LAUDS to 9:00 AM
"O Lord, open my lips and my mouth shall declare Your praise!" The Word of God are the first words we speak at the beginning of each new day as we sign our lips with the sign of the Cross. These words from psalm sum up our life and vocation: praise! Since Compline the night before the monastery has been enveloped in what we call Profound Silence.
We are reminded that even this life-long action of praise is a gift as as we sign our lips with the sacred sign of our salvation. I have been doing this almost daily for nearly 20 years and the significance and beauty are still as new to me as those first days as a postulant!
In our monastery the first Hour of the Divine Office that is sung is Lauds. Office of Readings will be celebrated later in the day. Before Lauds as a community we consecrate our day to the Holy Trinity through our Blessed Lady: "O Adorable Trinity, I offer you through the hands of our blessed Mother..."
We finish singing Lauds at about 6:20 or later depending on if it is a ferial day or a feast. Until Holy Mass at 7:15 this time is dedicated to Lectio Divina, study and prayer. Some sisters eat a quick breakfast right after Lauds. During nice weather I often go outside to enjoy God's gift of nature but in the winter I stay in Choir for prayer. I've learned not to be rigid while at the same time I am conscious of the need of some sort of structure. I pass by the community room and see Sr. Maria Agnes getting settled with coffee and her books as she likes to take this time of day for sacred study.
Before Mass I put in a rack of dishes into the dishwasher in order to make space for those who eat breakfast after Mass. Several days each week I serve as chantress at Mass. When I first started I used to spend some of this time practicing what we would be singing at Mass. Now, I'm so familiar with it that I rarely have to go over the day's responsorial psalm. Of course, sometimes that means I'm in for a surprise!
To have daily Mass is such a privilege, one that we are aware many people can not enjoy! Our Lord gives Himself to us as our food daily and from this Gift of Love flows our expression of Thanksgiving expressed throughout the day in our prayer of the Divine Office. At the same time, our praise of God through the Office is also our preparation for Holy Mass the next day. It is a constant ebb and flow.
After Holy Mass we have a period of about 10 minutes for personal thanksgiving. A few sisters, though, must sacrifice staying in silent prayer and must continue their thanksgiving in their work of service to the community. The Sacristan needs to remove the sacred vessels from the Altar, put out the candles and close the cloister grille. The Infirmarian needs to take care of the needs of the sick. I, on the other hand, perform the very ordinary task of finishing the dishes so that the older sisters who dry and put away the dishes after Terce can do so since they can't lift the heavy racks. It really only takes a minute or two. Well, actually, according to the dishwasher it takes 95 seconds!
We've pretty much been at prayer since 5:20 and it is after 8:00 AM. We then pray the first of the "Little Hours", that of Terce or Midmorning Prayer (8:00 is Midmorning? It is if you are a nun!). This Office is the canonical prayer offering the work of our day to God. It is a brief Office and after we leave choir: some to eat breakfast, others to perform a few necessary chores. Others use this free time until the formal period of work begins at 9:00 AM to study, practice the organ or piano, finish a letter, etc. At the present time I stay in choir for my time of Rosary and Adoration until 9:00 AM and during this time I am "visited" by the Sister scheduled to clean choir on that day! At other times I use this time to catch up on emails and even do a blog entry.