February 20, June 21, October 21
Chapter 17: How Many Psalms Are to Be Said at These Hours
We have already arranged the order of the psalmody
for the Night and Morning Offices;
let us now provide for the remaining Hours.
At Prime let three Psalms be said,
separately and not under one "Glory be to the Father."
The hymn of that Hour
is to follow the verse "Incline unto my aid, O God,"
before the Psalms begin.
Upon completion of the three Psalms
let one lesson be recited,
then a verse,
the "Lord, have mercy on us" and the concluding prayers.
The Offices of Terce, Sext and None
are to be celebrated in the same order,
the "Incline unto my aid, O God," the hymn proper to each Hour,
three Psalms, lesson and verse,
"Lord, have mercy on us" and concluding prayers.
If the community is a large one,
let the Psalms be sung with antiphons;
but if small,
let them be sung straight through.
Let the Psalms of the Vesper Office be limited to four,
After these Psalms the lesson is to be recited,
then the responsory, the hymn, the verse,
the canticle from the Gospel book,
the litany, the Lord's Prayer and the concluding prayers.
Let Compline be limited to the saying of three Psalms,
which are to be said straight through without antiphon,
and after them the hymn of that Hour,
one lesson, a verse, the "Lord, have mercy on us,"
the blessing and the concluding prayers.
Just as Lauds and Vespers are fraternal twins, at dawn and sunset, so
are Prime and Compline, before work and before bed. Both are somewhat
different from the other minor hours, but, like Lauds and Vespers,
they share a similarity and complementarity of sorts. Prime was
suppressed in the Roman rite, but not in the Monastic usage. Still,
in the reshuffling of things, Prime got lost in many, if not most
That's too bad, in a way. Just as Compline features many things that
prepare one for sleep or for the death it prefigures, always a
possibility, so Prime prepares one for the day at hand, for its work
and for life. The traditional time given for the celebration of Prime
was "before work."
Some older Oblate manuals used to offer the full text of Prime for
every day, with the other hour being the changeless Compline. That
made a great deal of sense. Many Oblates who could only dream
spending morning hours before work or school celebrating Matins and
Lauds could easily fit Prime into their schedule and its whole
liturgical slant was to prepare them for and bless their work day
One reason Prime became such a prayer for one's workday is that, over
centuries, the minor hour got merged with a lot of stuff that
ordinarily happened in the Chapter room daily: reading the Rule and
assigning work. Hence, some of its additions may not have been of the
purest type, but let us face it, we are an age that rarely insists on
purism, and chiefly only when it agrees with agendas we already are
bent on anyway.
Since these are easily added to any scheme of morning prayer you
might be using,let me give you the two prayers offered at the end of
Prime. Either or both are a great way to begin the day and quickly
memorized. Just remember, as you say them, to join your heart to the
thousands and thousands of monastics who said them every day before
you. They are a very neat connection to our past and to the saints of
our Order who have gone before us.
"Lord God Almighty, You have brought us to the beginning of this day.
Preserve us now by Your power so that in this day we may not fall
into any sin; rather, that all our words, thoughts and acts may be
always directed to doing Your justice. We ask this through Jesus
Christ our Lord. Amen."
"Lord God, King of heaven and earth, be pleased this day to direct
and sanctify, to rule and govern our hearts and bodies, our thoughts,
words and deeds according to Your law and in obedience to Your
commandments. Now and forever may we attain salvation and freedom by
Your help, O Savior of the world, Who lives and reigns forever and
Enjoy them and use them!
Love and prayers,
jeromeleo@... St. Mary's Monastery