The celebration of solemn Lauds.
‘For Lauds on Sunday the sixty sixth psalm should be said first of all straight through without an antiphon. After comes the fiftieth psalm wit its alleluia. Then comes the hundred and seventeenth psalm and the sixty second followed by the Benedictie and the Laudate psalms, a reading from the book of the Apocalypse recited by heart, the responsory, an Ambrosian hymn, a versicle, the Benedictus, litany and conclusion.
The Holy Father is very precise in what must take place in the office of Lauds on the Sunday or solemn occasions. Lauds is celebrated in the morning, early, at daybreak and there is something beautifully poignant about rising as the son rises on a Sunday, the dawning of a new light from the darkness, both metaphorical and actual.
The name Lauds derives from the last three psalms of the Divine Office called Laudate Psalms, meaning to praise, and the content of those psalms lifts the voice to the Lord in praise. Praise for the risen Christ as He comes into the world, mirrored by the breaking dawn and the new light of day.
There is a lot of repetition in the Divine Offices for the monastic community. According to one commentary the number of psalms recited each week is actually 279 because of those that area repeated on a daily basis. Sometimes when I speak to other Christians about the liturgy the usual comments for those that do not appreciate it, or do not find it useful, come down to the repetitive nature of some of the prayers. I always like to think of it like a spiritual diet. If you were to constantly feed the inner craving of the soul with sweet, positive, uplifting spiritual food you would no doubt be quite content, maybe even euphoric for a time. However, when mood changes due to circumstance, some great trauma, a lack of sleep or whatever it may be, how is the soul sustained? These repetitive prayers and psalms provide the bulk of the spiritual meal, they are what keeps the soul going when it needs extra energy – when words fail because of situation or stress, the repeated prayers and psalms come easily to mind providing a safe framework of support.
We live in a culture that prizes entertainment – sometimes the repetition of the prayers and psalms may feel ‘boring’ but that is no bad thing, it helps us to remember what our motivation is. Am I praying these prayers for me? Or am I doing it because God is worthy of my praise and that is how I honour Him. It is useful to remind ourselves that the liturgy is never about us.