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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Chapter 12: The Celebration of the Solemnity of Lauds



1Sunday Lauds begin with Psalm 66, said straight through without a refrain.2Then Psalm 50 follows with an "alleluia" refrain. 3Lauds continue with Psalms 117 and 62, 4the Canticle of the Three Young Men, Psalms 148 through 150, a reading from the Apocalypse recited by heart and followed by a responsory, an Ambrosian hymn, a versicle, the Gospel Canticle, the litany and the conclusion.

Now we begin to speak about the Divine Office of Lauds. It is important that we notice the repetitions that occur in the Divine Office. If we follow the Divine Office exactly as it is outline in the Rule of Benedict, we will end up with praying about 279 Psalms in a week because of the repetitions.

Here at Lauds we have Psalm 66 and Psalm 50 and then Psalms 148, 149 and 150 every day. There are two other Psalms and a Canticle also every day at Lauds. Saint Benedict knows that the Divine Office is longer because of repetitions but he still seems to like them because certain Psalms add a distinctive flavor, at least to some of the Divine Offices.

Is there any value in repetition? Certainly! It is the principal element of the Divine Office because every week we repeat the same Psalms. Over many years of monastic life, we can come to know most of the Psalms by heart. Saint Benedict would have presumed that every monk would know the entire Book of Psalms by heart and probably also all of the New Testament.

As always in the Christian life, we must look closely at our own motivations. Are we really seeking to know Jesus Christ here and now? For some, religion has become a kind of way to keep God safely in check and avoid guilt on our own part. For others, religion is simply meaningless. For the Christian and for the monk, our faith is the attempt to know Jesus Christ and to follow Him in this world. We need not fear Him except in the sense of tremendous awe that we have towards Him.

Just as Vigils is the Night Office and must take place before daybreak, so Lauds is the Morning Prayer and should take place at the dawning of the day. Again, such precision does not always work when we live in various places around the world where the sun rises and sets with great changes throughout the year. On the other hand, we should never cut off our celebration of the Divine Office entirely from this sense of celebrating the darkness into which Christ comes as light and the light which illumines our path throughout the day.

Lauds is named after the three last Psalms of that Divine Office, which are called the "Laudate" Psalms because they all praise the Lord. Lauds is praise for Christ coming into the world once again as light and as our light. Lauds is praising God for all of His creation.

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