Lauds is a divine office that takes place in the early morning hours. In the ordinary form of the Roman Rite (Liturgy of the Hours), as celebrated by the Roman Catholic Church, it is one of the two major hours.
The name is derived from the three last psalms of the psalter (148, 149, 150), the Laudate psalms, which in former versions of the Lauds of the Roman Rite occurred every day, and in all of which the word laudate is repeated frequently. At first, the word "Lauds" designated only the end, that is to say, these three psalms. Little by little the title Lauds was applied to the whole office, and supplanted the name of Matins, which in turn was reserved to the night office and replaced the name "Vigils".
Lauds, or the Morning Office or Office of Aurora, is one of the most ancient Offices and can be traced back to Apostolic times. 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. 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.
Originally Matins and Lauds formed but a single office, the Night Office terminating only at dawn. The monks prayed Matins during the night and said Lauds in the early dawn. In the 5th and 6th century the Lauds were called Matutinum. By the Middle Ages, the midnight office was referred to as "Nocturns", and the morning office as "Matins". The lengthy midnight office became "Matins" and was divided into two or three "nocturns"; the morning office became "Lauds".
According to John T. Hedrick, in Introduction to the Roman Breviary, Lauds were not originally a distinct canonical hour, but part of Matins. After St. Pius X’s reform, Lauds was reduced to four psalms or portions of psalms and an Old Testament canticle, putting an end to the custom of adding the last three psalms of the Psalter (148-150) at the end of Lauds every day. With the reforms of Vatican II, Lauds is now called "Morning Prayer".
Symbolism and significance
This is the Office of daybreak and hence its symbolism is of Christ's resurrection. According to Dom Cabrol, "Lauds remains the true morning prayer, which hails in the rising sun, the image of Christ triumphant—consecrates to Him the opening day."  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.
Liturgia horarum (1970)
In the edition of the Roman breviary of 1970 which was revised according to the mandate of the Second Vatican Council, Lauds (Latin Laudes matutinae, pl.) has the following structure:
- 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.
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.
Other rites of the Western Church
In the Ambrosian Office, and also in the Mozarabic, Lauds retained a few of the principal elements of the Roman Lauds: the Benedictus, canticles from the Old Testament, and the laudate psalms, 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 Armenian Morning (or Early) Hour (Armenian: Առաւաւտեան Ժամ aṛawotean zham) corresponds to the office of Lauds in the Roman Liturgy, both in its position in the daily cycle and in its importance. This is the most complex of all Armenian church services in terms of the variations in the order and text of the service depending on the day of the week, liturgical tone, commemoration of the day and liturgical season.
Many manuscripts and printed editions of the Armenian Book of Hours (Armenian: Ժամագիրք Zhamagirk`) state that the Morning Hour commemorates the Son of God, with some manuscripts adding, "at the time he was seized by the Jews." This is in reference to the story of the arrest and interrogation of Jesus found in the New Testament Gospels.
Outline of the Morning Service
In the Morning Hour for Sundays and Feastal Days there are seven slots into which hymnody may be inserted which reflects the theme of the day. Each of these seven slots is associated with a Psalm or Canticle from the Old or New Testaments.
The following outline is a general overview. Many of the alternate texts to be read on certain days of the year have been omitted.
Introduction: "Blessed is our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. Our Father...Amen."
Preface: Psalm 90:14-17: "We have been filled at dawn..."; Glory to the Father...Now and always...Amen." Proclamation: "Again and again in peace..."; Prayer: "Blessing and Glory to the Father...Now and always...Amen."
First Section: Blessing of the Three Youths (Daniel 3:26-45, 3:52-90); "Glory to the Father...Now and always...Amen." Acclamation: "Bless, all creatures..."; First Hymn: "Fathers Hymn" (for Sundays, feasts, and commemorations; varies); Proclamation after the Fathers Hymn: "Having come, all of us,..."; Prayer: proper to the liturgical tone or feast.
Second Section: Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55); Blessing of Zacharias (Luke 1:68-79); Prayer of Simeon (Luke 2:29-32); Second Hymn: "Magnificat Hymn" (for Sundays, feasts, and commemorations; varies); Proclamation after the Magnificat Hymn (varies); Prayer after the Magnificat Hymn (varies)
Third Section: Hymn of the Myrrhbearers; Pre-Gospel sequence: "Peace be with you all...God speaks." Myrrhbearers Gospel; Third Hymn: "Myrrhbearers Gospel Hymn" (varies; not to be confused with the Hymn of the Myrrhbearers); Proclamation after the Myrrhbearers Gospel; Prayer after the Myrrhbearers Gospel
Fourth Section: Psalm 51 "Have mercy on me..."; "Glory...Now and always...Amen." Fourth Hymn: "Mercy Hymn" (varies); Proclamation after the Mercy Hymn; Prayer after the Mercy Hymn (varies)
Fifth Section: "Alleluia, alleluia"; Pslams 148-150 (some manuscripts also require Psalm 151); "Glory...Now and always...Amen." Fifth Hymn: "Lord-of-Heaven Hymn" (varies)
Sixth Section: The Blessing of Morning (The Great Doxology, "Glory to God in the Highest...", attributed to the 150 holy teachers of the Council of Constantinople , with a section added at the Council of Ephesus ); Acclamation: "Glory, honor, and adoration...Now and always...Amen." Sixth Hymn: "Glory-to-God Hymn" (varies); Proclamation for Sundays and Feasts attributed to St. Gregory the Illuminator (varies); Prayer (varies)
Seventh Section: Trisagion ("Holy God...", varies); Acclamation: "Save us from temptation..."; Proclamation
Psalm of Healing (on days when a Gospel of Healing is appointed); Pre-Gospel sequence; Gospel of Healing; Hymn: "The Word, having created from nothing,..." (Norasteghtseal); Proclamation; Prayer
"Blessed is our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. Our Father..."
If there is a procession with a blessing of the four directions: Acclamation before the procession; Blessing of the four directions; Acclamation after the blessing or of the cross; Prayer
Otherwise continue here:
Psalm 112; Seventh Hymn: "Hymn of the Children" (varies); Acclamation after the Hymn of the Children; Prayer
On fasts: Psalm 5; Psalm 90:14-17; Psalm 130:1-8; Psalm 143:8-12; Psalm 54; Hymn of Saint Nerses for each day of the week (Monday through Saturday, varies); Acclamation: "May your cross..."; Proclamation; Prayer; Proclamation of Sarkawag Vardapet; Prayer
But on commemorations of saints:
Psalm 116:1-9; Psalm 116:10-19; Psalm 117; Psalm 54; Psalm 86:16-17; Proclamation (varies); Prayer (varies); Proclamation of Sarkawag Vardapet; Prayer
Conclusion: "Blessed is our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. Our Father..."
There are other minor variations in this service during fasting seasons, which have not been noted here. Also, the adaptation of this long and complex service in parish practice varies considerably.
Among the Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches which follow the Byzantine Rite, the office comparable to the Lauds of the Roman Rite is the Orthros. It also contains the three Laudate psalms (148-150), with which it traditionally closes.
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 service of Morning Prayer as celebrated according to the Book of Common Prayer, and the hour itself is observed by many Anglican religious orders.
- Cabrol, Fernand. "Lauds." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 9. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. 13 Apr. 2015
- Parsch, Pius. "The Canonical Hours", Commentaries on the Breviary
- Billett, Jesse D., The Divine Office in Anglo-Saxon England, 597-C.1000, Boydell & Brewer Ltd, 2014 ISBN 9781907497285
- Cabrol, Fernand. The Day Hours of the Church, London, 1910
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