The Divine Office
by Rev. E. J. Quigley
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In the studies preliminary to ordination, the greatest time and attention must be given to the study of Dogmatic and Moral Theology. Certain subjects, such as liturgy, are always in danger of being shortened or of occupying a very small space in a college course. After ordination, priests find that these subjects are things of daily and hourly interest and importance. Who is it that does not know that the study of the Mass and the Missal, of the Breviary, its history and its contents are studies useful in his daily offering of sacrifice and praise?

I hope that this book may serve as an introductory manual to the study of the Breviary. It may be useful to junior students in colleges, in giving them some knowledge of the Church's Hours, which they assist at in their college choirs. It may assist them to know and love the official prayers of the Church, and may help to form devout habits of recitation, so that, when the obligation of the daily office is imposed on them, they may recite it digne, attente et devote. The "texts and intentions" may be an aid to them, and to students in Holy Orders, in the great and glorious work of pious prayer.

Perhaps, this book may be a help to priests. It is an attempt to bring into one handy volume many matters found in several volumes of history, liturgy, theology, and ascetic literature. Much of it they have met before, but some of it may be new and may enable some to pray more fervently and to aid them in the difficult work of saying each Hour and each part of an Hour with attention and devotion. Some of the pages may be to them instructive, and may give them new ideas on such points as the structure of the Hours, the Collects, the Te Deum, the Anthems of the Blessed Virgin, etc.

No book is faultless. Of this one, I can say with the Psalmist, "I studied that I might know this thing, it is a labour in my sight" (Psalm 72). And I can say it with St. Columban, Totum, dicere volui in breve, totem non potui. In the book I quote Cardinal Bona. In his wonderful Rerum Liturgicarum (II., xx., 6) he wrote what I add as a finish, to this preface:—

"Saepe enim volenti et conanti vel ingenii vires vel rerum antiquarum notitia vel alia subsidia defuerunt; nec fieri potuit quin per loca salebrosa in tenebris ambulans interdum offenderim, Cum aliquid incautius et neglentius a me scriptum offenderit, ignoscat primum lector, deinde amica manu corrigat et emendat et quae omisi suppleat."






I. Idea of the Breviary II. Short History of Divine praise in general, of the Breviary in particular III. The excellence of the Roman Breviary in itself and in comparison with others Respect due to the sacred volume IV. 1. The contents of the Breviary 2. The ecclesiastical year and its parts; the calendar 3. General Rubrics of the Breviary Title I. The double office " II. The office of a semi-double " III. The office of a simple " IV. The office of Sunday " V. The ferial office " VI. The office of vigils " VII. Octaves " VIII. Office of the Blessed Virgin for Saturdays " IX. Commemorations " X. The Translation of Feasts " XI. Concurrence of office " XII. The arrangement of the office " XIII. Matins " XIV. Lauds " XV. Prime " XVI. Terce, Sext, None " XVII. Vespers " XVIII. Compline " XIX. The Invitatory " XX. Hymns " XXI. Antiphons " XXII. Psalms " XXIII. Canticles " XXIV. Versicle and responds " XXV. Absolutions and Benedictions " XXVI. The Lessons " XXVII. The responses after the lessons " XXVIII. The short responses after the hours " XXIX. Capitulum " XXX. Oratio, collects " XXXI. The Hymn Te Deum " XXXII. Pater Noster and Ave " XXXIII. The Apostles' Creed and the Athanasian Creed " XXXIV. The Preces " XXXV. The suffrages of the saints " XXXVI. The antiphons of the Blessed Virgin " XXXVII. The little office of the Blessed Virgin



Who are bound to say the office? Must every holder of a benefice read the office? What sin is committed by the omission of a notable part? What sins are committed by the omission of the whole office? What must a person do who has a doubt about omissions? Does a person, who recites by mistake, an office other than that prescribed fulfil his obligation? What causes justify an inversion of the hours? Is it a sin to say Matins of following day before finishing Compline of the current day? What is the time fixed for recitation of the Office? When may a priest begin the recitation of Matins and Lauds for the following day? What is true time as regards recitation of the office? Are priests bound to recite Matins and Lauds before Mass? At what time should the little hours be said? Where should the office be recited? What kind of verbal pronunciation should be attended to? May the recitation be interrupted? May Matins be separated from Lauds without cause? Is intention required in reading the hours? Is attention required? external? internal? superficial attention, literal attention? Opinions of theologians on necessary attention. Distractions, voluntary and involuntary. Does a person reciting the hours sin, if he have distractions? Causes excusing from reading the hours. Scruples and the direction of the scrupulous.


1. The words read. 2. To whom we speak. 3. We pray in the name of the church. 4. Our associates on earth. 5. The purpose of our prayer. 6. It gives glory to God and draws down his blessings. 7. It brings help to those who recite it fervently.


A. Before Recitation.

1. Purify conscience. 2. Mortification of passions. 3. Guarding the senses. 4. Knowledge of the work that is to be done.


1. Reading the Ordo Recitandi officium. 2. To recollect ourselves. 3. To invoke God's aid. 4. To unite ourselves with Christ. 5. (a) Christ our model in prayer. (b) Our prayers to be offered through him. (c) Church wishes this and practices it ever. (d) Lives of saints show how they united with Christ in prayer. (e) Remembrance of the sublime work we engage in. (f) To propose general, special and particular intentions.


(a) Suitable place. (b) Respectful and devout attitude. (c) Slow, deliberate pronunciation. (d) Distractions. (e) To apply the mind to what is read. (f) To read without critical judgments. (g) To think of Christ's Passion. (h) To think of the presence of God and of our Angel Guardian.


1. Thanks to God. 2. Ask his pardon for faults. 3. Say the Sacro-sanctae. 4. The Sacro-sanctae.




Parts Pater Noster and Ave (Title XXXII) Credo (Title XXXIII) Domine labia mea—Deus in Invitatory (Title XIX) Hymns (Title XX) Antiphons (Title XXI) Psalms (Title XXII) Canticles Replies of Biblical Commission on Psalms Versicles and responds (Title XXIV) Absolutions and blessings (Title XXV) Lessons (Title XXIV) Responses (Title XXIV) Rubrics and Symbolism Te Deum (Title XXXI) Texts and Intentions


Lauds. Etymology, Definition, Symbolism, Origin, Antiquity. Reasons for Hour, Structure, Rubrics Antiphons, Capitulum (Title XXX) Benedictus Oratio, Collect (Title XXX) Rubrics and explanation of Rubrics Texts and Intentions

Prime. Etymology, Origin, Contents, Structure Athanasian Creed (Title XXXIII) Reasons for the Morning Hour and Rubrics Preces (Title XXXIV), Confiteor Structure and Short Lesson Texts and Intentions


Terce. Etymology, Structure, Antiquity. Reasons for Hour Texts and intentions

Sext. Etymology, structure, antiquity Reasons for Hour Texts and intentions

None. Etymology, structure, antiquity Reasons for Hour Texts and intentions


Vespers. Etymology, structure, antiquity. Reasons for Hour Texts and intentions

Compline. Etymology, structure, antiquity Reasons for Hour Suffrages of the Saints (Title VII) Anthems of Blessed Virgin Texts and intentions

The Little Office of the Blessed Virgin (Title XXVII)




Advent Christmas St. Stephen; St. John; Circumcision; Epiphany; Septuagesima; Lent; Easter and Paschal Times; Ascension; Whit Sunday; Trinity Sunday


December; January; February; March; May; June; July; August; October; November


NOTE A. Breviary Hymns. NOTE B. Particular Examen. NOTE C. Bibliography.






Etymology.—The word, Breviary, comes from an old Latin word, Breviarium, an abridgment, a compendium. The name was given to the Divine Office, because it is an abridgment or abstract made from holy scripture, the writings of the Fathers, the lives of the Saints. The word had various meanings assigned to it by early Christian writers, but the title, Breviary, as it is employed to-day—that is, a book containing the entire canonical office—appears to date from the eleventh century. Probably it was first used in this sense to denote the abridgment made by Pope Saint Gregory VII. (1013-1085), about the year 1080.

Definition.—The Breviary may be defined as "the collection of vocal prayers established by the Church, which must be recited daily by persons deputed for that purpose."

Explanation of the Definition.—"Prayers," this word includes not only the prayers properly so called, but also, the whole matter of the divine office. "Vocal," the Church orders the vocal recitation, the pronunciation of each word. "Established by the Church," to distinguish the official prayers of obligation from those which the faithful may choose according to their taste. "Which must be recited," for the recitation is strictly obligatory. "Daily," the Church has fixed these prayers for every day of the year, and even for certain hours of the day. "By persons deputed for that purpose," therefore, persons in holy orders recite these prayers not in their own name, but as representatives of the universal Church.

Different Names for the Breviary.—This book which is, with us, commonly called the Breviary, has borne and still bears different names, amongst both Latins and Greeks.

Amongst the Latins, the recitation of the Breviary was called the Office (officium), that is, the duty, the function, the office; because it is, par excellence, the duty, function and office of persons consecrated to God. This is the oldest and most universal name for the Breviary and its recitation. It was called, too, the Divine Office (officium divinum), because it has God for its principal object and is recited by persons consecrated to God. It is called the ecclesiastical office (officium ecclesiasticum), because it was instituted by the Church. Other names were, Opus Dei; Agenda; Pensum servitutis; Horae; Horae Canonicae.

Which books were employed in olden times in reciting the Office?

Before the eleventh century the prayers of the Divine Office were not all contained in one book, as they are now in the Breviary, which is an abridgment or compendium of several books. The recitation of the Office required the Psaltery, the Lectionary, the Book of Homilies, the Legendary, the Antiphonarium, the Hymnal, the Book of Collects, the Martyrology, the Rubrics. The Psaltery contained the psalms; the Lectionary (thirteenth century) contained the lessons of the first and second nocturn; the Book of Homilies, the homilies of the Fathers; the Legendary (before the thirteenth century), the lives of the saints read on their feast days. The Hymnal contained hymns; the Book of Collects, prayers, collects and chapters; the Martyrology contained the names with brief lives of the martyrs; the Rubrics, the rules to be followed in the recitation of the Office. To-day, we have traces of this ancient custom in our different choir books, the Psalter, the Gradual, the Antiphonarium. There were not standard editions of these old books, and great diversities of use and text were in existence.

Divisions of the Divine Office.—How is the daily Office divided? The Office is divided into the night Office and the day Office. The night Office is so called because it was originally recited at night. It embraces three nocturns and Lauds. The day Office embraces Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers, and Compline.

Parts or Hours of the Office.—How many parts or hours go to make up the Office? Rome counts seven, and seven only; and this is the number commonly counted by liturgists and theologians. They reckon Matins and Lauds as one hour.

The old writers on liturgy ask the question: "Why has the Church reckoned seven hours only?" Their replies are summarised well by Newman: "In subsequent times the hours of prayer were gradually developed from the three or (with midnight) the four seasons above enumerated to seven, viz.:—by the addition of Prime (the first hour), Vespers (the evening), and Compline (bedtime) according to the words of the Psalm—'Seven times a day do I praise thee, because of thy righteous judgments.' Other pious and instructive reasons existed, or have since been perceived, for this number. It was a memorial of the seven days of creation; it was an honour done to the seven petitions given us by our Lord in His prayer; it was a mode of pleading for the influence of that Spirit, who is revealed to us as sevenfold; on the other hand, it was a preservative against those seven evil spirits which are apt to return to the exorcised soul, more wicked than he who has been driven out of it; and it was a fit remedy of those successive falls which, scripture says, happen to the 'just man' daily." (Tracts for the Times, No. 75. "On the Roman Breviary.")

"Matutina ligat Christum qui crimina purgat, Prima replet sputis. Causam dat Tertia mortis. Sexta cruci nectit. Latus ejus Nona bipertit. Vespera deponit. Tumulo completa reponit. Haec sunt septenis propter quae psallimus horas."

"At Matins bound; at Prime reviled; Condemned to death at Tierce; Nailed to the Cross at Sext; at None His blessed Side they pierce. They take him down at Vesper-tide; In grave at Compline lay, Who thenceforth bids His Church observe The sevenfold hours alway."

(Gloss. Cap. I. De Missa)

Thus, this old author connects the seven hours with the scenes of the Passion. Another author finds in the hours a reminder and a warning that we should devote every stage of our lives to God. For the seven canonical hours, he writes, bear a striking resemblance to the seven ages of man.

Matins, the night office, typifies the pre-natal stage of life. Lauds, the office of dawn, seems to resemble the beginnings of childhood. Prime recalls to him youth. Terce, recited when the sun is high in the heavens shedding brilliant light, symbolises early manhood with its strength and glory. Sext typifies mature age. None, recited when the sun is declining, suggests man in his middle age. Vespers reminds all of decrepit age gliding gently down to the grave. Compline, night prayer said before sleep, should remind us of the great night, death.



From all eternity the Godhead was praised with ineffable praise by the Trinity—the three divine Persons. The angels from the first moment of the creation sang God's praises. Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus, Dominus Deus, Sabaoth. Plena est omnis terra gloria ejus (Isaias vi. 3).

Cardinal Bona writes that Adam and Eve blessed and praised God, their Creator. For God created the first human beings, and "created in them the knowledge of the Spirit of God that they might praise the name which He has sanctified and glory in His wondrous acts" (Ecclesiasticus xvii. 6-8), Every page of the Old Testament tells how the chosen race worshipped God. We read of the sacrifices of Cain, Abel, Enoch, Noe; of the familiar intercourse which the great patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob had with God. Recorded, too, are the solemn songs and prayers of Moses thanking God for His guidance in the freedom from the slavery of Egypt (Exodus xv.). David, under God's inspiration, composed those noble songs of praise, the Psalms, and organised choirs for their rendering. He sings "Evening and morning and at noon I will speak and declare and He shall hear my voice" (Psalm 54, v. 18); "I rose at midnight to give praise to Thee" (Psalm 118, v. 162); "Seven times a day I have given praise to Thee" (Psalm 118, v. 164).

The Prophet Daniel, a captive in Babylon, prayed thrice daily, his face turned to Jerusalem. The Israelites, captives in Babylon with Nehemias, "rose up and read in the book of the Law of the Lord their God, four times in the day, and four times they confessed and adored the Lord their God" (II. Esdras ix. 3). Hence, the Jewish day, made up as it was with sacrifices, libations, oblations, purifications, and public and private prayer, was a day of prayer. In these public meetings they sang God's praises, sang of His glory and of His mercy. Sometimes they spoke with loving familiarity, sometimes they prayed on bended knee, sometimes they stood and pleaded with outstretched hands, pouring out the prayers inspired by God Himself.

In the New Law our Saviour is the model of prayer, the true adorer of His Father. He alone can worthily adore and praise because He alone has the necessary perfection. Night and day He set example to His followers. He warned them to watch and pray; He taught them how to pray; He gave them a form of prayer; He prayed in life and at death. His apostles, trained in the practices of the synagogue, were perfected by the example and the exhortations of Christ. This teaching and example are shown in effect when the assembled apostles were "at the third hour of the day" praying (Acts ii. 15); when about the sixth hour Peter went to pray (Acts x. 9). In the Acts of Apostles we see how Peter and John went at the ninth hour to the temple to pray. St. Paul in prison sang God's praises at midnight, and he insists on his converts singing in their assembly psalms and hymns (Ephes. v. 19; Col. Iii. 16; I. Cor. xiv. 26).

What form did the public prayers, which we may call the divine office, take in the time of the Apostles? It is impossible to say. But it is certain 10 that there were public prayers, 20 that they were offered up daily in certain determined places and at fixed hours, 30 that these public prayers consisted principally of the Psalms, hymns, canticles, extracts from Sacred Scripture, the Lord's Prayer, and probably the Creed, 40 that these public prayers varied in duration according to the will of the bishop or master who presided.

"The weekly commemoration of Christ's resurrection, the yearly recurrence of the memory of the great facts of Christ's life, the daily sanctification of the hours of the day, each led the Christian to draw upon the hours of the Psalter, and when, gradually, fixed hours for daily prayer passed beyond the home circle and with groups of ascetics entered the public churches, it was from the Psalter that the songs of praise were drawn, and from the Psalms were added a series of canticles, taken from the books of the Old and the New Testaments, and thus, long ages before any stereotyped arrangement of the Psalms existed, assigning particular Psalms to particular days or hours, the Psalms were feeding the piety of the faithful and teaching men to pray" (The New Psalter—Burton and Myers). In this matter of public prayer, it is hard for us to realise the "bookless" condition of the early Christians and their difficulties. It was twenty-five years after the Ascension before the first books of the New Testament were written, and many years must have elapsed before their wide diffusion; hence, in their bookless and guideless condition the early Christians were advised to use the Psalms in their new devotional life (Ephes. v. 19; Col. iii. 16; St. James, v. 13).

The first clear evidence of a division of the Psalter for use in the Western Church is found in the work of St. Benedict (480-543). He had spent his youth near Rome, and keeping his eye on the Roman usage he assigned the Psalms to the various canonical hours and to different days of the week. The antiphons he drew from existing sources, and of course the canonical hours were already in existence. In his arrangement, the whole Psalter was read weekly, and the whole Bible, with suitable patristic selections, was read every year. He also arranged the Sunday, Festal and Ferial offices. For the recitation of the offices of a saint's day, St. Benedict arranged that the Matins shall have the same form as a Sunday office—i.e., three nocturns, twelve lessons and responsories, but the psalms, antiphons and lessons are proper to each saint. This arrangement interrupted the weekly recitation of the whole psalter, and caused great difficulty in later times; for when the feasts increased in number the ferial psalter fell almost into complete disuse.

St. Benedict's arrangement of the psalms and his other liturgical regulations spread rapidly, but the Roman secular office never adopted his arrangement of the psalms, nor his inclusion of hymns, until about the year 1145. In some details each office shows its independent history. It is a matter of dispute among liturgists whether Prime and Compline were added to the Roman secular office through the influence of the Benedictines (Baudot, The Roman Breviary, pp. 19-26).

The period following the death of St. Benedict in 543 is a period of which little is known. "We repeat with Dom Baumer (vol. i., pp. 299-300) that the fifth century, at Rome as elsewhere, was a period of great liturgical activity, while the seventh and eighth centuries were, viewed from this point of view, a period of decline" (Baudot, op. cit., p. 53). The labours of St. Benedict probably were continued and perfected by St. Gregory the Great (590-604). His labours are summed up by Dom Baumer (Histoire du Breviare, vol. i., pp. 289, 301-303): "It is he who collected together the prayers and liturgical usages of his predecessors and assigned to each its proper place, and thus the liturgy owes its present form to him. The liturgical chant also bears his name, because through his means it reached its highest state of development. The canonical hours and the formulary of the Mass now in use were also carefully arranged by him." "The whole history of the Western liturgy supports us in maintaining that these books received from the great Pope or from one of his contemporaries a form which never afterwards underwent any radical or essential alteration." The Roman office spread quickly through Europe. The enthusiasm of Gregory became rooted in the monasteries, where the monks learned and taught, with knowledge and with zeal, his liturgical reforms. Two important reforms of monastic practice are interesting as showing further progress in the evolution of the Roman Breviary. St. Benedict of Aniane (751-821), the friend and adviser of Louis the Pious, became a reformer of Benedictine rule and practice. His rule aimed at a rigid uniformity, even in detail. And the Council of Aix-la-Chapelle (817) helped him to establish his reforms. As a result of the saint's exertions the Penitential Psalms and Office of the Dead were made part of the daily monastic office. The Abbey of Cluny, founded in 910, supplied a further reform tending to guard the office from further accretions.

Did Hildebrand, Pope Gregory VII. (1073-1086), labour for liturgical reform? Liturgical writers give very different replies. Monsignor Battifol (History of the Roman Breviary, English edition, p. 158) maintains that Gregory made no reform, and that "the Roman office such as we have seen it to be in the times of Charlemagne held its ground at Rome itself, in the customs of the basilicas, without any sensible modification, throughout the tenth and eleventh centuries and even down to the close of the twelfth." Dom Gueranger holds that Gregory abridged the order of prayers and simplified the liturgy for the use of the Roman curia. It would be difficult at the present time to ascertain accurately the complete form of the office before this revision, but since then it has remained almost identical with what it was at the end of the eleventh century. Dom Baumer agrees with his Benedictine brother that Gregory wrought for liturgical reform. Probably Pope Gregory VII., knowing the decadence which was manifest in liturgical exercises in Rome during the tenth and eleventh centuries, decided to revise the old Roman office which, although it had decayed in Rome, flourished in Germany, France, and other countries. Hence, in his Lenten Synod, 1074, he promulgated the rules he had already drawn up for the Regular Canons of Rome, ordering them to return to the old Roman rite. Thus he may be counted as a reformer, but not as an innovater nor an abridger. But his reform fell on evil days. The great struggle between Church and State about lay investitures had a baneful influence on liturgy, even in Rome itself. The times seemed to call for a modernised (i.e., a shortened) office. The "modernisers" respected the psalter, the curtailment was in the Lectionary. The modernising spirit showed itself in the arrangement and bulk of the office books. The Psalter, Antiphonary, Responsorial, Bible and Book of Homilies were gradually codified. Even then, a very large volume was the result. After a time the chant, which absorbed much space, was removed from the volume, but the resulting volume, noticeably smaller, was not yet small enough. In time, only the opening words of the antiphons, responsories and versicles were printed, and to the volume thus turned out was given the name Breviary. The Curial Breviary was drawn up in this way to make it suitable for persons engaged in outdoor pursuits and journeys. It gradually displaced the choir office in Rome, and Rome's example was universally followed.

This Curial Breviary was adopted by the Franciscans in their active lives. They changed the text of the Psalter only, Psalterium Romanum, to the more approved text, the Psalterium Gallicanum. The improved Curial Breviary was imposed on the churches of Rome by the Franciscan Pope, Nicholas III. (1277-1280), and henceforth it is called the Roman Breviary. Thus we see that the book used daily by priests got its name in the thirteenth century, although the divine office is almost from Apostolic times.

But liturgy is a progressive study, a progressive practice capable and worthy of perfecting. And the friars strove for the greater perfection and beauty of the new Breviary. They added variety to the unity already achieved and yet did not reach liturgical perfection nor liturgical beauty. They loaded the Breviary by introducing saints' days with nine lessons, thus avoiding offices of three lessons. And by keeping octave days and days within the octave as feasts of nine lessons, they almost entirely destroyed the weekly recitation of the psalter; and a large portion of the Breviary ceased to be used at all. The Franciscan book became very popular owing to its handy form. Indeed its use was almost universal in the Western Church. But the multiplication of saints' offices, universal and local, no fixed standard to guide the recital, and the wars of liturgists, made chaos and turmoil.

Liturgical reform became an urgent need. Everyone reciting the canonical hours longed for a great and drastic change. The Humanists, Cardinal Bembo (1470-1549), Ferreri, Bessarion, and Pope Leo X. (1513-1521) considered the big faults of the Breviary to lie in its barbarous Latinity. They wished the Lessons to be written In Ciceronian style and the hymns to be modelled on the Odes of Horace. Ferreri's attempt at reforming the Breviary dealt with the hymns, some of which he re-wrote in very noble language, but he was so steeped in pagan mythology that he even introduced heathen expressions and allusions, His work was a failure. The traditional school represented by Raoul of Tongres, Burchard, Caraffa, and John De Arze loved the past with so great a love that they refused to countenance any notable reforms, A third school, the moderate school, was represented by Cardinal Pole, Contarini, Sadolet and Quignonez, a Spanish cardinal who had been General of the Franciscans. The work of reform of the Breviary was undertaken by Cardinal Quignonez (1482-1540). He was a man of great personal piety and possessed a love for liturgy and an accurate knowledge of its history, its essentials, and its acquired defects. After seven years' labour at the matter and form of the Breviary, his work, Quignonez's Breviary (Brevarium Romanum a Francisco Cardinali Quignonio) appeared in 1535. It was for private use only, and was not intended as a choir manual. Yet so popular was his work that, in 1536, six editions had appeared, and in thirty-three years (until its suppression by St. Pius V,) it went through no less than a hundred editions. Its immense success shows how much the need of Breviary change and reform was felt by the clergy. The book, too, had an important influence on shaping the Breviary produced by Pius V. (1566-1572). Quignonez's book was reproduced with the variations of the four earliest editions, by the Cambridge University Press in 1888. It is an interesting study in itself and in comparison with later breviaries.

But it was felt by scholars that Quignonez's reforms were too drastic. Tradition was ignored. The labour for brevity, simplicity and uniformity led to the removal from this Breviary of antiphons, responses, little chapters and versicles, and to the reduction of lessons at matins to three, and the number of psalms in each hour was usually only three. His work had as a set principle the grand old liturgical idea of the weekly recitation of the whole psalter. The quick and almost universal demand for Quignonez's Breviary indicated the need of a reform and the outline of such a reform. The Pope, who commissioned Quignonez to take up breviary reform, requested the Theatines to take up similar work. The Council of Trent (1545-1563) took up the work of reform. But the Council rose before the work had made headway, and the matter of reform was finally effected by St. Pius V. (1566-1572), by his Constitution, Quod a nobis (1568).

The Reformed Breviary of 1568 is, in outline, the Breviary in our hands to-day. The great idea in the reform was to restore the weekly recitation of the whole psalter. Theoretically, the Breviary made such provision, but practically the great number of saints' offices introduced into the Breviary made the weekly recitation of the psalter an impossibility. The clergy were constantly reading only a few psalms out of the 150 in the psalter. The rubrics, too, were in a confused state. Changes were made in the calendar by suppression of feasts, by restoring to simple feasts the ferial office psalms, and by reducing the number of double and semi-double feasts. But in the body of the Breviary the changes were few and slight. The lives of some saints drawn from Quignonez's work were used, St. Gregory's canon of scripture lessons was adopted and the antiphons, verses, responses, collects and prayers were taken from the old Roman liturgy. The antiphons and responses were given in the older translation of St. Jerome owing to their suitability for musical settings. And the text of the psalms was the Psalterium Gallicanum, which had been in use in the Roman Curial Breviary,

But the Pian reform was soon to be followed by a reform of the Breviary text, in accordance with the Sixtine Vulgate, the Clementine Vulgate, and the Vatican text. Clement VIII. (1592-1605) published his edition of the revised Breviary in 1602; and thirty years afterwards Urban VIII, (1623-1644) issued a new and further revised edition, which is substantially the Breviary we read to-day. He caused careful correction of errors which had crept in through careless printing; he printed the psalms and canticles with the Vulgate punctuation, and he revised the lessons and made additions. He established uniformity in texts of Missal and Breviary. But the greatest change made in this new edition was in the Breviary hymns, which were corrected on classical lines by Urban himself aided by four learned Jesuits (see Note, Hymns, p. 259).

"The result (of their labours) has always given rise to very different judgments and for the most part unfavourable. It seemed to be exceedingly rash to regard as barbarous the hymns of men like Prudentius, Sedulius, Sidonius, Apollinaris, Venantius, St. Ambrose, St. Paulinus of Aquileia and Rabanus Maurus and to desire to remodel them after the pattern of Horace's Odes.... It is only fair to give them the credit, that out of respect for the wishes of Urban VIII. they treated these compositions with extreme reserve, and while they made some expressions clearer they maintained the primitive unction in a large number of passages" (Baudot, The Roman Breviary, part iii., chap. ii.).

The commission appointed by Clement VIII. in his work of revision and reform included Baronius, Bellarmine and Gavantus. The commission of Urban VIII. included, amongst other famous men, the famous Irish friar minor, Luke Wadding (1588-1657).

The need of revision, rearrangement and reform of the Breviary was in the mind of every Pope, and nearly every one of them took some step to perfect the historic book. In the eighteenth century Benedict XIV. (1740-1758) contemplated Breviary reform in some details, particularly in improving the composition of some legends and of replacing some homilies of the Fathers. He entrusted this work to Father Danzetta, S.J., but when the learned Jesuit's labour was presented to the Pope, so grave and so contrary were the reasons there put forth, that the Pope thought it well to abandon the thought of reform. Father Danzetta's notes are marvels of research and learning. They are to be seen in Ruskovany's Coelibatus et Breviarium, vol. v. They show to the ignorant and the sceptical, the dangers and difficulties which all Breviary reformers have to contend with.

Pope Pius VI. (1775-1799) returned to the project of Breviary reform. Dom Gueranger tells us that the plan of reform was drawn up and presented to the Congregation of Rites, but the actual reform was not entered on. Pope Pius IX. (1846-1878), at the request of Monsignor Sibour, Archbishop of Paris, appointed a commission to revise the Breviary, but their report caused the work to be abandoned. Petitions for reform were sent to the Vatican Council, but very little resulted. Leo XIII. (1878-1903) enriched the calendar by adding the names of many saints; he added votive offices, corrected the Breviary lessons for the feasts of a number of Popes, and, in 1902, he appointed a commission to deal with the hagiography of the Breviary and with its liturgy; but his death in the following year ended the work of the commission,

The unsatisfactory condition of the rules for the recitation of the Divine Office were apparent to everyone. Scholars feared to face Breviary reform, the difficulties were so innumerable and so immense. However, with wonderful courage and prudence, Pope Pius X. (1903-1914) tackled the work. He resolved not to adopt a series of minor changes in the Breviary, but to appoint an active commission of reform, whose first work should be a rearrangement of the psalter which must bring back the recitation of the Divine Office to its early ideal—the weekly recitation of the whole psalter. The problem which faced Pope Pius X. in 1906 was the very same problem which faced his predecessor St, Pius V. (1566-1572), more than three hundred years ago. St. Pius tried to solve the problem by a reform of the calendar, but the solution produced no permanent effect. Pius X. and his commission went to the root of the difficulty, and by a redistribution of the psalms have made the ferial and the festive offices almost equal in length, and have so arranged matters that the frequent recitation of every psalm, and the possible and probable recitation of every psalm, once every week, is now an accomplished fact; and the old and much-sought-after ideal—the weekly recitation of the whole Psalter—is of world-wide practice.

On the publication of the new Psalter, Pope Pius announced that a commission would undertake a complete revision of the Breviary, a matter of great importance and one which must demand long years of care and study to accomplish. A member of the committee which re-arranged the Psalter, Monsignor Piacenza, tells us that such revision must embrace:—

1. A reform of the calendar and the drafting of rules for the admission of feasts into the calendar of the universal Church;

2. The critical revision and correction of the historic and patristic texts;

3. The removal of spurious patristic texts;

4. The remodelling of the rubrics;

5. The institution of a new form of common office for confessors and for virgins to facilitate the lessening of the number of feasts of saints, without diminishing the honour due to them (Burton and Myers, op. cit., p. 144).

We may sum up, then, all that has been said in this long section by stating that from Apostolic times there was public prayer, thrice daily. The Jewish converts, having the psalms committed to memory needed not, nor could they have in those bookless days, a psalter script. In the third century, morning, evening, and night offices are mentioned. Compline was in existence in the time of St. Benedict. "From the seventh century onwards, ecclesiastical writers, papal decrees and conciliar decrees recognise the eight parts of the office, which we have seen took shape during the sixth century, and regard their recitation by priests and monks as enjoined by positive law. During this period, or at least at its commencement, Lauds and Vespers alone had a clearly defined structure and followed a definite arrangement. As far as we can see, St. Gregory arranged the little hours for Sunday only, and their arrangement for week days was left to the care of the bishops and metropolitans, or even of abbots. This was also the case, in many instances, with regard to Matins, for the number of psalms to be recited thereat was not definitely fixed. As regards the little hours—Prime, Terce, Sext, None and Compline—the freedom of the competent ecclesiastical authorities was as yet unconfined by canonical restrictions. Chrodegang (766) was first to follow the usages of the Benedictines of the Roman Basilica, in prescribing for secular clergy the celebration at Prime of the officium Capituli (i.e., the reunion in the chapter for reading the rule or, on certain days, the writings and homilies of the Fathers). The rest of the chapter—i.e., all that follows the confiteor in Prime as a preparation for the work of the day, seems to have been composed in the ninth century.... Under Charlemagne and his successors variations in the canonical hours completely disappeared" (Baudot, op. cit., pp. 63-65).

On this foundation was built up the Office, to which additions were made, and of which reforms were effected, up to our own time.

"For us, traditional liturgy is represented by the Roman Breviary of Urban VIII., a book which constitutes for us a Vulgate of the Roman Office.... The thing which renders this Vulgate of 1632 precious to us is that, thanks to the wisdom of Paul IV., Pius V., and Clement VIII., the differences between it and the Breviary of the Roman Curia of the thirteenth century are mere differences of detail: the substantial identity of the two is beyond dispute. The Breviary of Urban VIII. is the lineal descendant of the Breviary of Innocent III. And the latter in its turn is the legitimate descendant of the Roman canonical Office, as it was celebrated in the basilica of St. Peter at the end of the eighth century, such as it had gradually come to be in the course of the seventh and eighth centuries, a genuinely Roman combination of various elements, some of them Roman and some not, but of which some, at all events, go back to the very beginnings of the Catholic religion" (Battifol, op. cit., p. 353).



The Roman Breviary is excellent, firstly, in itself; and, secondly, in comparison with all other breviaries.

It is excellent in itself, in its antiquity, for in substance it goes back to the first ages of Christianity. It is excellent, in its author, for it has been constructed and imposed as an obligation by the supreme pontiffs, the vicars of Jesus Christ, the supreme pastors of the whole Church. It is excellent, in its perpetuity, for it has come down to us through all the ages without fundamental change. It is excellent in its universality, in its doctrine, in the efficacy of its prayer, the official prayer of the Church. It is excellent in the matter of which it is built up, being composed of Sacred Scripture, the words of the Fathers and the lives of God's saints. It is excellent in its style and in its form for the parts of each hour; the antiphons, psalms, canticles, hymns, versicles, follow one another in splendid harmony.

The opinions and praises of the saints who dwelt on this matter of the Breviary would fill a volume. Every priest has met with many such eulogies in his reading. Newman's words are very striking. "There is," he wrote, "so much of excellence and beauty in the services of the Breviary, that were it skilfully set before the Protestants, by Romanistic controversialists, as the book of devotions received by their communion, it would undoubtedly raise a prejudice in their favour, if he were ignorant of the case and but ordinarily candid and unprejudiced.... In a word, it will be attempted to wrest a weapon out of our adversaries' hands, who have in this, as in many other instances, appropriated to themselves a treasure" (Newman, Tracts for the Times, No. 275, The Roman Breviary). This tract raised a storm amongst Newman's fellow Protestants. All the old Protestant objections against the Breviary and its recitation (See Bellarmine, Controv. iii., de bonis operibus de oratione i., i. clx.) were re-published in a revised and embittered form. What a change has come amongst non-Catholics! Hundreds of Anglican clergymen are reading daily with attention and devotion the once hated and despised prayer book, the Roman Breviary. How old Bellarmine would wonder if he saw modern England with its hundreds of parsons reading their Hours! How he would wonder to read "The Band of Hope" (1915), an address delivered by an Anglican clergyman to a society of London clergymen. It includes a rule of life beginning, "Every day we say our Mass and our Office." (Cf. R. Knox's Spiritual Aeneid, p. 102.)

The Roman Breviary is excellent, too, in comparison with every other breviary (e.g., Aberdeen, Sarum, Gallican). For none of these can show the antiquity, the authority, the doctrine, the sublime matter, the beautiful order, which the Roman Breviary presents. It was for these reasons that the emperors, Pepin (714-768), Charlemagne (742-814), Charles the Bald (823-888), adapted the Roman rite (Gueranger, Institutiones Liturgiques, tom. i.). And Grandicolas (1772), an erudite liturgist, but a prominent Gallican with no love for Roman rites, declared that the Roman Breviary stands in relation to other breviaries as the Roman Church stands in relation to all other Christian bodies, first and superior in every way (Com. Hist. in Brev. Rom., cap. 2). St. Francis De Sales applied to his Breviary the words of St. Augustine on the Psalter, "Psalterium meum, gaudium meum."




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 and glory.

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 fulfil 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 things changed.

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."

Many 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 restored."

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.



The Council of Trent, Sess. XXIII., c. 18, orders "ut in disciplina ecclesiastica clerici commodius instituantur grammaticas, cantus, computi ecclesiastici, aliarumque bonarum artium disciplinam discant." The minute study of the ecclesiastical calendar is not now so necessary for each priest, as it was centuries ago. The Ordo Divini Officii recitandi, issued yearly, and prepared with great accuracy, relieves priests of much labour and secures them from many doubts. And the decision of the Congregation of Rites (13th January, 1899) regarding the authority of the ordo gives greater security. "Qui probabilius judicat errare Calendarium tenetur eidem Calend. stare, nec potest proprio inhaerere judicio quoad officium, Missam vel colorem Paramentorum." Of course this decision does not apply to errors which are openly and plainly at variance with the rubrics of the Missal and Breviary. However, it may be well to revise and to recall the student days' lessons on the Church's Calendar. The study is not an easy one, and in labouring to be brief, probably, I may be obscure and incomplete.

"Annus menses habet duodecim..." says the Breviary. The year has twelve months, fifty-two weeks plus one day, or 365 days and almost six hours. But these six hours make up a day every four years, and this fourth year is called bisextile.

In making calculations the six hours were taken as six complete hours, and not six hours wanting some minutes. And the aggregate miscalculation continued until the minutes added yearly, amounted to ten days and changed the date of the spring equinox. Pope Gregory XIII. (1572-1585) sought to remedy the error. He re-established the spring equinox to the place fixed by the Council of Nice (787). The year had fallen ten days in arrear from the holding of the Council until the year of the Gregorian correction, 1582. He again fixed it to the day arranged by the Council, the 14th of the Paschal moon. And he arranged, that such a time-derangement should not occur again. He omitted ten full days in October, 1582, so that the fourth day of the month was followed immediately by the fifteenth. He determined that the secular year must begin on 1st January, that three leap years should be omitted in every four centuries, e.g., 1700, 1800, 1900, 2100, and his arrangement has been observed throughout nearly the whole world.

Quarter Tenses fall on the Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays after the third Sunday of Advent, after the first Sunday of Lent; after Pentecost Sunday, and after the feast of the exaltation of the Cross.

The Nineteen Years' Course of the Golden Number. This course or cycle was invented by an Athenian astronomer about 433 B.C. It was not exact, but was hailed with delight by the Greeks, who adorned their temples with the key number, done in gold figures; hence the name. The cycle of course is the revolution of nineteen years, from 1 to 19. When this revolution or course of years is run there is a new beginning in marking, No. 1, e.g., in the year 1577 the nineteenth number, the golden number, was 1; the following year it was 2, and so on until in 1597 the golden number again is 2. A table given in the Breviary shows how the golden number may be found and a short rule for the finding of it in any year is given. To the number of the year (e.g., 1833) add 1; then divide the sum thus resulting by 19 and the remainder is the golden number; if there be no remainder the golden number is 19.


The Epact (Greek [Greek: epaktos] from [Greek: eapgo] I add) is nothing more than the number of days by which the common solar year of 365 days exceeds the common lunar year of 354 days. So that the epact of the first year is 11, because the common solar year exceeds the common lunar year by 11 days, and these added to the 11 days of the first, produce 22 as the epact. At the end of the second year the new moon falls 22 days sooner than in the first year. The epact of the third year is three, because if 11 be added to the 22, the result is 33, and from this 33 we subtract 30 days which make up a lunar embolism and the remainder gives us 3, the epact for the year, and so on.

In the Breviary there is a table (alia Tabella epactarum) corresponding to the golden numbers from the year 1901 to the year 2000 inclusive. To take away all doubt in the use of this table, a new table of epacts, an example may be quoted. In the year 1901 the epact was X, which is placed under the golden number 2; and new moons appear on the 21st January, 19th February, and 21st March.... Again, in 1911 the epact is not marked by a number, but by an asterisk (see Table in Breviary) which is placed under the golden number 12, and in the calendar for the whole year will indicate the new moon on January 1st, January 31st (for in February there is no new moon indicated in the Table; the sign [*] is not found), on March 1st, March 31st, and on April 29th. In the year 1916 the golden number is 17 and the epact is 25 (written not in Roman numerals but in ordinary figures), the new moons occur on 6th January, 4th February, 6th March, 4th April, etc. For when the epact is 25, corresponding with golden numbers greater than the number 11 in the calendar, we must take in computation the epact 25 (written in modern figures) but where the epact corresponds with numbers less than the number 11, in the tabella, the epact XXV. in Roman numerals must be taken in calendar countings. This change takes place with epact 25 only, so that the computation of the lunar years may more closely respond to the solar year. It is for this cause, too, that in six places in the calendar two epacts, XXV. and XXIV., are given.

The new Breviary contains a tabella of Dominical letters, up to the year 2000 A.D. It needs no comment.

Indiction. Indiction was a cycle of fifteen years, the first of which dated from the third year of the Christian era. It was usual to indicate the number of the year in a cycle and no mention was made of the cycles already completed. Thus, the indictio sexta meant the sixth year of a cycle and not the sixth cycle or period of fifteen years. Hence, to know the year of indiction is useless for determining the date in old documents of State. Indiction was instituted by Constantine in 313 for fiscal purposes. In papal and imperial documents the name of Pope or emperor was generally given and the regnal years noted.

Movable Feasts. In virtue of the decree of the Council of Nice, in 325, Easter, on which all other movable feasts depend, must be celebrated on the Sunday which follows immediately the fourteenth day of the moon of the first month (in the Hebrew year), our March. Easter, then, is the first Sunday after the Paschal full moon (i.e., the full moon which happens upon or next after March 21st). If full moon happens on a Sunday, Easter Sunday is the Sunday after the full moon. The matter of the arrangement of Easter was for long a subject of very bitter contention in the Irish and in the English Church. The Irish, clinging tenaciously to the calendar of St. Patrick, carried it everywhere in their missionary labours, so that the controversy was not confined to Ireland and England. It was long and bitter, until at last the Irish Church agreed to follow the reform. (See Healy, Ireland's Schools and Scholars, p. 592; Moran, Irish Saints in Great Britain, "The Conference at Whitby in 664," pp. 255-261).

Calendar study is interesting, and many valuable contributions on this matter have been given to us by Father Thurston, S.J., and other English and Irish scholars.


The next document in the Breviary, Part I., has the title "Rubricae Generates Breviarii," the general rubrics of the Breviary. They are called general, as they apply to every part of the Breviary and are to be distinguished from the rubrics dealing with the proper (proprium) of the Breviary, the proper of time or of the saints. The word "rubrics" was originally applied to the red marking lines used by carpenters on wood, later it referred to the titles used by jurisconsults in announcing laws, which were written in red colours. The word appears in Church literature to refer to signs and directions as early at least as the fourteenth century (Cath. Encyclopedia—word "rubrics").

The general rubrics are divided into thirty-seven Titles. Attention will be given to each; of these Titles, some of which must be modified by recent legislation. The order followed may not be the order followed in the general rubrics as given in the Breviary, as matters treated in the general rubrics found in the Breviary are treated under other headings here. However, a look at the table of contents or at the index shows the pages treating of these Titles.


"Consequently, the 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."

The entire 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 took place.

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 feasts.

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.


Etymology, nature and synonyms. The word semi-double (semi-duplex) is derived from the Latin; and some writers hold that the word indicates feasts which are of lower rank and solemnity than double feasts. Others hold that it means simply, feasts holding a place between double feasts and simple feasts. Most writers on liturgy hold that on some days a double office—one of the feast and one of the feria—was held, and that in order to shorten this double recitation there was said a composite office, partly of the saint's office and partly of the feria; and they say that from this practice arose the term semi-double, or half-double.

Synonyms for the term "semi-duplex," are "non-duplex," "office of nine lessons."

1. The antiphons are not doubled in a semi-double office.

2. The Sundays of the year, excepting Easter Sunday, Low Sunday, Pentecost and Trinity, are said according to the semi-double rite. In the new Breviaries the Psalms for Matins are only nine in number, instead of the eighteen of the older book.

3. The versicles, antiphons, responses, preces and suffrages of saints, which are recited in semi-double offices, are given below under their own titles.


Etymology, nature and synonyms. The word simple comes from the Latin simplex, to indicate the least solemn form of office and it is the direct opposite in meaning to the term "double." It is synonymous with the term so often found in liturgical works, the office of three lessons.

This form of office is of great antiquity, going back to the fifth century. In the early ages of the Church and down to the fourteenth century the simple office consisted of the ferial office with lessons, antiphons and prayers. But in the end of the fourteenth century, simples came to be celebrated in the same manner as semi-doubles, with nine lessons and their nocturns, and in case of occurrence were transferred. As a result the offices of Sunday and the ferial offices were practically crushed out of the Breviary. The Commission of Reform applied an easy remedy, by restoring simple feasts to their ancient place and status. Now, they are not to be transferred; but in case of occurrence with a feast of higher rite they are merely commemorated.

These feasts have first Vespers only. At Matins, the nine psalms and three lessons are said as one nocturn. The psalms in semi-double feasts are from the Psalter under the day of the week on which the feast is celebrated. "In quolibet alio Festo duplici etiam major, vel semi duplici vel simplici et in Feriis Tempore Paschali, semper dicantur Psalmi, cum antiphonis in omnibus Horis, et versibus ad matutinum, ut in Psalterio de occurrente hebdomadae die" (Tit, I. sec, 3. Additiones et Variationes).

In commemorations in the Office, the versicle, response, antiphon and collect of a semi-double is made after the following commemorations (if they should have a place in the recitation of the day).

(1) Any Sunday, (2) a day within the privileged octave of the Epiphany or Corpus Christi, (3) an octave day, (4) a great double, (5) a lesser double. Of course the first commemoration is always of the concurring office except it be a day within a non-privileged octave, or a simple. In reckoning the order of precedence between feasts which occur on the same day, lists given in The New Psalter and its Use, p. 108, show that thirteen grades of feast stand before the feasts of semi-double rite. And in the order of precedence as to Vespers, between feasts which are in occurrence, these feasts stand in the eleventh place, being preceded by (1) doubles of the first class of the universal Church, (2) lesser doubles.


We translate the Latin Dies Dominica by our word Sunday, for in English the days of the week have retained the names given to them in Pagan times. In Irish, too, Deluain, Monday, moon's day, shows Pagan origin of names of week days.

The literal translation of the Latin Dies Dominica, the Lord's Day, is not found in the name given to the first day of the week in any European tongue, save Portuguese, where the days of the week hold the old Catholic names, domingo, secunda feira, terca feira, etc. It is said that the seven days of the week as they stand in numerical order were retained and confirmed by Pope Silvester I. (314-336): "Sabbati et Dominici diei nomine retento, reliquos hebdomadae dies Feriarum nomine distinctos, ut jam ante in Ecclesia vocari coeperunt appellari voluit; quo significaretur quotidie clericos, abjecta caeterarum rerum cura, uni Deo prorsus vocare debere" (Brev. Rom. in VI. lect. St. Silvester Pope; 31st Dec.).

There is no evidence of the abrogation of the Sabbath by Christ or by His Apostles, but St. Paul declared that its observance was not binding on Gentile converts. Accordingly, in the very early days of Christianity the Sabbath fell more and more into the background, yet not without leaving some traces behind it (see art. Sonnabender in Kraut's Realenzyklop). Among Christians the first day of the Jewish week, the prima Sabbati, the present Sunday, was held in honour as the day of our Lord's resurrection and was called the Lord's Day (Apoc. i. 10; I. Cor, xvi. 2), This name, dies dominica, took the place of dies solis, formerly used in Greece and in Rome. This day has many names in the works of Christian writers. St. Ignatius, M. calls it Regina omnium dierum; St. Chrysostom, dies pacis; dies lucis; Alcuin, dies sanctus; feria prima, Baronius tells us, was another name for our Sunday.

The subject of the liturgical celebration of the Lord's Day has been a great study and a problem to modern scholars. It appears that in the first ages of the Church, Sunday was a day of solemn reunion and of common prayer. St. Justin, in his second apology, writes that on the Lord's Day town and country met together at an appointed place for sacrifice, for the hearing of the word of God, for pious readings and for common prayer. This common, prayer consisted largely in the recitation of the Psalms, hymns and prayers, of what are called the Sunday Office. This office was nearly always the same in psalms, in hymns and in every part; so that Sunday after Sunday, for many years, there was very little change in the Sunday united-prayer part of the liturgy, although the preaching on the incidents of the life of our Lord (Beckel, Messe und Pascha, p, 91), the blessings and the thanksgivings relieved the service from monotonous sameness.

A nocturn, a round of Psalms, was said on Saturday night by the vigilants preparing for the Sunday services. Before the eighth century two other short nocturns were added. This addition, which was copied from the monastic practice, built up the three nocturn form of office and became the model and form of the office for saints. "There is good reason for believing that originally the Divine Office formed part of the Mass. The synaxis, for which the early Christians assembled by night, consisted of the 'breaking of bread,' preceded by the singing of psalms and hymns, litanies and collects, readings, homilies, invocations and canticles. This was the whole official liturgical prayer, apart, of course, from private prayer" (Dom Cabrol, Day Hours of the Church, Introduction, p. xvi).

One of the chief objects of Pope Pius X. in his reform was the restoration of the liturgical importance of the Sunday office, the office of the Lord's Day, and, therefore, in its own right, superior to the saints' feasts by which it had been displaced from its special office, psalms and lessons. And this could only be effected by a change in the rules of occurrence, and in Title IV. (De Festorum occurentia, etc., section 2) we find the new rule for restoring Sunday offices to their proper liturgical rights.

In Title IV., sect, 1 (see Breviary, Additiones and Variationes) there is no change in the old rubric. The eight Sundays of the first class exclude every other feast. And the Sundays of the second class only give place to a double of the first class and then are commemorated at Lauds, Vespers and Mass, and have the ninth lesson in Matins.

But section 2 (Dominicis minoribus)... goes to the root of the matter of the new change in the rules for Sunday's liturgical office. The ordinary Sundays ranked as semi-doubles and hence their Mass and Office was superseded by the Mass and Office of some occurring feast. The length of the Sunday office, in the breviaries until lately in use, made many hearts rejoice over the occurring feast. But the almost total omission of the ancient and beautiful Sunday Masses was a misfortune and, in a sense, an unbecoming practice, which broke away from ancient liturgical rule and tradition. The abbreviation of the Sunday office in the new breviaries and the rule laid down in Title IV., sect. 2, restore Sunday's office and Sunday's Mass to their old and proper dignity.

The general rule laid down is that on Sundays throughout the year the proper office of the Sunday shall always be said. The exceptions are (1) Feasts of our Lord and their octaves, (2) Doubles of the first class, (3) Doubles of the second class. On these days the office will be the office of the feast, with commemoration in Lauds, Vespers and Mass. Henceforth Sundays are divided into:

(1) Sundays of the first class, which exclude all feasts;

(2) Sundays of the second class, which exclude all feasts save doubles of the first class;

(3) The ordinary Sundays, which exclude all but doubles of the first or second class, feasts of our Lord, and their octave days.

The date of Easter is the pivot of Calendar construction. Before Easter come the Sundays of Lent and Quinquagesima, Sexagesima, Septuagesima Sundays. Septuagesima cannot fall earlier than the eighteenth day of January, nor later than the twenty-second day of February. Hence, in some years there are fewer "Sundays after the Epiphany" than in others, owing to the dates of Easter and Septuagesima. The smaller the number of Sundays after Epiphany the greater is the number of Sundays after Pentecost. If the number of Sundays after Pentecost be twenty-five, the twenty-fourth Sunday will have the office of the sixth Sunday after Epiphany. If there be twenty-six Sundays after Pentecost, the twenty-fourth Sunday will have the office of the fifth after Epiphany, and the twenty-fifth will have that of the fifth Sunday; the twenty-sixth will be the sixth Sunday's office. It should be remembered that the Sunday called the twenty-fourth after Pentecost is always celebrated immediately before the first Sunday of Advent, even though it should not be even the twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost.


Etymology and different signification of the word Feria. The word is derived probably from the Latin feriari (to rest). Among the Romans, the idea of a day of rest and a holy day was intimately united and received the name of feria. But it was amongst the Hebrews that the day set apart for the worship of God received the most distinctive character as day of rest (Heortology, p. 2). Hence the early Christians called the days of the week feriae.

Why did the Church adopt the word feriae? She wished to mark the day of the week and not to name them by their pagan name (e.g., dies lunae) nor by their Jewish names (e.g., prima sabbati), which should be a sort of recognition of the dead and dying synagogue. Hence she adopted the word feria, to denote the Christian rest in the Lord, the Christian peace and the abstinence from all sin, and that each and every day should be consecrated to God. The Christian use of the word is found in Origen (185-254) and was fully established in the time of Tertullian.

In the time of Amalare (circa 830) the ferial office had taken a well-defined form, Matins having twelve psalms and six antiphons. In Lauds of every feria were recited the psalms, Miserere; Deus, Deus meus; Deus misereatur nostri; a canticle drawn from a prophet and varying each day of the week (e.g., Confitebor, Isaias xii., for Monday's Lauds; Ego dixi, Isaias xxxviii., for Tuesday's Lauds, etc., and the two psalms Laudate (148, 150) and the Cantate, psalm 149). In the small hours the Sunday psalms without antiphons were recited. Vespers had daily, fixed psalms. At each hour the Kyrie Eleison and ferial prayers were said on bended knees and the hours terminated—as do the hours of Holy Week still—with Pater Noster and Miserere.

Ferias are divided into three classes, major ferias, privileged ferias and non-privileged. Ash Wednesday and the three last days of Holy Week are the major ferias which are privileged and exclude all feasts (vide Tit. II., sec. 2). Non-privileged feriae are the feriae of Lent and Advent, Quarter Tense or Ember days and Rogation Monday. They take precedence of simple feasts only.

In the ferial office nine psalms are said, and not twelve, as in the old order of the Breviary. The psalms found arranged in the new Breviary for three nocturns are to be said with nine antiphons up to the versicle of third nocturn—the versicle of the first and second being omitted (Tit. I., sec. 7). Hence the psalms are to be said straight through (sine interuptione) omitting in the first two nocturns, the versicle and response, Pater Noster, absolutions and all pertaining to the lessons. This simplifies things and makes the ferial office shorter than the office of feasts.


Etymology, nature and synonyms. The word vigil is from the Latin vigilare, to keep awake, to watch, because in old times the night before any great event, religious or worldly, was spent in watching. Thus, the night prior to ordination to the priesthood, the night prior to a great battle, was spent in watching before the altar. Hence, the word vigil came to mean the prayers said during the time of watching or waking, preparatory to the great event. It signified, too, the fast accompanying the watching, and lastly it came to mean the liturgical office of Mass and Breviary fixed for the time of vigilance. In the Roman Church it was sometimes called the nocturn or night office. The Greeks call the vigil profesta, the time before the feast.

The custom existed among the pagans, almost universally, before the time of Christ. The Jews practised this ancient night prayer, as the scripture in several places shows, "in noctibus extollite manus vestras in sancta" (Psalm 133). Our Saviour sanctified this use by His example, and the early Christians were, on account of these night assemblies, the objects of fear and dread, of admiration and of hatred. Organised vigils lasted till the thirteenth century in some countries, but owing to abuses and discord they became not a source of edification, but the occasion and cause of grave scandals, and were forbidden gradually and universally. The Church now retains for the faithful one congregational vigil, the vigil of Christmas. Formerly, it was customary to observe a fast on a day or night of a vigil, but that custom was suppressed sometimes, or fell into disuse. Vigil fasts are now few. Almost the only relic of the vigil now remaining is the Mass and Office.

When were vigils held? In the early ages they were held only on Saturday nights and on nights preceding great solemnities or the festivals of the Martyrs. The early converts, if they had been pagans, knew few or no prayer formulae, and very little of the psalms was learned by them even in their Christian practice. But Jews who became Christians knew psalms and hymns and prayers. So that in the early Christian vigils, there was no attempt made at reciting the Divine Office, and the custom of such recitation was not introduced until about 220 A.D. and was not obligatory (Duchesne, Christian Worship, Chap. VIII.).

It is difficult to speak with certainty about the hour of beginning or the hour of ending these vigil services. Some think that the first nocturn was said about 9 p.m. Lauds was said before sunrise and hence was called Laudes-matutinae. But "after the middle of the ninth century, we gather from contemporary documents, that the office of vigils was, as a whole, regularly constituted and well known" (Baudot, p.64). These vigils were held in cenacles or upper rooms of houses. During the days of persecution these meetings were not infrequent and were held secretly in crypts, catacombs, private houses and at martyrs' tombs. In times of peace they were held everywhere, in churches, monasteries, castles.

Vigils are divided into two classes, major and minor; major vigils are the vigils of Christmas, Epiphany and Pentecost, and they are called privileged vigils and are celebrated as semi-doubles. The vigils of Christmas and Pentecost are privileged vigils of the first class. The vigil of Epiphany is a privileged vigil of the second class. All others are minor or non-privileged vigils.


Etymology and nature. The word "octave" is from the Latin octavus (eighth) because, in the early ages of Christianity, the Church celebrated the eighth day only after the celebration of the feast itself; not until the twelfth century was the custom of a commemoration on each of the eight days introduced. We have, probably, an example of this still in our Breviaries. The feast of St. Agnes is celebrated on 21st January and on 28th it is mentioned at Vespers and Lauds only, and the name in old Roman service books is Octavo, S. Agnetis. The origin of the octave is Jewish. We read in the Old Testament that God ordered that the Feasts of Pasch and Pentecost should be celebrated for eight days. So, too, the Feast of Tabernacles lasted for eight days, the first and eighth days being days of special celebration and devotion. The Christian Church adopted the method of showing great honour and glory to the principal festivals of the Christian year, to the great saints, the patrons of countries, dioceses, etc. But just as the calendar became overcrowded with saints' offices, which excluded almost entirely the Sunday and ferial offices, so, too, the additions of octaves created confusion and further tended to the exclusion of the old liturgical use of the Psalter and the supplanting of the Sunday and ferial offices. Hence, in the Motu Proprio Abhinc duos annos, the octaves of the calendar are divided into three great classes, privileged, common and simple. Privileged octaves are further divided into three orders. Those of the first order are the octaves of Easter and Pentecost; the octaves of Epiphany and Corpus Christi belong to the second order, and the octaves of the Nativity and Ascension belong to the third. The Christmas octave admits feasts of saints, but the octaves of Epiphany, Easter and Pentecost do not admit any feasts (Tit. V., sec, 3). A day within an octave has a right to first Vespers, and the antiphon and response should be from first Vespers (S.C.R., June, 1905). But the feast of the day falling within octave has a right to first and second Vespers. The exceptions are, when at second Vespers of St. Thomas, the office of the octave of the Nativity to be observed on 30th December has to be commemorated again, in octaves like octaves of Epiphany when each day has its proper antiphon at the Magnificat, and again on and July in second Vespers of Visitation the office of St. Peter and Paul is to be commemorated. In octaves the suffrages of saints and the Athanasian Creed are not said. When feasts of the Universal Church, which are celebrated with an octave are perpetually transferred to the next day, because of a perpetual impediment, according to the rubrics, the octave day is not therefore perpetually transferred but ought to be kept as in the Universal Church on its own day.

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