Pastor’s Corner for the Third Week in Ordinary Time, Year B, by Mr. Cameron Upchurch – Director of Music

Sanctifying the Day – The Divine Office


We were encouraged by the Holy Father to consider and appreciate more fully the diversity of charisms and liturgical expressions within the Church. Part of the official liturgical expression of the Church is the Liturgy of the Hours, also called the Divine Office. This daily form of prayer (which may be recited communally or in private), is comprised chiefly of hymns, psalms, readings, responsories and collects.


Pope Paul VI outlines succinctly the origin of the Liturgy of the Hours:

The Canticle of Praise, unceasingly hymned in heaven and brought into this world of ours by our High Priest Jesus Christ, has been faithfully continued by his Church throughout the ages, though in a variety of forms. In the course of time a liturgy arose as a necessary complement to the sacrifice of the Eucharist, extending this worship into the different hours of daily life. Gradually a book of the Divine Office evolved as an effective means for this purpose.


In early Christianity two styles of this public prayer evolved. Monastic celebrations were lengthy, frequent and featured great variability in texts, while parish or cathedral services were shorter and appealed to the senses through the use of lights, incense, music and movement. By the Middle Ages these styles were conflated and the office had become a duty performed mainly by clerics and cloistered religious. The Second Vatican Council sought to restore and encourage access to this treasure trove of prayer to the laity, providing various forms of celebration that could be accommodated to various groups, according to their needs. The two “hinges” of the day are Lauds (Morning Prayer) and Vespers (Evening Prayer). The Office of Readings can be celebrated at any time of day and the shorter Prayer during the Day can be celebrated before noon, at midday or in the afternoon. Compline (Night Prayer) brings the day to a close. This can even be done by you at home.


Here, at Holy Trinity, and uniquely among South African parishes, we are afforded an opportunity to participate in this ancient form of prayer every Sunday at 09h00, with Lauds celebrated in communal sung form. Sometimes it is sung unaccompanied, sometimes with added organ accompaniment, sometimes by the full Schola Cantorum, and at other times lead simply by a cantor alone. The psalms and hymns are sung in English and sometimes in Latin. The General Instruction on the Liturgy of the Hours reminds us that, just as Jesus prayed in public many times, so the Church continues the prayer of Christ, through the action of the Holy Spirit. When this prayer is communal, it ‘expresses the very essence of the Church as a community.’


Why not try it one Sunday, or perhaps one Sunday a month, and, if this form of prayer really works for you, why not make it a regular companion to the Sunday Eucharist?


Join us in the Canticle of Praise.


Mr. Cameron Upchurch,

Director of Music