Saturday, 25 February 2012

Time for Vespers!

Vespers today mark the start of the Pars Verna, or Spring, volume of the Breviary. Anciently Lent began with the Office of the first Sunday with Ash Wednesday, and the following three days, added later. The Office on Ash Wednesday and the following days is really just that of Quinquagesima week, with the same hymns etc as 'green' time, but with the addition of the ferial preces and the use of folded chasubles at Masses of the season.

Today, and for the rest of Lent with the exception of Sundays, Vespers are not sung at the usual time in the afternoon but are sung before lunchtime. A rubric in the Spring volume of the Breviary, before first Vespers of the first Sunday of Lent, states:
Hodie et deinceps usque ad Sabbatum sanctum, exceptis diebus Dominicis, Vesperae dicuntur ante comestinonem, etiam in Festis.
An English translation of the above, from the Stanbrook Abbey English edition of The Roman Breviary:
On this day, and thereafter until Holy Saturday, except on Sundays, Vespers are said before the principal meal at midday, even on Feasts.

This practice, much criticised by the reformers of the twentieth century Liturgical Movement, and indeed by some aliturgical folk today, was popularly associated with the practice of fasting. However, a contrary view, and one I share, would be that the practice represents a symbolic inversion of time as a consequnce of the Fall, with the restoration of 'normality' with the victory of the LORD at Easter. The practice is not confined to the Roman (or other Western rites) as it is found in the East too. A Google search of the times for the Liturgy of the Pre-Sanctified Gifts will reveal many Orthodox Churches serving this Liturgy, with its integral Vespers, on Wednesday and Friday mornings.

Vespers this morning are Second Vespers of the feast of St. Matthias the Apostle. The antiphons Juravit Dominus etc are sung with psalms 109, 112, 115, 125 & 138. The Office hymn is Exsultet orbis gaudiis. After the collect of the feast a commemoration was sung of the Sunday. The antiphon on the Magnificat is Tunc invocabis etc, the versicle Angelis suis Deus mandavit de te and the respond Ut custodiat te in omnibus viis tuis (referring to the LORD's days in the desert) followed by the collect Deus, qui Ecclesiam tuam etc. The Suffrage is omitted as St. Matthias is a double feast. The Angelus is sung, after Vespers, standing. At Compline (sung at the usual time) the Dominical preces were omitted.


Joshua said...


An English Catholic priest, chaplain with the Allied armies in the Italian campaign during WWII, visited a collegial church in a recently-liberated part of that country. To his surprise, the good canons sang Compline, as well as the rest of the Hours, before noon!

Being a somewhat liturgical man, he ventured to query this in his best ecclesiastical Latin: but the canon whom he asked drew himself up to his full height and said, in a voice that brooked no opposition, Habemus privilegium!

O for that spirit to return and grace the Church, O Lord!

Rubricarius said...


A friend of mine was at the Roman Oratory in the 1970s. He came across the same practice in some places even then!