diurnal or Benedictine Liturgy of the Hours.




The Monastic Diurnal owes its remote origin to the inspiration of the Old

Covenant. God commanded the Aaronic priests (c.1280 BC) to offer a

morning and evening sacrifice (Ex. 29:38-29). During the Babylonian

Exile (587-521 BC), when the Temple did not exist, the synagogue

services of Torah readings and psalms and hymns developed as a

substitute for the bloody sacrifices of the Temple, a “sacrifice of

praise”.   The Monastic Diurnal numbers the Psalms according to

the Septuagint Text, used by Christ and the Apostles. 


After the people returned to Judea, and the Temple was re-built, the

prayer services developed in Babylon for the local assemblies

(synagogues) of the people were brought into Temple use, as well. We

know that in addition to Morning and Evening Prayer to accompany the

sacrifices, there was prayer at the Third, Sixth and Ninth Hours of the

day. The Acts of the Apostles notes that Christians continued to pray at

these hours (Third: Acts 2:15; Sixth: Acts 10:9; 10: 3, 13). And,

although the Apostles no longer shared in the Temple sacrifices—they had

its fulfillment in the "breaking of the bread" (the Eucharist)—they

continued to frequent the Temple at the customary hours of prayer (Acts



Next to the Holy Mass, the Divine Office from the Breviary is the most

important prayer offered to God.  It is offered by the Church and in the

name of the Church, conferring multifold graces and blessings on those

who recite it worthily, attentively and devoutly.  St. Benedict composed

the Diurnal (day time prayers) we use  and called the praying of Sacred

Scripture in the Monastic Diurnal the Opus Dei, meaning work of God. 

The Monastic Diurnal is the Divine Office (Divine Duty) of all Orthodox Benedictine.


The term Divine Office means divine duty and refers to the obligation of all clergy

to daily offer the Divine Sacrifice of the Mass and daily pray the Monastic Diurnal.

The book containing the prayers of the Monastic Diurnal is called the Breviary.

The term Breviary is the book that contains the changeable daily prayers for the Divine Office. 

In times long past, the changeable prayers for every day and special feasts were found

In the back of the Altar Missal. That may have changed but the one thing that has not

changed is the Mass and the Breviary are inseparable. The Breviary is an extension of

the Mass. The word Breviary means shortened version and refers to the Divine Office 

as a separate volume rather than in the back of the Altar Missal. So venerated by the

ancients, the Apostolic Constitution and the Council of Laodicea (year 387) required

all clergy to daily pray the Divine Office.


The Church lives in time and with time. This truth is brought out

beautifully in the canonical hours. They provide a perfect way to

consecrate the whole day to God and make it holy. The admonition of our

Lord, that we are to pray and not grow weary, is thus perfectly

fulfilled. For every part of the day the Church has drawn up a special

prayer-form, an hour, as it is called, that corresponds to the

particular need of that time of the day. The day is like a journey

through an arid desert, but every three hours we come upon an oasis that

offers us the waters of grace and the cool refreshing shade of heavenly

assistance. Spiritually we may revive ourselves at the canonical hours

of prayer.




Lauds is a jubilant hour, fresh as the morning dew, perhaps the most

beautiful of all the hours. Its symbolism deserves attention. It is

night; nature and men are asleep. In the Far East the grey of dawn

appears; then the ruddy hue of morning, the harbinger of a new day,

spreads across the horizon, and the world of nature begins to stir. But

all this natural beauty is only a symbol and reminder of a most

wonderful event in the story of salvation. It was at this beautiful hour

that our Savior burst the bonds of death. Resurrection—that is the

background theme of Lauds. And the two pictures together, dawn and

resurrection, remind us of a third arising from slumber, the spiritual

awakening of the human soul.


There is, then, a threefold resurrection: nature awakens, the Savior

rises from the dead, the human soul celebrates its spiritual

resurrection. Such is the background to our prayer of Lauds. It is an

explicit song of praise; praise is the hour's central theme. If we can

get a feeling for these three pictures intermingling in our Lauds

prayer, if we can enter into the spirit of this threefold resurrection,

if we can enlist the forces of nature to pray and praise and exult along

with us while reciting this hour reasonably early in the morning,

perhaps even in the open air, then we are certain to be struck by the

full impact of its meaning.


Lauds is, actually, one of the most striking examples of what a proper

observance of the characteristic thought of an hour and the background

theme from the story of salvation can do for personal devotion. The

psalms at Lauds are all specially chosen hymns of praise.


Very frequently we find nature themes in the psalms. The thoughts of

Christ's resurrection occur mostly in the antiphons at Lauds, where

there is almost always an /Alleluia/. This feature we can observe

particularly in Sunday Lauds, Sunday being the liturgical commemoration

of the resurrection. The liturgical day and the liturgical hour of the

resurrection coincide, and the references to Easter Day are doubled and



The climax of Lauds is the Gospel song, the “Benedictus”. It is a hymn

in praise of man's redemption, a greeting to the dawning day of

salvation which is destined to be one more step toward its completion.

It is the Church who prays the Benedictus, taking Zachary's place.

Every day is a new coming of the Redeemer, and the Church greets her

Savior as the "Day-Spring from on high".




Prime is the Church's second morning prayer, quite different in tone

from Lauds. Lauds is the ideal morning prayer, a "resurrection song" of

all creation and of the Church. Prime is the morning prayer of a sinful

human, a subjective prayer. The basic theme of Prime is dedication of

and preparation for the day's labors and conflicts. This theme runs

through the whole hour.


There is no special reference to any chapter in the story of salvation.

Thus, the theme of the canonical hour, preparing for the day, assumes

the center of attention, and indeed to such an extent that even on feast

days, themes proper to the feast are generally suppressed at Prime. The

hymn at Prime enlists all our efforts and abilities in the service of

the Lord and arms us against imminent dangers—perfectly in harmony with

Prime's basic theme.


This hour also contains a rather lengthy invariable set of prayers that

form the real essence of the morning prayer. After the psalmody (singing

of the psalms) comes a conclusion which Prime has in common with the

other little hours (Terce, Sext and None): chapter, responsory,

versicle, prayer. The chapter "Unto the King eternal..." is an oath of

allegiance to him who is sovereign in God's kingdom. The Responsory is a

fervent plea for a realization of human weakness. The blind man of

Jericho is sitting along the road as Jesus passes by, shouting at the

top of his lungs. I am that blind beggar and the Lord is passing by this

very day.


The beautiful prayer which follows never changes. It contains all the

elements of a good morning prayer: thanks, petition, good intention,

preparation for the coming day, and particularly the touching plea to be

spared the guilt of sin throughout the day.




9 o'clock. The Church wants us to pause briefly during our day's

activity and raise our hearts to God; that is the purpose underlying the

little hours. They are a chance to catch our breath, an oasis in our

desert wanderings. It is important that we do not pray them all at once,

but whenever possible we should pray them at the corresponding hour of

the day as a renewed consecration of the day's work. The little hours

are short, because the day is for work.


The story of salvation has a role to play in Terce: it was the third

hour (9:00) when the Holy Ghost came down upon the young Christian

community on Pentecost Sunday (Pentecost Terce begins with the hymn Veni

Creator). Quite appropriately , the Church recalls this mystery in the

hour of Terce: Terce is thus the "first Confirmation", a strengthening

for the conflicts of the day. Is is a "Come, Holy Ghost" upon the day's

work. The hour's theme is invocation of the Holy Ghost. The hymns proper

to the little hours are a further development of the theme proper to

each, and to the corresponding time of day.




12:00 noon. Theme of the hour: The day's conflict is at its climax, the

heat of passion is at its strongest, the powers of hell have greater

influence over man, our lower nature seems to have gained mastery. Theme

from the story of salvation: the Savior is hanging on the Cross (12:00

to 3:00); hell is bringing all its forces to bear against him. This

scene from Good Friday is the background for Sext; foreground is the

battle against sin in us and in the Church. "Lead us not into

temptation" is the message of this hour.




3:00 to 6:00. This day of salvation is slowly beginning its decline. Our

thoughts are taken up with the end of life. Looking to my future I ask:

will I persevere? Perseverance is the hour's theme. There is no theme

from the story of salvation. At the most there is eschatological

shading—the last things.




Vespers, or Evensong, is the Church's evening prayer. It is very similar

to Lauds, both in construction and in basic theme. The Church looks back

on the day of salvation just passed with all its redeeming graces—and is

fervently grateful. Vespers is a thanksgiving prayer. Thanksgiving is

the principal theme: the “Magnificat” is the climax, the great

thanksgiving song of the Church. The canonical-hour theme is this:

thanks be to God for the day just passed, both in the soul and in the

Church, thanks for all his saving graces.




Compline is the Church's second evening prayer, and as opposed to

Vespers, it is a subjective and individual prayer for the sinful soul

who wants to make her peace with God. The hour is a masterpiece of

construction, the work of St. Benedict; we might call it the ideal night