The Liturgy of the Hours, especially the 'hinge' hours of Morning and Evening Prayer, ideally provide the setting for daily participation in the Liturgy of the Eucharist. The prayers of the Hours are both preparation for reception of the Eucharist and thanksgiving afterward. For contemplative nuns and any monastic, the Liturgy of the Hours along with the time of Mass provide the horarium or daily schedule around which everything else must center. In our monastery we pray the Office of Readings along with Morning Prayer at 7am; Midday Prayer at 11:40am; Evening Prayer or Vespers at 6pm; and Night Prayer or Compline at 8:15pm. During the summer our daily Mass is at 8am while during the rest of the year it is at 5pm. Some orders like the Trappists and the Carthusians rise at around 1 or 2am for a sung or recited Office in the middle of the night. Each monastery follows the Church's official design or rubrics for the Offices but variations will appear from place to place. At one time this community sang every Office, that is, they chanted the psalms. Today we chant the Offices from Saturday evening to Sunday night and on feasts or solemnities. On other days they are recited. But there is singing at every Office for the opening hymn and the gospel canticle (Benedictus at Morning Prayer, Magnificat at Evening Prayer and Nunc Dimitis at Night Prayer).
As a lay woman I found that private reading of Morning and Evening Prayer helped me to settle down, to put myself at a remove from the activities of the day, and then enter into a more contemplative mode of prayer. As a contemplative nun, these times of prayer with my community are very precious and very beautiful. They are not to become routine and automatic. At these times we stand together before the throne of God praying for the world, for the intentions coming to us constantly, and for our own great need and desire to remain faithful and persevere.
The illustration above is a page from a medieval Book of Hours, an illuminated manuscript of the psalms and prayers for the Liturgy of the Hours. This is King David, commonly thought of as the author of the Book of Psalms. Such lavishly illustrated prayer books hold honored places in many museum collections.