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Every night, the monks of the Grande Chartreuse leave their cells at fifteen minutes past midnight to meet in the church and sing matins and lauds. Two, three, sometimes even three and a half hours of homilies, psalms, readings and a profound silence.

A prayer ... a long, profound and intimate moment of prayer ... a long interior reflection and exterior ritual. I shared this moment with the monks for almost six months.

During these long hours, sometimes difficult and very often cold, I suddenly became aware that the psalms, lessons, chants, prayers and thoughts had been sung here, in this same location, for almost 1000 years.

Simultaneously, I realized that as long as the monks from the Chartreuse lived in this world, as long as there are twelve who live in this world, they will wake up at 11:30pm, pass the canonical hour dedicated to the Virgin in their cells, and meet in church at fifteen minutes past midnight for matins and lauds.

A hypnotic interval, with no ordinary function, free from all daily functionality, the Office of the Night is the visible expression of the unique function and principle of the order of the Chartreuse.

Contemplation. Existence facing God. Continuous effort and dedication with the only purpose being to allow the soul to be closer to HIM.

This Office of the Night appeared to me to be the core of the Monks’ life and spirituality.

The feeling that I felt during these offices was transparency. Transparency of our lives toward the greater cycle of life of the Order, and the time of creation, and a deep and comforting feeling of proximity to the monks. It was a feeling of profound communion, sometimes interrupted by dreams and invincible fatigue to which I succumbed (as did the monks). It was an experience of slow transformation through duration.

The Office of the Night stayed with me – the darkness, the beauty and the monotony of the chants, the antiphons with the psalms and chants before my prie-Dieu.

I wanted to share my experience with an audience.

The Office of the Night in its entirety has never been made available to the public. More than two and a half hours of chants, readings, prayers, and noises of silence.

The heartbeat of the Order for more than 1000 years.

A technical note:

In 2002, no battery could record audio material for three hours. For this reason, the recording is made of two parts: the Matins of June 16, 2002, and the lauds of June 19, 2002.

Philip Gröning

1) Sunday Lauds Canticle Of Zachary Luke 1 68 79