The Liturgy of the Hours, part III – Where did the Liturgy of the Hours come from?

Where did the Divine Office come from?  Was it something that just happened?  Dropped from the sky like a meteor?  Something that the dolphins and dinosaurs did so we had decided to emulate?

Credit - Sustainable John

Credit – Sustainable John

In the psalms, we read, “Seven times a day I praise you” (Ps. 119:164), as well as, “the just man mediates on the law day and night” (Ps. 1:2).  Moreover, we remember in the Gospels and in the Acts of the Apostles that Jesus and the Twelve would oftentimes go to the Temple at certain times of the day.  According to this website, Christians continued to pray as a community throughout the day (See Acts 2:15, Acts 10:9; 10:3, 13).

As the centuries wore on, and the monastic communities arose after the Edict of Milan, the hermits would continue to gather to pray at key moments of the day.  This became what we Dominicans call the “Common Life”, praying together, commonly, for the praise of God.

We still use some of the ancient titles today, the third (terce), sixth (sext) and ninth (none) hour, more commonly known as Midmorning, Midday and Midafternoon prayer.

So without further ado, here are the proper names of the prayers throughout the day:


Name of Hour Term in Latin Notes Time prayed at St Dominic’s
Office of Readings Matins Traditionally, this hour was prayed in the middle of the night, well before sunrise.  Today, it may be prayed at any time of the day.  Nonetheless, many religious and lay faithful pray this hour immediately before Morning Prayer.  Offers a tone of the day, because it helps us meditate on the liturgical season, of the saint of the day. Monday through Friday, 7:15am with Morning Prayer
Morning Prayer Lauds Traditionally prayed at sunrise, this hour is prayed at the start of the day.  Lauds and Vespers make up the “major” hours of the day and are the hinge on which all the other hours rest. Monday through Friday at 7:15am with Office of Readings
Midmorning Prayer Terce The Midday hours are also called minor hours; the Dominicans friars are mandated to pray at least one of these three; the cloistered Dominican nuns pray all three.  
Midday Prayer Sext
Midafternoon Prayer None
Evening Prayer Vespers “Vespers” simply means evening.  This hour is prayed as the day transitions to night, traditionally as the sun sets and the evening star appears.  Lauds and Vespers make up the “major” hours of the day and are the hinge on which all the other hours rest. Sunday through Saturday at 5:00pm
Night Prayer Compline Perhaps the simplest yet most elegant of the hours, this hour is traditionally prayed immediately before going to bed.  It is in this hour that we reflect on the day God gave us, pray for His graces, and entrust our souls to Him and His providence.  It ends with a hymn to our Blessed Mother Mary. Sunday at 8:30pm,

Many times during the week at 9:00pm


clockIdeally, of course, the brothers would gather in the main Church for every hour. This is the beauty of the Novitiate.  The Novices gather for everything.  We senior friars join them when our ministerial schedule allows.  Though the senior friars must meet the demands of the entire Liturgy of the Hours, I myself have found myself praying midday and/or Compline on my own, in my cell.  A number of times, I have joined our Novice Brothers for midday and rosary, which usually happens inside the priory.

Moreover, we have a rather busy parish.  There are times where Compline is said inside the Priory, out of view from the parish community, in order to fulfill the demands of the ministry.

Holy Father Dominic, pray for us!


The Liturgy of the Hours, part III – Where did the Liturgy of the Hours come from? — 2 Comments

  1. Thank you for your ministry.

    If we truly wish to be Christians, we must love peace, we must make our own the cause of peace, we must meditate on the real meaning of peace, we must conform our minds to the thought of peace.

    Pope Paul VI

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