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Definition of | Meaning of

Canonical Hours

Divine Office | Breviary

Liturgy of the Hours

Matins

Lauds

Prime

Terce

Sext

None

Vespers

Compline

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Definition: Canonical Hours / Divine Office

 

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As traditionally defined...

"CANONICAL HOURS, The. The eight offices which form the Divine Office; they are distributed throughout the day and four of them, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, are named after the hours at or near which they are recited." (Catholic Dictionary)

"DIVINE OFFICE, The, is the service of prayer and praise, psalms, lessons, hymns, etc., ancillary to and distinct from the sacrifice of the Mass, which all priests and certain other clerics are obliged to recite daily...which is said or sung in choir by monks, friars, many nuns and some others, and in which the laity are exhorted to take part according to their ability and opportunity..." (Catholic Dictionary)


ADDITIONAL INFORMATION CONCERNING THE EIGHT TRADITIONAL DIVISIONS OF THE DIVINE OFFICE...

1. Matins

"MATINS (Lat. Matutinum [tempus], the morning [time]). The principal and longest hour of the Divine Office, forming the night office thereof; it is usually joined to Lauds, whether said overnight or early in the morning. It begins with the invitatory and its psalm, followed by a hymn; then, if it is a feast of nine lessons, come the three nocturns: otherwise there are nine psalms followed by three lessons; if Lauds does not follow immediately, the office is concluded with a collect and versicles as usual. Te Deum is sung at the end of the 3rd nocturn on certain days, and in the Monastic Office the gospel of the day is here read. Matins is the most ancient of the offices and represents the Vigils service of primitive times." (Catholic Dictionary)

2. Lauds

"LAUDS (Lat., praises). The second hour of the Divine Office in the Latin rite, taking its name from Psalms 148, 149 and 150 which formerly always formed part of it and in which the word laudate ('praise ye...') often occurs. It is the office of dawn, but by those who recite it privately and in cathedral and collegiate churches it is generally said with Matins overnight; in monasteries it is sung at various hours of the early morning, immediately after Matins. It consists of four psalms and a canticle, with their antiphons, followed by a little chapter, hymn and versicle (all variable); then the Benedictus with its antiphon (sung with the same solemnity as Magnificat at Vespers); preces on certain days, collect of the day, commemorations (if any) and conclusion. It is followed by the antiphon of our Lady according to the season. There are two sets of psalms for each day of the week at Lauds; the second of these (Ad Laudes, II) is used in Lent and certain other penitential days. The aspect of morning prayer is clearly marked in the office, it sees in the rising sun a type of the Resurrection and seems veritably to shout praises to God." (Catholic Dictionary)

3. Prime

"PRIME. That portion of the Divine Office assigned to the first hour (prima hora), i.e., about 6 a.m., the approximate time of its recital in monastic churches. After the usual opening, it consists of an invariable hymn Jam lucis orto sidere, three psalms according to the day of the week or feast, little chapter, short responsory, preces on certain days, a variable short lesson and an invariable collect; then follows the reading of the Martyrology and Pretiosa which in monasteries takes place in the chapter-house. On Trinity and certain other Sundays the Athanasian Creed is said after the third-psalm in the Roman office. Prime is the morning prayer of the Western church, and the coming of a new day is particularly adverted to in the hymn and collect." (Catholic Dictionary)

4. Terce

"TERCE (Lat., tertia [hora], third [hour]). The hour of the Divine Office appointed to be said at the third hour, i.e., about 9 a.m. In cathedral and monastic churches it precedes the capitular or conventual Mass. It begins with the usual opening of the little hours and a hymn, Nunc, sancte nobis Spiritus, invariable except during the octave of Pentecost when Veni Creator is sung; three psalms according to the day of the week (on certain feasts the Sunday psalms are always said); variable little chapter and short responsory; collect of the day; and usual ending. The office commemorates the descent of the Holy Ghost on the Apostles (Acts ii, 15), to which direct reference is made in the hymn." (Catholic Dictionary)

5. Sext

"SEXT (Lat. sexta [hora], sixth [hour]). The hour of the Divine Office appointed to be said at the sixth hour, i.e., about midday [12 p.m./noon]. In practice it is said earlier and in churches where the office is sung in choir it usually follows the capitular or conventual Mass. It begins with Deus in adiutorium, etc., and an invariable hymn, Rector potens verax Deus; three psalms according to the days of the week (on certain feasts the Sunday psalms are always said); variable little chapter and short responsory; collect of the day; and usual ending." (Catholic Dictionary)

6. None

"NONE (Lat. nona [hora], ninth [hour]). The hour of the Divine Office appointed to be said at the ninth hour, i.e ., between noon and 3 p.m. In practice it is said earlier; in cathedral, collegiate and conventual churches it is sung with Sext after the community Mass, or after dinner. It begins with Deus in adiutorium, etc., and an invariable hymn, Rerum Deus tenax vigor; three psalms according to the day of the week (on certain feasts the Sunday psalms are always said); variable little chapter and short responsory; collect of the day; and usual ending. The office commemorates the death of our Lord, which took place at this time of day and to which reference is made in the hymn." (Catholic Dictionary)

7. Vespers

"VESPERS (Lat. vesper, eventide). The evening hour of the divine office and, with Lauds, the most solemn; it is the normal evening service in churches of the Latin rite and in monastic, cathedral and collegiate churches is sung daily between 3 and 6 p.m. It consists of five psalms with their antiphons varying according to the day of the week or feast (Ps. cix, cx, cxi, cxii and cxiii on Sundays), followed by a little chapter, hymn and versicle, all variable; then the canticle Magnificat with its antiphon; preces on certain days, collect of the day, commemorations (if any), and conclusion. The text of Vespers is sometimes modified by the occurrence or concurrence of feasts. To facilitate the use of this office in parish churches it is permitted always to sing the Vespers of the Blessed Sacrament or of our Lady or of any other appropriate feast, without reference to the office of the day, and it is now sometimes sung in the vernacular. Liturgically Vespers retains its characteristics as the great evening assembly, particularly in the ferial hymns, each of which refers, according to the day of the week, to the creation of the universe, light, animals, etc." (Catholic Dictionary)

8. Compline

"COMPLINE (Lat. Completorium, the completion). The last hour of the Divine Office. It consists of a short lesson, Paternoster and Confiteor, three psalms with their antiphon, the hymn Te lucis ante terminum, a little chapter and short responsory, the canticle Nunc dimittis, with its antiphon, followed on certain days by preces, lastly a collect and blessing. These are all invariable except that the psalms and their antiphon change each day of the week. In offices other than the Roman there are differences, e.g., Benedictine Compline is quite invariable and omits the canticle, the Dominican has variations in the hymn and antiphons, and so on. Compline is the night prayer of the Latin church and is concerned with sleep and waking, life and death, sin and grace." (Catholic Dictionary)


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