The Opus Dei or Liturgy of the Hours is the hinge around which everything in the monastery turns. The practise of sanctifying and marking the different stages of the day with prayer is very ancient, stretching back to Old Testament times.
The longest of these ‘hours’ or offices is the office of vigils celebrated every morning at 4am. I consists of hymns, psalms, reading and pauses for silent prayer and can last between forty minutes and an hour. It is a time of watching and waiting for the Lord – who may come at anytime of the day or night.
The first office of the ‘day’ is Lauds, sung at 6.30am, as the dawn breaks. Its name means ‘Praise’ and that is what it is, praise of the Lord for the new day. Lauds is followed by the Conventual Eucharist.
There are three shorter offices during the day, at 9am, 12pm and 2pm. These are known as the ‘Little Hours’ and are short services of about seven minutes, times to recall that the Lord is with us throughout the day and to ask his blessing and protection for our work.
The main office of the evening is Vespers, sung when at days work is finished. It is a time for thanking the Lord for his presence with us throughout the day and to pray for ourselves and the Church throughout the world. Vespers is sung at 5.30pm and like Lauds, consists of a Hymn, some Psalms, a reading and Gospel Canticle.
The Last office of the Day is Compline and it sung at 8pm. The words and music of Compline never change and it is sung in the fading night of the day. It concludes with the singing of the solemn Salve Regina, an ancient prayer to Our Lady followed by the evening Angelus bell.