Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Learning the Office: Hymns, chapters, versicles, responsories

This post reviews the rubrics for some key parts of the Office that are common to several of the hours.

All of these parts of the Office are properly said while standing.

The hymn

The hymn uses the same text each day at Prime (Iam Lucis), Terce (Nunc Sancte), Sext (Rector Potens), None (Rerum Deus) and Compline (Te Lucis).

At Lauds and Vespers (and Matins), the text (and chant tone) can vary according to the day of the week, season, feast or day.  

The last verse (doxology) is sung while bowing (medium).

The chant for the hymns can be found either in the Antiphonale Monasticum (which can be downloaded from CC Watershed or you can use the more recent versions of the chant provided in the Liber Hymnarius published by Solesmes.  Note however that the versions of the hymns used in the Antiphonale (and most traditional monasteries) differ from those used in the Roman Office in both text and chant tones.

Useful resources for learning the chant versions of the hymns (but check that they are the correct ones in the Antiphonale) include:

The versicle

The versicle is a short statement and response.

In the Diurnal it is usually just marked V: and R:

You can find an example in the psalter section of the Diurnal on page 55, where the versicle for Sundays during the year is Dominus regnavit....Induit Dominus...During Eastertide, an alleluia is added to each line.

The versicle is always the same at Prime and Compline, but can vary depending on the day of the week, season, feast or day at the other hours.

At Lauds and Vespers a more elaborate chant tone is generally used.

Chapter (Capitulum) 

The chapter is really just a short Scriptural readings used at each Hour.

It is always rounded off with a 'Deo Gratias' (Thanks Be to God) - have a look for example at the chapter for Prime  on page 7 (of the Psalter).

The chapter is always the same at Prime and Compline, but can vary depending on the day of the week, season, feast or day at the other hours.

(Brief) responsory 

The responsory occurs at Lauds and Vespers. It is often labelled Short R or brief, because it stands in contrast to the 'Prolix' version that can be sung at first vespers of major feasts. You can find an example of the standard format for this on page 52, for Sunday Lauds, and it is important to spend a little while familiarising yourself with the structure because the Diurnal abbreviates these mostly, and you have to remember how to say it. And I'm afraid its one of those cases where it makes a lot more sense when you are singing it with someone leading and the rest responding!

So take a look at the example. The first line goes:Inclina cor meum, Deus, * In testimonia tua.

The whole line is then repeated. Let's call the first half of the line (Inclina..) x, and the second half after the asterix (In testimonia) y.

So the structure so far is:

Then the verse (and let's call this bit z) goes:
Averte oculos meos, ne videant vanitatem: in via tua vivifica me.
Then the second half of the first line is added on. So the structure so far is now:

Then a short doxology is added:
Gloria Patri et Filio et Spiritui Sancto.
Then the whole of the first line (Inclina cor meum...In testimonia..) is repeated again.

So the structure of the whole responsory is:


You can check your understanding by looking at the text for Lauds for Christmas in the Diurnal (MD 72*) (Verbum caro) and listening to the recording below.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Diurnal traps and shortcuts to be aware of**


Layout of the Diurnal

Page numbering

Each section of the Diurnal is page numbered separately, so you need to pay attention to  [], *, etc to know which section you are in

Order of Psalter section

In order (broadly) of psalm numbers, not hours

Sunday Prime, S&M Terce-None 

Located after Saturday Lauds

Versions of prayers for use by laypeople/Office  vs with priests

At Compline, use second version of Confiteor (no repetition) unless you are saying it with a priest.

Use Domine exaudi orationem meam, not Dominus vobiscum
(for example in closing prayers of each hour)

Opening’ prayers

Said at all hours, even where book does not note this (but in middle of Compline).
Seasonal variation for Septuagint and Lent (Laus tibi…instead of Alleluia)
(Deus in adjutorium…/Gloria Patri.../Alleluia)
Written out in full at beginning of psalter section (MD 1), but abbreviated thereafter


Said in full before and after a psalm, group of psalms or canticle


Gloria Patri…is added to the end of all psalms unless otherwise indicated


Always end in amen (with alleluia added during Eastertide)


Always end in (response) ‘Deo Gratias’

Responsory (Lauds and Vespers)

Abbreviated form in Diurnal needs to be filled out; note no ‘sicut erat…’

Concluding prayers

Litany (Kyrie eleison) one repetition of each set of words only, not triple as at Mass

Note: do not use Dominus vobiscum, as above

Need to add correct conclusion to collect (see conclusions to the collects in front matter)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Learning the Office - glossary of key terms

I thought it might be helpful to have a running list of terms used in relation to the Office, so here is a partial list of the ones mentioned in the series.

The Glossary 

Breviary – Book containing the texts for all of the hours of the Office

Cantor – Leads the singing.

Choir – The liturgical choir of a monastery or other ecclesiastical institution.

Class I, II, III – levels of feasts

Commemoration – Sometimes referred to as a memorial. The lowest ranking recollection of a saint or season, which is marked by some additional prayers at Lauds and sometimes Vespers.

Common of… - Refers to a set of texts that can be used for categories of saints or feasts.

Common, Office in – Office said by two or more people together, who are not obliged to say the Office.

Compline - Compline is said after dark, before bed.

Diurnal – Covers the day hours, Hours from Lauds to Compline.

Divine Office – A liturgical prayer of the Church based around the psalms said daily by priests and religious.

Feria - Class IV or ordinary day of the week with no feasts.

Fixed Feasts – Occur on a particular calendar date.

Hebdomadary – Person designated to lead the Office.

Hour(s) – Parts of the Divine office, viz Matins, Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers, Compline in the traditional Office.

Lauds - Said at first light, and heralds in the dawn.

Lector – Reader.

Major hours – Matins, Lauds, Vespers

Matins - the night office.

Memorial – Sometimes referred to as a memorial. The lowest ranking recollection of a saint or season, which is marked by some additional prayers at Lauds and sometimes Vespers.

Minor hours – Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Compline

Monastic Office – A version of the Divine Office as said by monks and nuns. Usually refers to the formulation of the Office set down by St Benedict in his Rule.

Moveable feasts – Feasts for which the calendar date can change each year.

None - Literally ninth hour, hour of the Office said mid-afternoon.

Ordinary – parts of the Office that don't change. In the Office, there are essentially two types of 'ordinary':the introductory prayers and other set texts, together with the psalms, that stay the same all the year around (generally found in the psalter section of the Diurnal); the things that stay the same throughout a particular season, such as through Eastertide, such as the hymn at Lauds, and the alleluias.

Prime - Means first, referring to the hour of the Office traditionally said during the first hour after dawn.

Psalter – Literally the book of psalms. In the context of the Office, it generally means the psalms and prayers arranged in the order set for each hour.

Propers – Text that changes (for the season or feast).

Sanctorale – Of the saints. Refers to the cycle of feasts of saints.

Sext - Literally sixth hour, hour of the Office said around midday.

Solemnity - First class feast, the highest level of a feast.

Superior – The person in charge of a monastery. Usually an abbot, abbess, prior or prioress.

Terce - Literally third hour , said mid-morning.

Temporale – Literally of the time. Refers to the liturgical seasons.

Vespers - Evening prayer, originally said around sunset.

Friday, April 24, 2009

The greater litanies (rogation day) and the Benedictine Office

On April 25, we celebrate the Feast of St Mark, but it is also a Rogation day. In Australia, we hardly ever get to celebrate fully this important and beautiful ceremonial, as ANZAC Day dawn services and requiems tend to overshadow or place the relevant mass and procession. But the useful fisheater's site gives the following description of what a Rogation day is, and you can read more about it over there:

""Rogation" comes from the Latin "rogare," which means "to ask," and "Rogation Days" are days during which we seek to ask God's mercy, appease His anger, avert His chastisements manifest through natural disasters, and ask for His blessings, particularly with regard to farming, gardening, and other agricultural pursuits. They are set aside to remind us how radically dependent we are on Mother Earth, and how prayer can help protect us from nature's often cruel ways..."

The rubrics in the 1963 breviary say that nothing is made of the Rogation Day in the Office, but only in the Mass, where, in accordance with the constitutions of the monastery or local custom, a procession is held at which the Litany of the Saints is sung (although the bishop can substitute other prayers).

Those who are bound to say the Office (such as priests and religious) but who can't participate in a procession say the litany and its particular prayers by themselves (or with other members of the faithful), generally immediately after Lauds. You can find a traditional version of the litany online here. You can also find them in the Monastic Diurnal at (200).

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Learning the Diurnal Part 3C - Feasts of Saints

I want to go back, now, to understanding the seasons. In part 3B of this series, I talked about the Propers and ordinary of the seasons - the temporale. Now I want to talk about the feasts of the saints, or the sanctorale.

And really this is about becoming familiar with the sections of the diurnal dealing with the Propers of the saints, page numbers in square brackets [ ], the Common of Saints, page numbers in normal brackets ( ), and the special supplement for particular places, **.

A lot of this may make more sense once we've taken a look at the specific parts of the Office and each of the hours, but it is still worth getting familiar with now, so I'll use a few examples relating to particular feasts to help you familiarise yourself with it.

Celebrating the saints - rubrics

The propers provided in the Diurnal basically displace the normal 'day of the week' ordering of the Office to a greater or lesser degree, depending on the level of the feast and the texts available for a particular saint.

In working out how the Office is going to be affected on a particular saints day, the first thing to do is look at the rubrics set out in calendar date order in the Proper of the Saints section. So a saint who rates a memorial, such as St George, pg [112] has the least impact on the Office - in general it only affects Lauds by adding an antiphon, verse and prayer after the prayer set for the day. A higher level feast, though, like that of St Mark, p [113] affects the choice of texts and even psalms (at Lauds and Vespers).

It is also worth checking the supplement from time to time, since general Ordos may miss feasts particular to your country or diocese - in the case of St George, for example, it is a first class feast in England, and the rubrics are set out on page 24**.

So it works like this. Your starting point is the psalter section of the diurnal. So on St Mark's day in 2009, you would start by looking at texts for a Saturday. But in fact the rubrics direct you to the common of Apostles in Eastertide, which tells you:
  • at Lauds to use the 'festal' psalms on page 44 of the psalter instead of the Saturday ones, and use the antiphons and other texts of the common instead of the regular text, and the collect from the Proper of the saint, on [113];
  • at Prime you would use the first antiphon from the common (Sancti tui) instead of the Saturday antiphon (but with the normal Saturday psalms);
  • at Terce, Sext and None you use the hymn and psalms as usual for Saturday, but the antiphon, chapter and versicle of the common, and the collect of the saint;
  • Vespers uses the antiphons for Eastertide on (20) and the psalms for apostles on (2), plus the other texts set out instead of the regular Saturday ones, but also adds a commemoration of the Sunday (Magnificat antiphon, verse and collect) after the collect of the saint;
  • Compline is as per usual!
Propers vs commons

As the example above illustrates, the texts that displace those of the day can either be 'proper' to that particular saint (as for example for SS Odo, Majolus, Odilo and Hugh, on page [115], or from the commons provided for particular classes of saint.

The commons are particularly useful - imagine that in your parish or diocese it is the first class feast of a local saint. Your saint isn't mentioned explicitly in the Diurnal though. Provided you know what type of saint he or she is - an apostle, martyr, confessor, virgin or whatever - you can simply to to the relevant common and use those texts in order to say the appropriate Office for the feast. So it is worth flicking through the commons and becoming familiar with the categories of saints!

The other point to note is that the commons include some particular psalms for the feast. At Lauds, first and second class feasts rate the 'festal' psalms, which can be found in the psalter. There are quite a few different selections of psalms for Vespers though (and for Matins in the breviary if you are attempting to say the full Office), set out in the respective commons.

The diurnal charts

If you want to work out what can and can't change according to the feastday, here is where that chart that comes with the Diurnal comes in handy. On one side of it you can see the summary of Terce, Sext and None. The first column on the table lists the parts of the Office that can change - which for these hours are the antiphons, psalms, chapter and versicle, and collect. The next two show the possible variants - Sundays, ferias and feasts. It shows that feasts never displace the psalms of the day at these hours, but can displace the propers of the season.

In the case of Vespers and Lauds, the tables distinguish between feasts that come with their own specific antiphons, and those without. We will come back to these tables in the context of looking at each hour individually!

For the next part of this series, click here.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Learning the Office: 'opening' and 'closing' prayers of the day hours (including commemorations)**

Diurnal shortcuts

The opening prayers of the Office (though note that these actually occur in the middle of Compline due to its development over time) are the same for all of the day hours.  The basic structure and most of the content of the closing prayers, save for the collect) are also common to all of the hours (with some minor variations at Compline). 

However, the Diurnal generally doesn't write these prayers out in full, and sometimes doesn't even give a prompt to remind you that you need to use them. Under Monday Prime for example, for the opening prayers it simply says:

V. Deus, in adjutórium meum, and the rest as noted above. 

On page 9, for Tuesday Prime (and the other days of Prime up to Saturday), it doesn't even bother saying that, you are just expected to know to say the opening prayers.

Accordingly, it is important to learn these prayers thoroughly.

(1) The opening prayers

The opening prayers of the Office are written out in full on MD 1 (first page of psalter section of Diurnal).  They should be said standing if possible.

The first two sections are the same throughout the year.  The Alleluia is replaced by Laus tibi...from Septuagesima through Lent.

V. Deus + (make the sign of the cross) in adjutórium meum inténde.
R. Dómine, ad adjuvándum me festína.

V. (bow) Glória Patri, et Fílio, * et Spirítui Sancto.(stand straight)
R. Sicut erat in princípio, et nunc, et semper, * et in sǽcula sæculórum. Amen.

Alleluia or Laus tibi, Dómine, Rex ætérnæ glóriæ.

There are several different chant tones that can be used with these prayers, depending on the degree of solemnity of the hour and day.

(2) The Concluding Prayers

The concluding prayers are said standing (bow during the Pater Noster and collect).

Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison, Kyrie eleison

Note that this is not an abbreviation for a doubled or tripled Kyrie as in the mass - each Kyrie is just said or sung once, exactly as written.
Pater Noster

At the minor hours (Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Compline) the Our Father is said silently, with only the first two words (Pater Noster) and the text from  ('Et ne nos') of the prayer said aloud. In a community, the person leading the Office for the day (the hebdomadary) says this, and then allows time for the prayer to be said by everyone, before finishing the prayer aloud.

At Lauds and Vespers the Our Father is said or sung aloud (in a monastic community, by the superior of the community, in line with St Benedict's injunction to use the prayer to focus on forgiveness, aimed at removing 'the thorns of scandal, or mutual offence, which are wont to arise in communities.' )(RB13).

Domine exaudi orationem meam
Et clamor meus ad te veniat

These two lines are used in private recitation any time you see 'Dominus vobiscum' in the text.


At this point, the prayer (collect) of the hour or day is said.

At Prime and Compline, the prayer is always the same, so just read it from the book or learn it off by heart (pg 8 for Prime, 264 for Compline).

At the other hours, the collect will normally be of the (previous) Sunday.  If it is a third class feast or day or higher, it will be the prayer set for that feast or day.

Conclusions to the collects

Note that the Diurnal rarely gives you the conclusions of the collect - just a few words like 'Per Dominum nostrum'. There is actually more you have to say here, and you can find the full texts of the conclusions to the collects on page xxix, the very last page of the introductory section of the Diurnal.

(3) Commemorations

If there is a commemoration (memorial) on a particular day, it is said immediately after the collect.

There are basically two types of commemorations. The first are 'privileged' commemorations, for example of a Sunday when some other feast overrides it. Privileged commemorations really only come up on fairly rare occasions, and will generally either be noted in the diurnal or in my weekly Ordo. The main occasions are:
  • Sundays when a first class feast displaces the normal Sunday texts;
  • when two first or second class feasts occur on the same day, and one ends up taking precedence (very rare indeed, but can sometimes arise if a national, diocesan or local feast clashes with something in the universal calendar!);
  • particular seasons of the year which have daily collects (like Lent and Advent).
    On on the feast of the Annunciation for example, if you look on page [102]ff it tells you to make a commemoration of the feria at First Vespers, Lauds and Second Vespers.
In these cases, a commemoration is made both at Lauds and Vespers.

Ordinary commemorations (such as saints days that are memorials) only affect Lauds.

So, the commemoration of the Feast of St George for example, only affects Lauds. At every other hour, you would say the normal collect from Sunday only.

A commemoration consists of an antiphon (from the Benedictus at Lauds, Magnificat at Vespers), the short verse and response, or versicle that would have been said after it at Lauds or Vespers, and a prayer (collect). The Diurnal sets all these out in the correct order, so you really just need to say what's there!

So on the Feast of St George at Lauds, you say the Sunday collect, then turn to page [112] in the Diurnal and say the antiphon 'Filiae Ierusalem..', then the verse and response (Pretiosa...Mors..), then the prayer (Deus, qui...).

All you have to remember about commemorations really is that they are said immediately after the collect of the day.

(4) The final conclusion of the Office

After the collect, and commemoration if there is one, the Office continues with another 'Domine exaudi... and then

Benedicamus Domino...Deo Gratias
Fidelium animae...
The only exception to this pattern is Compline, where the Fidelium animae is not said, an extra final blessing is added, and the antiphon of the season for Our Lady follows.

**Updated August 2016

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Learning the Office Part 3B: The seasons in the calendar

If you attend daily mass in the Extraordinary Form (EF), the calendar of the Monastic Diurnal will be pretty easy for you to follow, as it basically mirrors the traditional calendar pretty closely (the main differences are in the selection and level of saints' feasts). If on the other hand you are only familiar with the modern calendar, you may find the monastic calendar a bit of a challenge!

Essentially there are three moving parts to the calendar that you need to be aware of:

  • the seasons;
  • feasts that fall within a particular season;
  • other feasts that fall on particular days (such as saints feasts).
So today, let's take a little tour through the proper of the seasons and feasts that fall within them... The next part will deal with saints and other feasts.

The seasons - propers vs ordinary

The section of the Diurnal dealing with the seasons is near the beginning of the book, on page 1*, and starts with Advent. The overall heading is 'Proper of the Seasons', but in fact it gives you both 'propers' - things that change each day or week through a particular season - and 'the ordinary of the season', or the things that stay the same throughout a particular season. On page 1* for example, you can see some antiphons and prayers that are said at First Vespers (Saturday night) of the first Sunday of Advent. But if you flip over a few pages to 9*, you will find the ordinary of Advent, or the things that are said on most days of that season.

Go and take a look at my post on Eastertide for a fuller explanation of what this means in practice.

The seasons of the traditional calendar vs the new calendar

The really big differences between the seasons in the two calendars are:
  • the season of Septuagesima before Lent (abolished in the new calendar);
  • no 'Ordinary time' - instead the various periods are called things like 'Sundays after Pentecost'.
There is a very clear and entertaining description of the seasons and major feasts of the traditional calendar over at the fisheaters website. If you aren't familiar with them, it is well worth taking the time to read, and find the relevant seasons in the Diurnal.

The other useful source on this subject if you really want to drill down into it is Dom Gueranger OSB's famous nineteenth century multi-volume The Liturgical Year, which provides explanations of the seasons and the texts of each week's masses. But I'll probably try and provide some extracts or summaries of his work as we go through the year in any case.

Even if you are familiar with the traditional seasons though, you will find there are a few more sub-divisions in the Office than are apparent at mass. Look out for this and learn as you go through a few cycles of the Office!

Feasts of the season

As well as the 'ordinary for the season' , you will also find in this front section of the diurnal the propers for feasts that fit within a particular season - like Christmas Day for example (p58*)!

There are two basic categories of feasts - those with fixed dates (like Christmas) and moveable feasts (most but not all of which depend on the date of Easter). You can find a table setting out the dates for the moveable feasts for each year up until 2066 in the very front section of your Diurnal, immediately after the introduction, so that you can plan ahead.

There are a few differences in the dates and particular seasonal feasts celebrated in the two calendars, so just keep an eye out by reading ahead each week or consulting an Ordo (such as on this blog!).

Level of feasts

The other thing you need to be aware of, and that differs from the new calendar, is the level of the feast. This is one of those things that can be quite confusing if you look at older Office books (such as the Monastic Antiphonary), because the descriptors for feasts has changed several times in recent decades! There are basically five possibilities in the 1962 calendar (with a few minor variations within them), which is what you will find in the Diurnal:
  • a first class feast or solemnity;
  • a second class feast;
  • a third class feast;
  • a fourth class;
  • with a memorial (some missals call this a commemoration).
You do need to know what level each day is, as it does affect which prayers and so forth that you use. In fact, if you have the Farnborough Diurnal, it comes with a card that shows the things that vary depending on the level of the feast, and down the track I'll try and explain what it is trying to tell you!

So, if you hadn't been paying much attention to the level of feast, go take a look at this week's Ordo, and get them clear in your mind.

For Part 3C of this series, go here.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Lectio divina from the Office: Low Sunday

The Office is an excellent source for lectio divina - the daily Scriptural or homily readings at Matins in Winter and on important feasts; the 'propers' of the season, that constantly remind us of the meaning of Eastertide for example; the psalms; and the other texts of the Office itself are all possible sources for our lectio.

And as we say the Office, we should seek to penetrate ever more deeply into its meaning, something aided by the many repetitions in it, allowing the words to sink ever deeper into us!

Colossians 3

Today, the readings from the first Nocturn of Matins comes from Colossians 3 (verses 1-17) and seem to me to contain some lines worth highlighting as they seem to me to perfectly capture Benedictine spirituality.

Low Sunday was when the newly baptized and confirmed members of the Church put off their white garments, and resumed wearing ordinary clothes. But this text (and we are given one of St Augustine's sermons on it specifically directed at the neophytes in the Second Nocturn) talks about the Christian putting away the old nature dedicated to evil - wrath, malice, and so forth, and putting on the new. St Augustine links this text to the instruction to 'put on the armour of light' - a call to the spiritual warfare.

But the lines that particularly caught my eye were these:

"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly...as you sing hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."

Learning the Benedictine Office - So your new Monastic Diurnal has just arrived!**


This post will give you an overview on how the Diurnal is organised.


The Diurnal has six main sections - the most important is towards the middle, and labelled 'The Psalter arranged for the week'.

If you are using a different edition of the Diurnal, the page numbers might be different, or it may be missing some of the material I mention.

This post provides an overview of what is in the Diurnal.

  • As you work through the book, you might want to place a ribbon at the beginning of each section so you can find them again quickly.

Warning:  Page numbering

The Diurnal is not page numbered consecutively from page 1 to page x at the end of the book.

Instead, it contains a number of separate sections, each starting again at 1, but with brackets, asterisks etc indicating which section of the book you are in.

And don't look for an index, because there isn't one (well ok, actually there is, but it is pretty hard to find, over on page (233)ff, and is more designed to help you find particular psalms, hymns, etc than to help you get a feel for the book).

Front material

Includes the Title page, Preface, Introduction, calendars, conclusions to the collects, etc.—marked with Roman numeral page numbers: numbers actually appear starting at MD xi and go to MD xxx.

Most of this material is for reference only, and you won't need it very often, but some of it is important.

  • Take particular note of the Conclusions to the Collects page - the Diurnal generally just provides the key words (ie the ones in upper case on this page) and expects you to be able to fill out the text using this page.

Proper of the Season

Marked with a page number and an asterisk: pages numbered (pages, or MD) 1* to 487*.

This part of the Diurnal provides the texts that vary according to the seasons over the year.

In some seasons though, such as Advent, you will use this section a lot.

In time after Pentecost though (the current season in July 2016) the main thing that you need from this section is the collect for the week (used at all of the hours each day except Prime and Compline, except when the weekly collect is displaced by a feast). This section also includes the antiphons for the New Testament canticles (Benedictus and Magnificat) for Saturday and Sunday Vespers and Sunday Lauds.

The Psalter 

Marked with plain page numbers: numbered 1 to 269.

This is the most important section of the book, with most of the texts you need each day in it.

Proper of the Saints

Arranged by dates and marked with page numbers in square brackets: numbered [1] to [385].

These are the prayers and special texts used on the feasts of saints, and they are arranged by date.

The Common of Saints, assorted prayers and indices

Marked with page numbers in round brackets (parentheses): numbered (1) to (243).

The 'commons' are used for more important feasts that don't have their own special texts.  They are grouped by types of saints (apostles, confessors, etc).

The key pages you should have a look at are those for:
  • the Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary on Saturday, MD (129), which includes prayers and antiphons used most Saturdays of the year;
  • the Office of the Dead, MD (135) - use it to say an Office for the repose of souls; and
  • the Itinerary, MD (225) - a great set of prayers for anyone going on a major journey.

    Supplement of Saints feasts 

    Feasts celebrated in certain places only—marked with a page number and a double asterisk: numbered 1** to 59**.

    These are saints and feasts that don't feature in the main calendar, but whose feasts may be celebrated in particular places.

    **Note: This post has been revised, 16 August 2016

    Friday, April 17, 2009

    Why say the Divine Office?

    St Benedict devotes a large chunk of his Rule to setting out the structure of the Divine Office that he describes several times as the monk's service to God. He describes the Office as 'the work of God' (Opus Dei), and tells his monks to let nothing be preferred to it. But the Rule is largely silent on just why he regarded the Office as so important.

    Fortunately for us, many have reflected on this priority down the centuries, and we can benefit from their reflections.

    We are made to worship God

    An obvious starting point is to remember that we were all created to know, love and serve God - and above all, as the first commandment reminds us, to worship him. No Christian is exempt from the duty of worship, and there is no better form for worship than the public liturgy of the Church, which includes the Divine Office.

    The Divine Office is  part of the formal worship of the Church, just like the Mass and sacraments.   One of the positive fruits of Vatican II, though, the 1983 Code of Canon Law was to make it clear that laypeople can pray the Office liturgically not only when they are present when it is said by monks, nuns or priests, but also when praying by themselves.  Under the 1983 Code of Canon Law, priests and religious are required to say some form of the Divine Office, and laypeople are 'earnestly invited' to participate in the Office as an action of the Church.

    The efficacy of the liturgy

    This a wonderful privilege.  All forms of prayer can be good and effective.  But liturgical prayer has a higher status than other forms of prayer because:

    • it is not our prayer, but prayer made in through and with Christ our high priest, in effect his action, not ours;
    • it unifies us with each other, the saints and angels.,  Through it we participate in the worship in heaven; and
    • it is more effective than any other form of prayer, even the rosary.
    Dom Fernard Cabrol, first abbot of Farnborough, writing in 1915, explains it this way:
    Private prayer has a personal value, varying according to the degree of faith, fervour, and holiness of he who prays.  The Church's prayer has always, in itself, and independently of the person praying, an absolute value.  It is a formula composed by the Church, and carrying with it her authority...Liturgical prayer is superior to all others not only because it is the Church's prayer but also because of the elements of which is composed...this prayer holds the first rank on account of its efficacy, or the effects it produces in the soul. (Introduction to Day Hours of the Church, vol 1)
    The importance and value St Benedict placed on the Office is still upheld by the Church today, at least on paper. The 1983 Code of Canon Law for example says:
    In the Liturgy of the Hours, the Church, hearing God speaking to his people and recalling the mystery of salvation, praises him without ceasing by song and prayer and intercedes for the salvation of the whole world. 

    Orienting us to heaven

    Perhaps the most important function of the Office is that it orients us to heaven where we will participate in the unending heavenly liturgy. St Benedict reminds his monks that when they say the Office they should be particularly conscious of God's presence when saying the Office, and that we are singing in the presence of the angels.

    Pope Benedict XVI has said, speaking to the monks of Heiligenkreuz Abbey, that:

    Your primary service to this world must therefore be your prayer and the celebration of the divine Office. The interior disposition of each priest, and of each consecrated person, must be that of “putting nothing before the divine Office”. The beauty of this inner attitude will find expression in the beauty of the liturgy, so that wherever we join in singing, praising, exalting and worshipping God, a little bit of heaven will become present on earth. Truly it would not be presumptuous to say that, in a liturgy completely centred on God, we can see, in its rituals and chant, an image of eternity.

    Pray without ceasing!

    In 1 Thessalonians 5:17, St Paul urges all Christians to 'pray without ceasing'. We can make this a reality in two ways: firstly by actually praying, and secondly, by sanctifying all of our other actions through prayer. The Office, with its eight 'hours' interspersed through the day and night, provides a framework for this unceasing prayer, sanctifying the day, constantly calling us back to prayer, and feeding our contemplation at other times.

    Participating in the liturgy of the hours

    The privilege of saying the Office liturgically carries obligations with it.  We can't just make it up as we go along, and muddle through.  We have to make an effort to do it correctly, lest we be guilty of liturgical abuse.

    If you actually attend the Office in a monastery, even if you don't say anything, you are participating it in it just by listening, hopefully reverently and actively.

    On the other hand, just watching a video, or listening to a podcast doesn't mean that we are praying liturgically. It is really no different to watching Mass at home on television - watching or listening to Mass online is a good thing to do, but it is a devotional activity, not the same thing as actually participating in the liturgy.

    But if you actually want to say the Divine Office - and hopefully we all do - we need to keep in mind the seriousness and importance of what we are doing.

    Because the Office is liturgy, to pray it properly we need to participate actively in it.  One way of doing give it three types of attention:
    • attention to God - putting ourselves in his presence first of all with our bodies.  The Office uses gestures and other ritual actions to remind us of our proper relationship to God and what we are doing, such as standing, kneeling, making the sign of the cross. This can be summarised as 'do the red' instructions in the Diurnal;
    • the second is to the words - pronounce and sing the right words correctly - 'say the black';
    • the third is to pay attention to the sense of the words - bringing our mind and souls into God's presence through them.

    Welcome to the blog!

    The main purpose of this blog is to assist those attempting to say some or all of the traditional Benedictine Monastic Office through the provision of Ordos and instructions on how to say the Office.

    A disclaimer

    I've said the Benedictine Office now for five years (and the traditional Roman Office on and off for quite some time before that), and have spent some time visiting traditional Benedictine monasteries, so I'm fairly familiar with it. But if you think I've got it wrong, please do chip in and correct me!

    And if you think you've got some material that may be of use to others interested in this topic, please do contact me.


    In 1969 the English historian Dom David Knowles, surveying the disastrous exodus of monks and nuns from their monasteries resulting from the drastic changes made to their lives under the guise of the renewal of monastic life, wrote:

    "..if a particular generation (even though it be our own) destroys it or disfigures it, it will return again when saints arise to show its nobility to the modern world."

    This blog is dedicated to those who would be such saints, labouring in the vineyards of monasteries such as Le Barroux, Fontgambault, Flavigny, Jouques and Clear Creek to preserve the Benedictine charism.

    Tuesday, April 14, 2009

    Saturday, April 4, 2009

    Learning the Diurnal Part 3A: Calendars and Ordos

    Two main calendars and the Ordos to go with them

    In the Latin rite Catholic Church (I'll talk briefly about Western Rite Orthodox and others below) at the moment there are two main calendars that are currently approved for use, namely that for the Traditional Latin Mass/Extraordinary Form (EF), or 1960 rubrics Mass and Office, and that for the Ordinary Form/Novus Ordo (OF).

    There are though a number of legitimate variants of these two basic calendars. Firstly every region, country, diocese, monastery and parish has particular local feasts that need to be added in to whatever 'universal' calendar you are using (such as their patronal feasts).

    Secondly, each religious order (and in the case of Benedictines, Congregation and/or monastery) tends to customize its calendar to some degree, adding or subtracting particular saints and other variations.

    The Farnborough Diurnal

    The Farnborough Diurnal is based around the approved universal Benedictine Calendar aligned to the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. The dates for Easter and other moveable feasts etc are given in the introductory material, and you can sit down and work out an Ordo from what is contained in it.

    And that's the Ordo I'm basically posting on this blog. Using it is the simplest (but not only) option for those using the Diurnal.

    It fits well with the EF, because the saints feasts are more or less the same dates (with a few minor variances) and the I Vespers of Saturday/Sunday canticle antiphons, as well as the collect are generally identical to those used in the EF Mass and the Roman Breviary (and typically reflect the Matins Scriptural readings and Sunday Gospel).

    Adapting to other calendars

    You can of course use the traditional calendar even if you attend an Ordinary Form mass - most of the time it is just that the antiphons and collects won't align with the three year lectionary. And you will run into a few extra liturgical seasons (such as Septuagint) that have been abolished in the OF calendar.

    But you could easily choose to celebrate the saints feasts of the new calendar or your particular monastery using the Farnborough Diurnal - just look them up in the book to align dates, and use the Common of the relevant type of saints for newer ones.

    Other Calendars/Ordos

    There are however a few other Ordos around that you should be aware of, at the very least to avoid confusion with them.

    Firstly, some of the traditional monateries put out Ordos publically - Le Barroux for example puts theirs online. These are very useful guides, but each of these has some quirks perfectly legitimate for that monastery and its oblates to use, but perhaps problematic for others! Le Barroux for example still has I Vespers for class II feasts, which isn't in line with the universal 1962 rubrics, and adds in a lot of Roman EF feasts. Clear Creek and Fontgambault I think use a hybrid of the OF and EF calendars.

    Secondly, there are Anglican Diurnals/Breviaries around. They typically add in a few feasts for non-Catholic approved saints (St King Charles I for example), and may use the pre-1960 calendar. An Ordo based on that is published by St Lawrence Press. Once again they publish some interesting and useful material on the liturgy, but this is not a currently approved catholic calendar.

    Thirdly, there is a Monastic Diurnal published by Lancelot-St Andrewes Press, and an associated Ordo based around the Western Rite Orthodox calendar. Their website has some very useful materials on it but beware - Orthodox Easter is not the same date as Roman Rite, so using that calendar will lead to endless confusion if you are actually a Catholic rather than Orthodox...

    Finally, there are some Ordos for the traditional Roman Breviary around - but the Benedictine Ordo is actually different to this in a number of respects.

    Key point summary

    • The Diurnal broadly follows the structure of the 1960 Extraordinary Form calendar, with adjustments for the Benedictine Confederation;
    • But can be adapted to use with other calendars.
    The next part of this series deals with the liturgical seasons.