Structure of the Carthusian day

The Carthusian day revolves around the liturgy. The liturgy is a group of meditations, chants, hymns, readings and prayers put together in such a way that make them relevant to the time of day and time of year.
The point of this is to invite those who partake in it into the mystery of God - into the life, knowledge and love of God - into union with God. This invitation is rather good!, so a tradition grew that we, or those who wanted to, would enter into this invitation regularly.
From this the 'Hours' developed. The hours are the times when the liturgy is done. The first hour of the Jewish day is where the first liturgical hour is put, and this is called 'Prime' - at about 06.00 by our measurement of daily time. 3 hours later, at the third hour, the liturgical hour of 'Terce' is celebrated. All the hours of the liturgy are celebrations because in them we focus on God/meet God (not that God is not met at any time), and when that is done there is celebration. 3 hours after that, the sixth hour, sext is celebrated. None is celebrated at the ninth hour. The evening hour is called 'Vespers', and the night hour called compline. Then there is matins. This is the early morning hour which consists of long readings. After this is the dawn hour called lauds - an acclamation of praise to God for the new day. Then were back to prime. The actual time of day when these hours are celebrated can vary. Culture, climate and sunrise/sunset can influence this.
All these hours in turn revolve around another liturgical act called the mass. This is the liturgical high point of each day. The Carthusian day at St. Hugh's Charterhouse, the Carthusian monastery I joined, is therefore as follows. (I led the 'fathers' life as distinct from the 'brothers' and this is what is portrayed).

Prime............................	07.00
Spiritual (e.g. mental prayer)... 07.30
Terce........................... 08.00
Conventual Mass.................. 08.15
Private masses/spiritual reading.. 09.00
Manual work...................... 10.30
Sext............................. 11.15
Lunch then light work, rest...... 11.30
None............................ 13.15
Study........................... 13.30
Manual work...................... 15.00
Vespers.......................... 15.30
Spiritual exercises............... 16.00
Supper........................... 17.30
Recollection.................... 18.15
Compline then tidying up/odd jobs 18.45
Bed.............................. 19.45
Matins........................... 00.00
Lauds............................ 02.00
Bed.... 02.30-03.30 until 07.00

The length of matins varies depending on the feast day. You can drink water at any time, and have some salt if the body needs it, otherwise eating is restricted to the above times. In the winter months supper consists of only bread and drink, in the summer months it is something like beans on toast. Lunch is always substantial. There is no breakfast. Drink consists of tea or coffee or great tasting and very potent home made cider.

Everything is done in solitude in cell except:

Matins, lauds, mass and vespers are celebrated in the church. On Sundays and major feast days, all hours are said in the church (together) except prime. On these days lunch is also taken together whilst one of the monks read. At St. Hugh's I enjoyed the choice of books. At Ealing Abbey they bored me stiff. On Mondays, sext, lunch and none were earlier and vespers later to fit in the walk. On the walk we paired up and chatted in turn with all. (That is with those monks fit/young enough to walk). The prior (the boss) could visit anybody in cell if he so wished. Monks could seek him out, or novices/juniors the master, if they so wished - and at any time. It is not the norm. If it became the norm then it was questioned 'why?'.

[various pictures] Click here to see various scenes from a monastery.

Above is the general layout of the life - there is little attempt here to explain 'but why?', that can come later. Between the liturgical hours monks may differ in what they do. If so the prior will want to know, more from a fraternal interest than from a paternal one. In the course of a monk's life little else changes. The change the monk experiences is with the spiritual journey. Monks will get the odd job during their life - to be the sacristan, master, procurator, cantor, vicar, prior, but otherwise the other major event in the life of the monk is his death.

As a general rule the monk can write to his family 4 times a year, and the family can visit once a year for about 3 days. That kind of contact is quite a lot more than many sons/brothers would have with their families elsewhere.


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