What is the Divine Office?

Together with Mass (Eucharist), the other heartbeat of the Prayer of the Church is the daily pattern of regular short services of prayer (‘offices’), which together are known as the ‘Divine Office’ (or the ‘Liturgy of the Hours’).

Thus, the daily round of prayer sanctifies the day by marking each of its pivotal moments with prayer.

The Hours or Offices comprising the Divine Office

The day begins with the Office of Morning Prayer – Lauds – a name which means ‘praise’, because this Office is focussed on praising God for his creation, with which we are about to be blessed again, as the sun rises on a new day.

[Here at St Edmund’s our customary pattern is to combine the celebration of Lauds with the Office of Readings, which Office may in fact be celebrated at any time of day.]

Prayer During the Day – a short midday Office – is normally offered privately in this parish.  However, on the first Friday of each month at 12 noon, clergy and congregation members of St Edmund’s Parish Church and St Dominic’s Roman Catholic Church celebrate Prayer During the Day together, each church hosting alternately.

And as evening comes, the Church comes together again for Evening Prayer – Vespers – a name which simply means ‘evening’.

Finally, at the end of the day it is good to thank God for all the day has brought us, asking him to bring peace and healing where we have failed to and praying for his protection in our vulnerability which the darkness seems to bring to mind.

The day concludes with Night Prayer, the last ‘Office’ of the day – Compline – which means, appropriately, ‘completion’.  And it also has with it the hope that our last conscious thought will be of the love of God.

The Church’s Calendar

Each Church doesn’t just make up what Season or special Holy Day it wants to follow each day!  The Church follows, firstly, the Universal Calendar – the pattern of Seasons and special Holy Days and Saints’ Days which is observed by the whole Church everywhere throughout the world.  This is an important way of expressing the Unity of the Church.

But in addition to the Universal Calendar, each part of the world also has its own Local Calendar with Saints and festivals of special local significance.   This is an important way of expressing also the Faith of the Church within the locality of that particular place.