Illuminet vultum suum super nos (XIII)

CHAPTER XIII. How Lauds Are to Be Said on Week-days
15 Feb. 16 June. 16 Oct.

On week-days let Lauds be celebrated in the manner following. Let the sixty-sixth Psalm be said without an antiphon, as on Sundays, and somewhat slowly, in order that all may be in time for the fiftieth, which is to be said with an antiphon. After this let two other Psalms be said according to custom; that is, on Monday, the fifth and thirty-fifth: on Tuesday, the forty-second and fifty-sixth: on Wednesday, the sixty-third and sixty-fourth: on Thursday, the eighty-seventh and eighty-ninth: on Friday, the seventy-fifth and ninety-first: and on Saturday, the hundred and forty-second and the Canticle from Deuteronomy, which must be divided into two Glorias. But on the other days let canticles from the prophets be said, each on its proper day, according to the practice of the Roman Church. Then let the Psalms of praise follow, and after them a lesson from the Apostle, to be said by heart, a responsory, a hymn, a versicle, a canticle out of the Gospel, the Litany, and so conclude.

Having already established the pattern of Lauds for Sundays, Saint Benedict here has only to order the details that pertain to its celebration on weekdays. Saint Benedict introduces Lauds each day with Psalm 66. In the light of dawn, Saint Benedict would have his monks perceive a symbol of the radiance that shines from the countenance of God. “God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, in the face of Christ Jesus” (2 Corinthians 4:6).

“The earth,” sings the psalmist, “has yielded her fruit”. What does this fruit-bearing earth signify if not the Mother of God, the virgin earth neither tilled nor seeded by man, yet rendered wonderfully fruitful by the Holy Ghost? “Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb” (Luke 1:42).

I have long loved this psalm at the beginning of Lauds on all days and in every season. The repeated invitation to confess God insists that all peoples are created for the praise of His glory. No man and no nation on earth will find happiness and peace apart from the praise of God.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with spiritual blessings in heavenly places, in Christ: as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and unspotted in his sight in charity. Who hath predestinated us unto the adoption of children through Jesus Christ unto himself: according to the purpose of his will: unto the praise of the glory of his grace, in which he hath graced us in his beloved Son. (Ephesians 1:3-6)

Saint Benedict, knowing human frailty and providing for it even within the liturgy, would have Psalm 66 be chanted “somewhat slowly” so that the laggards and dawdlers in the community might be in their places in choir in time for Psalm 50, the Miserere. This is a characteristically Benedictine detail; it shows Saint Benedict’s provision for human weakness. Saint Benedict knows that in every community there will be laggards and dawdlers. Astonishingly, he accommodates them . . . to a point.

In this paternal provision for the imperfect, the less-than-zealous, and the plodder, we see one of the characteristic traits that distinguish Benedictine asceticism from other schools of perfection. Saint Benedict assumes that wheresoever men are living together one will find the usual array of little miseries and weaknesses that affect fallen human nature. Saint Benedict does not have recourse to rigidity. Rather than tighten the controls, he provides a way of integrating such weaknesses harmoniously into the rhythm of daily life and, even, into the Work of God.

After Psalm 66, there is, as I explained yesterday, the Psalmum Confessionis or Miserere and two matutinal psalms. One needs to discover in each of the morning psalms the verses that relate them to the beginning of a new day:

O Lord, in the morning thou shalt hear my voice.
In the morning I will stand before thee, and will see. (Psalm 5:4–5)
With thee is the fountain of life; and in thy light we shall see light. (Psalm 35:10)

Send forth thy light and thy truth: they have conducted me,
and brought me unto thy holy hill, and into thy tabernacles.
And I will go in to the altar of God: to God who giveth joy to my youth. (Psalm 42:3–4)
My heart is ready, O God, my heart is ready: I will sing, and rehearse a psalm.
Arise, O my glory, arise psaltery and harp: I will arise early. (Psalm 56:8–9)

Hear, O God, my prayer, when I make supplication to thee:
deliver my soul from the fear of the enemy. (Psalm 63:2)
Blessed is he whom thou hast chosen and taken to thee: he shall dwell in thy courts.
We shall be filled with the good things of thy house. (Psalm 64:5)

But I, O Lord, have cried to thee: and in the morning my prayer shall prevent thee. (Psalm 87:14)
We are filled in the morning with thy mercy: and we have rejoiced, and are delighted all our days. (Psalm 89:14)

Thou enlightenest wonderfully from the everlasting hills. (Psalm 75:5)
Sweet it is to praise the Lord, to sing, most high God, in honour of thy name;
to proclaim thy mercy and faithfulness in the morning and at the fall of night.(Psalm 91:2–3)

Cause me to hear thy mercy in the morning; for in thee have I hoped.
Make the way known to me, wherein I should walk: for I have lifted up my soul to thee. (Psalm 142:8)

The two matutinal psalms are followed by one of the prophetic odes or canticles determined by the tradition of the Church at Rome, sicut psallit Ecclesia Romana. On Saturday, the long canticle of Deuteronomy is sung.

Hear, O ye heavens, the things I speak, let the earth give ear to the words of my mouth.
Let my doctrine gather as the rain, let my speech distil as the dew,
as a shower upon the herb, and as drops upon the grass.
Because I will invoke the name of the Lord: give ye magnificence to our God. (Deuteronomy 32:1–3)

Blessed Schuster says that there is no doubt that the use of the canticle of Deuteronomy (32:1–43) on the sabbath derives from the synagogal liturgy, and that its presence in the Office signifies the festal character originally attributed to the last day of the week. At Milan and in the East, Saturday retains its somewhat festive character even in Lent. The Laudate Psalms follow the prophetic canticle, and the rest of the Office is like that prescribed for Sundays in Chapter XII.