Learn to say the Office

Guide to the notes

The notes below aim to help you say the traditional form of the Benedictine Office according to the officially approved 1962 rubrics.

It provides page references and detailed guides to the hours as contained in the Monastic Diurnal (2005 editions onwards) published by St Michael's Abbey, Farnborough, as well as the Antiphonale Monasticum of 1934 (for those wishing to sing the Office).

These notes can be used a number of ways, depending on your starting knowledge of the Office and how many  'hours' of it you plan to say each day.

(1) Start with Office basics: If you are new to the Office, or are used to the 1970 Liturgy of the Hours, I'd suggest starting at Office basics first.

You could then jump to the notes on the particular hours you would like to learn (I'd recommend starting with Compline then Prime), and follow the links to the individual components of these hours as you need them.

(2) Office components: Alternatively, particularly if you plan on saying several of the hours, want to sing the Office, or are familiar with the 1970 Office, you might want to work through the components of the hours.

The various components that make up the Office each have their own rules that apply across all the hours at which they are used.  You can use these notes  to familiarise yourself with the key differences to the version of the Office that you are familiar with, or to learn how the Office is build up.

These notes also provide a guide to using the Antiphonale Monasticum (which contains the chants) for the day hours.

(3) The hours: The notes on individual hours contain background information on when each hour is said, its spirituality, page numbers in your Office book, and contain links to more detailed notes on each Office component.

(4) Quick start notes for experts: If you are familiar with the traditional forms of the Office (such as the 1962 or older versions of the Roman Office), or are familiar with the Benedictine Office (for example from visiting a monastery) you can skip to the end of this page for quick start notes.



For those new to the Office, or at least to the 'traditional' (1962 breviary)  version of it, before you actually try to start saying the Benedictine Office, there are some things you need to know about it.  So read these posts to get the essentials before you start.

1.  Seven things you should know about the Benedictine Office

If you are thinking about saying the Benedictine Office, it is worth knowing a little it about it. 

2.  Books for the Benedictine Office

The notes in this series are primarily based around the Monastic Diurnal and Antiphonale Monasticum, but this post takes you though the options.

3. Finding you way around the Monastic Diurnal

So your new Monastic Diurnal has just arrived.  Here's how to navigate it...

4. Singing the Office - and finding you way around the Antiphonale Monasticum

The Divine Office - and especially the Benedictine Office - is meant to be sung.  This post gives some suggestions on how to get started, and introduces the key book of chants for the day hours, the Antiphonale Monasticum.

5.  What changes and what doesn't in the Office

What prayers you say in the Office depend on several different cycles that impact on it - the particular hour of the day or night being said; the day of the week; the liturgical season and week; and feasts attached to fixed dates.  This post provides an overview.

6. Preparatory Prayers

Before you actually say the hours, you need to prepare yourself mentally, and aks for God's help to pray well.  


Each of the components of the Office have specific rules attached to them that generally apply across each of the hours where they are used.  Although the particular texts used changes, the general principles don't.  The posts in this series provide some context on the various parts of the hours, as well as explanations of how to say them.

The opening prayers of the Office

The hymns

The psalms Pt 1 - general rubrics and psalms without antiphon

The psalms pt 2 - psalms with antiphons

The psalms pt 3 - Using the Antiphonale to sing the psalms

The short lesson (at Compline)

The chapter (verse)

Short Responsories (at Lauds and Vespers)

Collects - where to find them, which ones to use



The closing prayers of the Office Pt 1 - Structure and key elements

The closing prayers Pt 2 - the collect and its concluding formulas

The closing prayers Pt 3 - Commemorations

Marian antiphons


Arranged in the order I suggest you learn them.


The last Office of the day before the start of the great silence in a monastery, this is the easiest of the hours to learn, as the psalms are the same every day.

Notes on Compline


Traditionally said an hour after dawn, the hour is geared towards helping us start the workday.  In a monastery, the capitular Office is also associated with this hour.

Notes on Prime
Notes on the capitular Office

Terce, Sext and None

Said mid-morning,noon and mid-afternoon, these short hours help sanctify the day.

Introduction to the Little Hours
Notes on Terce
Notes on Sext
Notes on None


Traditionally said as the sun is setting.

Introduction to Vespers
Vespers on ordinary days
Vespers in the major liturgical seasons
Vespers for feasts


St Benedict wanted Lauds to start at daybreak, so that as we celebrate the rising of the sun, we also celebrate the risen Son.

Introduction to Lauds 
The three forms of Lauds
Lauds on ordinary days and feasts


Aka Vigils - prayer in the night.

Index to notes on Matins


The Office of Our Lady on Saturday

Office of the Dead

(4) QUICK START ESSENTIALS - for old hands

If you are already familiar with a traditional version of the Divine Office (for example because you have said the 1962 or earlier Roman version), you may not need detailed notes on each of the hours.

The Diurnal doesn't always write out texts in full though, so you may find it worth reading through this quick guide to its shortcuts and quirks.

If you are new to the traditional forms of the Office though, I'd strongly suggest jumping to the next section.

Diurnal traps and shortcuts - a summary guide 

A guide to some of the shortcuts in the Diurnal, focusing on the opening of the hours. The Diurnal rarely writes out the opening prayers for each hour in full, so this section provides a guide to the cue words it does include.

The opening and closing prayers of the Office  

The Diurnal doesn't write out the concluding prayers for each day very often, so this section goes through the standard conclusions in full, as well as how to make a commemoration (ie celebrate the memorial of a saint, or remembrance of a day of Advent or Lent etc that is displaced by a feast).

Hymns, chapters, versicles and responsories 

Filling out the Diurnal cues for the texts of the Office.



Calendars and Ordos - Ordos help you know what feasts and/or seasons you need to take account of when you say the Office each day.

Liturgical seasons  - The Farnborough Diurnal is based on the 1963 calendar.  A quick guide to some differences to the modern calendar that you may not be familiar with.

The feasts of saints in the Office - The sanctorale cycle in the Office

Customising the Ordo - On adding in local feasts, and aligning with the Roman EF calendar.

Using the novus ordo calendar, other ordos - On saying the Benedictine Office with the new calendar, or pre-1962 calendars.

Feasts - what changes, what doesn't


How the Office is performed - When to stand, bow etc; roles when the Office is sung in choir.

Tackling the Latin

Singing the Office pt 1

Singing the Office Pt 2









You can also find these in PDF form over at the BenOffice Help Group.


Terminology - key words you need to know
Glossary of terms

When are the hours properly said?


Andrew Tillcock said...

Just a quick question refresher. We say the glory be after each psalm and canticle unless otherwise noted. Also what about after the chapter readings?

Kate Edwards said...

I have answered this elsewhere, but see this post for a summary: http://saintsshallarise.blogspot.com.au/2009/04/learning-office-part-5b-diverse-parts.html