Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Practicalities - Looking at how parts of the Office fit together

At first glance the Office can appear rather complex and, indeed, even discouraging. A recent comment prompted the thought of 'dissecting' an Hour to illustrate how things fit together. Comments as to whether this is useful or otherwise would be much appreciated.

Vespers is perhaps the most familiar Hour so seems a good place to start.

Today's feast is that of St. Joseph Calasanctius, Confessor. The rite is double. However, as tomorrow's feast, St. Augustine of Hippo, is also of the same rank Vespers are 'from the Chapter of the following' . In practice (with the 1911-13 reforms) this really is the same as saying first Vespers of St. Augustine with a commemoration of the previous feast of St. Joseph Calasanctius.

In the Sanctoral section of the Breviary (or Antiphonale etc) the respective Common is indicated - for St. Augustine this is the Common of Confessor-Bishops, this is found after the Sanctoral section towards the end of the Breviary.

Vespers has the following elements:

1) The prayer Aperi, Domine is said followed by Pater and Ave. These prayers are said in a low voice.

2) Deus in adjutorium... and its response Domine ad adjuvandum.... are sung followed by the Doxology.

3) The antiphons and psalms are taken from the occuring feria, Wednesday. (This is a characteristic of the 1911-13 reform - prior to this a double feast would take its antiphons and psalms from the Common - this meant that 'from the Chapter of the following' made more sense). The first antiphon Beati omnes, qui timent Dominum is sung in full and is then followed by Ps. 127. A slight complication: as the words of the antiphon are the same opening words of the psalm they are not repeated and so the psalm continues with the words: qui ambulant in viis ejus. At the end of the psalm the Doxology is sung followed by the antiphon Beati omnes, qui timent Dominum.

4) The pattern of antiphon, psalm, Doxlogy, antiphon is repeated for the other four psalms of the Hour: Confundantur omnes, qui oderunt Sion, Ps 128 Saepe expugnaverunt..., Gloria Patri..., Confundantur omnes, qui oderunt Sion. etc., until the last antiphon after the fifth psalm , Elegit Dominus Sion in habitationem sibi.

5) The chapter is taken from the Common: Ecce sacerdos magnus qui in diebus suis placuit Deo... The hymn from the Common follows: Iste Confessor Domini... followed by the versicle Amavit eum Dominus... and its response Stolam gloriae...

6) Then antiphon for the Magnificat, O Doctor optime...beate Augustine... is sung in full (conveniently printed in the Breviary under the texts for St. Augustine), followed by the Magnificat, Doxology and then the antiphon O Doctor... is repeated.

7) The greeting Dominus vobiscum is sung by the celebrant and after its response Oremus is sung followed by the prayer for the feast Adesto supplicationibus...

8) A commemoration of the 'before the chapter' office, St. Joseph Calasanctius, is now made. The antiphon for the Magnificat, Hic vir sung (but not the Magnificat again) and then the versicle Justum deduxit..., then Oremus and the collect Deus, qui per sanctum Josephum...

9) The above commemoration structure is repeated for St. Hermes whose feast is also August 28th: antiphon Iste sanctus..., versicle Gloria et honore..., response Et constituisti..., Oremus and the collect Deus, qui beatum Hermetum...

10) Now the normal ending of Vespers: Dominus vobiscum and its response, Benedicamus Domino and the response Deo gratias. Fidelium animae is said in a lower voice followed by Amen and a Pater said inaudibly.

11) The antiphon of the BVM follows: the versicle Dominus det nobis suam pacem with response Et vitam aeternam. Amen.; then Salve, Regina... its versicle Ora pro nobis... and response Ut digni... followed by Oremus and the collect Omnipotens sempiterne Deus..., the versicle Divinum auxilium... and response Amen.

12) At the end of the Office the prayer Sacrosanctae, the versicle Beata viscera... with response Et beata ubera.. followed by a final Pater and Ave.

The above took much longer to type than it would to actually sing or say! If this was helpful please remember in prayer the soul of the late Bernard Ford who first taught Rubricarius how to use the Breviary.


Anonymous said...

That is very helpful indeed: thank you very much. Do you have any suggestions as to where one can obtain a (traditional) breviary?

Rubricarius said...


Excellent, I shall post another Vespers 'dissection' in due course.

Twenty years ago one could pick up four-volume Breviary sets for £10 quite easily in London. I wish I had realised how rare they would become and I would have 'stocked up'. is an excellent source of second hand books. In the UK there are three excellent second hand booksellers who specialise in Catholic books: John Bevan, Great Doward, Herefordshire; John Thornton, London; and, Christopher Zeally, St. Phillips Books, Oxford. Try 'Googling' them for websites.

Anonymous said...

"11) The antiphon of the BVM follows: the versicle Dominus det nobis suam pacem with response Et vitam aeternam. Amen.; then Salve, Regina... its versicle Ora pro nobis... and response Ut digni... followed by Oremus and the collect Omnipotens sempiterne Deus..., the versicle Divinum auxilium... and response Amen."

What are the rules governing the recitation of the final Anthem of Our Lady? I read somewhere(I think, in "The Breviary Explained" by Dr Pius Parsch, 1952) that, in the private recitation of the Office, the Anthem is said only after Lauds (or if several hours are joined, after the last hour recited, if one began with Lauds) and Compline. Does that mean that in the choral recitation of the Office one always sings the Anthem, even in the little hours?

Rubricarius said...


You are quite correct.

In the examples I have 'dissected' I have presumed the Office is sung in Quire.

The Little Hours, from ancient times, were aggregated. At my local Cathedral, Westminster, Prime and Terce were ordinarily sung at 10:10 followed by the Capitular Mass then Sext and None. Vespers and Compline were sung at 15:15 and Mattins and Lauds at 18:00

There is an excellent article on aggregation of Hours by Dr. Graham Woolfenden that I will try and post later.

Anonymous said...

Thank you again for all these commentenlightening commentaries. Please be assured of my prayers for the late Mr. Ford. We are all grateful that his expertise has made this site possible.

I do have another question, though I fear it is not strictly pertinent to this "thread", so I beg your indulgence. It came to my mind when you mentioned the aggregation of the Little Hours.

If I understand rightly, (conventual) festal Masses are sung after Tierce, the Masses of simple feasts and common ferias after Sext and the Masses of vigils and penitential ferias after None. There is also the fact, however, that before 1953 Mass had to be said in the morning, or at least before 1 pm or so. But what happens on a day when SEVERAL conventual Masses have to be said: for example, on the day before the Ascension when there is the Mass of the vigil after Sext and the Rogation Mass after None and, quite probably, the Mass of a saint will have been sung after Tierce? How can one celebrate so many Masses and anticipate all of these Hours in the forenoon? I believe not all of the monks or canons are required to be present at the additional Masses, but still, when -- in terms of the clock -- will these Masses all be said?

Rubricarius said...


The 1939 edition of the Catholic Directory gives the following under the entry for Westminster Cathedral:

'When the Liturgy requires two High Masses, Prime is at 10:00; the festal Mass follows Terce; the ferial, vigil or requiem Mass follows Sext or None."

Indeed one of the less than satisfactory elements of the 1911-13 reform is that concerning Conventual Masses. In Additiones I,1 there is a directive that when a second Mass is required it is a Low one, without the assistance of the chorales. My understanding, and I would welcome clarification, is that Westminster continued to have two High Masses when required either by indult or prater legem custom.

In practice an Hour takes about ten minutes to sing and High Mass, when regularly celebrated and, of course depending on whether polyphony is used, can be sung in 45 minutes. So if one did start with Prime at 10:00 then one could celebrate three Masses in the morning although the schedule would be tight.