|All three names refer to the same
reality, the official prayer of the Church offered at various
times of the day in order to sanctify it. Clergy and religious have
a canonical obligation to pray the Liturgy of the Hours as official
representatives of the Church. Increasingly, the laity are also
praying it, though they do not do so in the name of the Church.
Liturgy of the Hours - From liturgia horarium
(L) and the Greek litourgia, a service performed
by an official.
Divine Office - From officium divina ( L.), a divine service or duty.
Breviary - From breviarium (L.), a compendium (of the canonical hours).
The Divine Office is also called the Opus dei (Work of
The Divine Office owes its remote origin to the inspiration of the Old
Covenant. God commanded the Aaronic priests (c.1280 BC) to offer a
morning and evening sacrifice (Ex. 29:38-29). During the Babylonian Exile
(587-521 BC), when the Temple did not exist, the synagogue services of
Torah readings and psalms and hymns developed as a substitute for
the bloody sacrifices of the Temple, a
of praise. The inspiration to do this may have been fulfillment of David's words,
"Seven times a day I praise you" (Ps. 119:164), as well as,
"the just man mediates on the law day and night" (Ps.
After the people returned to Judea, and the Temple was re-built, the
prayer services developed in Babylon for the local assemblies (synagogues) of the
people were brought into Temple use, as well. We know that in addition
to Morning and Evening Prayer to accompany the sacrifices, there was
prayer at the Third, Sixth and Ninth Hours of the day. The Acts of the Apostles
notes that Christians continued to pray at these hours (Third: Acts 2:15;
Sixth: Acts 10:9; 10: 3, 13). And, although the Apostles no longer shared
in the Temple sacrifices—they had its fulfillment in the "breaking
of the bread" (the Eucharist)—they continued to frequent the Temple at the
customary hours of
prayer (Acts 3:1).
Monastic and eremitical (hermit) practice as it developed in the early
Church recognized in the Psalms the perfect form of prayer and did not try
to improve upon it. The practices were quite individual from monastery to monastery.
At first some tried to do the entire Psalter (150 Psalms) each day, but
eventually that was abandoned for a weekly cycle built around certain
hours of the day. Among the earliest Psalter cycles of which we have a
record is the division given by St. Benedict in his
ch. 8-19 (c.550), with
canonical hours of Lauds (Morning Prayer) offered at sunrise, Prime (1st hour
of the day), Terce (3rd hour,
or Mid-morning), Sext (6th hour or Midday), None (9th hour or Mid-Afternoon),
Vespers (Evening Prayer) offered at sunset, and Compline (Night
Prayer) before going to bed. In addition, the monks
arose to read and pray during the Night. This Office of Matins (Readings) likewise
had its divisions, into nocturnes, corresponding to the beginning of each
of the "watches of the night" (Ps. 63:6), that is, 9 pm,
midnight and 3 am. With the reforms of the Second Vatican
Council the traditional one-week Psalter cycle became a four-week
Although the Divine Office has gone through various forms, and reforms,
including that of Vatican II, its basic structure, combining
Psalms, prayers, canticles and readings, has been relatively constant since
the 11th century. Originally the practice of monks, it was also used by the
canons of cathedrals and other great churches. The Roman Breviary, perhaps
as old or even older than the Benedictine, was originally the
Office of the canons of St. Peters and the other Roman Basilicas. Pope
Innocent III (1198-1216) extended its use to the Roman Court
the Franciscan Order was looking for a convenient one volume Office
for its much-traveled friars to use, it adopted this Breviarium
Curiae, but substituting the Gallican (French) Psalter for the Roman.
This modified Roman Breviary was then spread throughout Europe by the
Franciscans. Pope Nicholas III (c.1270) would then adopt this popularized Franciscan version of the Breviary as the Breviary of Rome itself.
After the Council Trent, and its reforms, the
Roman Breviary became the Office of the entire Latin Church. It should
be noted that religious orders have a right to their own version, though
many simply use the Roman Office.
Full Versions of the Roman Breviary
Liturgia Horarium, editio typica altera (Libreria Editrice
Vaticana, 1985). This is the official Latin text, in 4 volumes, and is
lawful throughout the Latin Rite.
Liturgy of the Hours, approved for use in the United States,
Canada, South Africa and most English-speaking countries. US edition is
published in 4 volumes by Catholic Book Publishing Co, NYC, NY.
The 4 volumes correspond to the liturgical seasons
(Advent/Christmas, Ordinary Time 1-17, Lent/Easter, Ordinary Time
18-34) and can be purchased individually or as a set.
Divine Office, approved for use in Australia, England,
Wales, Ireland and Scotland, Gambia, Ghana, India, Kenya, Liberia,
Malaysia, Singapore, new Zealand, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Tanzania,
Uganda and Zimbabwe. Published in 3 volumes by Harper Collins Publishers, London,
a one-volume edition of the Liturgy of the Hours (Catholic
Book Pub.). This version contains the complete texts of Morning and
Evening Prayer for the entire year. It lacks the variety of proper readings and prayers found in the four volume
edition. However, it makes a good "starter edition" for the laity,
and generally is adequate for following along in community
recitation of the Office. There is also a large print edition for
the visually impaired.
Shorter Christian Prayer (Catholic Book Pub.) contains
Morning and Evening Prayer from the Four-Week Psalter and selected
texts for the Seasons and Major Feasts of the year. This is a
vademecum (carry with me) for those who only need the basics. There
is also a large print edition for the visually impaired.
Shorter Morning and Evening Prayer (Liturgical Press), a
vademecum of the Collins Divine Office, approved for use in
Australia, England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland, Gambia, Ghana,
India, Kenya, Liberia, Malaysia, Singapore, new Zealand, Nigeria,
Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe.
The first volume of the multi-volume sets contain the norms for
the Divine Office called the
Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours.
The Various Hours and their Names
|Hour of the Day
|During the Night
|First Hour of the Day
|Third Hour of the Day
|Sixth Hour of the Day
|Ninth Hour of the Day
|As evening approaches
The Rites within the Hours
|Morning & Evening
- Invitatory Antiphon
- Psalm Antiphon
- Invitatory Psalm
- Psalm Antiphon
Said only before the first Hour
recited each day
|Opening Antiphon &
|Examination of Conscience
- Psalm or Canticle
- Psalm Prayer (US edition)
(pattern repeated 1-3 times)
||1 or 2
|Antiphon (before the Readings)
|Te Deum & optional Responsorial
Sign of the Cross
normal way unless indicated
1. Invitatory. At the words: Lord, open my lips. Made
with right thumb on the lips.
2. Opening Antiphon (unless preceded by the Invitatory). At
the words: God, come to my assistance.
3. Gospel Canticles (Morning and Evening Prayer). Made on
first verse of the Canticle (Blessed be the Lord ..., or, My
soul magnifies the Lord ...).
4. Dismissal. Either when the blessing is given by a priest
or deacon, or, when lead by a lay person, at the words: May
the Lord bless us...
The liturgical bow for the Names of the Persons of the
Trinity (an incline of the upper body of about 30 degrees) is
given throughout the Liturgy of the Hours when called for
(Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy
The bow of the head at the name of Jesus.
Postures During the Liturgy of the Hours
There is some variety upon the common pattern. Some communities,
for example, stand for the antiphons and doxology during the
Psalter, even when they sit for the Psalms themselves. The general
Stand - Invitatory, Opening Antiphon, Psalm and
Sit - Psalmody, Reading, Responsory
Stand - After the Responsory until the end
The core of the Office is the 4 week cycle of the Psalter - Sunday Week 1, Monday Week 2,etc.,
through Saturday Week 4. The Psalter is found in the middle of each volume, dividing the
Propers in the front, from the Saints and Commons in the back.
If you know the liturgical season, and the current week of that
season, you can find the Proper and Psalter texts. The following is
a typical example.
Friday of the 18th Week in Ordinary Time:
Proper Readings and Prayer - starting from the front of the
volume, go to the 18th Week and then Friday of that week.
Psalter - In the Proper, Sunday of the 18th Week will
indicate that it is the 2nd week of the Psalter cycle, or
calculate yourself. 18/4=4 plus a remainder of 2. It is Week 2
So, the core of the office is what is given for Friday Week 2 of the Psalter. Around this core is wrapped any special material which accrues to Friday of the 18th week, which can be found in the
Proper at the front of the breviary.
The ordinary texts used for all the Offices can be found at the
beginning of the Psalter, before Sunday of Week 1.
On a saint's feast day the special prayers and texts are found in the saints' section behind the Psalter. This section is usually the minimum necessary, that is, only what pertains uniquely to that saint. This unique material (e.g. St. Dominic) is then combined with general saint material from the Commons, depending on the category of saint (e.g for Dominic, Common of Pastors, or, Common of Religious).
Finally, for the US, Catholic Book Publishing Company publishes annually
the St. Joseph's Guide to the Office for the upcoming liturgical year. It gives the page numbers in the 4 volume Liturgy of the Hours for every part of every office on every day of liturgical calendar. It is highly recommended for novices. They also publish a
guide for the one volume condensed version of the Office,