Sacrosanctum Concilium 88

Praying the right hours at the right time of day–this is a virtue, and should be enforced in the reform:

Because the purpose of the office is to sanctify the day, the traditional sequence of the hours is to be restored so that once again they may be genuinely related to the time of the day when they are prayed, as far as this may be possible. Moreover, it will be necessary to take into account the modern conditions in which daily life has to be lived, especially by those who are called to labor in apostolic works.

Sensible Roman approach: set down an ideal, but permit some wiggle room for important circumstances.


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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4 Responses to Sacrosanctum Concilium 88

  1. Liam says:

    Revealed in the evolution of the current Office of Readings from the Matins that arose to fill the natural interval between “great sleep” and “little sleep” that characterized natural sleep cycles before the advent of artificial light. (If you’ve ever wondered why you have trouble sleeping 8 hours straight through, it’s likely because it’s not historically been normal to do so for adults; it’s more natural to sleep for 3-4 sleep cycles, be awake for a sleep cycle, and return to sleep for 2-3 sleep cycles).

    Also revealed in the streamlining of midday prayers.

  2. Anne says:

    Fascinating! Just when did this practice stop, historically…or are there religious orders who still sleep/pray like that?

  3. Liam says:


    The availability of artificial light, and the advent of the industrially-oriented workweek (and of universal schooling) have all but eliminated this natural sleep pattern in the industrial world. Most children are not raised with the natural sleep pattern, and so when they become adults don’t readily pick it up.

    I am sure there are orders that must maintain the old schedule, but it would be hard on people who were never given the chance to avoid the industrial patterns growing up.

    Btw, a number of writers from the pre-modern period felt that the period between great and little sleep was their most productive writing or thinking period of the daily cycle. Unfortunately, it’s pretty lost to us.

    And people wonder why stress and other illnesses gradually increase in the modern age. We have not evolved to fully address the profound nature of this change in natural patterns in such a short period of time.

  4. Liam says:

    I mean, think of New England at this time of year. Homes would be dark by 5pm, and not light until 7am. Northern Europe would have a much longer period of total darkness. Tallow candles would allow some work to be done, but the hearth fire would be in embers by nightfall. Bright moonlight* might allow some work by a south-facing window (which were small until the advent of Franklin stoves 200 years ago). Bed-room temperatures would fall below freezing at night (you think 60F is bad? try 30F if you were lucky!), and you would have frost from your mouth on your bedcovers when you awoke.

    * In one of the signs of a peculiarly fitting solar system design, the nightime path (in terms of breadth between azimuths and height of zenith) of the full moon in December mimics the daytime solar path in June. And vice-versa. So, winter full moons ameliorate the long winter nights. On the other hand, the new moon periods of winter months are dangerously dark….

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