'To be human now is the reason we follow the star....'
W H Auden
The Divine Office 2
The climax of the Office is the singing of the Benedictus, the words with which Zechariah both praises God with and prophesies with at the birth of John the Baptist. (Lk 1:68-79) ' Blessed be the Lord the God of Israel......' 'The dawn from on high shall break upon us....'
Vespers is celebrated in the evening when the working day is drawing to a close and the daylight beginning to fail. As we give thanks for those things that have been given us during the day, and as we also recall our redemption, our prayers 'rise before you like incense'. (Ps 141:2)
As a modern transalation of the evening hymn the Phos Hilaron says, 'O light serene of God the Father's glory, To you O Chist we sing, and with the evening star, at hour of sunset, our worship bring. (Stanbrook Abbey) The climax of the Vespers is the singing of the Magnificat, the song of Mary.
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord..., the Lord has done great things for me, and holy is his name..' (Lk 1:46-55)
Lauds is designed to sanctify the morning hours. Recited as the light of the new day dawns, it recalls the resurrection of Christ, the true light. who enlightens all (Jn 1:19), the 'Sun of Righteousness' (Malachi 4:2), arising over us. It consecrates to God the first actions and hours of the day of the day. 'I say this prayer to you O Lord, for at daybreak you listen for my voice; and at dawn I hold myself in readiness for you.' (Ps 5:3)
Lauds is so called beacuse the psalmody always concludes with one or more of the Laudate psalms - those which begin 'Praise the Lord!'. Traditionally these are Pss. 148 -150, although more recently have been expanded to include the other psalms of praise.
This is a shorter office that arises out of the old 'lesser hours' of Terce, Sext and None. It recalls us to the 'Opus Dei' in the midst of work and busyness.
Compline is the final office of the day and is said in the evening, before going to bed. It provides an opportunity to look back at the day, to ask forgiveness for things that we might have done differently, and to commend ourselves once again into the hands of God. The short service includes the 'Nunc Dimittis' - 'Lord now you let your servant depart in peace..... My own eyes have seen the salvation which you prepared for all....' (Lk 2:29-32)