THE CONTENTS OF THE BREVIARY.
The title of the Breviary is, BREVIARIUM ROMANUM EX DECRETO SACROSANCTI
CONCILII TRIDENTINI RESTITUTUM S. PII V. PONTIFICIS MAXIMI JUSSU
EDITUM, ALIORUMQUE PONTIFICIUM, CURA RECOGNITUM PII PAPAE X.,
AUCTORITATE REFORMATUM. This work is divided into four parts, the first
part being called Pars Hiemalis, the winter part; the second part, Pars Verna, the spring part; the third part, Pars Aestiva, the summer part; and the fourth part, the Pars Autumnalis, the autumn part.
The Church, guided by the Holy Ghost, has drawn up these volumes of
liturgical prayer, so that for each season, even for each day, her
official prayer may be suited to the time, to different degrees of
solemnity and of rite, and so that it may be fixed and determined, yet
having great beauty in its wonderful unity and variety. Hence, nothing
in her official prayer is left to chance, nothing is left to the
selection or caprice of the individual who recites this prayer; all is
foreseen, everything is in order, every tittle has a reason for its
existence and its place in the liturgy, and represents the end and the
intentions of the Church. For, every part of the Roman Breviary is
stamped with the wisdom, the zeal and the piety of the Church, which
presents it, as an offering all suitable for and worthy of God's honour
Considering, then, the Breviary as a
liturgical book, we find that the Divine Office has four general
divisions, corresponding to the divisions of our Lord's life. First,
from Advent to Septuagesima; second, from Septuagesima to Easter;
third, from Easter to Pentecost; fourth, from Pentecost to Advent.
These divisions correspond also to the divisions of the year, winter,
spring, summer and autumn.
The end and object of the
Office are to invite us to join in the infinite praise which the Son of
God rendered to His Father during His life, and which He renders still
in Heaven and in the Tabernacle. "Domine in unione illius divinae intentionis qua ipse in terris laudes Deo persolvisti, has tibi Horas persolvo,"
"O Lord, in union with that divine intention wherewith Thou whilst here
on earth Thyself didst praise God, I offer these Hours to Thee." The
life of Christ is divided into four principal divisions: first, His
birth, circumcision, epiphany, presentation; second, His public life
and His death; third, His resurrection, ascension, and descent of the
Holy Ghost; fourth, His mystic life in the Church and in Heaven. Hence
arise the four general divisions of the Divine Office:–
First General Division which begins the Church's year.
From Advent to Septuagesima:–The birth of the Saviour preceded by His
life in Mary's womb, and by the four weeks of Advent, representing (it
is said) the passing of the four thousand years, and embracing the
mysteries of the Holy Infancy, Circumcision, Epiphany, Holy Name of
Jesus, and the Presentation.
Second General Division, from Septuagesima till Easter:–The
death of Christ preceded by the events of His public life, His fasting,
temptation, preaching, miracles, passion and death.
Third General Division, from Easter to Pentecost:–The Resurrection, the Ascension, Pentecost.
Fourth General Division, from Pentecost till Advent, the termination of the Church's year. The mystic life of Christ in the Church, which will end on the Judgment Day.
These divisions make up the four parts of the Roman Breviary.
The first part, Pars Prima, contains the Pontifical Bull, Quod a nobis,
of Pope Pius V. (1568). It states:–1. That the cause of the new edition
was to remove the regrettable variety in the public liturgy. 2. It
recalls the labours of Pope Paul IV., Pius IV., and Pius V. for the
same end. 3. It announces the abolition of the too-abbreviated Breviary
of Quignonez and of all those which have not, for two hundred years
preceding 1568, an authentic approbation or a lawful custom. 4. It
gives permission to those using such breviaries to adopt the Roman
Breviary. 5. It withdraws all privileges in respect to other
breviaries. 6. It declares the Roman Breviary obligatory on all except
those mentioned (vide 3, supra). 7. Even bishops are forbidden
to make the smallest change in the new Breviary. 8. The recitation of
offices from other breviaries does not fulfill the obligation of those
bound to breviary recitation. 9. Bishops are requested to introduce the
new Breviary. 10. The Pope suppressed the obligation of reciting on
certain days the little Office of the Blessed Virgin, the Office of the
Dead, the Penitential and the Gradual Psalms, 11. But he recommends
their recitation on certain fixed days and grants an indulgence for the
practice. 12. Where the custom of reciting the little Office, in choir,
exists, it should be retained. 13. The appointment of the time for the
adoption of the Breviary is obligatory. 14. Prohibition, under pain of
excommunication, is made against those who print, distribute or receive
copies of this Breviary without lawful authority. 15. The authentic
publication and obligation of the Bull.
The second document in the Pars Prima of the Roman Breviary is the Bull Divino Afflatu, issued by Pope Pius X, on 1st November, 1911. It tells us:–
1. That the psalms were composed under divine inspiration, and that it
is well known that from the beginning of the Church they were used not
only to foster the piety of the faithful, who offered "the sacrifice of
praise to God, that is to say, the fruit of lips confessing to His
name" (Heb. xiii. 15), but—that retaining the custom of the Old
Law—they held a conspicuous place in both the liturgy and Divine Office
of the New Law. He quotes St. Basil, who calls psalmody the voice of
the infant Church, and Urban VIII., who calls psalmody the daughter of
hymnody which is chanted before the throne of God in Heaven. Two
quotations from St. Athanasius and St. Augustine, in praise of
psalmody, are added.
2. In the Psalms there is a certain
wonderful power which arouses in souls a zeal for all virtues. Two
quotations from St. Augustine are added. One says that as it is written
that all Scriptures both of the Old and the New Testaments are divinely
inspired and useful for our instruction.... Nevertheless, the book of
the Psalms is, as it were, a very Paradise containing in itself the
fruits of all the other books and expressing them in hymns; and
moreover it joins its own hymns to them and merges them in the general
song of praise. Two further quotations from St. Augustine, in similar
strain, follow. For who will be, asks the saint, unmoved by those
frequent passages in the Psalms in which are proclaimed the immensity,
the omnipotence, the infallible justice, the goodness, the clemency of
God? Or who is not moved by the prayers and thanksgivings for benefits
received by the humble and trustful petitions, by the cries of souls
sorrowing for sin, found in the Psalms? Whom will the Psalmist not fill
with admiration when he recounts the gifts of the Divine loving
kindness towards the people of Israel and all mankind, and when he sets
forth the truths of heavenly wisdom? Who, finally, will not be inflamed
with love by the carefully foreshadowed figure of Christ, our Redeemer,
whose voice St. Augustine heard in the Psalms, either singing or
sighing or rejoicing in Hope or mourning in present sorrow?
3. In, former ages it was decreed by Popes and Councils and by monastic
laws that the whole Psaltery should be recited weekly. Pope St. Pius
V., Pope Clement VIII., and Pope Urban VIII. in their revisions of the
Breviary ordered this weekly recitation. And even at the present time,
such would be the recitation of the Psalter had not the condition of
4. This arose from the multiplication of saints' offices (officia de sanctis),
which after the canonization of saints gradually grew to such a huge
number that very often the Dominical and Ferial Office remained unread,
and hence not a few psalms were neglected, which yet are as the rest,
as St. Ambrose says, "the benediction of the people, the praise of God,
the praise offering of the multitude, the acclamation of all, the
expression of the community, the voice of the Church, the resounding
confession of faith, the truly official devotion, the joy of liberty,
the shout of gladness, the re-echoing of joy."
complaints from prudent and pious men reached the Pope about the
omission of psalms, which took away from those bound to recite the
Office not only helps, well suited for God's praises and for the
expression of their inmost souls, but also diminished that desirable
variety in prayers which is so appreciated and which so well accords
with and aids our worthy, attentive, and devout praise of God. For St.
Basil says that "in smooth uniformity the soul often grows weary and
while present is yet away, but when in psalmody and chant are changed
and varied in every hour, the fervour is renewed and its attention is
5. This matter of the reform of the order of
the psalter was brought before the Holy See by many bishops and chiefly
in the Vatican Council, where the demand for the old custom of reciting
the whole psalter weekly was renewed, with the provision that any new
arrangement should not impose a greater onus on the clergy, now
labouring more arduously in the vineyard of the sacred ministry on
account of the diminution of toilers. These requests and wishes were
repeated to Pope Pius X., and he took up the matter cautiously, so that
the honour due to the cult of the saints should not be diminished, nor
the onus on the clergy increased by the weekly recitation of the full
Psalter. Begging the help of God, the pontiff formed a commission of
learned and industrious men, who with judgment and care carried out his
wishes. The results of their labours were submitted to the Sacred
Congregation of Rites, and after careful consideration by the members
of the Congregation the matter was submitted to the Pope, who
sanctioned the new arrangement, that is, as regards the order and the
division of the Psalms, Antiphons, Versicles and Hymns, with the
rubrics and rules pertaining to the same. And the Pope ordered an
authentic edition of these new arrangements to be prepared and issued
from the Vatican Press.
6. The arrangement of the
Psalter has an intimate connection with the Divine Office and the
Liturgy; and by these new decrees regarding the Office and the Psalms a
first step in the improvement of the Breviary and the Missal has been
taken. These matters will be dealt with by a commission of learned men
which is soon to be formed. Amongst other things that this first step
established was that the recitation of the Scripture lessons with the
proper responses according to the rubrics should receive due honour and
more frequent recitation, and that in the Liturgy the most ancient
Masses of the Sundays throughout the year, especially those of Lent,
should be restored to their places.
7. The use of the
old order of Psalms found in the Roman Breviary is abolished and
interdicted from 1st January, 1913, and the use of the new Psalter for
all clergy, secular and regular, who used the Roman Breviary as revised
by Pius V., Clement VIII., Urban VIII., and Leo XIII., and those who
continue to use the old order do not satisfy their obligation.
8. Ecclesiastical superiors are to introduce the new order of the
Psalter, and chapters are permitted to use it if the majority of the
members agree to its introduction.
9. Establishment and
declaration of the validity and efficacy of the Bull, notwithstanding
all previous apostolic constitutions and rulings, whether general or
particular. Any person infringing these papal abolitions, revocations,
etc., sins and merits God's anger.
10. Date and place of promulgation.
SECTION: Section II. The Year and Its Parts…
Chapter III. Excellence of The Rom…