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MATINS


61


MATINS


II. Origin (Matins and Vigils) . — ^The word Vigils, at first applied to the Night Office, also comes from a Latin source, both as to the term and its use, namely, the Vigilia; or nocturnal watches or guards of the sol- diers. The night from six o'clock in the evening to six o'clock in the morning was divided into four watches or vigils of three hours each, the first, the second, the third, and the fourth vigil. From the liturgical point of view and in its origin, the use of the term was very vague and elastic. Generally it designated the nightly meetings, synaxes, of the Christians. Under this form, the watch (Vigil) might be said to date back as early as the beginning of Christianity. It was either on account of the secrecy of their meetings, or because of sonic mystical idea which made the middle of the nighl till' liimr /mcej^ceHencefor prayer, in the words of the psalm; iiinliii node surgebam ad confitendum tibi, that the Christians chose the night time for their syn- axes, and of all other nights, preferably the Sabbath. There is an allusion to it in the Acts of the Apostles (xx, 4 ), as also in the letter of Pliny the Younger. The liturgical services of these synaxes was composed of almost the same elements as that of the Jewish Syna- gogue; readings from the Books of the Law, singing of psalms, divers prayers. What gave them a Christian character was the fact that they were followed by the Euoharistic service, and that to the reading from the Law, the Epistles and the Acts of the Apostles was very soon added, as well as the Gospels and some- times other books which were non-canonical, as, for example, the Epistles of Saint Clement, that of Saint Barnabas, the Apocalypse of Saint Peter, etc.

The more solemn watches, which were held on the anniversaries of martyrs or on certain feasts, were also known by this title, especially_ during the third and fourth centuries. The Vigil in this case was also called iravpvxls, because the greater part of the night was devoted to it. Commenced in the evening, they only terminated the following morning, and comprised, in addition to the Eucharist ic Supper, homilies, chants, and divers offices. These last Vigils it was that gave rise to certain abuses, and they were finally abolished intheChUrch (see Vigils). Notwithstanding this, how- ever, the Vigils, in their strictest sense of Divine Office of the Night, were maintained and developed. Among writers from the fourth to the sixth centurj; we find several descriptions of them. The " De Virginitate ", a fourth-century treatise, gives them as immediately following Lauds. The author, however, does not de- termine the number of psalms which had to be recited. Methodius in his "Banquet of Virgins" (Symposion sive Convivuim decern Virginum) subdivided the Night Office or iravi-Kx's into watches, but it is difficult to de- termine what he meant by these nocturnes. St. Basil also gives a very vague description of the Night Office or Vigils, but in termswhich permit us to conclude that the psalms were sung, sometimes by two choirs, and sometimes as responses, Cassian gives us a more de- tailed account of the Night Office of the fifth century monks. The number of psalms, which at first varied, was subsequently fixed at twelve, with the addition of a lesson from the'Old and another from the New Testa- ment. St. Jerome defended the Vigils against the at- tacks of Vigilantius, but it is principally concerning the watches at the Tombs of the Martyrs that he speaks in his treatise, " Contra Vigilantium ". Of all the descrip- tions the most complete is that in the " Pcregrinatio iEtheria; ", the author of which assisted at Matins in the Churches of Jerusalem, where great solemnity was dis- played. (For all these texts, see Biiumer-Biron, loc. cit., pp. 79, 122, 139, 186, 20S, 246, etc.) Other allu- sions are to be found in Ca;sarius of .4rles, Nicetius or Nicet;E of Treves, and Gregory of Tours (see Baumer- Biron, loc. cit., I, 216, 227, 232).

III. The Elements of Matins from the Fourth TO THE Sixth Century. — In all the authors we have quoted, the form of Night Prayers would appear to


have varied a great deal. Nevertheless in these de- scriptions, and in spite of certain differences, we find the same elements repeated: the psalms generally chanted in the form of responses, that is to say by one or more cantors, the choir repeating one verse, which served as a response, alternately with the verses of psalms which were sung by the cantors; readings taken from the Old and the New Testament, and later on, from the works of the Fathers and Doctors; litanies or supplications; prayer for the divers members of the Church, clergy, faithful, neophytes, and catechumens; for emperors; travellers; the sick; and generally for all the necessities of the Church, and even prayers for Jews and for heretics. [Biiuraer, Litanie u. Missal, in "Stuilicn des Benediktinerordens ", II (Raigern, 1886), 287, 289.] It is quite easy to find these essential element ; in our modern Matins.

IV. Matins in the Roman and other Liturgies. — In the modern Roman Liturgy, Matins, on account of its length, the position it occupies, and the matter of which it is composed, may be considered as the most important office of the da)% and for the variety and richness of its elements the most remarkable. It commences more solemnly than the other offices, with a psalm (Ps. xciv) called the Invitatory, which is chanted or recited in the form of a response, in accord- ance with the most ancient custom. The hymns, which have been but tardily admitted into the Roman Liturgy, as well as the hymns of the other hours, form part of a very ancient collection which, so far at least as some of them are concerned, may be said to pertain to the seventh or even to the sixth century. As a rule they suggest the symbolic signification of this Hour (see No. V), the prayer of the middle of the night. This principal form of the Office should be distin- guished from the Office of Sunday, of Feasts, and the ferial or week day Office. The Sunday Office is made up of the invitatory, hymn, three nocturns, the first of which comprises twelve psalms, and the second and third three psalms each; nine lessons, three to each nocturn, each lesson except the ninth being followed by a response; and finally, the canticle Te Deum, which is recited or sung after the ninth lesson in- stead of a response. The Office of Feasts is similar to that of Sunday, except that there are only tliree psalms to the first nocturn instead of twelve. The week-day or ferial office and that of simple feasts are composed of one nocturn only, with twelve psalms and three lessons. The Office of the Dead and that of the three last days of Holy Week are simpler, the alisohi- tions, benedictions, and invitatory being omitted, at least for the three last days of Holy Week, since the invitatory is said in the Oflnces of the Dead.

The principal characteristics of this office which dis- tinguish it from all the other offices are as follows:

(a) The Psalms used at Matins are made up of a series commencing with Psalm i and running williout intermission to Psalm cviii inclusive. The order of the Psalter is followed almost without interruption, except in the case of feasts, when the Psalms are chosen according to their signification, but always from the series i-cviii, the remaining Psalms being re- served for Vespers and the other Offices.

(b) The Lessons form a unique clement, and in the other Offices give place to a Capitulum or short les- son. This latter has possibly been int roduced only for the sake of symmetry, and in its present form, at any rate, gives but a very incomplete idea of what the true rea<ling or lesson is. The Lessons of Matins on the contrary are readings in the proper sense of the term; they comprise the most important parts of tin; Old and the New Testament, extracts from tlu^ works of the principal doctors of the Church, and legends of the martyrs or of the other saints. The lessons from Holy Scripture are distributed in accordance with cer- tain fi.xed rules (rubrics) which assign such or such books of the Bible to certain seasons of the year. In