Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Breviary Appendices

The Appendices to the Breviary contain some interesting material that has always fascinated me.

In addition to emergency rites for the dying when a priest might not have any other books, there is the Itinerarium for before a journey, the long liturgically-structured forms for Grace at Meals, and prayers of preparation and thanksgiving for the Priest (but useful, with some modifications, for anyone really) for before and after Mass, including the traditional psalm-based ones structured almost like additional Hours that are commonly found even in hand missals for the laity. I find these prayers fascinating (and useful) because they show how paraliturgical devotions were once structured on the model of the liturgy, in stark contrast with strictly private prayers and devotions, with little resemblance to the liturgy, that later came to dominate Western Catholic spirituality.

The Appendices to the Breviary contain four pseudo-liturgical services that in the High Middle Ages were even obligatory on clerics:

The Little Office of Our Lady: prayed daily, except on feasts of Our Lady and Greater Doubles.
The Office of the Dead: prayed on all ferias and simples.
The Seven Penitential Psalms: prayed on all ferias of Lent.
and the Gradual Psalms: prayed on all ferias of Lent and Advent.

For the last two, the medieval practice may have even been greater extending to more days (Vigils, Ember days, Rogation days, etc). I believe that the only people who keep anything like this sort of schedule anymore are the Carthusians.

The Gradual Psalms were prayed with no introduction before anything else prior to Matins. The Penitential Psalms (which also includes the Litany of the Saints) were prayed after Lauds. The Little Office, interestingly, was specified to interrupt Prime and be prayed between the main part of the Hour and the "Chapter Office," otherwise it was prayed after the Hour of the day, except at Vespers and Matins-Lauds (traditionally always joined, remember) when it was instead prayed before the main Office (but after the Gradual Psalms). This is because the Office of the Dead was prayed after Vespers and after Lauds. The Office of the Dead only contains the hours of First Vespers, Matins, and Lauds (though I believe, in a very late reform, Vespers of the Dead was moved so as to be positioned on the same day after Matins and Lauds, as opposed to the evening before). I believe the Office of the Dead would be prayed before the Penitential Psalms when they were said on the same day.

Just as later, until the reforms of St. Pius X, many feasts were dumped on Sundays to reduce the number of psalms said, so even many feasts of 9 lessons were introduced so as to decrease the obligation of saying these.

The Tridentine practice, as specified in St. Pius V's bull Quod a Nobis, made these "extras" totally non-obligatory (at least in private recitation), though the following usage was encouraged (and remained suggested in the rubrics of the appendix of the Breviary up until 1960):

Little Office: suggested for any day except feasts of nine lessons, days within Octaves, and any Saturday already using the Mass/Office of St. Mary on the Sabbath.
Office of the Dead: Every Monday in Advent and Lent. First vacant day of the month.
Gradual Psalms: Wednesdays of Lent.
Pentiential Psalms: Fridays of Lent.

In general, these were replaced by shorter "place holders," as it were, in the Breviary. Thus the versicle Fidelium animae was the substitute for the Office of the Dead, the Final Marian Antiphon for the Little Office, and the various commemorations/suffrages (consolidated under Pius X into the "Suffrage of All Saints" and then removed entirely in 1960) were abridgments of other votive or little offices that various places had.

It is also interesting to note, regarding the Office of the Dead, that before St. Pius X, All Souls Day (November 2nd) used to be merely the Second Day in the Octave of All Saints with a commemoration of All the Faithful Departed, followed by the Office of the Dead at its three hours. If it was a Sunday, the Office of the Dead was said for the Monday beginning Sunday evening. After St. Pius X, an entire Office with all Hours was made for All Souls based on the Office of the Dead but containing the Hours it omits.

Though I wouldn't dream of making any of these obligatory again any time soon (it will be hard enough getting the clergy to use the Old Office, though certain reforms or things made optional could help), one might hope that they would find their way back into the devotional life of the Church in some way.

The "problem" with many of these liturgically-based devotions is that they are rather psalm-heavy, when the main Office already has dozens of psalms each day. The Little Office of our Lady, for example, is hardly "little" at all; it's structured basically as an entire Office of its own, albeit it only has 3 psalms at Matins and uses rather short psalms for the other Hours. Still, with all that repetition, the idea of saying it daily in addition to the main Office (as opposed to as a substitute; a function it served for certain groups of religious sisters) makes it a rather dauntingly dry prospect. Other "Little Offices" (for example, the Little Office of St Joseph) may have taken a lesson from this, as their "hours" generally consist of merely a hymn, a collect, and some opening and closing versicles, omitting the notion of actually having any psalms like an Office properly-so-called.

Still, I might suggest the following schema for these Office "extras" based on associated weekdays:

Little Office of Our Lady: on all Saturdays (including Ember Saturdays), except feasts of Our Lady, or when the Office of Our Lady on the Sabbath is already used.
Office of the Dead: Whenever a Requiem is to be celebrated. Especially on ferial Mondays throughout the year, traditionally a day for requiems according to the "Monday Privilege."
Gradual Psalms: Wednesdays and Friday of Advent, Lent, and Septuagesima, the Ember Wednesdays, penitential Vigils, and the Rogation Days.
Penitential Psalms: Fridays of Lent, Ember Fridays, Ash Wednesday also.

Holy Week would be excluded from any of this, of course, as would Solemnities.

This scheme attempts to maintain the devotion to Our Lady on Saturdays, using the Little Office on all Saturdays except when it would be redundant due to the Office already being of Our Lady (either of a feast or the Office of St. Mary on the Sabbath). It tries to remember Friday as the primary penitential day through the use of the Gradual Psalms on Fridays during the penitential seasons and additionally the Penitential Psalms on the Fridays of Lent, and Wednesday as a traditional secondary penitential day through use of the Gradual Psalms also on Wednesdays during the penitential seasons.

The Office of the Dead is associated with Monday in this scheme, as it was under the St. Pius V's suggestions, and also because Requiems were traditionally associated with that day due to the so-called "Monday Privilege" about when they could be celebrated (back when that was more restricted). Monday is not really a penitential day, and the Office of the Dead should not be viewed as a penitential observance (though it is certainly a somber one) so I wouldn't be inclined to link its recital just to penitential seasons.

In fact, I might be so bold as to suggest an obligatory Requiem Mass on all vacant Mondays of the year in the same way as St. Mary on the Sabbath came to be required for all free Saturdays. The devotion to Our Lady and for the Dead have always been the two primary "sideshows" to the Liturgy, and while this was eventually definitively incorporated into the cycle for Our Lady in a substantial manner through her Mass and Office on free Saturdays, the Dead never were in the same way (though priests said Requiems as purely votive masses all the time). I would suggest, then, in some future reform of the liturgy, incorporating this into the official cycle through an obligatory Requiem on Mondays (which could be fittingly accompanied by the Office of the Dead in addition to the ferial office; though whether Vespers of the Dead would be Sunday evening, or rather Monday, could be discussed).


Anonymous said...

You have some good suggestions for the incorporation of these other Offices. I have recently tried to say the Officium Defunctorum for requiems or when someone dies I knew, someone asked me to pray for, etc. As these things do not occur on an everyday basis, it has worked out well so far.

John in Dallas said...

Do you know if anyone publishes the Little Office of St. Joseph? I could not find much information about it online.

A Sinner said...

It's from old devotionals, the preces site says 1700's. They have the whole thing there, follow the link; that's all there is, you could print it off that site, I suppose.

JonoShea1 said...

Thank you for an excellent post. I'm happy to see this relatively new blog.

I have a further question regarding the Little Office of St. Joseph. Are you aware as to whether the text on the preces site is the text which is indulgenced? I have seen at least two forms of this prayer. Thank you for any information you might have.

A Sinner said...

I have no idea whether the one on Preces is the indulgenced version. I'd like to see what other version you have seen, though.

JonoShea1 said...

Forgive me, but I have been unable to relocate the text I had in mind.

I could, however, point you to this text reporting a multiplicity of Little Offices St. Joseph, of which one was indulgenced. I would love to get my hands on the decree.