- Matins, Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers, and Compline are part of the Liturgy of the Hours. The Liturgy of the Hours (also known as the Divine Office or the Breviary) is included together with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the celebration of the Sacraments as part of the official public prayer (or liturgy) of the Church. This means that when we pray it, we unite ourselves with the very prayer of Christ and His Body, the Church!
Above: Adoration of the Holy Trinity, by Albrecht Durer – Even when the Liturgy is offered by a single person, as someone praying the Liturgy of the Hours by themselves, or a priest saying a private Mass, they are united with the whole universal Church.
The Liturgy of the Hours is often called the Divine Office or the Work of God because for clergy and religious, it is a sacred duty that they fulfill, taking up the praise of God on behalf of the world. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says: “The mystery of Christ, his Incarnation and Passover, which we celebrate in the Eucharist especially at the Sunday assembly, permeates and transfigures the time of each day, through the celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours, “the divine office.” This celebration, faithful to the apostolic exhortations to “pray constantly,” is “so devised that the whole course of the day and night is made holy by the praise of God.” In this “public prayer of the Church,” the faithful (clergy, religious, and lay people) exercise the royal priesthood of the baptized. Celebrated in “the form approved” by the Church, the Liturgy of the Hours “is truly the voice of the Bride herself addressed to her Bridegroom. It is the very prayer which Christ himself together with his Body addresses to the Father” (CCC 1174)
The Liturgy of the Hours traces its roots back even before the time of Christ! The origin of the Liturgy of the Hours is the scripturally-based Jewish custom of praying with the psalms, hymns, and scripture readings at different hours of the day. The early Christians continued this tradition. The psalms were both prayed by Christ and fulfilled by Christ. Christ even intoned a psalm on the Cross: “My God, My God, why have you abandoned me?” is the beginning of Psalm 22, which ends with the hope and the praise of God who hears the psalmist’s cry and to whom belongs kingship over the nations. By the time of St. Benedict, the Liturgy of the Hours had gradually developed into 8 offices daily in which the 150 psalms were prayed over the course of one week.
The Liturgy of the Hours is not just for priests and religious; it is also meant for laypeople! Here is an website with the prayers.
You can read an article about the history of the Liturgy of the Hours here, and you can read Church documents about the beautiful practice of the Liturgy of the Hours here. Here is one community of sisters chanting the Salve Regina as the closing hymn of Compline. Here is the entire office of Compline being sung!
“The beauty of putting nothing before Liturgy of the Hours is that it will create an inner attitude … so that wherever we join in praising and worshipping God, a little bit of heaven will become present on earth…” (Pope Benedict XVI).