We begin the day with Matins and during the morning we celebrate the Holy Eucharist. At noon, we gather again in the church for Diurnum and our work day closes with Vespers. After dinner, we participate in Compline in anticipation of God’s care through the night.
We observe festivals and commemorate saints according to the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church (with a few adaptations). You may download a copy of our calendar of observances – known as as the Ordo (see below).
Visitors are encouraged to come to the services and to participate as they feel comfortable. Many will simply sit and listen their first few times in the monastery church. The Monastic Breviary, which includes almost all of the prayers said or sung during the Daily Office, are available at the entrance to the church for those who wish to follow along or perhaps even try to chant with the monks.
The Ordo of the Order of the Holy Cross is the official calendar of feasts and fasts observed in our community along with their rank or degree of solemnity. This can be of great help if you want to emulate our monastic communities in their devotions. It is used in conjunction to “A Monastic Breviary” (West Park, NY: Holy Cross Publications, 1976) to which the Ordo makes constant references. You can “Download the Holy Cross Ordo” by using the Adobe Acrobat PDF icon in the column to the right.
Matins, or the Morning Office, begins our day with a simple prayer asking God to open our lips and with a communal invitation to worship, usually the Venite from Psalm 95. It continues with the recitation of a number of psalms which comprise the principal texts for the daily services. The psalter—the poetic prayer book of the Second Temple and of the early Church—expresses the whole range of religious and human experiences and emotions and is offered on behalf of all humanity. A reading from the Old Testament, a Scriptural canticle, and a lesson from the New Testament follow. We then sing a hymn celebrating creation or marking the day’s feast or church season. The office reaches its climax in the daily recitation or chanting of the Benedictus, Zachariah’s song of blessing (Luke 1:68-79) wherein we invite “the dawn from on high” to break upon us. The Apostle’s Creed is proclaimed, the Lord’s Prayer is recited and the officiant gathers together our intentions in the collect or shared prayer. We are then dismissed to begin our day’s work.
The Holy Eucharist, the Mass, the Divine Liturgy, the Holy Communion–though known by many names, this central act of Christian worship draws us together in a service of Word and Sacrament to be fed by Christ, the Bread of Life and to be strengthened to serve Christ in each other and in the world. Whether offered with elaborate ceremonial accompanied by glorious music, incense and preaching as befits Sundays and great feasts, or in the contemplative quiet of an simple weekday celebration, our Founder Fr. Huntington reminds us that, “The whole love of the passion burns in every Eucharist, and we…are to be kindled with that love.”
Diurnum, or the Midday Office, invites us to pause in our busy lives and reflect on the unfolding day in the light of God’s eternal message. A plainsong hymn, a short selection of chanted psalms, time for silent prayer, and a concluding collect mark the simple structure. The service ends with a prayer for those who have passed on: “May the souls of the departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.”
Vespers, or Evening Prayer, mirrors the structure of Matins and brings our work day to a close. It begins with the singing of the Phos Hilaron, an ancient evening hymn saluting Christ the Light, and is accompanied by an offering of incense on Sundays and greater feasts. The psalms for the day are chanted. A lesson from the Gospels is read. A seasonal or festal hymn is sung. And like Matins, the service again reaches its highpoint in the chanting of a Gospel canticle, in this case the Magnificat–Mary’s praise hymn of praise for God’s mercies (Luke 1:46-55). The Lord’s Prayer, a concluding collect and a dismissal complete the evening sacrifice.
The name Compline comes from the Latin word for ‘complete,’ It is the night prayer of the Church, completing the monastic cycle of worship and ushering in the night silence. The service begins with a review of the day and a corporate confession of sins. A brief hymn suitable for the night time is sung, most often the ancient plainsong hymn “To you, before the close of day.” A short selection of psalms is chanted in simple but plaintive tonalities. A brief verse from Scripture with its responsory follows, then a collect asking for protection through the coming night. The service concludes with the third Gospel canticle, the Nunc Dimittis, Simeon’s song of dismissal (Luke 2:29-32) and its invariable antiphon: “Guide us waking, O Lord, and guard us sleeping, that awake we may watch with Christ and asleep we may rest in peace.”
Though not strictly a part of Compline, it is traditional in monasteries to sing a final antiphon in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary which varies according to the church season. All are exquisitely tender and beautiful chants. The Prior then blesses each brother and guest present with holy water as a reminder and renewal of our baptismal hope. We depart the church in silence until the morrow.