This is a guide to help individuals start praying the Liturgy of the Hours with minimal confusion. Please don't regard these instructions as authoritative (like if you're under obligation to pray the Liturgy of the Hours or something). I don't have that much experience with the Liturgy of the Hours, but as a computer scientist I'm supposed to be good at writing instructions with mechanical precision! So I've tried to reformulate the official instructions as clearly as possible, with as few distracting options as possible. I hope it's helpful to someone.
The rules for figuring out the liturgical day are complicated—it might be easiest to refer to a precomputed calendar or a web page.
On a saint's day, you may see a rank indicated: solemnities are the most important, then feasts, and then memorials. If no rank is indicated, it's an optional memorial: you may use it or ignore it. (UK edition: if no rank is indicated, it's a feast.) Remember this rank; you will need it later. Memorials during Lent and Dec 17–31 (sometimes called commemorations) are done in a special way, if they are done at all. The simplest rule is: during Lent and Dec 17–31, ignore all memorials.
There are seven hours each day:
Sundays and solemnities have two Evening Prayers: Evening Prayer I on the day before and Evening Prayer II on the day itself. Similarly, there are two Night Prayers. Usually this means that the day before loses its Evening Prayer and Night Prayer:
|Office of Readings||Office of Readings|
|Morning Prayer||Morning Prayer|
|Daytime Prayers||Daytime Prayers|
|Evening Prayer I||Evening Prayer II|
|Night Prayer after Evening Prayer I||Night Prayer after Evening Prayer II|
|Invitatory||Office of Readings||Morning/Evening Prayer||Daytime Prayers||Night Prayer|
|*Lord, open my lips.
And my mouth will proclaim your praise.
|+God, come to my assistance.|
Lord, make haste to help me.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen. (Alleluia.)
|[The invitatory is always joined to the first hour.]||Hymn||Hymn||Hymn||Examination of conscience|
|(Te Deum)||+Gospel canticle||+Gospel canticle|
|Intercessions and Our Father|
|Concluding prayer||Concluding prayer||Concluding prayer||Concluding prayer|
|Let us praise the Lord.
And give him thanks.
|May the Lord bless us,
protect us from all evil
and bring us to everlasting life.
|Let us praise the Lord.
And give him thanks.
|May the all-powerful Lord grant us a restful night and a peaceful death.|
To join two columns together (the invitatory with the Office of Readings or Morning Prayer, or the Office of Readings with any other hour): remove the red portion from the first column and blue portion from the second, and join. Also, you need only sing one hymn in a sitting; move the hymn from the second hour to the first.
The general rule is that whatever the current week of the current season is, divide that by four and take the remainder: remainder 1 = week 1, etc., but remainder 0 = week IV. Count Ash Wednesday and the three days following as "week 0" of Lent, so use Psalter week IV. Similarly, if Christmas falls on Sunday, then the following Sunday you would use Psalter week II; but otherwise, the weekdays after Christmas are like "week 0" and the following Sunday would use Psalter week I.
These sections can be thought of like layers of a cake:
|Proper of Saints|
|Proper of Seasons|
These occur in many places, and always have the same form:
Often a psalm has a title and a quote in front of it. Look at them, but don't read them out loud. The psalm-prayers are supplemental; you don't need to say them, and I don't know where to insert them.
Often during Daytime Prayer there is only one antiphon given for all three psalms. Then it would seem the most consistent thing to do is:
The responsories have a few different forms. The most common one (at Morning/Evening/Night Prayer) looks like this:
A, B(UK edition: there is a single response, not split into A and B). In individual recitation, you don't have to repeat so much. For example, you could leave out the responses A, B after the first time.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit:
The intercessions always have the following form:
V: R(UK edition: the versicles are not split into A and B.) You don't have to repeat the R each time.
Sometimes the ending of the prayer is not written out, but says something like, "We ask this...." At Morning/Evening Prayer and the Office of Readings, the rest is:
...through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,At Daytime/Night Prayer, the rest is just:
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
...through Christ our Lord.
|Season||Latin name||English name|
|Advent to Presentation||Alma Redemptoris Mater||Loving mother of the Redeemer|
|After Presentation to Holy Saturday||Ave Regina Caelorum||Hail, O Queen of heaven|
|Easter to Pentecost||Regina Caeli||Queen of heaven, rejoice|
|After Pentecost to before Advent||Salve Regina||Hail, holy Queen|
Some editions don't have Ave Regina Caelorum. Here it is:
Hail, O Queen of Heav'n enthroned,
Hail, by angels Mistress owned,
Root of Jesse, Gate of morn,
Whence the world's true light was born.
Glorious Virgin, joy to thee,
Loveliest whom in Heaven they see,
Fairest thou where all are fair!
Plead with Christ our sins to spare.