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Lesson Five: Lauds -- The First "Twin"

The Structure of Lauds

        The structural outline of Lauds is as follows, with material not always said in brackets:

-   [Prayer Before the Office (A Section)];
-   The Dual Prayer (Our Father and Hail Mary) (A Section);
-   The Opening Versicles (A Section);
-   Five Psalms, with their antiphons (usually taken from the weekly Psalter, but may come from the Proper or Common);
-   The Chapter;
-   The Hymn;
-   The Benedictus (A Section) with its antiphon;
-   [The Preces, said only on penitential days (A Section);]
-   The Salutation, Bidding, and Collect of the Day;
-   Commemorations, including the Common Commemoration;
-   The Closing Versicles (A Section);
-   The final Our Father, with its versicle and response;
-   The Seasonal Marian Antiphon.

A Closer Look at the Elements of Lauds

The introductory prayers and versicles of Lauds are self explanatory.  The following elements, however, are changeable, and thus a bit more challenging.

The Psalms

Lauds will always have five, and only five, Psalms.  The rule governing from where the Psalms come is treated in Lesson Four: "Accidental" and "Essential" Parts of the Office.  To recap:

If the Proper of the day (whether in the C Section or E Section) gives its own Psalms, or directs the reader to a particular Common (as in "All from Common 17") or to a particular day (as in "Psalms of Sunday"), follow the Proper.

If the Proper gives neither Psalms nor direction, the Psalms with their antiphons are taken from the weekly Psalter.  The antiphons are said by half or in full depending on the rite of the Office.

The Chapter

The Chapter is a short scriptural reading following the Psalms.  The Chapter is always followed by "Thanks be to God" unless the Breviary specifically directs that this not be said.

If the Proper of the day (whether in the C Section or E Section) sets forth a Chapter, or directs the reader to a particular Common (as in "All from Common 17"), follow the Proper.  [If the reader is detecting a pattern that the Proper controls above all else, he or she is correct!]

If the Proper give no direction, but the day is a feast, use the Chapter from the appropriate Common (i.e., Common 5 for a Martyr, Common 9 for a Confessor, etc.).

If the Proper gives no direction, but the day is a feria, the Chapter is taken from the weekly Psalter, except in Advent, Lent, Passiontide and Eastertide, when the Ordinary (A Section) gives a Chapter.

The Hymn

The Hymn, with its versicle and response, follows the Chapter.  The Hymn is to be found in the same location as the Chapter.


After the Hymn is said the canticle Benedictus, found in the Ordinary of Lauds in the A Section.  The Benedictus has its own antiphon, which is said by half or in full depending on the rite of the Office.


The canticle, like every Psalm, is followed by the Gloria Patri.  Thus, the reader should say the antiphon, followed by the canticle, then the Gloria Patri, and then the antiphon again.

The antiphon is taken from the Proper of the day, if it gives an antiphon, or directs the reader to a particular Common.

If the Proper gives no direction, use the antiphon from the appropriate Common on a feast, or that from the weekly Psalter on a feria.


The Preces

The Preces are a set of suffrages said only on penitential days, in accordance with the rubric on page A24.  As such, they are usually omitted. [NOTE: One not in Holy Orders never says, "The Lord be with you, etc." Instead, he or she replaces it with, V. O Lord, hear my prayer.  R. And let my cry come unto thee.]

The Salutation, Bidding, and Collect of the Day

After the Preces, or the antiphon on the Benedictus if the Preces have been omitted, is said the Salutation.

One in Holy Orders says: V. The Lord be with you.  R. And with thy spirit.  A layman says: V. O Lord, hear my prayer.  R. And let my cry come unto thee.

The Salutation is followed by the Bidding: Let us pray.

The Collect of the Day is then said, using the appropriate Trinitarian ending on page A6.  The Collect is found in the Proper of the day.  On feriae, the Collect is that of the preceding Sunday.

The Commemorations

Following the Collect of the Day are said the commemorations of any occurring lesser feasts or observances.  Commemoration will be treated in another lesson, and due to its complexity, at this point the reader should omit commemorations.

 However, in Offices of simple or semidouble rite, the appropriate Common Commemoration is said after the Collect of the Day.  The Common Commemorations are found on pages A6-A7.

The Closing Versicles and Final Prayers

The Office concludes with the Closing Versicles, final Our Father, versicle and response, and seasonal Marian Antiphon, found on pages A7-A10.

Closing Remarks

Lauds is one of the Major Hours.  Due to this fact, it is a complex Office.  However, with time, patience and regular recitation, it will cease being complex and instead become rich -- Rich with meaning, devotional content, and grace.  The reader should concentrate on reciting Lauds on a regular basis for at least two months before moving on to another office.  The principles at work in Lauds, including the interplay between the Proper, Common, and weekly Psalter, as well as the rites of the Office, will recur in virtually every other Hour of the Divine Office.  Failure to be secure in how these operations take place in Lauds will only negatively affect the reader's ability to learn other offices and cause frustration.  Rest assured that with Lauds and Compline, a morning office and a night office, the reader is fully participating in the worship of the Church, albeit in a limited scope.

Congratulations on learning the first Major Hour of the Divine Office!

Lauds, traditionally recited in the early hours of the morning, is actually a twin.  Its identical sibling is Vespers, the early evening office.  As the extended watch of prayer which preceded the early Christian Eucharist became detached from that celebration, it developed into three distinct services: Matins, which as the longest office is a sort of "parent," and two identical twins, Lauds and Vespers.  In many ways, Lauds and Vespers dominate the entirety of the Office, and the Little Hours are built around them and borrow elements from them.  While in the case of clergy such a Rule would likely be insufficient for private devotion, the layperson who daily recites Lauds and Vespers in many ways recites the "heart" of the Divine Office.  Should one add Matins, there would be no question about that conclusion!

Thankfully, Lauds and Vespers are both relatively simple in structure.  While they may change slightly depending on the rite of the Office (i.e., the antiphons on the Psalms will be said in full on double feasts), their structure is also fixed.

Anglican Breviary Lauds
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