||This article incorporates unedited text from the public-domain Catholic Encyclopedia.
It may be out of date, or may reflect the point of view of the Catholic Church as of 1913, and should be edited to reflect broader and more recent perspectives. (November 2009)
Lauds is a divine office that takes place in the early morning hours and is one of the two major hours in the Roman Catholic Liturgy of the Hours. In the Eastern Orthodox tradition, it forms part of the Office of Matins. The Hour draws its name from the "Lauds" psalms with which it traditionally closes: Psalms 148, 149 and 150.
- 1 Lauds in the early Christian ages and their origin
- 2 Western Christianity
- 3 Eastern Christianity
- 4 Anglican Tradition
- 5 Notes
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 External links
Lauds in the early Christian ages and their origin
Lauds, or the Morning Office or Office of Aurora, is one of the most ancient Offices and can be traced back to Apostolic times. Descriptions during the fourth and fifth centuries appear in writings by John Cassian, St. Melania the Younger, St. Hilary, Eusebius and in the Peregrinatio Ætheriae by St. John Chrysostom.During the 6th century St. Benedict gave a detailed description of them in his Rule: Gregory of Tours also made several allusions to this Office, which he calls Matutini hymni. He described as its constitutive parts: Psalm 50, the Benedicite, Psalms 148 - 150, and the versicles.
Other forms of the Office are practiced in the different Christian provinces. The general features, however, remain the same: it remains the Office of the dawn (Aurora), the Office of sunrise, the morning Office, the morning praises, the Office of cock-crow (Gallicinium, ad galli cantus), the Office of the Resurrection of Christ. The Catholic Encyclopedia labels this hymni matutinales; it is considered the principal office of the day. In Jerusalem the liturgy displays all its pomp: the bishop was present with all his clergy, the office being celebrated around the Grotto of the Holy Sepulchre itself; after the psalms and canticles had been sung, the litanies were chanted, and the bishop then blessed the people. The earliest evidence of Lauds appears in the second and third centuries in the Canons of Hippolytus and in writings by St. Cyprian, and the Apostolic Fathers.
Symbolism and significance
For the Christian, the light of dawn brings to mind Jesus Christ, the light of the world (John 8:12), who came to dispel spiritual darkness. In addition, Lauds recalls that Christ first met his followers at dawn following the resurrection. The Office of Lauds reminds the Christian that the first act of the day should be prayer, and that one's thoughts should be of God before facing the cares of the day. The tranquil hours just before and at sunrise are often favorable to contemplation and prayer.
Structure of the hour
- A short introductory verse (unless it is being prayed immediately after the Invitatory or Office of Readings)
- A hymn, which is optional when combining with the Office of Readings
- A morning psalm, an Old Testament canticle, and a psalm of praise. These are opened and closed by antiphons.
- A short reading with a responsorial verse
- The Benedictus, with its antiphon
- The Lord's Prayer
- Concluding prayer
- Blessing and dismissal (if prayed in community)
All psalms and canticles are concluded with the doxology, "Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and will be forever. Amen." (The current translation of the U.S. Bishops' Conference, given here, differs from the traditional English translation used in other countries.) The psalms and readings are distributed in a four-week cycle, which forms the heart of the prayer.
The text of Lauds for today's date can be found here.
On feast days, the various parts of the hour may be taken from the office of the saint being celebrated or from common texts for the saints. If the feast has the rank of "memorial", any parts specifically provided for the saint (the "proper" parts) are used, while the other parts come from the weekday, with exception of the hymn (which may be optionally taken from the common texts), the antiphon for the Benedictus (which must be taken from the proper or the common), the intercession (which may be optionally taken from the common texts), and the closing prayer (which should be proper, or if missing, common).
For a "feast" or solemnity, all texts are taken from the proper, or if some part is missing, from the common. On these days, the morning psalm is always Psalm 63, verses 2-9, the canticle is the "Song of the Three Holy Children" (Daniel 3:57-88 and 56), and the psalm of praise is Psalm 149. On Corpus Christi, the hymn O Salutaris Hostia is sung.
In the important seasons of the Church year, such as Lent or Easter, many of the prayers are proper for each day of the season. In Lent, Christmas, Holy Week, Easter Week, and the last eight days of Advent, celebration of feast days is somewhat restricted. On some of these days, a memorial may be celebrated as a "commemoration", adding an extra prayer at the end of the hour, while on others the memorial is completely removed from the calendar.
Historical development of Lauds before Vatican II
This section incorporates information from the Catholic Encyclopedia of 1917, and concern the office prior to the reforms of the Second Vatican Council. References to psalms follow the numbering system of the Septuagint, and the Latin of the Vulgate.
The term Lauds and the hour of the Office
The word Lauds (i.e. praises) explains the particular character of this office, the end of which is to praise God. All the Canonical Hours have, of course, the same object, but Lauds may be said to have this characteristic par excellence. The name is certainly derived from the three last psalms in the office (148, 149, 150), in all of which the word laudate is repeated frequently, and to such an extent that originally the word Lauds designated not, as it does nowadays, the whole office, but only the end, that is to say, these three psalms with the conclusion. The title Ainoi (praises) has been retained in Greek. St. Benedict also employs this term to designate the last three psalms; post haec [viz, the canticle] sequantur Laudes (Regula, cap. xiii). In the 5th century and 6th century the Office of the Lauds was called Matutinum, which has now become the special name of another office, the Night Office or Vigils, a term no longer used (see MATINS). Little by little the title Lauds was applied to the whole office, and supplanted the name of Matins. In the ancient authors, however, from the 4th century to the 6th or 7th century, the names Matutinum, Laudes matutinae, or Matutini hymni, are used to designate the office of daybreak or dawn, the Office of Matins retaining its name of Vigils. The reason of this confusion of names is, perhaps, that originally Matins and Lauds formed but a single office, the Night Office terminating only at dawn.
In the liturgy, the word Lauds has two other meanings: It sometimes signifies the alleluia of the Mass; thus a Council of Toledo (IV Council, c. xii) formally pronounced: "Lauds are sung after the Epistle and before the Gospel". St. Isidore says: "Laudes, hoc est, Alleluia, canere". The word Lauds also designates the public acclamations which were sung or shouted at the accession of princes, a custom which was for a long time observed in the Christian Church on certain occasions.
The Office in various liturgies
In the actual Roman Liturgy, Lauds are composed of four psalms with antiphons (in reality there are usually seven, but, the three Laudate psalms are counted as one since they share one Gloria Patri and antiphon; likewise, psalms 62 and 66 are similarly conjoined), a Canticle, Capitulum, Hymn, Versicle, the Benedictus with Antiphon, Oratio, or Collect, and, on certain days, the Preces, or Prayers and Versicles. The psalms, unlike those of Matins and Vespers, are not taken in the order of the Psalter, but are chosen in accordance with special rules without reference to their position in the Psalter. Thus the psalm "Deus misereatur nostri et benedicat nobis" (Ps 66 Vulgate) is prayed every day. Also, "Miserere mei Deus" (Ps 50 Vulgate) is said every day on which a feast does not occur. The psalm "Deus, Deus meus" (Ps 62 Vulgate) is also repeated daily. Finally, the last three psalms, "Laudate Dominum de coelis", "Cantate Domino canticum novum", and "Laudate Dominum in sanctis ejus" (Psalms 148-150, i.e. the "Laudes"), are recited every day without exception.
It is from these last that this office derives its name. It will be noticed that, in general, the other psalms used at Lauds have also been chosen for special reasons, because one or other of their verses contains an allusion either to the break of day, or to the Resurrection of Christ, or to the prayer of the morning which are the raison d'être of this office. Such are the verses; "Deus Deus meus ad te de luce vigilo"; "Deus misereatur nostri. . .illuminet vultum suum super nos"; "mane astabo tibi et videbo"; "Emitte lucem tuam et veritatem tuam"; "Exitus matutinum et vespere delectabis"; "Mane sicut herba transeat, mane floreat et transeat"; "Ad annuntiandum mane misericordiam tuam", etc. Another characteristic of this office are the canticles which take place between the psalms lxii-lxvi and the last three psalms. This collection of seven canticles from the Old Testament (Canticle "Benedicite", Canticle of Isaias, Canticle of Ezechias, Canticle of Anne, the two Canticles of Moses, the Canticle of Habacuc) is celebrated, and is almost in agreement with that of the Eastern Church. St. Benedict borrowed it from the Roman Church and, having designed the plan of the Office of Lauds in accordance with that of the Church of Rome, prescribed a special canticle for each day: "Canticum unumquodque die suo ex prophetis, sicut psallit Ecclesia Romana, dicatur".
To these canticles the Roman Liturgy adds, as the finale to this office, that of Zachary, "Benedictus Dominus Deus Israel", which is recited every day and which is also a canticle to the Light, viz. Christ: "Illuminare his qui in tenebris et in umbra mortis sedent". The hymns of Lauds, which in the Roman Church were only added later, also form an interesting collection; they generally celebrate the break of day, the Resurrection of Christ, and the spiritual light which He has made to shine on earth. They are very ancient compositions, and are probably anterior to Saint Benedict. In the Ambrosian Office, and also in the Mozarabic, Lauds retain a few of the principal elements of the Roman Lauds—the Benedictus, canticles from the Old Testament, and the psalms cxlviii, cxlix, cl, arranged, however, in a different order (cf. Germain Morin, op. cit. in bibliography). In the Benedictine Liturgy, the Office of Lauds resembles the Roman Lauds very closely, not only in its use of the canticles but also in its general construction. The Greek office corresponding to that of Lauds is the orthos, which also signifies "morning"; its composition is different, but it nevertheless retains a few elements of the Western Lauds—notably the canticles and the three Laudate psalms, 148 — 150, which in the Greek Liturgy bear the name Ainoi or Praises, corresponding to the Latin word Laudes.
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Among the Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches which follow the Byzantine Rite, the Lauds (Greek: Ainoi; Slavonic: Chvalitnyi) or "Praises" does not form a separate service, but is an integral part of Matins, coming near the end of the service, after the Canon and Exapostilarion (Hymn of Light). The intent is that Lauds will be chanted as the sun begins to rise, culminating with either the Great Doxology or the Lesser Doxology, and the Apolytikion (Troparion of the Day).
On Sundays and Feast Days (as well as on some lower-ranking days) there are special stichera that are chanted between the psalm verses of the Lauds. In these cases the psalm verses and their stichera will be chanted (sung). On days when there are no troparia appointed, the psalms will be read simply by the Reader.
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Like the other canonical hours, Lauds is observed by Christians in other denominations, notably those of the Anglican Communion. Elements of the office have been folded into the prayer book service of Morning Prayer, and the hour itself is observed by many Anglican religious orders.
- Bäumer-Biron, op. cit., I, 81, 114, 134, 140, 150-68, 208, 210.
- chap. xii and xiii.
- "Hist. Francorum", II, vii, in P. L., LXXI, 201, 256, 1034 etc. Cf. Bäumer-Biron, Hist. du brev. Rom., I, 229-30.
-  The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume 9: Laprade-Mass Liturgy
- cf. Dom Cabrol, Etude sur la Peregrinatio Silviae, les Eglises de Jerusalem, la discipline et la liturgie au IVX siecle, Paris, 1895, pp. 39, 40. For the East cf. De Virginitate, xx, in P G., XXVIII, 275.
- For this interpretation compare Mabillon, "De Liturgia gall.", I, iv.
- De div. offic., xiii.
- Reg., xiii.
- cf. Dict. d'archeol. chret. et de lit., s.v. Ainoi; "Horologion", Rome, 1876, p. 55.