Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Office of the Dead

The Diurnal includes the texts for the Office of the Dead (starting from MD (135), and saying it on behalf of a particular soul, selected souls, or all souls in purgatory is a great spiritual work of mercy. For those with ambitions to say Matins but whose Latin (or stamina) is not yet up to the task, saying Matins of the Dead each day might be a good and worthy way to work up to the full thing. It is also a particularly beautiful and haunting Office.

What is the Office of the Dead?

The Office of the Dead consists of first Vespers (ie said the night before), Matins and Lauds, and is said for the repose of the souls of the faithful departed. It can be said for one person, or for many.

It is a very ancient Office, and probably took on its current form around the seventh century. It became very popular in the middle ages, with many monasteries earning considerable income by saying it on behalf of laypeople.

It can be said any day, but traditionally it was not said on the equivalent of second and first class feasts, but was said:
  • on the day of burial, and third and seventh day after the funeral;
  • on the anniversary of the death;
  • Pius V recommended it be said on the the first free day in the month, the Mondays of Advent and Lent, on some vigils, and ember days; and
  • All Soul's Day.
How to say it.

The Office can of course be said instead of the normal Office (unless you are a priest or religious bound to the recitation of the Office). But if you want to say it as well, say the normal Office of Vespers first, then Vespers for the Dead; Matins and Lauds of the day, then Matins and Lauds of the Dead. You might also choose just to say one of these hours, not all three.

The Office for the Dead has no introductory texts, you just launch into the antiphons and psalms as written. There are though two things you need to decide in advance:
  • if you are saying Matins, whether to say all three 'Nocturns" or choose the one appropriate for the day of the week (you will find Sunday, Monday and Thursday on MD (137); Tuesday and Friday on MD (145); and Wednesday and Saturday on MD (154);
  • which collect to use - there is a selection from MD (174) onwards, make your choice depending on who you are saying it for and when. Mark your selection with a ribbon.
The only other thing to remember is that instead of the normal Gloria (Glory be) at the end of each psalm, you say "Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis" - have a look at MD (137).

Vespers of the Dead

Vespers of the Dead can be found on MD (181). It consists of:
  • five psalms each with an antiphon;
  • a versicle - MD (185);
  • Magnificat with antiphon, MD (185-6);
  • the Our Father, said kneeling, intercessory prayers and the selected collect - MD (187)
  • conclusion - MD (187).

Matins of the Dead

Can be found on MD (136)ff.

It consists of:

  • the invitatory psalm (94) with antiphon said responsorially (follow the text as set out);
  • one or three nocturns. Each nocturn consists of three psalms each with an antiphon, and three readings each followed by a responsory.
  • the collect and conclusion - MD (163).

Note that there are instruction on what to do if Lauds is not said, or Lauds is separated from Matins on MD (163).

Lauds of the Dead

Lauds of the Dead can be found on MD (163). Apart from stripping out the introductory sections of normal Lauds, it follows the same basic pattern for the psalms and canticles. The concluding prayers for the hour are on MD (173).