Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The divine office and the Reform.

Many of those talking about a 'Reform of the reform' these days focus almost solely on the mass, and offer suggestions on reforming it and celebrating it in continuity with the older form of mass. But not enough is spoken of the office.

I have just finished reading "History of the Roman Breviary", by Mgr. Pierre Batiffol, and it's a great book. It was a joy to read the rich history of the breviary, but it was sad to hear of the many things which from the earliest days of what can be considered the form of the divine office of Rome were lost or suppressed. The intercessions at vespers, the singing of the Pater noster, the responsories at lauds and vespers, the fixed psalmody of compline, the use of the Gradual Psalms for the day hours, these were all suppressed or had fallen out of use by the middle ages. Some vestiges of these practices remained in the breviaries of religious orders (The benedictine breviary is a good example.) But Rome did not attempt to restore these venerable practices until the Second Vatican Council.

But now, we have seen ever worse suppressions: The complete r-writing of the hymnal under Urban VII, The use of Pius X's scheme of psalms in place of the old Roman psalter, which goes back to St.Jerome, the use of the Gallican Psalter in place of St.Jerome's translation of the psalms, later to be suppressed with Pius XII's new psalter in the 50's. We saw the suppression of most octaves and votive offices, the severe shortening of lessons at matins. Only the last of these was rectified in the Post-vatican II breviary.The psalter was re-done, another octave suppressed, and yet anothr new translation of the psalms .Further, the closing versicles were re-done and office of matins botched up.

I beleive that the breviary needs a severe reform, based not on the 62' breviary, but on the old office of Rome from the tenth century, which is the latest and purest development of the office before gallican accretions and modern reforms tinkered with it.
A more historical rendering of the office, but one suitable for modern times would have:
1) A three-week psalter based on the old Roman scheme
2) The number of psalms at each office as follows: At matins, nine on feasts and solemnities, three on all other days. Four at lauds and vespers, three at all the other hours
3) The restoration of the Pater noster and preces at lauds and vespers
4) A section of votive offices
5)All texts taken from the earliest sources that can be found. Older texts should not be replaced by newer texts, and where there are not enough texts for an office(e.g., antiphons, readings, respnsories,etc.) These ought to be taken from older sources, not newly composed.
6) A two week cycle of daily short readings at all the hours from lauds to vespers
7) A fixed compline.
8)The restoration of the pre-55 octaves.

At this time, thanks to the many options of the new breviary, some of these reforms are feasible even now, without official approbation. Votive offices are now permissible on any feria, and even on other days, so the old octaves may in some sense, be kept. The breviary already gives permission for the use of older antiphons in place of the new ones, but as of yet, this is only allowed in sung offices. Prayers which once formed part of the office but were suppressed can still be legally said outside of the office. With these in mind, this is my order for lauds and vespers. [The bracketed portions are said only at lauds.]

Aperi Domine, Pater and Ave.
[V.Domine labia mea.]
V.Deus in adiutorium
Gloria patri.
[Ps.66, Deus misereatur nostri]
Aniphons and psalms
Antiphon and canticle.
Preces (Said kneeling on the ferias of Advent and Lent, the triduum, and the office of the dead.)
Pater noster.
V.Domine nos benedicat.
V.Fidelium animae.
Final Pater.

This is at least in keeping with the office as it stood before the reforms of Pius XII and the office as it was before gallicanisation of the Roman rite took place.

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