General Information on Benedictine Offices

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General information on Benedictine Offices

In mediaeval Oxford, most of the Colleges were founded as religious houses, places of both study and prayer. This strong tradition survived the Reformation, and the chapels of the Colleges and their choirs are one of the most distinctive features of Oxford University.

Since its foundation in 1897, there has always been a small monastic community living and praying at St Benet’s Hall. For monks, there should always be a balance between their work and their prayer – an on-going conversation, as it were, between God and the world, which both sustains the monks themselves and helps others. Equally, we find that prayer nourishes our study, and that study feeds our prayer.

We welcome all, both from the Hall and outside, whether Roman Catholic or not, to share in something of this experience. The Chapel is always open for personal prayer and reflection, or even just for quiet “thinking time” in a busy life.

A brief guide to the Divine Office

The monks of the community principally come to Oxford to study, and so our liturgical routine is modified to support this. This means it is simpler than in our “home communities”. Largely, we follow the Roman Office, and normally pray in English. All are welcome to join us for any of the Office or for Mass. Booklets for guests are available in the Chapel for all Offices and Mass.

The Offices are as follows:

Morning Prayer:

This combines the monastic hours of Matins and Lauds. Matins is a reflective office, with psalms and long readings from scripture and the Fathers of the Church, which has its origin in the night “vigils” of the monastic tradition. Lauds is a more “festive” office celebrating the Resurrection and asking God’s blessing on the new day with psalms and prayers.

Mass:

The Eucharist is celebrated daily. The celebration is in English, but the Ordinary (Kyrie, Sanctus, Agnus Dei etc.) is sung in Latin. There is a small regular congregation, a little larger on Sundays, and on Sundays there is a homily. All are welcome, but we do ask that only Roman Catholics receive Holy Communion. All are welcome to come for a blessing.

Evening Prayer:

This is an office of thanksgiving for the day, the equivalent of Evensong in other College Chapels. On Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, it is sung in Latin to traditional plainsong, according to the structure established by St Benedict in his Rule. On other days it is recited in English.

Compline:

Sung Night Prayer is the simplest and most attractive of the Offices. It is the same each day, asking for God’s protection during the night.

Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament:

As part of our on-going prayer for Vocations, there is weekly silent adoration of the Blessed Sacrament on Fridays during Full Term at 8.15-8.55pm in the Chapel. All are welcome.

Other services also take place in the chapel on an occasional basis.