|ROME, 25 APRIL 2006 (ZENIT)
Answered by Father Edward McNamara,
professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.
Q: In religious houses of my order in the United States there is no
agreement on the position of the hymn when the Office of Readings and
Morning Prayer are combined as a single office. In some houses, the hymn
of Morning Prayer is sung immediately after the Invitatory, and then at
the end of the Office of Readings the psalmody of Morning Prayer begins
immediately. In other houses, the Invitatory is sung and the psalmody of
Office of Readings follows immediately without a hymn. The hymn of
Morning Prayer is then sung between the responsory of the last reading
in the Office of Readings and the psalmody of Morning Prayer. What is
the correct way to join these two offices?
A.T., Charlottesville, Virginia
A: Several readers, in fact, have sent in questions regarding the
joining of these two offices.
This question is discussed in No. 99 of the General Instruction of the
Liturgy of the Hours:
"If the Office of Readings is said immediately before another Hour of
the Office, then the appropriate hymn for that Hour may be sung at the
beginning of the Office of Readings. At the end of the Office of
Readings the prayer and conclusion are omitted, and in the Hour
following the introductory verse with the Glory to the Father is
It would appear, as our questioner says, that the "praeponi potest" (may
be sung at the beginning) here is taken by some liturgists to allow the
dropping of the Office of Readings hymn rather than its replacement by
the Morning Prayer hymn.
This procedure is incorrect. The clear sense of the norm is that the
hymn of Morning Prayer, often specific to the feast or at least more in
consonance with its general theme, may replace the hymn of the Office of
All of the offices open with a hymn, and so there is no liturgical
reason why there should be no hymn at the beginning of the Office of
All the same, the norm says "may," not "must," and thus, while a hymn at
the beginning of the Office of Readings may never be omitted, an
individual or a community could also opt to sing both hymns.
The hymn corresponding to the Office of Readings is sung at the
beginning of that office while the hymn corresponding to Morning Prayer
is sung immediately after the second responsory or Te Deum as the case
However, presuming that the hymn of Morning Prayer replaces that of the
Office of Readings at a combined office, the proper order would be:
"Lord open our lips ...";
Invitatory psalm with antiphon;
Morning Prayer hymn;
Office of Readings psalmody;
Versicle and response;
1st Reading; responsory;
2nd Reading; responsory;
Te Deum (on Sundays except during Lent; during the octaves of Christmas
and Easter; and on all solemnities and feasts);
Morning Prayer psalmody;
The Lord's Prayer;
The most appropriate moment for a homily, if one is given, appears to be
between the reading and short responsory of Morning Prayer. ZE06042521
* * *
Follow-up: Combining Office of Readings and Morning Prayer
A reader rightly reprimanded me for substituting "Lord open our lips"
rather than the correct "Lord open my lips" in our April 25 piece on
combining the Office of Readings and Morning prayer. The error was due
to a momentary "lapsus" at the keyboard with no ulterior motives or
hidden theological meanings.
Another reader asked: "Can one in praying the Office combine other hours
as the Office of Readings and Morning Prayer? Such as doing Midday
Prayer and Evening Prayer together?"
In principle, only the Office of Readings can be combined with another
office. However there may be cases when time constraints require the
celebration of one office immediately after another (for example,
Morning Prayer and Midday Prayer).
In this case the only difference is that after praying the first closing
prayer, one omits the usual conclusion of the first office and the
introductory verse and "Glory be" of the second office, and commences
with the hymn of the second office, which proceeds as normal.
Finally, a seminarian from Malta inquired: "Could you please tell me if
it is necessary to say the verse in italics that is usually printed
before each psalm during the celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours? As
I understood the General Order for the Liturgy of the Hours, in No. 114,
one may chose to say the verse instead of the antiphon during the year
when the office is not sung. But one should not say both, especially if
it is sung on feast days."
No. 111 explains these phrases: "[A] heading is put before each psalm to
indicate its meaning and importance in Christian life. These headings
are given in the divine office merely as an aid for the person saying
the psalms. To promote prayer in the light of the new revelation, a
phrase from the New Testament or Fathers is added as an invitation to
pray in a Christian way."
Thus, these phrases are above all a help in personalizing the prayer.
They are not usually recited aloud. However, as our seminarian points
out, No. 114 allows these verses to replace the antiphons during
Ordinary Time when the office is not sung. This possibility gives the
option of some variety during a period when the same antiphons are
This possibility may not be used on any occasion when the office is
sung, nor during the major liturgical seasons of Advent, Christmas, Lent
and Easter. Nor may it be used on feast days and those memorials of
saints when the office is celebrated using proper antiphons. ZE06050924