Ending the Morning and Evening Prayer

Author: Father Edward McNamara


Ending the Morning and Evening Prayer


Answered by Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q: We are a community of religious who have perpetual adoration and who pray morning prayer and evening prayer together. Morning prayer is followed by the celebration of the Eucharist, and evening prayer is often followed by Benediction. Often our chaplain is present for the morning prayer and evening prayer and prays the concluding prayer. Is this reserved for the priest when he is present, and if so, what is the blessing that he prays after the concluding prayer? Our chaplain prays: "Let us bless the Lord," to which the assembly replies: "Thanks be to God." The other blessing — "May the Lord bless us and keep us from all evil and lead us to everlasting life" — seems more complete, yet I see in the breviary that there is a dialogical form for the priest and the assembly. I would be grateful for some clarity regarding the correct way to end the prayer of the Church when prayed in common. — L.R., Dublin, Ireland

A: The situation described by our reader would explain the actions of the priest, which appear quite correct.

First of all, he should pray the closing prayer as this is a presidential prayer and should be prayed by the priest (see No. 197 of the General Introduction). The priest should also open the office with the corresponding invocation, either "Lord, open our lips," if the invitatory psalm is prayed, or "O God, come to our aid," before morning prayer and evening prayer.

He probably omits the blessing after morning prayer because Mass is about to begin, and it concludes with a blessing and dismissal.

The blessing is omitted after the concluding prayer of evening prayer because blessings are never imparted in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament exposed as it is in the present case. Thus there would be no blessing even if Benediction did not take place immediately after vespers.

In the cases described above, there would be no concluding formula at all if the office is immediately followed by either Mass or Benediction. Therefore the question as to the correct conclusion would be moot.

If Benediction does not follow immediately, but the Blessed Sacrament is still exposed, then the correct conclusion would be: "The Lord bless us, and keep us from all evil, and bring us to everlasting life." To which all respond, "Amen," since this is not properly speaking a blessing but an invocation.

If the Blessed Sacrament is reserved before the office begins, then the priest should bless and dismiss the assembly as usual, using either the formula proposed in the breviary or, if vespers are celebrated with solemnity, one of the solemn blessings taken from the missal.

The formula "Let us praise the Lord" and the response "Thanks be to God" are not used for morning prayer and evening prayer but for the office of readings and the prayer during the day. ZE07031328

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Follow-up: Ending the Morning and Evening Prayer [3-27-2007]

After our March 13 column on morning and evening prayer, a reader from Honduras asked: "Regarding morning/evening prayer during holy Mass: Does either M/E prayer begin immediately after the sign of the cross or after the penitential rite? Does not the M/E prayer supplant the penitential rite? Do the rubrics for M/E prayer during holy Mass oblige everyone or can the bishop 'do whatever he wants'?"

When either morning or evening prayer is joined to Mass it may begin in one of two ways. Nos. 93-94 of the introduction to the Liturgy of the Hours outlines the procedure. While these rubrics allow for some flexibility, as universal law they oblige everybody including bishops:

"93. In particular cases, if circumstances require, it is possible to link an hour more closely with Mass when there is a celebration of the liturgy of the hours in public or in common, according to the norms that follow, provided the Mass and the hour belong to one and the same office. Care must be taken, however, that this does not result in harm to pastoral work, especially on Sundays.

"94. When morning prayer, celebrated in choir or in common, comes immediately before Mass, the whole celebration may begin either with the introductory verse and hymn of morning prayer, especially on weekdays, or with the entrance song, procession, and celebrant's greeting, especially on Sundays and holydays; one of the introductory rites is thus omitted.

"The psalmody of morning prayer follows as usual, up to, but excluding, the reading. After the psalmody the penitential rite is omitted and, as circumstances suggest, the Kyrie; the Gloria then follows, if required by the rubrics, and the celebrant says the opening prayer of the Mass. The liturgy of the word follows as usual.

"The general intercessions are made in the place and form customary at Mass. But on weekdays, at Mass in the morning, the intercessions of morning prayer may replace the daily form of the general intercessions at Mass.

"After the communion with its communion song the Canticle of Zechariah, Blessed be the Lord, with its antiphon from morning prayer, is sung. Then follow the prayer after communion and the rest as usual."

No. 96 indicates that vespers are joined with Mass in the same manner. Thus whenever one of these offices is joined to Mass the penitential rite is omitted. While the "Lord have mercy" may be omitted it is probably better to sing or recite it.

As No. 93 states, joining the office with Mass is for "particular cases when circumstances require"; it is not foreseen as a daily practice, especially in a parish setting. In this case it is probably better to celebrate both rites separately, omitting only the final blessing and dismissal at the end of the Divine Office.

Another reader, from Oregon, asked: "1) Please, could you explain why the Divine Office used in America is different from that used in other English-speaking [areas]. This may help us understand why there are prayers at the end of every psalm in the American version while in others, including the Latin original, there are no psalm prayers. 2) Please, could you also explain how any of the hours could be combined with Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament?"

Since questions of liturgical translation depend on each national episcopal conference, the U.S. bishops decided that they wanted their own translation of the Divine Office. As a result, there are two English-language versions: the four-volume U.S. version and the three-volume version for the rest of the world.

Those who are obliged to pray the Divine Office should normally use the official version for their country. Those who are not obliged, or any English speaker who lives in a non-English-speaking country, may choose either version.

All the same, as the complete breviary is a hefty investment, a priest who, for example, moves to the United States from another country, could continue to use the other English version, or pray the office in his native language or in Latin.

In these cases he should follow the local calendar regarding particular solemnities and feasts, and, as far as possible, particular memorials of saints. This may be done either by borrowing a local breviary for texts that only exist in that version, or using the texts found in the common.

I find that the American version of the English-language breviary is more user-friendly and more up-to-date with the celebrations of the new saints. The other English version has not been updated since the first edition in 1973 but is, in my opinion, a far better translation.

The psalm prayers are mentioned in No. 112 of the introduction: "Psalm-prayers for each psalm are given in the supplement to The Liturgy of the Hours as an aid to understanding them in a predominantly Christian way. An ancient tradition provides a model for their use: after the psalm a period of silence is observed, then the prayer gives a resume and resolution of the thoughts and aspirations of those praying the psalms."

The American editors decided to incorporate the psalm prayers found in the separate supplement into the text of the four-week cycle of psalms. These psalm prayers are always optional and may be omitted. When they are prayed, however, the norms are not clear if the prayer is recited before or after the repetition of the antiphon, as repeating the antiphon is also optional. Either way is probably legitimate.

The Liturgy of the Hours may be prayed before the Blessed Sacrament exposed, but there is no specific ritual that links the two practices into a single rite.

Monsignor Peter Elliott in his "Ceremonies of the Modern Roman Rite" describes the process with characteristic clarity:

"681. The Liturgy of the Hours, especially Lauds or Vespers, may be celebrated before the Blessed Sacrament exposed. In this case, the celebrant goes to the chair to commence the office, described below in Chapter 12. During the incensation of the altar, the celebrant and deacon(s) genuflect together whenever passing the monstrance. The copes, dalmatics and stoles should be of the color of the day or season, but the humeral veil is white.

"743. Vespers or Lauds may also be celebrated before the Blessed Sacrament exposed, as indicated in the previous chapter. Unless exposition has already commenced some time before the celebration of the hour, the procession enters, all kneel and the Host is exposed by an assistant deacon or priest. A eucharistic hymn is sung, and incense is offered as usual. Having reverenced the Blessed Sacrament, the celebrant then goes to the chair and commences the office.

"744. At the Magnificat, having prepared incense at the chair, the celebrant and assistants come before the altar, genuflect and kneel while the celebrant incenses the Eucharist. They rise, go up to the altar, genuflect and continue the incensation as usual, and they genuflect together whenever they pass the monstrance.

"745. Clergy and servers should take care not to turn their backs to the monstrance and to maintain a spirit of decorum and prayerful recollection appropriate to the occasion. The final intercessions of Vespers may be made standing before the altar. The final blessing and dismissal are omitted. The eucharistic hymn and incensation of the Host, the prayer and Benediction follow, as described in the previous chapter. Reposition may take place as usual, unless exposition is to continue beyond this liturgical celebration." ZE07032727

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