ROME, 13 MARCH 2007 (ZENIT)
Answered by Father Edward McNamara,
professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.
Q: We are a community of religious who have perpetual adoration and who
pray morning prayer and evening prayer together. Morning prayer is
followed by the celebration of the Eucharist, and evening prayer is
often followed by Benediction. Often our chaplain is present for the
morning prayer and evening prayer and prays the concluding prayer. Is
this reserved for the priest when he is present, and if so, what is the
blessing that he prays after the concluding prayer? Our chaplain prays:
"Let us bless the Lord," to which the assembly replies: "Thanks be to
God." The other blessing
"May the Lord bless us and keep us from all evil and lead us to
seems more complete, yet I see in the breviary that there is a
dialogical form for the priest and the assembly. I would be grateful for
some clarity regarding the correct way to end the prayer of the Church
when prayed in common.
L.R., Dublin, Ireland
A: The situation described by our reader would explain the actions of
the priest, which appear quite correct.
First of all, he should pray the closing prayer as this is a
presidential prayer and should be prayed by the priest (see No. 197 of
the General Introduction). The priest should also open the office with
the corresponding invocation, either "Lord, open our lips," if the
invitatory psalm is prayed, or "O God, come to our aid," before morning
prayer and evening prayer.
He probably omits the blessing after morning prayer because Mass is
about to begin, and it concludes with a blessing and dismissal.
The blessing is omitted after the concluding prayer of evening prayer
because blessings are never imparted in the presence of the Blessed
Sacrament exposed as it is in the present case. Thus there would be no
blessing even if Benediction did not take place immediately after
In the cases described above, there would be no concluding formula at
all if the office is immediately followed by either Mass or Benediction.
Therefore the question as to the correct conclusion would be moot.
If Benediction does not follow immediately, but the Blessed Sacrament is
still exposed, then the correct conclusion would be: "The Lord bless us,
and keep us from all evil, and bring us to everlasting life." To which
all respond, "Amen," since this is not properly speaking a blessing but
If the Blessed Sacrament is reserved before the office begins, then the
priest should bless and dismiss the assembly as usual, using either the
formula proposed in the breviary or, if vespers are celebrated with
solemnity, one of the solemn blessings taken from the missal.
The formula "Let us praise the Lord" and the response "Thanks be to God"
are not used for morning prayer and evening prayer but for the office of
readings and the prayer during the day. ZE07031328
Follow-up: Ending the Morning and Evening Prayer [3-27-2007]
After our March 13 column on morning and evening prayer, a reader from
Honduras asked: "Regarding morning/evening prayer during holy Mass: Does
either M/E prayer begin immediately after the sign of the cross or after
the penitential rite? Does not the M/E prayer supplant the penitential
rite? Do the rubrics for M/E prayer during holy Mass oblige everyone or
can the bishop 'do whatever he wants'?"
When either morning or evening prayer is joined to Mass it may begin in
one of two ways. Nos. 93-94 of the introduction to the Liturgy of the
Hours outlines the procedure. While these rubrics allow for some
flexibility, as universal law they oblige everybody including bishops:
"93. In particular cases, if circumstances require, it is possible to
link an hour more closely with Mass when there is a celebration of the
liturgy of the hours in public or in common, according to the norms that
follow, provided the Mass and the hour belong to one and the same
office. Care must be taken, however, that this does not result in harm
to pastoral work, especially on Sundays.
"94. When morning prayer, celebrated in choir or in common, comes
immediately before Mass, the whole celebration may begin either with the
introductory verse and hymn of morning prayer, especially on weekdays,
or with the entrance song, procession, and celebrant's greeting,
especially on Sundays and holydays; one of the introductory rites is
"The psalmody of morning prayer follows as usual, up to, but excluding,
the reading. After the psalmody the penitential rite is omitted and, as
circumstances suggest, the Kyrie; the Gloria then follows, if required
by the rubrics, and the celebrant says the opening prayer of the Mass.
The liturgy of the word follows as usual.
"The general intercessions are made in the place and form customary at
Mass. But on weekdays, at Mass in the morning, the intercessions of
morning prayer may replace the daily form of the general intercessions
"After the communion with its communion song the Canticle of Zechariah,
Blessed be the Lord, with its antiphon from morning prayer, is sung.
Then follow the prayer after communion and the rest as usual."
No. 96 indicates that vespers are joined with Mass in the same manner.
Thus whenever one of these offices is joined to Mass the penitential
rite is omitted. While the "Lord have mercy" may be omitted it is
probably better to sing or recite it.
As No. 93 states, joining the office with Mass is for "particular cases
when circumstances require"; it is not foreseen as a daily practice,
especially in a parish setting. In this case it is probably better to
celebrate both rites separately, omitting only the final blessing and
dismissal at the end of the Divine Office.
Another reader, from Oregon, asked: "1) Please, could you explain why
the Divine Office used in America is different from that used in other
English-speaking [areas]. This may help us understand why there are
prayers at the end of every psalm in the American version while in
others, including the Latin original, there are no psalm prayers. 2)
Please, could you also explain how any of the hours could be combined
with Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament?"
Since questions of liturgical translation depend on each national
episcopal conference, the U.S. bishops decided that they wanted their
own translation of the Divine Office. As a result, there are two
English-language versions: the four-volume U.S. version and the
three-volume version for the rest of the world.
Those who are obliged to pray the Divine Office should normally use the
official version for their country. Those who are not obliged, or any
English speaker who lives in a non-English-speaking country, may choose
All the same, as the complete breviary is a hefty investment, a priest
who, for example, moves to the United States from another country, could
continue to use the other English version, or pray the office in his
native language or in Latin.
In these cases he should follow the local calendar regarding particular
solemnities and feasts, and, as far as possible, particular memorials of
saints. This may be done either by borrowing a local breviary for texts
that only exist in that version, or using the texts found in the common.
I find that the American version of the English-language breviary is
more user-friendly and more up-to-date with the celebrations of the new
saints. The other English version has not been updated since the first
edition in 1973 but is, in my opinion, a far better translation.
The psalm prayers are mentioned in No. 112 of the introduction:
"Psalm-prayers for each psalm are given in the supplement to The Liturgy
of the Hours as an aid to understanding them in a predominantly
Christian way. An ancient tradition provides a model for their use:
after the psalm a period of silence is observed, then the prayer gives a
resume and resolution of the thoughts and aspirations of those praying
The American editors decided to incorporate the psalm prayers found in
the separate supplement into the text of the four-week cycle of psalms.
These psalm prayers are always optional and may be omitted. When they
are prayed, however, the norms are not clear if the prayer is recited
before or after the repetition of the antiphon, as repeating the
antiphon is also optional. Either way is probably legitimate.
The Liturgy of the Hours may be prayed before the Blessed Sacrament
exposed, but there is no specific ritual that links the two practices
into a single rite.
Monsignor Peter Elliott in his "Ceremonies of the Modern Roman Rite"
describes the process with characteristic clarity:
"681. The Liturgy of the Hours, especially Lauds or Vespers, may be
celebrated before the Blessed Sacrament exposed. In this case, the
celebrant goes to the chair to commence the office, described below in
Chapter 12. During the incensation of the altar, the celebrant and
deacon(s) genuflect together whenever passing the monstrance. The copes,
dalmatics and stoles should be of the color of the day or season, but
the humeral veil is white.
"743. Vespers or Lauds may also be celebrated before the Blessed
Sacrament exposed, as indicated in the previous chapter. Unless
exposition has already commenced some time before the celebration of the
hour, the procession enters, all kneel and the Host is exposed by an
assistant deacon or priest. A eucharistic hymn is sung, and incense is
offered as usual. Having reverenced the Blessed Sacrament, the celebrant
then goes to the chair and commences the office.
"744. At the Magnificat, having prepared incense at the chair, the
celebrant and assistants come before the altar, genuflect and kneel
while the celebrant incenses the Eucharist. They rise, go up to the
altar, genuflect and continue the incensation as usual, and they
genuflect together whenever they pass the monstrance.
"745. Clergy and servers should take care not to turn their backs to the
monstrance and to maintain a spirit of decorum and prayerful
recollection appropriate to the occasion. The final intercessions of
Vespers may be made standing before the altar. The final blessing and
dismissal are omitted. The eucharistic hymn and incensation of the Host,
the prayer and Benediction follow, as described in the previous chapter.
Reposition may take place as usual, unless exposition is to continue
beyond this liturgical celebration." ZE07032727