Learning the Office: 'opening' and 'closing' prayers of the day hours (including commemorations)**

Diurnal shortcuts

The opening prayers of the Office (though note that these actually occur in the middle of Compline due to its development over time) are the same for all of the day hours.  The basic structure and most of the content of the closing prayers, save for the collect) are also common to all of the hours (with some minor variations at Compline). 

However, the Diurnal generally doesn't write these prayers out in full, and sometimes doesn't even give a prompt to remind you that you need to use them. Under Monday Prime for example, for the opening prayers it simply says:

V. Deus, in adjutórium meum, and the rest as noted above. 

On page 9, for Tuesday Prime (and the other days of Prime up to Saturday), it doesn't even bother saying that, you are just expected to know to say the opening prayers.

Accordingly, it is important to learn these prayers thoroughly.

(1) The opening prayers

The opening prayers of the Office are written out in full on MD 1 (first page of psalter section of Diurnal).  They should be said standing if possible.

The first two sections are the same throughout the year.  The Alleluia is replaced by Laus tibi...from Septuagesima through Lent.

V. Deus + (make the sign of the cross) in adjutórium meum inténde.
R. Dómine, ad adjuvándum me festína.

V. (bow) Glória Patri, et Fílio, * et Spirítui Sancto.(stand straight)
R. Sicut erat in princípio, et nunc, et semper, * et in sǽcula sæculórum. Amen.

Alleluia or Laus tibi, Dómine, Rex ætérnæ glóriæ.

There are several different chant tones that can be used with these prayers, depending on the degree of solemnity of the hour and day.

(2) The Concluding Prayers

The concluding prayers are said standing (bow during the Pater Noster and collect).

Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison, Kyrie eleison

Note that this is not an abbreviation for a doubled or tripled Kyrie as in the mass - each Kyrie is just said or sung once, exactly as written.
Pater Noster

At the minor hours (Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Compline) the Our Father is said silently, with only the first two words (Pater Noster) and the text from  ('Et ne nos') of the prayer said aloud. In a community, the person leading the Office for the day (the hebdomadary) says this, and then allows time for the prayer to be said by everyone, before finishing the prayer aloud.

At Lauds and Vespers the Our Father is said or sung aloud (in a monastic community, by the superior of the community, in line with St Benedict's injunction to use the prayer to focus on forgiveness, aimed at removing 'the thorns of scandal, or mutual offence, which are wont to arise in communities.' )(RB13).

Domine exaudi orationem meam
Et clamor meus ad te veniat

These two lines are used in private recitation any time you see 'Dominus vobiscum' in the text.


At this point, the prayer (collect) of the hour or day is said.

At Prime and Compline, the prayer is always the same, so just read it from the book or learn it off by heart (pg 8 for Prime, 264 for Compline).

At the other hours, the collect will normally be of the (previous) Sunday.  If it is a third class feast or day or higher, it will be the prayer set for that feast or day.

Conclusions to the collects

Note that the Diurnal rarely gives you the conclusions of the collect - just a few words like 'Per Dominum nostrum'. There is actually more you have to say here, and you can find the full texts of the conclusions to the collects on page xxix, the very last page of the introductory section of the Diurnal.

(3) Commemorations

If there is a commemoration (memorial) on a particular day, it is said immediately after the collect.

There are basically two types of commemorations. The first are 'privileged' commemorations, for example of a Sunday when some other feast overrides it. Privileged commemorations really only come up on fairly rare occasions, and will generally either be noted in the diurnal or in my weekly Ordo. The main occasions are:
  • Sundays when a first class feast displaces the normal Sunday texts;
  • when two first or second class feasts occur on the same day, and one ends up taking precedence (very rare indeed, but can sometimes arise if a national, diocesan or local feast clashes with something in the universal calendar!);
  • particular seasons of the year which have daily collects (like Lent and Advent).
    On on the feast of the Annunciation for example, if you look on page [102]ff it tells you to make a commemoration of the feria at First Vespers, Lauds and Second Vespers.
In these cases, a commemoration is made both at Lauds and Vespers.

Ordinary commemorations (such as saints days that are memorials) only affect Lauds.

So, the commemoration of the Feast of St George for example, only affects Lauds. At every other hour, you would say the normal collect from Sunday only.

A commemoration consists of an antiphon (from the Benedictus at Lauds, Magnificat at Vespers), the short verse and response, or versicle that would have been said after it at Lauds or Vespers, and a prayer (collect). The Diurnal sets all these out in the correct order, so you really just need to say what's there!

So on the Feast of St George at Lauds, you say the Sunday collect, then turn to page [112] in the Diurnal and say the antiphon 'Filiae Ierusalem..', then the verse and response (Pretiosa...Mors..), then the prayer (Deus, qui...).

All you have to remember about commemorations really is that they are said immediately after the collect of the day.

(4) The final conclusion of the Office

After the collect, and commemoration if there is one, the Office continues with another 'Domine exaudi... and then

Benedicamus Domino...Deo Gratias
Fidelium animae...
The only exception to this pattern is Compline, where the Fidelium animae is not said, an extra final blessing is added, and the antiphon of the season for Our Lady follows.

**Updated August 2016


expat said...

Thank you so much, Terra, for that clear and thorough explanation!

Colm Cille said...

You said:

"A commemoration consists of an antiphon (from the Benedictus at Lauds, Magnificat at Vespers), the short verse and response, or versicle that would have been said after it at Lauds or Vespers, and a prayer (collect). The Diurnal sets all these out in the correct order, so you really just need to say what's there!"

In Lauds and Vespers, the versicle comes first, then the antiphon - canticle - antiphon, then the collect.

The propers always list the versicle before the antiphon, as well.

Are you sure that when making a commemoration we are not supposed to say the versicle first, then the antiphon, then the collect? That would seem to be consistent with the order of the office.

The rubrics you quotes mention what commemorations consist of, but perhaps did not intend to allude to their correct order, assuming people would say them in the same order as in the office itself.

Of course, the liturgy being both ancient and organic, not everything in it always makes perfect logical sense. :-)

God Bless.

Terra said...


I think this one of those odd liturgical quirks - I see no reason not to read the order specified in the rubrics literally, particularly as they line up with the instructions in other older Office books I have. But I have to admit I can't definitely recall any more which way it is done in the trad monasteries.

My guess though is that the propers are always listed this way precisely to facilitate commemorations, which used to be more frequent due to the number of octaves of different levels, celebrations of saints feasts on a Sunday, etc.