The First Words of the Day

The first words we say in the morning often set the tone for the day. Here in the monastery it is easy. We sing Vigils in English and the opening phrase of our Office is

O Lord, open my lips and my mouth shall declare your praise. To you be glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus for ever and ever. Amen. Alleluia.

There in a nutshell you have a programme for the monastic day. We begin with recognition that everything comes from God. He gives us life and breath and the power of speech. He alone can ‘open our lips’ and ensure that we use them for good and for singing the praises of God in the Church and in Christ Jesus, in whom all prayer is made. But what if we don’t have such a beginning to the day? What if we tumble out of bed with a suppressed oath and are immediately plunged into all the demands of work and family — or at least, the demands of Facebook and Twitter? Might everything begin in a rather negative or distracted way?

We hear a great deal about the importance of the right breakfast. We hear much less about the right start to the day in other ways. It isn’t a deep or novel thought, but I sometimes wonder whether beginning the day with a blessing would put a smile on our faces and hearts, which would be as good for the health of society as wholegrains are for our guts.

Nuns on the Radio (again)
The wonderful Anna King is interviewing Digitalnun sometime between 12.15 and 12.45 on BBC Radio Gloucestershire today. If you’re interested, you can listen live online or use the iPlayer ‘Listen Again’ facility:


8 thoughts on “The First Words of the Day”

  1. Can I ask is there an online version of the Office you use?

    I Googled it but there was a confusing array of information on Benedictine Office/Hours.

    I would like to read the prayers that start with such a wonderful phrase…

    • Short answer — no, it is unique, as the Office of many monasteries is. We use Latin Vespers and Marian antiphons from the Antiphonale, Latin hymns from English sources as given in the Monastic Hymnale produced and published by Stanbrook in the 1960s; and apart from the Graduale, pretty well everything else is from the English Office we inherited from our Stanbrook days.

      • Thanks. I did wonder was there a set format. I had no idea that the Office was so individual. One of the best aspects about your blog – I learn things!

        Charming radio broadcast today – still amazed to hear about the negative responses (attacks) that nuns suffer when out and about. I can understand ignorance, but not hostility towards you. Part of the attitude, I suppose, towards women, religion and daring to look different. You are a target on all three counts.

  2. At Tyburn we used the same phrase to open our first Office of the day (Nocturns). On rising, the first thing we did was take holy water and say, “Behold, Lord, I come to do your will,” and because we sang it as an antiphon every week it always came to my mind set to music and with an alleluia.
    I like your point about starting the day right.

    • It’s common monastic practice to put different sentences of scripture together, e.g. in antiphons. I daresay the nuns know almost the whole bible by heart.

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