A couple of days ago I put up a post called 're: Apostolate for the Divine Office', based on a post on New Liturgical Movement about Lay recitation of the Divine Office; and I suggested that this was a very good thing, to be encouraged . . . so this is the first of an 'occasional series' of posts about the Office, in the hope that it will stimulate people to say the Office.
One of the things which the NLM post highlighted was that people were concerned about the time it takes to say the Office; and another was knowing how to say it.
Obviously both of these are important issues; but obviously how to do it is potentially quite a complex topic : so as a quick starter, let me just try and give some idea about the time involved : and at this point I'm specifically talking about the time involved in saying 'The Divine Office'.
(That's the UK version of the modern Office in English; although in fact the US version wouldn't be very different, and the Latin version - which is what I use now - is also very much the same.)
The Divine Office for any given day consists of six parts :
this is just a single psalm, with a repeated Antiphon, said before the first Office of the day
The Office of Readings
this is usually said first thing in the morning; but can be said at any time after noon the previous day, or (as many Monasteries do) during the night
Morning Prayer (Lauds)
Prayer during the Day
Evening Prayer (Vespers)
this is sometimes called 'Night Prayer', and is said before bed - which may make it after midnight
Thinking of time, the question of how you say the Office is obviously important. If you say it all aloud, then it will take longer; if you literally just read it, then much less time. Traditionally, one said the Office, but without vocalising it; your lips had to form the words, but they were not meant to be audible. As that is how I have always said it when alone, those are the timings I know . . . adjust to suit your own technique. (Equally, some people say the Office quite quickly, others want to linger over every verse of every psalm. My timings are for a reverent, but continuous, recitation . . . again, adjust to suit.)
For me, the Invitatory takes about a minute and a half; and the Office of Readings for an average day takes about 20 minutes.
Lauds and Vespers (which have the same format) take about ten minutes each, Prayer during the Day not much over five (sometimes less); and Compline perhaps a little over five.
Now : I bought my first copy of The Divine Office in (I think) 1974 - so I'm fairly familiar not only with my way about the books, but also with the words - I have, after all, said every psalm many times; all of which may mean that my timings are a little faster than yours will be (at least to start with) . . . but it gives you an idea of the scale of the commitment.
May I say, finally, that if you have not done it before, I would start off with Lauds and Vespers, with or without Compline; and then add in Readings (perhaps only at weekends to start with), and finally Prayer during the Day. Lauds and Vespers are probably the most important bits of the Office, and provide a good starting point; and once you're used to them, the rest of it really will follow quite easily.
As you will see, even saying the whole Office should take a total of (say) an hour a day; which is hardly an unreasonable commitment - especially when you think that it is providing the best possible bedrock of prayer for the rest of your spiritual and devotional life.
Next Time . . . I don't know; whatever you'd like to know seems quite a good idea !