The role of the “Hebdom“
If you look in one of the chant books for the Divine Office, you will note that the services during “Ordinary Time” have a heading for the weekday offices: “Per hebdomadae” which means “through the week”. The person who leads the opening prayers, hymn, and closing prayers is called the “hebdom.“
I was hebdom this past week for our Divine Offices, and it is quite an experience every time do it. I admit, I sometimes go in to chant the offices by rote — simply hear and respond, hear and respond, etc….But when you have this particular responsibility, you have the task of setting forth the prayers so that others can respond. In other words, rote doesn’t work!! In fact, it can be a little startling to put your own voice “into the air” without everyone else chanting with you.
One of the great joys of having the job of hebdom for a week is that it heightens your sensitivity to the service as a whole, as well as the individual prayers and responses. I find myself suddenly more aware of my neighbor and that I have re-engaged with the chanting of the Psalms. Offering your chant as a prayer to God and vehicle for the benefit of others is a privilege and pathway for singing to God and re-igniting love for the chant!