In the monastic tradition, the first canonical Hour of the Liturgy of the Hours is called Matins, or Vigil. The Vigil was originally celebrated in the middle of the night, to sanctify it. However, the practice of this prayer at this time of the night was difficult to apply for both ordained members of the Church and laypeople. Indeed, since the Second Vatican Council, every Christian has been invited to recite the Divine Office. Following the reform, the Office of Readings replaced Matins: we can pray this Hour any time of the day. Some monasteries still observe the traditional practice of the Liturgy of the Hours (from the Rule of St. Benedict).
“Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:16-17)
This Hour of the Divine Office can be prayed alone or with a community, and it is accessible to every Christian since it can be practiced at any time of the day. The Office of Readings is named as such because more readings are done during this Hour than in any other service (namely Lauds, Vespers, Compline, etc.). It was associated with the Matins because the readings of the Hour have the character of preparing for a new day.
The Hour is arranged in a series of hymns, psalms, and readings to reflect on the Word of God. It also features a reading meditation on the words of the Fathers of the Church (such as St. Augustine, St. Padre Pio, St. Polycarp...)
Introduction: opening versicle:
“V. O God, come to our aid.
R/ O Lord, make haste to help us.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen. (Alleluia)”.
Readings and meditation on the words of the Fathers of the Church
(Te Deum Hymn on Sundays, Solemnities, and Feasts)
The hymns, psalms, and readings vary from day to day during the week.
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