Brush up your rubrics: Getting ready for Advent Part I - Prime and Compline in Advent

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In parallel with my please for help in proofreading the Ordo (surely a relatively small return for the resources made freely available through this blog?), I want to offer a short series of notes and links on the Office of Advent to encourage you to start preparing now.

Advent is easily the most complex period when it comes to saying the Office, due to the mix of texts that need to be juggled for the season, week of Advent, day of the week and date.  But on the positive side, Advent also includes some of the most beautiful texts and chants in the repertoire, which are well worth learning.

The complexities of Advent

Saying the Office during Advent is challenging to get right.

In particular:
  • at Matins, Lauds and Vespers there are special hymns for the season, while at the other hours Advent chant tones are used;
  • at all the hours except Prime and Compline, the chapters, versicles, responsories and so forth are for the season 'the Ordinary of Advent';
  • at Saturday and Sunday Vespers as well as Sunday Lauds, there are proper antiphons each week, which are then used at Prime to None during the week;
  • there are canticles antiphons for each day of Advent, with special texts for particular dates, including the 'O Antiphons' said at Vespers from 17-23 December;
  • between 17-23 December there are also special sets of antiphons to be used on the particular day of the week.
What this means in effect is that at some hours in the second half of Advent, you need to juggle half a dozen different pages of the Diurnal.  And that means you really need to be on top of what you are doing!

In this series, I'm going to start with the Ordinary of Advent, and the easiest of the hours, Compline, and gradually build up.

Accordingly, today a look at Compline, which are relatively straightforward.


At Compline, apart from chant tones, the only change is in the Marian antiphon, which becomes Alma Redemptoris Mater.

For the psalms, the most commonly utilised chant tone is actually the one (in directum) that appears in most chant books (I haven't been able to find the other seasonal tones in a printed book - do let me know if you know of a good source for these!).  You can get a feel for it by listening to one of the archived podcasts from Le Barroux).

For the hymn tone, you can listen to Te lucis ante terminum sung to the Advent tone (page 183 in the Antiphonale Monasticum) over at Liber Hynarius.

For the Marian antiphon, on weekdays use the simple tone:

On Saturdays, Sundays and major feasts, the Solemn tone.  Here it is sung by the nuns of Argentan:


At Prime, the text of the hymn remains unchanged (Iam lucis), but there is an Advent hymn tone to use - the tone is the same for all of the hymns from Prime to None, but I haven't as yet located a recording of the monastic tone available online (if anyone knows of one, other than archived podcasts from Le Barroux please let me know).

Similarly, the psalms (of each day of the week), chapter, versicles and collect all stay as usual.

***The key change is that instead of the normal antiphons for each day of the week, there are antiphons for each week of Advent (up to December 16), and then each day of the week (December 17-23).

This means that for the first three weeks of Advent this year (feasts aside), the antiphon at Prime is the same everyday, as the antiphons for the first half of Advent are the same as the first antiphon of Vespers and Lauds of the relevant Sunday.

As well as under Sundays in Advent, you can also find them in the section that sets out the Ordinary of Advent, on MD 13* (right at the front of the Diurnal).

The antiphon for the first week is 'In illa die', and the psalms each day are sung to tone 8.  You can hear the antiphon sung (with Psalm 92 of Lauds) in the video below:

Between December 16 and 23, there is a different antiphon for each day of the week, and you can find these on pages 37*-40* (plus the relevant Sunday, which this year is the Fourth Sunday of Advent.

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