Sharing the same basic structure, Lauds and Vespers are the “hinges” of the Divine Office, i.e., the day opens and closes on them. The sun rises, light appears and the day is born as Lauds is being sung. The sun sets, light wanes and the day begins to die away at Vespers. They are the natural and most important times of prayer.
The time and the spirit of Lauds recalls the resurrection, the dawn of the new day, a new creation, as Christ dispels the darkness. Our Savior and all of nature rise, and so do we in this great act of praise – every sunrise an Easter. Lauds also has an eschatological aspect, pointing to that great and final day as described in the Apocalypse.
Beginning with the words, “O God, come to my assistance,” the Blessed Trinity is praised in the Glory Be and the joyful exclamation of praise, Alleluia, is sung, recalling that the Lord is truly risen. Alleluia is sung not only on Sundays but daily, with the exception of Lent when the joyful exclamation is suppressed; instead is sung, “Praise to you, O Lord, King of everlasting glory.”
Lauds continues with two Psalms and an Old Testament canticle between them, each with its own antiphon. Then follows a short reading from Scripture and a responsory. After that is sung a hymn, then a versicle and response before the climax of the hour, the Benedictus (Canticle of Zachary). The Church is “Zachary,” and she sings of the world’s redemption. After the Gospel canticle comes the Kyrie, the Our Father (which is given to the community by the abbot, as Christ did for his apostles), the oration of the day, the dismissal Let us bless the Lord and the versicles and responses praying for the faithful departed and asking God’s assistance for the whole monastic community, brothers present and absent.