TITLE I. THE DOUBLE OFFICE.
civilised peoples already in remote antiquity have found a call to the
worship of God in the changing seasons and times and so have introduced
sacred seasons. Sacred times and places are common to all religions in
general. The change of times bringing with them corresponding changes
in nature made a religious impression upon mankind. In turn, man
sanctified certain times and dedicated them to God, and these days,
thus consecrated to God, became festivals."
number of ecclesiastical holydays and seasons is codified for us in the
different Church calendars. Their contents fall into two essentially
different divisions, each possessing an entirely different origin and
history. The first division consists of festivals of our Lord,
distributed over the year, regulated and co-ordinated in accordance
with certain laws. The second division consists of commemorations of
saints in no wise connected with festivals of our Lord or with one
another. Occupying to some extent an intermediate position between
these two chief divisions come the festivals of our Blessed Lady, which
have this in common with the festivals of the saints, that they fall on
fixed days; but, on the other hand, they are to a certain extent
connected with each other and with some feasts of our Lord. This is
carried out in such a way that they are distributed throughout the
Church year and are included in each of the festal seasons (Kellner, Heortology, Part I.).
From Apostolic times the feasts of Easter, the Ascension and Pentecost
were celebrated. In the second century feasts of the Apostles were
celebrated and the cult of the Martyrs was of speedy and widespread
development. But it was not, probably, till the fourth century, that
the feasts of saints who were not martyrs were celebrated.
Origin of the different grades of feasts.
To-day, we find Church festivals arranged in three grades, doubles,
semi-doubles and simples, and it is very difficult, to determine
clearly and accurately the origin and the nature of the arrangements.
But from the works of scholars, who have studied this matter, the
following may be considered as a fair and accurate summing up:–
In the first ages of the Church the Apostles and Martyrs only were
commemorated in public prayers and, above all, in the Mass, perhaps, by
a special prayer. Then, in time, followed the reading of a panegyric in
their honour, and later still hymns and histories of martyrdom were
added to the public recitation of the Office. Still later, there were
added the feasts of the saints with an office resembling our simple
office. Matins were entirely ferial, but had either a biography of the
saint or a long extract from the Fathers added. The other hours were as
in a Sunday office, save that these feasts had no Vesper matter.
In still later times, the Church added to the list of names on her
saint roll, the names of saints who were honoured neither as Apostles
nor as Martyrs. For these, special Masses, offices and feasts were
established. St. Martin of Tours was the first confessor so honoured in
the Western Church. For the more important feasts, an office of nine
lessons was established and this came to be known as a semi-double
office, and later such feasts were called doubles. Hence, before the
thirteenth century, we find celebrations of simple feasts, of
semi-doubles and of doubles. And Durandus, who wrote in the thirteenth
century, tells us of the existence of doubles major and doubles minor.
The Breviary of St. Pius V., published in 1568, gives three classes of
doubles: doubles of the first class, doubles of the second class, and
doubles per annum. But, in the revision by Clement VIII. the doubles
per annum were again divided into doubles major and doubles minor. In
the new Pian Breviary (1913) doubles are divided into Primary Doubles
of the First Class, Secondary Doubles of the First Class; Primary
Doubles of the Second Class, Secondary Doubles of the Second Class,
Primary Doubles Major, Secondary Doubles Major. The list of feasts
under each of these six headings may be seen in the Breviary.
Do double offices differ specifically from each other? No, the form is
the same in all double offices. What then is the difference between
doubles of different classes? The difference is chiefly in the
preference which is given to them in cases of concurrence or occurrence
of feasts of greater or of lesser rite.
The word "double" (duplex)
is derived, some authors hold, from the ancient custom of reciting two
offices or saying two Masses on the same day—one for the current feria
and one for the feast (festa). Other authors say that the word
is derived from the ancient practice of chanting twice or in repetition
the complete responses and versicles. And, above all, the recitation of
the full antiphons before and after each psalm, at Matins, Lauds and
Vespers, was called "duplication," and this name, it is said, was given
to the office (double, duplex) in which the practice of duplication
It is often asked why are there different
grades of feasts. Three reasons are given by writers on liturgy. First,
to mark the diversity of merit in God's saints, their sanctity and
their different degrees of service to His Church. Second, to mark their
different degrees of glory in Heaven. "One is as the sun; another, the
glory of the moon; and another the glory of the stars. For star differs
from star" (1 Cor.). Third, for some special national or local reasons—e.g., patron of a country.
The rules laid down in the general rubrics in the new Breviary, for
doubles and semi-doubles, are left unchanged almost by the regulations
laid down by the Commission and by the Variationes. Their
numbers were reduced, so that there now stand in the new Breviary only
seventy-five doubles, sixty-three semi-doubles, and thirty-six movable
A reason for the new arrangement of double
feasts in the Pian Breviary is the general one, that the Pope wished
above all things the weekly recitation of the Psalter, and to bring
about this weekly recitation and the restoration of the Sunday Office a
mere rearrangement of the Psalms was quite insufficient, and a
rearrangement of the gradation of feasts of concurrence and of
occurrence was necessary.
SECTION: Title II.—The Office of a Semi-double
Section II. The Year and Its Parts…