‘Indeed nothing is to be preferred to the work of God.’
The monastic communities at Turvey gather five times each day to pray the Liturgy of the Hours. This prayer is referred to by St Benedict in his Rule, as quoted above, where he uses the term ‘work of God’. Christian writers may also use the terms Prayer of the Church, Divine Office and Opus Dei.
The image of the early Christian community gathering in prayer is the inspiration for the rhythm of our prayer. Each service is biblically based using the psalms, canticles from the Old and New Testament, hymns and reflective reading of the Word of God. Some services include a time of intercessory prayer, an important part of our monastic witness.
Our services punctuate the day. Benedictines have traditionally been free to organise the shape and content of their prayer. At Turvey we pray the Psalter in a two week cycle.
We begin at 6.10 with the Office of Readings. In this service we sing psalms, listen to the Word of God and reflect upon the writings of the Church’s spiritual writers.
At 8.30 we have our second service, Lauds, from the Latin, laudare, to praise. It is a service of praise, designed and structured to sanctify the morning .The hymns, Psalms and canticles reflect the themes of light and dawn. This service also celebrates the resurrection. The singing of the Benedictus, the Canticle of Zechariah, is traditional at Lauds. Lauds is one of the principal services of the day.
At Midday we have midday prayer combined with the Eucharist. Our midday prayer uses the Gradual psalms and Ps 118. The Gradual psalms (from the Latin, gradus, step) were traditionally prayed on foot, as the people journeyed to Jerusalem on pilgrimage.
In the early evening, at 5.45, we celebrate Vespers, from the Latin, vesper, evening. The hymns and psalms reflect the themes of the approach of evening and the day’s work having ended. Vespers is the most solemn of our times of prayer.
Our final service of the day is Compline, from the Latin, completorium, completion. The psalms and canticle used at Compline are the same each evening; Ps 4, 90 and 133 and the Nunc Dimittis, the Canticle of Simeon. This office is sung by heart and concludes with the singing of a Marian antiphon, in praise of Mary. The Marian antiphon changes according to the liturgical season.
On Sundays our celebration of the liturgy is more solemn and our focus is that of the Resurrection. We begin our celebration of the Resurrection on Saturday with Vespers. Later in the evening we have a service known as a vigil. Our prayer is divided three parts or three nocturns. In addition to a reading from Scripture and a reading from a Christian writer we also read the Gospel for the following day. Our service closes with the singing of an ancient hymn of praise, the Te Deum.
We pray a vigil office on the eve of all Feasts and Solemnities. Keeping vigil is a traditional Christian response to the Gospel injunction to ‘wait on the Lord.’
We use organ, zither and guitar to accompany some of our services; others are sung unaccompanied. Much of our music has been inspired by plain chant. Some of our liturgy has been influenced by the Byzantine tradition. The style of our musical accompaniment and singing reflects each liturgical season. In the traditional penitential seasons of the year, Lent and Advent, most of our liturgy is unaccompanied.