Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Learn the Office 2.4 - The 'opening' prayers of the day hours (Compline step-by-step 4)

Image result for deus in adjutorium image

And so for keeping up continual recollection of God, this pious formula is to be ever set before you: O God, make speed to save me: O Lord, make haste to help me, for this verse has not unreasonably been picked out from the whole of Scripture for this purpose. For it embraces all the feelings which can be implanted in human nature, and can be fitly and satisfactorily adapted to every condition, and all assaults...This verse is an impregnable wall for all who are labouring under the attacks of demons, as well as impenetrable coat of mail and a strong shield. St John Cassian, Conferences 10:10 
The more diligent in prayer are wont to subjoin in their prayers the Hallelujah...[which] is excellent which, for the extolling and honouring of God, aims unitedly to bring Him enriched prayer as a choice victim. Tertullian, On prayer, chapter 27


A standard set of prayers of prayers are used to open all of the hours from Lauds to Vespers.  At Compline they open the middle section of the hour.

They can be found written out in full on MD1 and consist of the ‘Deus in adjutorium…’, Gloria Patri…’ and Alleluia.

From Septuagesima Sunday to Holy Saturday, the Alleluia at the end of these prayers is omitted, and ‘Laus tibi, Domine’ is said instead.

The Diurnal, Antiphonale and other books do not always spell these out or write these out in full – but they always need to be said, and so are worth memorizing.

Different chant tones are used depending on the hour and level of the day.

The second section of Compline is the section that is described in the Rule, and begins with the opening prayers that are common to all of the day hours.

These prayers start by reminding us of our dependence on God; then affirm our faith in the Triune God who created us; and end with an invocation of praise to him.

(1) Interpreting the Diurnal 

The opening prayers for the day hours are on the first page of the psalter section of the Diurnal - you may wish to keep a ribbon here until you know them off by heart.

In most cases the Diurnal does not write the prayer out in full again.  When it comes to each hour of the Office it either gives you a prompt, but doesn't write out the text needed in full (for example for Monday and Sunday Prime, MD 1, 146); or just expects you to know that these prayers are to be said (for example, Tuesday to Saturday Prime).

The only change in these prayers during the year comes from 'Septuagesima Sunday' (the start of a pre-Lent season in the traditional calendar, up to the end of Lent, when the Alleluia is not said.  Instead the ending becomes: Laus tibi, Dómine, Rex ætérnæ glóriæ (Praise be to thee, O Lord, King of eternal glory).

(2) The rubrics ('do the red')

The opening of the Office is properly said standing.

On the first word (Deus/O God) you should make the sign of the cross.

You should bow for the first half of the doxology (Gloria Patri et Filio et Spiritui Sancto Sancto/Glory be to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost).

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.

(3) The chants

The tone most commonly used for the opening prayers at all hours other than solemn Vespers is set out below, and can also be found in the Antiphonale Monasticum on page 1203.

On the video of Compine we have been using it can be heard around 4.00.

The video below provides a version with the Lent ending.

The chant tone used can, however, change to reflect the greater importance of the hour, or recognise that a feast is being celebrated.  The recording below uses the solemn tone.

And for a particularly grand polyphonic setting of the text:

**NB Videos many not be available in some regions.

And you can find the next part of this series, on saying the psalms in the Office, especially at Compline, here.

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