Liturgy and Prayer

Liturgy of the Hours

The Liturgy of the Hours, based on the psalms and prayed daily in the monastery, 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.

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

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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.)

About the Liturgical Seasons

Ordinary Time: The Wisdom of Routine

But the truth is that there is nothing ordinary—if by ordinary we mean inferior or less important—about a period such as this at all. This, on the other hand, is the extraordinary period of coming to see the world through the eyes of Jesus. It is the period when we determine how we ourselves will act from now on. It is the period of catechesis in the faith, of immersion in the Scriptures. It is the time when the implications of Easter and Christmas become most clear to us all. It is decision time: will we take Easter and Christmas seriously or not?

─Joan Chittister, OSB
The Liturgical Year: The Spiraling Adventure of the Spiritual Life


New Liturgy from A to Z topics are posted each Saturday.

Compline

Posted on June 15, 2019
sunset

It was five months after I was bitten by the Iconography bug that I travelled to Saint Benedict, Louisiana for a second workshop. A fellow iconographer lived in the area but what really clinched the deal for me was that I had been a Benedictine oblate for three years -- an oblate who was discerning a vowed future.

From the retreat center where the workshop took place it was a short walk to the abbey church. The monks there welcomed visitors and we were asked to join them in the choir stalls for Morning and Evening Prayer. I took a seat in the back, near the organ, and Brother Anselm was more than happy to show me how to navigate their Office books. We decided to attend Compline, the last Hour of the day. It was January so the walk would be in the dark.

At this point I had been praying the Liturgy of the Hours alone for about a dozen years so communal sung prayer was a real treat. The church was minimally lit for Compline, allowing the darkness of the outside to come in. The stillness during the periods of reflection was noticeable – even with all the people present and all the activity I suspected that I could have heard a pin drop. Near the end of prayer the monks and the assembly processed to the rear of the church, across the back, and then up a side aisle towards Mary, the Mother of God. There she was, hovering above us in all her glory, literally larger than life. Then suddenly, seemingly without prompting, the monks began singing: Salve Regina, mater miseri cordiae

When it was over the monks processed again and we followed them, out into the night. Each went their own way, and my friend and I moved in the direction of the retreat center. Neither one of us said a word until we arrived at its door. We then looked at each other, almost in disbelief, and said at the same time “WHAT was THAT?!?!” My response then, as it is today, “Angels. We heard angels singing”.

Beautiful, simply beautiful.

The purpose of Compline, also known as Night Prayer, is to consecrate the night hours to God. Historically, night has symbolized death and so with this prayer we can prepare for death by trusting our lives wholly to God. The psalms and Scripture readings of Compline all serve to strengthen our hope in the risen Christ and to help us rest with Him in peace. Short and simple, they were chosen to comfort those who are tired and weary.

Compline includes an Examination of Conscience, during which we can review our lives to see what needs to be made right, and the Canticle of Simeon. Also known as Nunc Dimittis, the first few words of Simeon’s response in Latin, this canticle is the traditional Gospel Canticle of Night Prayer -- just as Benedictus and Magnificat are for Morning and Evening Prayer respectively. It tells of Simeon, an upright and devout man, to whom the Holy Spirit revealed that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah. Simeon was on watch, posted by God, to await the arrival of Christ. The Spirit led him into the temple at the very time of Jesus’ presentation, where he took the Christ child in his arms and prayed the following:

Now you are dismissing your servant in peace,
according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel.

Every Christian awaits the return of Christ.

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

References:

  • Luke 2:25-32 (NSRV)
  • The School of Prayer: An Introduction to The Divine Office for All Christians by John Brook, 1992, Liturgical Press, pages 30-32 and 433-436
  • Nunc Dimittis sung here
  • For that view of Mary, albeit in the daylight, click here, it's the second photo from the top

A to Z Topics


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