THE CANONICAL HOURS. CHAPTER I.
MATINS. (TITLE XIII)
Etymology. The word Matins is derived from Matuta, the Latin name for the Greek goddess of morning. The word used in the Roman Breviary is matutinum (i.e., tempus). It is the old name for Lauds, Laudes matutinae.
The word was also used to denote the office of Vigils. Hence, the word
was used in three senses, to denote the nocturns and lauds, to denote
Lauds only and to denote the vigil office. In liturgical study the word
was confusing, and sometimes it is the context only which gives the
author's meaning. This, the principal Hour of the Church's public
prayer, was, in the early days of Christianity, said at night, and was
called Nocturnum and Vigiliae.
The night office of vigils dates from the very earliest days of
Christianity. It derived its name from the vigils or night watches of
the soldiers, who divided the night, from six o'clock in the evening to
six o'clock in the morning, into four watches of three hours each. The
nightly meetings of the Christians came to be called by the name vigils,
but the meetings were not begun at the stated hours of military vigil
and did not finish with them. Why these meetings of Christians were
held at night, and in what their religious exercises consisted in, both
in matter and form, is an unsolved problem. But it is certain that they
resembled the services of the Jewish synagogue in the readings from
Scripture, psalm-singing and prayers, and differed from those services
by having readings from the Gospels, the Epistles, and from
non-canonical books, such as the Epistle of St. Clement. The
Eucharistic service always formed part of them. Indeed, the very name,
Synagogue was given to these assemblies of Christians, as we see from
the Pastor of Hermes. In their common prayer, they faced towards the
East, as the Jews did towards Jerusalem. They had precentors and
janitors as in the Jewish rites. Their services consisted of the
readings from the Mosaic law, from Gospels and Epistles, exposition of
Scripture, a set sermon, long and fervent "blessings" or thanksgiving
and psalms. Before there were any written gospels to read, we gather
that the reading of the Old Law, of the Prophets and the Psalms, was
followed by a set sermon on the life and death of Christ (Bickel, Messe und Pascha,
p, 91). From St. Basil (fourth century) it is concluded that two choirs
sang the Psalms. Cassian writes that the monks of the fifth century
celebrated the Night Office with twelve psalms and readings from the
Old and the New Testaments. Hence, "we find the same elements repeated,
the psalms generally chanted in the form of responses, that is to say,
by one or more cantors, the choir repeating one verse which served as a
response, alternately with the verses of the psalms, which were sung by
the cantors, readings taken from the Old and the New Testaments and,
later on, from the works of the Fathers and Doctors; litanies,
supplications, prayers for divers members of the Church, clergy,
faithful, neophytes and catechumens; for emperors, travellers; the
sick; and generally for all the necessities of the Church, and even for
Jews and for heretics. It is quite easy to find these essentials in our
modern Matins" (Dom Cabrol, Cath. Encyclopedia, art. "Matins").
Matins on account of its length and position in the Breviary is the
most important part of the daily Office. And, on account of the variety
and beauty of its elements, is considered the most remarkable.
The prayer Pater Noster begins the Office. It is the Lord's prayer, divina institutions formata, when Christ told His Apostles "Sic vos orabitis"
(St. Matt. vi. 9). It is the most excellent of all prayers, being most
excellent in its author, its form, its depth of meaning, its effects.
The prayer consists of a preface, "Our Father, Who art in heaven,
hallowed be Thy name, Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it
is in heaven." And in the body of the prayer are seven petitions—three
for the honour and glory of God, in and by ourselves, and four for our
own wants, spiritual and temporal. Very excellent matter on the
greatest of prayers is to be found in the Catechism of the Council of Trent (translation, Duffy, Dublin) and in A Lapide (St. Matt. vi.). Writers on liturgy say that the recitation of the Pater Noster as the opening prayer of Matins was not obligatory until the beginning of the twelfth century. It is said that the monks were wont to say a Pater Noster
at each altar in the church before entering their stalls for Office
recitation. This practice delayed the beginning of the Office in choir,
and a rule was made that those who wished to say this prayer must say
it in their stalls, in a low tone. Of course, in the Breviary of Pius
V. (1568) this practice became obligatory on each person bound to read
Ave Maria. This is a leading prayer
amongst the great prayers of the Mass and the Office. It, too, is
excellent in its authors, its form (clear, short devotional), in motive
(in honouring Mary, Mother of God, and in begging her intercession). It
is divided into three parts, the words of the angel, of St. Elizabeth
and of the Church, Devout thoughts on this prayer have been penned by
countless clients of Mary in every age. Priests are familiar with many
such writings, great and small, but A Lapide (St. Luke I.)
bears reading and re-reading. The prayer, as it stands in the Breviary
to-day, is not of very ancient date. "In point of fact there is little
or no trace of the Hail Mary as an accepted devotional formula before
1050.... To understand the developments of the devotion, it is
important to grasp the fact that the Ave Maria was merely a
form of greeting. It was, therefore, long customary to accompany the
words with some external gesture of homage, a genuflexion, or at least
an inclination of the head.... In the time of St. Louis the Ave Maria ended with the words benedictus fructus ventris tui: it has since been extended by the introduction both of the Holy Name and of a clause of petition.... We meet the Ave
as we know it now, printed in the Breviary of the Camaldolese monks and
in that of the Order de Mercede C. 1514. ... The official recognition
of the Ave Maria in its complete form, though foreshadowed in
the Catechism of the Council of Trent, was finally given in the Roman
Breviary of 1568" (Father Thurston, S.J., Cath. Encyclopedia, art. "Hail Mary.")
The Apostles' Creed is placed at the beginning of Matins, because
Matins is the beginning of the whole Office, and faith is the
beginning, the principium of every supernatural work. St.
Paul teaches us that it is necessary for us to stir up our faith when
we approach God, "For he that cometh to God must believe that He is."
In reciting the Creed we should think of the sublime truths of our
faith, and our hearts should feel, what our lips say, "For with the
heart we believe unto justice; but with the mouth confession is made
unto salvation" (Rom. x. 10). We should remember too, that this formula
of faith comes to us from Apostolic times and that it has been repeated
millions of times by saints and martyrs; their sentiments of belief, of
confidence in God and love of God should be ours.
Domine labia mea aperies.
The practice of this beautiful invocation dates from the time of St.
Benedict (480-553). In his Office it stood after the words Deus in adjutorium. These words Domine labia mea aperies, taken from the Psalm Miserere,
remind us of God purifying the lips of Isaias His prophet with a
burning coal, of how God opened the lips of Zachary to bless God and to
prophesy. "And immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed,
and he spoke blessing God" (St. Luke, i. 64). Very appropriately, does
the priest reciting the Divine Office ask God to open his lips, to
fortify his conscience, to touch his heart.
Deus in adjutorium.
These words, the opening words of Psalm 69, were always and everywhere
used by the monks of old, says Cassian, who called this short prayer
the formula of piety, the continual prayer. The Church repeats it often
in her Office. St. John Climacus says it is the great cry of petition
for help to triumph over our invisible enemy, who wishes to distract us
and to mar our prayer. It should be said with humility and with
confidence in God. In repeating these holy words we make the sign of
the Cross; for, all grace comes from the sacrifice of the Cross; and
besides, it is a holy and an ancient practice to begin all good works
with the sacred sign.
Gloria Patri. This little
prayer indicates the purpose and end of the recitation of the Office,
the glory of the Holy Trinity. "Bring to the Lord glory and honour;
bring to the Lord glory to His name" (Psalm 28). The many repetitions
of this formula in the Church liturgy shows the great honour which she
pays to it, and the trust she places in its efficacy. It was especially
loved by St. Francis of Assisi, who said that it contained all wisdom.
This form of doxology, "Glory be to the Father, to the Son, and to the
Holy Ghost," was adopted to repel Arianism, by giving to the faithful a
compact theological formula by which they could end every dispute. Some
authors quote St. Ephrem (circa 363) as the originator of this
much-used prayer. The form would seem to be of Syrian origin,
translated into Greek and later into Latin (Dom Cambrol, Dictionnaire d' Archeologie Chretienne, I., 2282, et seq., word Antienne, Liturgie; Month, May, 1910).
Invitatory. Venite Adoremus....
The cry of the Church calling on all to adore and praise God, Who has
done all for us, Who is the Great Shepherd, and we, the sheep of His
fold, should not harden our hearts as did the ungrateful Jews. We
should pray for all, Catholics, infidels and sinners.
message from the saints. Let us imagine, like St. Stephen at his
martyrdom, we are privileged to see the heavens opened, and before our
eyes the City of God, with its twelve gates all of pearl, and its
streets of pure gold, as it were transparent glass, is laid bare, and
that we see the angels in their legions, and the redeemed of the Lord
around the throne of God. Thousands of thousands are ministering to
Him," as St. John tells us, "and ten thousand times a hundred thousand
stand before Him," and we hear the voice of God, as the noise of many
waters in company with that great multitude which no man can number,
out of every tribe and nation, clothed in white robes, with palms in
their hands, coming into Sion with praise, with everlasting joy upon
their heads, for from their eyes God has wiped away all tears, and
sorrow and mourning have fled away.
"There are the
white-robed army of Martyrs, holy Confessors, too, men of renown in
their generation, and Virgins, the Spouses of Christ: there are those
who have come through great tribulation, who once, perchance, were far
from God, but have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb and are
now numbered among the people of God, sitting in the beauty of peace
and in the tabernacle of confidence and in wealthy rest. Let us bring
them all before us in vision. They have overcome the beast and are
standing by the sea of glass, having the harps of God; the Prince of
Pastors has appeared to them and they have received a never-failing
crown of glory and by the Lamb of God they have been led to fountains
of the waters of life." Let us listen as they sing their canticle to
God, "Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts, who is and who was and who
is to come"; let us listen as they sing to us, for we are fellow
citizens with them, and where they are we also must be if we remain
faithful to the end. What do they sing, "O come let us praise the Lord
with joy; let us joyfully sing to God, our Saviour" (Sing ye to the Lord, pp. 94-95–Rev. R. Eaton).
The authorship of this psalm—which is said daily in Matins—is
attributed to David in the Septuagint and Vulgate. Its Latin form in
the invitatory differs slightly from the Vulgate text. The Breviary
retains here the text of St. Jerome's revision and the Vulgate contains
the second and more correct revision.
The hymn is an answer to the invitation given to us in the invitatory,
to praise God and to rejoice with Him. It is a song of joy and praise.
Hymns were introduced into the Divine Office in the Eastern Church
before the time of St. Ambrose (340-397). To combat the Arians, who
spread their errors by verse set to popular airs, St. Ambrose, it is
said, introduced public liturgical hymn-singing in his church in Milan,
and his example was followed gradually through the Western Church. (See
Note A, infra.)
The final stanza of a Breviary
hymn is called the doxology ([Greek: doxa] praise, [Greek: logos]
speech), a speaking of praise. Hymns which have the final stanza
proper, the Ave Maris stella, Lauds hymn of the Blessed
Sacrament, Matins hymn for several Martyrs, the first Vesper hymn of
the Office of Holy Cross, and the Vesper hymns of St. Venantius and St.
John Cantius, never change the wording of the stanza.
But, where the metre of the hymn admits such a change as possible in the last stanza.
(a) From Christmas to Epiphany Jesu tibi sit gloria, Qui natus es de Virgine is inserted in all hymns, even on saints' offices.
(b) From Epiphany till end of its octave, Jesu tibi sit gloria, Qui apparuisti gentibus.
(c) From Low Sunday till Ascension Thursday, on Pentecost Sunday and its octave, all hymns end in Deo Patri sit gloria, Et Filio qui a mortuis.
This is the ending for all hymns of saints' feasts in Paschal times, excepting those hymns mentioned above.
(d) From Ascension to Pentecost (except in the hymn Salutis humanae Sator) the doxology is Jesu tibi sit gloria, Qui victor in coelum redis.
(e) Feast of Transfiguration has Jesu, tibi sit gloria, Qui te revelas parvulis.
In all other hymns the doxology is read as it is printed in the Breviary.
Antiphon, coming from Greek words meaning a re-echoing of the sound, is
a chant performed alternately by two choirs, and was used in pagan
drama, long before the Christian era. At what date it was introduced
into Church liturgy it is difficult to determine. Some say it was
introduced by St. Ignatius, second Bishop of Antioch. It is certain
that it was used by bishops and priests to attract, retain and teach
the faithful during the Arian heresy. In church music, the lector
ceased to recite the psalm as a solo and the faithful divided into two
choirs, united in the refrain Gloria Patri.
With us, the antiphon generally is a verse or verses from Scripture,
recited before and after each psalm. "The verse which serves as the
antiphon text contains the fundamental thought of the psalm to which it
is sung and indicates the point of view from which it is to be
understood. In other words, it gives the key to the liturgical and
mystical meaning of the psalm, with regard to the feast on which it
occurs" (Cath. Encycl., art. "Antiphon").
In the Breviary, before the recent reform, twelve psalms were recited
in the first nocturn of Sundays and on ferias. This recitation of
twelve psalms was, Cassian tells us, caused by the apparition of an
angel, who appeared to the monks and sang at one session twelve psalms,
terminating with Alleluia. The event was mentioned at the
Council of Tours, In the new reform, nine psalms are recited at Matins;
they should, the old writers on liturgy tell us, remind us of the nine
choirs of angels who without ceasing sing God's praise.
In the new Psalter, the Psalms have been divided into two large
divisions, Psalms I.—CVIII. being assigned to the night Office, Matins;
and Psalms CIX.—CL. for the day Offices, Lauds to Compline. From this
latter division has been made:–
(1) a selection of psalms suitable by their character and meaning to Lauds (vide infra, psalms at Lauds);
(2) a selection of psalms suitable to Compline;
(3) the psalms long used in the small Hours of Sunday's Office;
(4) the first psalms assigned by Pope Pius V. to Prime on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
The remaining psalms are divided into seven groups, in simple numerical
order. The psalms of Matins generally come first, and are followed
immediately by the groups of psalms for the day Hours.
In the new Breviary, seven new canticles are added to the ten, which
stood in the older book. The ten taken from the old and from the new
Testament are Audite coeli (Deut., chap. 32) in Lauds for Saturday; Benedicite (Daniel, chap. 3) Sunday's Lauds; Cantemus (Exod., chap. 15) Thursday's Lauds; Confitebor (Isaias, chap. 12) Monday's Lauds; Domine audivi (Habacuc, chap. 3) Friday's Lauds; Ego dixi (Isaias, chap. 38) Tuesday's Lauds; Exultavit (I. Kings, chap 2) Wednesday's Lauds. From the new Testament we have Benedictus, Magnificat, Nunc dimittis. To these are now added Audite verbum (Jeremias, chap. 31), Benedictus es (I. Paralip., chap. 29), Benedictus es (Daniel, chap. 3), Hymnum cantemus (Judith, chap. 16), Magnus es (Tobias, chap. 13), Miserere nostri (Ecclus. 36), Vere tu es Deus (Isaias, chap. 45). (Cf. The New Psalter, Burton and Myers, pp. 51-52).
"The psalms retain the accentuation of the Latin words, which was
inserted at the request of Pius V. in the Reformed Breviary of 1568;
and also the asterisk, which was introduced to mark the division of the
verses of the Psalms in Urban VIII.'s Reform in 1632." The verse
division of the psalms do not, in the Breviary, always coincide with
those of the Vulgate—e.g., Psalm X.:–
Dominus in templo sancto suo Dominus in templo sancto suo Dominus in
coelo sedes ejus Dominus in coela sedes ejus: (v.4). Oculi ejus in
pauperem respsiciunt; palpebrae ejus interrogant filios hominum (verse
The present verse divisions of the Vulgate were
introduced by a Calvinistic printer of Geneva, who used them in an
edition of the Greek new Testament published in 1561. Formerly,
biblical chapters were, for sake of reference, divided into seven
sections denoted by letters of the alphabet a, b, c, etc. In the older
breviaries, the reference to the little lesson at Compline stood, I.
Pet. v.c. The new Breviary has adopted the modern form of reference,
and we now read I. Pet. v. 8-9. It is sometimes confusing to find
reference made to the psalms by non-Catholic writers. This arises from
the different method of numbering which is used by them. In the Greek
version of the old Testament—the septuagent—the Psalter is arranged
differently from the Hebrew. Psalms 9 and 10 are counted as one and so
are Psalms 114 and 115, but 116 and 117 are divided into two, leaving
the complete number 150, as in the Hebrew version. The Vulgate and the
Douay version follow the Greek, and Psalm 9 contains 21 verses, not 38
as in the English Authorised Version. The English revised version
follows the numbering of the Vulgate.
"Our Latin version
of the Psalms is that of the old Itala; it was not made directly on the
Hebrew original ... it is then a translation (the Greek). By the time
of St. Jerome, it had become very faulty, owing to the very many
transcriptions which had been made of it; and this great scholar
revised it, about 383 A.D., on the request of Pope Damascus. His
corrections were not very numerous, because, he feared to upset, by too
many changes, the habits of the faithful, most of whom knew the psalms
by heart. This first version is known as the Roman Psalter. It was soon
deemed insufficient. St. Jerome once more set to work between 387 and
391, and published a second edition, more carefully and more
extensively corrected, of the Italic version of the Psalms; it is
called the Gallican Psalter, because it was adopted by the
churches of Gaul. When he, later on, translated the Old Testament from
the Hebrew, he published his third edition of the Psalms, the Hebraic Psalter.
This version was a good one, but the faithful were so familiar with the
old Itala psalter that the Church, in her wisdom, thought best to keep
it in the editions of the Vulgate according to the Gallican form....
Our official version of the psalms is then in many ways defective. It
is frequently incorrect and barbarous in style, obscure in places, and
even fails at times to give the exact sense of the original. Although
our Vulgate is not perfect, it possesses admirable strength and
conciseness, joined to an agreeable savour which gives it the greatest
value and causes the words of the sacred singers, under this form of
the Latin spoken by the people, to strike the mind and become engraved
upon the memory much better than if they were clothed in all the
elegance of a modern tongue" (Vigouroux; Manuel Biblique, tom. ii., 663-664).
The following replies by the Biblical Commission (May, 1910) may not be deemed out of place:–
I. Whether the appellations, Psalms of David, Hymns of David, Davidical
Psaltery, employed in the old collections and in the Councils
themselves to designate the Book of the one hundred and fifty Psalms of
the Old Testament, as well as the opinion of many Fathers and Doctors
who held that absolutely all the psalms of the Psaltery are to be
ascribed to David alone, have so much force that David must be regarded
as the sole author of the entire Psaltery?
ANSWER: In the negative.
II. Whether it may rightly be argued from the concordance of the Hebrew
text with the Alexandrine Greek text and other ancient versions, that
the titles prefixed to the Hebrew text are older than the version known
as the Septuagint, and that therefore they have been derived if not
from the authors themselves of the Psalms at least from the ancient
ANSWER: In the affirmative.
III. Whether the said titles of the Psalms, as witnesses of Judaic
tradition, may be prudently called into question when there is no grave
argument against their genuineness?
ANSWER: In the negative.
IV. Whether, considering the not unfrequent testimonies of the Sacred
Scripture concerning the natural skill of David, illumined by the gift
of the Holy Ghost, in the composition of religious canticles, the
institutions laid down by him for the liturgical chant of the Psalms,
the attribution to him of Psalms made both in the Old and New Testament
and in the very inscriptions which have been prefixed to the Psalms
from antiquity, and in addition to all this the agreement of the Jews
and the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, it can be prudently denied
that David is the principal author of the canticles of the Psaltery, or
that it can be affirmed that only a few of the canticles are to be
attributed to the Royal Psalmist?
ANSWER: In the negative to both parts.
V. Whether, specifically, the Davidical origin can be denied of those
psalms which both in the Old and the New Testament are cited expressly
under the name of David, among which are specially to be reckoned Psalm
II., "Quare fremuerunt gentes"; Psalm XV., "Conserva me Domine"; Psalm
XVII., "Diligam te, Domine fortitudo mea"; Psalm XXXI., "Beati quorum
remissae sunt iniquitates"; Psalm LXVIII., "Salvum me fac, Deus"; Psalm
CIX., "Dixit Dominus Domino meo"?
ANSWER: In the negative.
VI. Whether it is possible to admit the opinion of those who hold that
among the Psalms of the Psaltery there are some, either of David or of
other authors which on account of liturgical or musical reasons, the
carelessness of amanuenses or other unknown causes, have been divided
or united; and also that there are other Psalms such as the "Miserere
mei, Deus," which in order that they might be better adapted to the
historical circumstances or solemnities of the Jewish people have been
slightly revised or modified, by the omission or addition of a versicle
or two saving, however, the inspiration of the whole sacred text?
ANSWER: In the affirmative to both parts.
VII. Whether the opinion can with probability be maintained of those
among more recent writers who have endeavoured to show from merely
internal indications or an inaccurate interpretation of the sacred text
that not a few of the psalms were composed after the time of Esdras and
Nehemias, or even after the time of the Macchabees?
ANSWER: In the negative.
VIII. Whether from the manifold testimonies of the Sacred Books of the
New Testament, and the unanimous agreement of the Fathers, as well as
from the admission of the writers of the Jewish people, several
prophetic and Messianic psalms are to be recognised, as prophesying
concerning the coming kingdom, priesthood, passion, death and
resurrection of the future Redeemer; and that therefore the opinion is
to be absolutely rejected of those who, perverting the prophetic and
Messianic character of the Psalms, twist these same prophecies
regarding Christ into merely a prediction regarding the future lot of
the chosen people?
ANSWER: In the affirmative to both parts.
On May 1, 1910, in an audience graciously granted to both Most Reverend
Consultors Secretaries His Holiness approved the foregoing answers and
ordered that they be published.
Rome, May 1, 1910.
PULCRANUS VIGOUROUX, P.S.S.
LAURENTIUS JANSSENS, O.S.B.
Psalms were always dear to the hearts of Christians. Our Lord died with
the words of a psalm on His sacred lips: "Into thy hands I commend my
spirit" (Psalm 30, v. 6). Millions of dying Christians have repeated
His great prayer. On the Church's very birthday, when St. Peter
preached the first Christian sermon, he had three texts and two of them
were from the Psalms (Acts II.). To an educated and rigid Pharisee like
St. Paul they were a treasure house of teaching. To the early
Christians the Psalms were a prayer book, for there was no Christian
literature. It was twenty-five years after the Ascension before the
first books of the New Testament were written. Hence St. Paul and St.
James tell their fellow Christians to use the Psalms in worship
(Ephesians, v. 19; Colos. iii. 16; I. St. James 5-13). Some of the
greatest of the early Christian writers and saints, Origen, St.
Athanasius, Hilary of Poitiers, St. Ambrose, St. Chrysostom, Bede, and
St. Augustine all studied the psalms deeply and wrote learned
commentaries on them. The works of later saints abound in happy and
beautiful quotations from these religious poems. With them, too, as
with those holy people of whom St. Chrysostom wrote, "David is first,
last and midst." For many years no priest was ordained who could not
recite the whole Psalter without the aid of a book, This veneration of
the inspired words deserves respect and imitation. The learned Calmet
(1672-1757) writing of the universal esteem and study of the Psalms,
said that then there existed more than a thousand commentaries on them.
Since then, the number has been doubled; so great and universal is the
reverence and esteem in which this book of Scripture is held. To
conclude this very long note on the Psalms I quote the quaint words of
a mediaeval poet. It shows how the saints of old found their Master in
the songs of His great ancestor:–
Rithmis et sensu
verborum consociatum Psalterium Jesu, sic est opus hoc vocitatum, Qui
legit intente, quocunque dolore prematur, Sentiet inde bonum, dolor
ejus et alleviatur; Ergo pius legat hoc ejus sub amore libenter, Cujus
ibi Nomen scriptum videt esse frequenter.
Versicle and respond
are placed after the psalms and before the lessons to rouse the
attention which is necessary before all prayer, and the lessons are a
noble form of prayer. These little prayers are of very ancient origin
and were dealt with by Alcuin (735-804) in his recension of the
Gregorian books for use in Gaul. His pupil, Amalare, also studied them,
so that a meaning should be found in what was sung, and that the
truncated repetitions should be avoided. He retained what was
traditional and ancient, introduced versicles and responds taken from
ancient Roman books and from books belonging to Metz, selected passages
from the Gospels which seem to fit in with the antiphons and added them
to what he found in the Roman books, made alterations in the order here
and there and gave completion to the whole by adding some offices for
saints' days proper to the Church of Metz (Baudot, The Roman Breviary,
p. 88). Amalare had been administrator of the diocese of Lyons during
the exile of Agobard the Archbishop. The latter, with learning and
bitterness, attacked the reforms of Amalare, but, "in spite of all, the
reform of Amalare held its ground in Metz, and then in the greater
number of the churches north of the Alps" (Baudot, op. cit.). Much of the work of Amalare stands in our Breviary.
is said to beg from God, light and grace to understand the doctrine
contained in the lessons. In choir, a part of the Pater Noster is said
in common and in a loud voice to recall the Communion of saints.
Absolutions and Blessings.
"The custom of giving a blessing before the lections was already in
existence in the fourth century. The ruler of the choir, who gave it in
the beginning, gave also the signal for the termination of the lesson
by the words, 'Tu autem' (scil, desine or cessa), to which the reader
responded 'Domine miserere nobis,' while the choir answered Deo gratias. In the palace of Aix-la-Chapeile, it was by knocking, and not by the words Tu autem, that the Emperor Charlemagne gave the signal for the conclusion of the lections, while the lector recited himself, Tu autem, Domine miserere nobis. The Rituale Ecclesiae Dunelmensis,
containing fragments of the Roman liturgy from the end of the seventh
to the ninth and tenth centuries, includes forms of blessing for the
different festivals, sometimes three, sometimes nine. In the latter
case each lesson was provided with its own form of blessing, which
correspond with the mystery commemorated by the festival. The
absolutions, Exaudi Domine and A vinculis peccatorum did not appear until the succeeding period" (Baudot, op. cit., p. 74).
In offices of three and of nine lessons, the lessons are preceded by
the absolutions and blessings as they stand in the ordinarium, except
in the Office for the Dead and Tenebrae Offices when they are not said.
The Absolution is said immediately after the Pater Noster which follows
the versicle and response under the third, sixth or ninth psalm. The
first benediction is said immediately after it, and the second and
third at the conclusion of the responses after each lesson and in reply
to the words Jube Domine benedicere. The three words are to be said
(when only one person recites the office) before the short Lesson at
Prime and Compline.
In an office of nine lessons, the
absolutions and benedictions in the first two nocturns do not vary; but
in the third nocturns the eighth benediction may be, if the office is
of a saint, Cujus festum, or if of two or more saints, Quorum (vel
quarum) festum. The ninth may be Ad societatem or, if the ninth lesson be a gospel extract with homily, Per evangelica.
In offices of three lessons the Absolution Exaudi is said on Monday and
Thursday; Ipsius, on Tuesday and Friday; A vinculis, on Wednesday and
Saturday. But the benedictions vary. Thus, when a gospel extract and a
homily are read, the three benedictions are Evangelica, Divinum, Ad
societatem. When with the three lessons, no gospel extract is read, the
benedictions are Benedictione, Unigenitus, Spiritus Sancti. In an
office of a saint or saints, where the total number of lessons to be
said is three (e.g., the Office of SS. Abdon et Sennen, 30 July), where
first two lessons are from Scripture occurring and last lesson gives
lives of these saints, the benedictions are, Ille nos, Cujus (vel
Quorum aut Quarum) festum, Ad societatem.
In the early days of Christendom, the Divine Office consisted in the
singing of psalms, the reading of portions of Sacred Scripture and the
saying of prayers. The principle of continuous reading of the books of
the Bible bears an early date. Later were added readings from the acts
of the martyrs, and later still, readings from the homilies of the
Fathers. Till the seventh century the ferial Office had no lessons and
the Sunday Office had only three, all taken from the Bible, which was
read in its entirety, yearly. In the seventh century, ferial Offices
received three lessons. About the time of St. Gregory, (died 604) the
Office for Matins was divided into three parts or nocturns, each having
lessons. The lessons for the second and third nocturns were not taken
from the Bible, but from the works of the Fathers. These extracts were
collected in book form—the homilaria. The collection of
extracts made by Paul the deacon (730-797) and used by Charles the
Great (742-814) in his kingdom, form the foundation of the collected
extracts in our Breviaries. The scripture lessons in our Breviaries are
generally known as "the scripture occurring," and are so arranged that
each book of scripture is begun at least, except the books, Josue,
Judges, Ruth, Paralipomenon and the Canticle of Canticles. Quignonez
arranged in his reform that the whole Bible should be read yearly. But
his book was withdrawn by Pope Paul IV. in 1558.
Although the ecclesiastical year begins with Advent, the beginnings of
the Bible are not read till March. Hence, we begin the lessons from
Genesis, after Septuagesima Sunday, and not, as we should naturally
expect, at Advent, the beginning of the ecclesiastical year. The order
in which the Scripture lessons are read does not follow the order in
which the books of the Bible stand in the sacred volume. Thus, the Acts
of the Apostles begin on the Monday after Low Sunday and are read for a
fortnight; The Apocalypse begins on the third Sunday after Easter and
is read for a week; then the Epistle of St. James begins, and so on,
with special regard to the feasts of the time, rather than to the order
of the books of the Bible.
The lessons of the second
nocturn are generally commemorative of a saint or some episode of a
saint's life. They have been much, and often ignorantly criticised,
even by priests. The science of hagiology is a very wide and
far-reaching one, which demands knowledge and reverence. Priests
wishing to study its elements may read with pleasure and profit and
wonder The Legends of the Saints, by Pere H. Delehaye, S.J.,
Bollandist (Longmans, 3s. 6d.). "Has Lectiones secundi Nocturni ex
Historiis sanctorum, quas nunc habemus recognitas fuisse a doctissimis
Cardinalibus Bellarmino et Baronio, qui rejecerunt ea omnia, quae jure
merito in dubium revocari poterant et approbatus sub Clemente VIII."
(Gavantus). And Merati adds "quod aliqua qua controversia erant utpote
alicujus aliquam haberent probabilitatem, ideo rejecta non fuerant sed
retenta eo modo quo erant cum falsitatis argui non possent, quamvis
fortasse opposita sententia sit a pluribus recepta" (Merati, Obser. ad Gavant,
sec. v., chap. xii., nn. 10 and 16). The words of these learned men and
the writings of the learned Bollandist mentioned above are worthy of
consideration, as sometimes priests are puzzled about the truth and
accuracy of the incidents recorded in those lessons of the second
nocturn. They should be treated with reverence. The ignorant flippancy
of a priest in an article (in a very secular periodical) on St.
Expeditus gave great pain to Catholics and gave material for years to
come to scoffing bigots.
narratives, were based upon documents of the nature described above,
and worked up by later writers, either for the purpose of edification
or from the point of view of the historian. The writings, however,
differ endlessly as to their value, according to the knowledge and
authority possessed by the writers, and according to their nearness to
the events described. There were many martyrs whose sufferings were
recorded in no acta or passiones, but were imprinted on the memory of
men and became part of the traditions handed down in the community,
until they were finally committed to writing. The later this took place
the worse for the authenticity. For it was then that anachronisms,
alterations in titles, changes in the persons and other similar
historical errors could more easily creep into the narrative, as we
know in fact they have done in many instances. The historical sense was
unfortunately lacking to the Franks and Byzantines, as well as all idea
of sound criticism.
"A false kind of patriotism and
national pride often go along with credulity, so that we find here and
there in literature of this kind, even downright fabrication. After the
introduction of printing, by which literature became more widely
diffused, and comparative criticism was rendered possible, it at once
became evident among Catholics that error was mixed with truth and that
a sifting of the one from the other was necessary, and, in many cases,
possible" (Kellner, Heorlology, pp. 209-210). "It was not the
intention of the Church or of the compilers and authors of the service
books to claim historical authority for their statements. And so, the
Popes themselves have directed many emendations to be made in the
legends of the Breviary, although many others still remain to be
effected" (Dom Baumer, Histoire Du Breviare Roman). Cf. Dom Cabrol, Le Reforme du Breviare, pp. 61-63.
(Title XXVII.). In the new Breviary the responsories to the lessons
have been restored to their place of honour. They are of ancient
origin, but "how they came to have a place in the Divine Office, who
was responsible for their composition, what was the process of
development until they reached their present form, are questions upon
which liturgical writers are not quite agreed" (Rev. M. Eaton, Irish Eccles. Record,
January, 1915). Amalare of Metz found them fully formed and placed. The
rule of St. Benedict, written about 530 A.D., mentions them as a
recognised part of Matins. In solemn vigils, in the early Church, the
congregation took part in the psalm singing, and hence we find psalmi responsorii
mentioned, and we still have a typical instance in the Invitatory Psalm
of our Office. Probably, some similar practice existed in the readings
from Sacred Scripture. "At those primitive vigils, then, after the
reading of the Sacred Scripture, the responsory was given by the
precentor and the assembled faithful took up the words and chanted them
forth in the same simple melody. Next, a verse was sung frequently
echoing the same sentiment, and the choir again, as in the psalmi responsorii,
repeated the refrain or the responsorii proper. Frequently other verses
were added according to the dignity of the festivals, and after each
the faithful struck in with the original refrain.... At first those
responsories would probably have been extempore ... left to the genius
or to the inspiration of the individual chanter, but gradually, by a
survival of the fittest, the most beautiful ones became stereotyped and
spread throughout several churches.... Later they were carefully
collected, arranged and codified by St. Gregory or one of his
predecessors and passed into all the books of liturgy" (Rev. M. Eaton, loc. cit.). Monsignor Battifol (History of the Roman Breviary,
Eng, trans., p. 78) says that these parts of the liturgy, in beauty and
eloquence rival the chorus dialogues of Greek drama, and quotes as an
example the Aspiciens a longe from the first Sunday of Advent.
Rubrics. The responsories, as a rule, are said after each lesson of Matins. When the Te Deum is said after the ninth lesson, there are only eight responsories. At the end of the third, sixth and eighth lesson the Gloria Patri
with a repetition of part of the responsory is said. It is said in the
second responsory in offices of three lessons only. In Passiontide the Gloria Patri is not said, but the responsory is repeated ab initio. In the Requiem Office Gloria Patri is replaced by "requiem aeternam."
In the Sundays of Advent, Sundays after Septuagesima until Palm Sunday,
and in the triduum before Easter, there are nine responsories recited.
Perhaps an explanation of the rubric may not be useless. The asterisk
(*) indicates the part which should be repeated first after the verse
and immediately after the Gloria Patri. The Gloria Patri should be said to include the word sancto, and sicut erat
should not be said. Some responsories have two or three asterisks, and
then the repetitions should be made from one asterisk to another and
not as far as the verse ending. Examples may be seen in the
responsories for the first Sunday of Advent and in the Libera nos
of the Requiem Office. The responsories of the Requiem Office—which is
almost the only Office which missionary priests have an opportunity of
reciting in choir—are highly praised for their beauty of thought and
expression. They were compiled by Maurice de Sully (circa 1196), Bishop
Symbolism of the Rubric. The
responsories are placed after the lessons, the old writers on liturgy
say, to excite attention and devotion, to thank God for the instruction
given in the lessons, to make us realise and practise what has been
read and to teach us that "Blessed are they who hear the word of God
and keep it." Again, those writers knew why the chanter said only one
verse and the worshippers replied in chorus—to show that all their
souls were united and free from schism.
Te Deum (Title XXXI.). Author.
In the Breviary prior to the reform of Pius X., this hymn was printed
under the words "Hymnus SS. Ambrosii et Augustini." However, "no one
thinks now of attributing this canto to either St. Ambrose or St.
Augustine" (Battifol, op. cit., p. 110). Formerly, it was
piously believed to have been composed and sung by these saints on the
evening of Augustine's baptism. The question of the authorship of this
hymn has led to much study and much controversy. Some scholars
attribute it to St. Hilary, others to Sisebut, a Benedictine; others to
Nicetas, Bishop of Treves, in the year 527. To-day, the opinion of the
learned Benedictine, Dom. Morin—who follows the readings of the Irish
manuscripts—that the hymn was written by Nicetas of Remesiana (circa
400 A.D.), is the most probable. This opinion has been criticised by
several Continental scholars (V. Cath. Encly., art. "Te Deum").
The Te Deum is always said at the end of Matins, unless in Matins of
Feast of Holy Innocents, of Sundays of Advent, and from Septuagesima to
Palm Sunday, and ferias outside Eastertide (from Low Sunday to
The Structure of the Hymn. In
this wonderful composition, there are probably two hymns connected, and
followed by a set of versicles and. responses, which might be used with
any similar hymn. It is probable that the first hymn (Te Deum ... Paraclitum Spiritum),
lines 1 to 13 of Te Deum are older than the second part, which was
written probably as a sequel to the early hymn. The rhythm of the hymn
is very beautiful, being free from abruptness and monotony. Students of
poetry may note that seven lines have the exact hexameter ending, if
scanned accentually, as voce proclamant; Deus sabbaoth, etc. Seven have
two dactyls, as laudabilis numerus, laudat exercitus; one ends with
spondees, apostolorum chorus. The other six lines have a less regular
This hymn of praise to the Blessed Trinity is divided into two parts and seems to be modelled on the lines of the Psalm 148, Laudate Dominum de coelis
(see Sunday Lauds I.). The verses 1 to 6 of the hymn, like the opening
verses of the psalm, record the worship and adoration of the angels.
The second part of the hymn records the worship of human beings living
or dead—Apostles, Prophets, Martyrs. The second hymn, Tu Rex gloriae Christi,
etc., is a prayer to Christ, the God Incarnate, the Redeemer now in
Glory, to aid His servants and to aid them to be of the number of His
saints in everlasting glory.
The third part of the hymn, vv. 22-29 (Salvum fac ... in aeternum)
is considered by scholars to be simply versicles, responses and
prayers; the verses 22-23 (Salvum fac... usque in aeternum). being the
versicle, and verses 24-25 (Per singulos dies... saeculi), verse 2 of
Psalm 144 being the response before the beautiful verses of prayer
"Dignare Domine die isto sine peccato nos custodire," etc. "Vouchsafe,
O Lord, to keep us this day from sin; O Lord, have mercy on us," etc.,
This hymn has a special interest for Irish priests,
as the Irish recensions of it, found in the Bangor Antiphoner (to be
seen in the Library of Trinity College, Dublin) are of the greatest
value to scholars engaged in critical study. They date from the tenth
century, and give Nicetas as the author. The wording in the old Irish
Antiphoner differs in some verses from the text given in our Breviary.
Thus, in verse 6, the Bangor text has, universa before the word terra; again, in verse 18, the Breviary reads "Tu ad dexteram Dei sedes," Bangor, and probably more correctly, reads sedens. Verses 26-29, "Dignare Domine... confundar in aeternum" are not found in the Irish book. Those who wish to study these old Irish MSS. may receive great help from Warren's Bangor Antiphoner (II., pp.83-91) and light comes too from Julian's Dictionary of Hymnology (pp. 1120-1121).
SOME TEXTS AND INTENTIONS WHICH MAY HELP TOWARDS THE WORTHY RECITATION OF MATINS (vide pages 4, 120).
"Matutina ligat Christum qui crimina purgat." "Although I should die
with Thee, I will not deny Thee." "And in like manner also said they
all." "Pray, lest you enter into temptation," "And being in agony He
prayed the longer." "Friend, whereunto art thou come?–" "And they
holding Jesus led Him away"—the Garden. "Art thou one of His
disciples?" "My kingdom is not of this world"—Before the High Priest.
of the Church; the Pope; the Mission to the heathen; Christian nations;
the conversion of the heretics, infidels and sinners; the Catholic
laity; the Catholic priesthood.
Personal Intentions:-Lively faith; a greater hope; ardent charity.
parents; for benefactors; for those in sorrow; dying sinners; deceased
priests of Ireland; for the conversion of England; for vocations to the
SECTION: Chapter II. Lauds. (Title XIV)
Article IV.—After Saying The Divin…