Hinge Hours

Frequently Asked Questions

Answers by Stephen Joseph Wolf are drawn for the most part from the Acknowledgements in Hinge Hours for Ordinary Time, Hinge Hour Singer, and

Best of the Psalter.

Q: What is a Hinge Hour?
A: The Liturgy of the Hours is the prayer of the Church, most of the 150 psalms, a number of canticles, readings, petitions and intercessions and hymns, arranged for sanctifying the whole day by praying for the Church seven times a day:
     Office of Readings (in some monasteries at 4 am),
     Morning Prayer (sometimes called lauds, near to dawn),
     Midmorning Prayer (perhaps at 9 am), 
     Midday Prayer (near noon),
     Midafternoon Prayer (perhaps at 3 pm,
     Evening Prayer (sometimes called vespers, near sunset or
                               the gloaming of the day), and
     Night Prayer (at bedtime). 
According to the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council, "By the venerable tradition of the universal Church, Lauds as Morning Prayer, and Vespers as Evening Prayer, are the two hinges on which the daily office turns...(and) are considered as the chief hours...  (para. 89a).
     This experiment is designed then for the two hinge hours:
          1.  during the first hour of the day, and
          2.  in the evening hour near sundown or at night.
 
Q: Hinge Hours for Ordinary Time and Hinge Hour Singer are arranged in a four-week repeating cycle, the same four weeks over and over.  How do I know which is the correct week?
A: The 34 weeks of Ordinary time begin, on the day after the Christmas Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, with either Monday or Tuesday of Week I. Ordinary Time is interrupted by the Seasons of Lent and Easter, resuming on the Monday following Pentecost Sunday, and continues until the First Sunday of Advent, which is always the Sunday nearest to November 30.
     Which of the 34 weeks of Ordinary time are we in? You can find out on your parish calendar, or call the local Catholic parish, or click Today's Readings on the Bible page of the US Bishops' web site.
 
     Ordinary Time Weeks:   1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14
             Four Week Cycle:   1  2  3  4  1  2  3  4  1   2    3    4    1    2
 
     Ordinary Time Weeks:   15  16  17  18  19  20  21  22  23  24  25
             Four Week Cycle:    3    4    1    2    3    4    1    2    3    4    1
 
     Ordinary Time Weeks:   26  27  28  29  30  31  32  33  34
             Four Week Cycle:    2    3    4    1    2    3    4    1    2
 
Q: What is the story of the Hinge Hours?
A: When ordained a deacon, one of my promises was to be faithful in praying the prayer of the Church, which includes praying for the Body of Christ, the People of God, through the Liturgy of the Hours (the book itself is often called the "Breviary"). In the seminary days, there was a structure to the day that helped make it natural. 
     One of my regular comments about the life of a parish priest is often quoted back to me: "I'm still waiting for a boring day." I love being a parish priest. But I have struggled with fidelity to the promise to pray the full Liturgy of the Hours.  Still, I have also discovered a love of the whole book of psalms and of those great songs and poems (which we call "canticles") embedded in the texts of books of prophets and letters from Paul and others.
     Several years ago I scratched out an arrangement of the psalms and canticles for twice a day over four weeks. Many psalms from the Office of Readings are inserted in the front of Morning Prayer, and many psalms and canticles from Daytime Hours and Night Prayer are inserted into Evening Prayer. Some of the repetition of psalms and canticles in the Liturgy of the Hours is minimized in the Hinge Hours series.
     Using that arrangement, I began to pray Morning and Evening Prayer from the Catholic New American Bible and occasionally from several other translations.  Slowly I began to scratch out renderings of the psalms and canticles for meditation.
     Perhaps when I retire I can return to the "seven times a day" of prayer. For now, one or two times of stillness, silence, and solitude will have to do for most days.
 
Q: How is it an "experiment"?
A: This is not the approved order for public liturgy. Certainly neither the arrangement into two hinge hours nor my meditation rendering will be helpful for all people. 
 
Q: Why is it called a "meditation rendering" instead of a translation?
A: Two of the goals behind the Hinge Hours prayer books might fairly seem contradictory.
 
     First, I wanted something like a "literal" rendering where the same word is used in English wherever that word appears in Hebrew or in Greek. The official translation approved by the Catholic Church for the Liturgy of the Hours is a beautiful translation for community chanting in monasteries and seminaries. As a parish priest, almost all of my time with the Psalter (the book of Psalms and Canticles) is with the Church universal but alone with God, whether in my room, in the chapel, or in the woods. Praying in Lectio Divina, trying to listen to the Lord, I have found much prayerful fruit in several translations. I doubt that I have accomplished the "literal" rendering I was looking for, limited by cursury study of Greek and no formal study of Hebrew. Perhaps that is the real reason to call the version for Ordinary Time an "experiment."
 
      Second, as a rendering for meditation and prayer, I made four conscious choices:
     1.  For the divine name Yhvh or Yahweh, the Hebrew word Adonai (ah-duh-nih) meaning Lord is used. In several places the words El or Elyon or Elohim are retained, as is Sabaoth instead of Mighty or Lord of Hosts.
     2.  Following the Christian understanding of one God in the three persons of the Trinity, masculine pronouns for God are avoided, except when God is referred to as Father, or specific references to Jesus.
     3.  In an admittedly imperfect effort to pray the gospel as well as the psalms, the word enemy is rendered as something similar to ones who would be my enemy, or ones who would be enemies, or enmity itself.
     4.  Where people are referred to as evil, the emphasis is shifted to those who do or would do evil or ways that are evil.
     There are problems with all four of these choices, and these would be reasons to not use this compilation in public liturgy. Still, in my judgment, the benefits as an alternative for private meditation overwhelm the problems.
Q: Who do you think you are to be tampering with the word of God?
A: Who, indeed; a question that has left me with no answer except that I am a baptized follower of Jesus Christ. Any errors in these renderings are entirely my own, and if you find what I have done offensive, I respect that and encourage you to not use it. 
     The primary character of these renderings is from the grace of eighteen years of praying with the Psalter.  May the Lord grant more of this grace. And may we all be grateful for all those who do the real work of translating sacred scripture.
 
Stephen Joseph Wolf