February 11, June 12, October 12
Chapter 9: How Many Psalms Are to Be Said at the Night Office
In winter time as defined above,
there is first this verse to be said three times:
"O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth shall declare Your praise."
To it is added Psalm 3 and the "Glory be to the Father,"
and after that Psalm 94 to be chanted with an antiphon
or even chanted simply.
Let the Ambrosian hymn follow next,
and then six Psalms with antiphons.
When these are finished and the verse said,
let the Abbot give a blessing;
then, all being seated on the benches,
let three lessons be read from the book on the lectern
by the brethren in their turns,
and after each lesson let a responsory be chanted.
Two of the responsories are to be said
without a "Glory be to the Father"
but after the third lesson
let the chanter say the "Glory be to the Father,"
and as soon as he begins it let all rise from their seats
out of honor and reverence to the Holy Trinity.
The books to be read at the Night Office
shall be those of divine authorship,
of both the Old and the New Testament,
and also the explanations of them which have been made
by well known and orthodox Catholic Fathers.
After these three lessons with their responsories
let the remaining six Psalms follow,
to be chanted with "Alleluia."
After these shall follow the lesson from the Apostle,
to be recited by heart,
and the petition of the litany, that is "Lord, have mercy on us."
And so let the Night Office come to an end.
There is an unfortunate and perennial heresy among would-be
liturgists, even some Benedictines, which holds that if it's long,
its good. Not so, and quite evidently not so to St. Benedict, either.
The order he prescribes for Vigils is almost exactly half the length
of the Roman cathedral Office of his time.
St. Benedict was very serious about monasticism, but he also wanted
to shorten the Office, which was obviously of central importance to
him. Why? I think he aimed, once again, at balance, at moderation and
at gentleness. His monastics were farmers, not wealthy cathedral
prelates with servants and benefices. They would have dropped rather
quickly from fatigue had he imposed the Roman Office of the time on
There is a great message of moderation here for Oblates. St. Benedict
knew perfectly well that if his monastics were too long at Matins and
Lauds, the cows would be bellowing in pain from distended udders,
waiting for the high church milkers to finally arrive. See the
operative principle here? The Office is PART of one's life, a
terribly important part, but ALL of one's work and life is prayer.
Figuratively speaking, if your life and primary vocation has left you
with cows to milk, for heavens sake (literally!) go milk 'em!
Our Office, for every monastic, from Abbot Primate down to newest
Oblate novice, must be a harmonious part of our life. We are not
called to the excesses of Cluny, whose monks were in choir most of
the time, adding ever more and more gee-gaws and trinkets to the
Office. If one's children or spouse or work calls one to do less,
answer that call. No one is called to be a choir athlete, at it all
the time. Do what you can and bless God for what you cannot! He knows
what He is about.
In long dealings with Oblates I have frequently heard this issue
raised: saying the whole Office. That is fine, and some lives,
notably single ones, might make it possible. Other lives, lives
founded on sacraments like marriage, might well not. Trying to amend
one's primary, sacramental vocation to be a monastic in the world
misses the point. That primary vocation is part and parcel of HOW one
becomes a monastic in the world. Tamper with it and you mess up the
Love and prayers,
jeromeleo@... St. Mary's Monastery