The liturgy is the prayer of the whole Christ, head and members, addressed to the Father in the Holy Spirit. As members of the Body of Christ, we pray the liturgy in and with the Church. We sing psalms – i.e. prayers forming part of the Bible (Word of God) – during the liturgy. We thus pray to God using the very Word of God. God is the origin and end of our prayer. St Benedict rightly calls the liturgy the Opus Dei, i.e. the Work of God, since God is both its subject and object. St Benedict attaches great importance to the liturgy: no less than fifteen chapters of his Rule are devoted it. Above all, St Benedict states that a monk should “prefer nothing to the Work of God” (ch. 43).
By the daily celebration of the liturgy, we praise God for his gift of life and for the even more wonderful gift of friendship with him, who willed that all men and women should become his children. Celebrating the liturgy with care draws us into the dynamism of creation, which glorifies God by the beauty it has received from him. The great attention to beauty in all things that typifies monks is rooted in the liturgy.
The daily celebration of the Eucharist is the source and summit of our liturgy. By our communion with the Body and Blood of the Lord, we become one body with him. The unity of our community, its incorporation into the Church and its spiritual fecundity are ultimately based on this communion. Our daily Mass is celebrated with the utmost care, in Latin and with Gregorian chant.
In addition to the Eucharist, St Benedict lays down that we should come together in choir to celebrate the liturgy seven times a day, thus sanctifying every moment of daily life:
- Vigils during the night, consisting of psalms and (often numerous) readings from the Bible and Fathers of the Church. This office signifies our waiting for the glorious second coming of Christ. “The day of the Lord will surprise you like a thief in the night”, says St Paul (1 Th 5: 2).
- Lauds, the morning office of praise par excellence, is in harmony with the natural glory of dawn. Lauds is our daily celebration of the victory of light over darkness, which is an image of Christ's victory over death by his resurrection.
- The working day is punctuated by short “little” hours. These offices are still named according to the Roman clock. Terce – the third hour – is incorporated into Mass, whereas the offices of Sext (sixth hour) and None (ninth hour) are celebrated before and after lunch.
- Vespers is an office of praise that sanctifies the evening. The structure of this office is similar to Lauds. During Vespers, we sing the Magnificat, the canticle sung by the Virgin Mary when she visited her cousin Elisabeth.
- The day concludes with the office of Compline. At the end of Compline, we sing one of four antiphons to the Virgin Mary, which include the Salve Regina. These antiphons are rightly famous for their beautiful Gregorian melodies. The great night silence then begins, which lasts until Lauds the following day.