Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The "Ideal" Monastic Horarium

The eight canonical hours, or services of prayer throughout the day, are underlined.
This schedule varied by the time of year and by the exigencies of each community, and depended on the nature of the rule, esp. whether Benedictine or Augustinian in origin.
5 a.m. NOCTURNS or VIGILS* (5 a.m., or early enough to be done by 6)

6 a.m. LAUDS
followed by private masses or time for meditation

7 a.m. PRIME. followed by the Chapter, then the Chapter mass, attended in particular by the those attached to the community who were not bound to the choir office, e.g. "conversi" (lay brothers not bound to the full office in choir), "servants", and locals before their work day began. Members of the community who were not communicating at the Conventual mass then breakfasted. This was a light meal, sometimes eaten standing


9 a.m. TERCE immediately followed by the
Conventual Mass (in more active communities, the conventual mass might only occur on major feasts without labor).

12 Noon SEXT followed by PRANDIUM (i.e., Dinner, or Lunch, the main meal of the day).

SOMNIUM or nap, 30 min, or an hour, depending on community. Spiritual reading was allowed for those who were not sleepy.
An hour of exercise was here sometimes inserted, especially for those who engaged in sedentary labor. Some of this exercise was required to be done outside.


3 p.m. NONE


6 p.m. VESPERS followed by
CENA or Supper, a light meal

After Supper is sometimes inserted a Spiritual conference, an hour for recreation, or time for reading.



Nocturns or Vigils is now usually called "Matins" of "Mattins", which originally referred to a combined service of Nocturns, Lauds, and sometimes also Prime. This was also celebrated at midnight in some places, and in others on certain great days like Christmas. Where Nocturns was celebrated at Midnight, Lauds was sometimes celebrated at 3 a.m.
The day was generally spent in silence, except for times of recreation or exercise, and for necessary communication during work hours. Monastics lived and worked in a Cloister, an enclosed space from which members of the opposite sex, and seculars generally, were excluded.

Certain principles underlay the structure of the hours: (1) Psalms, prayers, and readings appropriate to the time of day and the liturgical calendar, (2) the praying of the whole psalter throughout the week (usually modified to omit those portions of the weekly psalter occurring on major feasts, which had their proper psalmody), and (3) the reading of most of Scripture throughout the year.  Of these principles, it is the third which was most quickly obscured by changes in the office.

Parishes prior to the prior to Reformation (and continuing in some countries until the disturbances of the French Revolution, with the notable exception of the Jesuits), celebrated Mattins (including Lauds and Prime), Mass, and Vespers publicly, the other canonical hours being usually prayed by the clergy in private.

In the Anglican Church, with the first book of Common Prayer, Nocturns, Lauds, and Prime were combined and abbreviated to form Morning Prayer (Mattin), and Vespers and Compline to form Evening Prayer (Evensong). The obligation for curates and canons to celebrate these publicly in their own churches has been retained (up through and including the 1979 BCP in the U.S., for instance) although it is now quite widely ignored.

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