Liturgy and Prayer

Liturgy of the Hours

“Nothing is to be preferred to the Opus Dei, the Work of God” (Rule of Benedict Ch. 43). For Benedictine monastics this is the Liturgy of the Hours, a prayer form that is central to the life of the community and prayed three times a day. Based on the psalms, it is a means for God to be praised, a vehicle for the needs of all people in every part of the world to be remembered, and an opportunity for members to be shaped and changed.

Liturgy and Prayer Schedule

Sunday Liturgy: 9:30 a.m.
Morning Praise: 6:30 a.m. weekdays; 8:30 a.m. weekends
Evening Praise: 5:30 p.m.
(During Lent and Advent, Saturday Vigil is at 7:00 p.m.)

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Why we read from the Rule of Benedict

The Rule of Benedict is a spiritual guide, rare by virtue of its ancient origins, valued for its continuing meaningfulness in every century since. It is wisdom literature. It stresses the need and nature of real community. It brings the rhythm and ointment of prayer. The Rule brings a life based on the equality and reverence that a world in search of peace requires. — The Rule of Benedict: A Spirituality for the 21st Century by Joan Chittister, OSB

Read from Chapter 63:
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New Liturgy from A to Z topics are posted each Monday.

Ready, Set ... O Antiphons!

Posted on December 17, 2018
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An antiphon is a part of liturgy: a short sentence or verse, usually from Scripture, recited or sung before and after a canticle or psalm. There is a special collection of antiphons that appear only during the last days of Advent as they express longing and anticipation of what is to come, that this season of waiting will soon end with the coming of the Messiah. God is near!

These seven antiphons refer to the Messiah, using titles found in Scripture. As a group they are known as the “O Antiphons” simply because each begins with “O”. While praying the Liturgy of the Hours between December 17 and 23, specifically during Evening Praise, they surround the Magnificat (the Canticle of Mary). Since Vatican II they have also been used as the Gospel Acclamation during the Mass on those days. An ordered list follows.

Date Latin English
December 17 O Sapientia O Wisdom
December 18 O Adonai O Adonai (Hebrew for God)
December 19 O Radix Jesse O Root of Jesse
December 20 O Clavis David O Key of David
December 21 O Oriens O Dayspring
December 22 O Rex Gentium O Ruler of Nations
December 23 O Emmanuel O Emmanuel (God With Us)

Note the first letter of each antiphon’s name in Latin. When these letters are recorded in reverse order two Latin words are formed, ERO CRAS, which translates to “Tomorrow, I will come.” Indeed, God is near!

These antiphons were incorporated into a song, initially written in Latin and titled Veni Veni Emmanuel. It was popular in Germany in the early 18th century and then translated into English in the mid-19th century, when it became known as O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.

We have a story of our own about setting the O antiphons to music. Around the year 2000 our Sister Helen Heher was working in the infirmary at the Mount as a Recreation Therapist. One of her charges was Sister Mary David Callahan who, at the time, was in her late 70’s. Sister Mary David, an accomplished musician and prolific composer, wanted to write music for the O antiphons and asked Sister Helen to accompany her to the chapel. They sat together at the organ for many sessions where, as Sister Helen remembers, “Sister Mary David tried to find the music in her mind and then the words she wanted. This (finding the words) is where I could help her as a therapist and a friend.” When the CD was released Sister Helen was surprised to see that Sister Mary David had credited her as the lyricist. As Sister Helen explained it, “I was aghast when I saw my name on the cover of the O Antiphons CD. It was just happenstance that I sat with her while she was composing … me, a non-musical person.”

Please enjoy the fruits of their labor, audio files from the CD O Antiphons, recorded by the Benedictine Sisters of Erie Schola in 2003 (links above).

Let nothing be preferred to the Work of God – Rule of Benedict 43:3

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Sister Karen Oprenchok, author of Liturgy from A to Z posts, is a scholastic in initial monastic formation.