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Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 2.djvu/851

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BREVIARY


771


BREVIARY


consulted. But it may be noted that the greater number of the days of the year — at least nine-tenths — are appropriated to special feasts; and the question has therefore been seriously debated, every time a movement for the reform of the Breviary has arisen, as to how to save the Divine Office from being over- whelmed by these feasts, and as to how to restore to the ferial Office its rightful ascendancy. This is not the place for the discussion of such a problem; but it may be said that this invasion of the Proper of the Season has reached such proportions imperce]>- tibly. It was not always thus; in the beginning, up to the seventh, and even up to the ninth, centurj', the feast.s of saints observed in the Breviarj' were not numerous, as may be proved by comparing modern Calendars with such ancient ones as may be seen in " .\n .\ncient Syrian MartjTologj' ", Le calendrier de Philocalus ", " Martyrologium Hieronymianum ", ■'Kalendarium Cartliaginen.si-". The.se" Calendars I'ontain little more than the following list, beyond the great festivals of the Church: —

Exaltation of Holy Cross — 14 September.

Presentation of Jesus, or Purification of B. V. M. — -' or 15 February.

Dormitio, or Assumption, B. V. M. — 15 August.

St. Michael, Archangel — 29 September.

Sts. Macchabees — 1 August.

St. John Baptist — 24 June.

St. Stephen, ProtomartjT — 26 December.

Sts. Peter and Paul— 29 June.

Chair of St. Peter (at Antioch) — 22 Pebruary.

St. Andrew, Ap. — 30 November.

Sts. James the Greater and John, App. — 27 or 28 December.

Sts. Philip and James the Less, App. — 1 May.

Holy Innocents — 23 or 28 December.

St. Sixtus II, Pope — 1 or 16 August.

Sts. Perpetua and Felicitas. MM. — 7 March.

St. Fla\nan or Fabian — 15 May.

St. Lawrence, M. — 10 August.

St. Hippolytus, M.— 13 August.

St. Cyprian, M. — 14 September.

St. Sebastian, M. — 20 January.

St. Agnes, V. & M.— 23 January.

St. Timothy, M.— 22 .\ugust.

St. Vincent, M. — 22 February.

St. Felicitas, M. — 23 November.

St. Ignatius, M. — 17 October, or 20 December, DT 29 January, or 1 February.

St. Polycarp, M. — 26 February.

Seven Holy Sleepers — variable.

St. Pantaleon — variable.

(d) The Conmion. — Under this designation come

dl the lessons, Gospels, antiphons. responsories,

md versicles which are not reserved to a special 5Cc;ision, but may be employed for a whole group )f .saints. These Commons are those of Apostles, Fvangelists, Martyrs, Confessors Pontiffs, Confessors lon-PontifTs, .\bbots. Virgins, and Holy Women. To these may be added the Offices of the Dedication -)( Churches, and of the Blessed Virgin. The Office 3f the' Dead occupies a place apart. It is mo.st diffi- cult to fix the origin of these Offices. The most incient seem to belong to the ninth, the eighth, and 3ven the seventh century, and through special for- mularies may even date still further back. To give )ne example, the antiphons of the Common of Martyrs in paschal time, "Sancti tui, Domine, flore- junt sicut lilium, et sicut odor balsami erunt ante e". "Lux perpetua lucebit Sanctis tuis, Domine, et eternitas temporum". are taken from the Fourth Hook of Ksdras (apocryphal), which was rejected ilmost everywhere about the end of the fourth cen- ury; these verses, therefore, must probably have >een tmrrowed at a period anterior to that date. Probably, al.so, in the very beginning, the most incient of these Common Offices were Proper Offices,


and in some of them special features supporting this supposition may be noticed. Thus, the Common of Apostles is apparently referable to the Office of Sts. Peter and Paul and must have been adapted later for all the Apostles. Such versicles as the following in the Common of MartjTs: "Volo. Pater, ut ubi ego sum, illic sit et minister meus", "Si quis mihi ministraverit, honorificabit ilium Pater meus", seem to point to a martyr-deacon (SioKoraj, minister), and may perhaps specially refer to St. Lawrence, on account of the allusion to the words of his .\cts: "Quo, sacerdos sancte, sine ministro properas?" .■Mso, the numerous allusions to a crown or a palm in these same antiphons refer without doubt to the holy martyrs, Stephen, Lawrence, and Vincent, wliose names are sj-nonjTns for the crown and laurel of victory. The details necessarj' for the proof of this hypothesis could only be given in a fuller treatise than this; .suffice it to say that from the literary standpoint, as from that of archeology or hturgy, these Offices of the Common contain gems of great artistic beauty, and are of very great interest.

(e) Special Offices. — TheOffice of the Blessed Virgin, also very ancient in some of its parts, is of great dogmatic importance; but students of this subject are referred to the Rev. E. L. Taunton's "The Little Office of Our Lady ".

The Office of the Dead is, without a shadow of doubt, one of the most venerable and ancient por- tions of the Breviary, and deserves a lengthy study to itself. The Breviaries also contain Offices proper to each diocese, and certain special Offices of modern origin, which, consequently, need not here detain as.

HI. The Hours. — The prayer of the Breviary is meant to be used daily; each day has its own Office; in fact it would be correct to say that each hour of the day has its own office, for. hturgically. the day is divided into hours founded on the ancient Roman divisions of the day. of three hours apiece — Prime. Terce, Sext, None, and Vespers, and the night Vigils. In conformity with this arrangement, the Office is portioned out into the prayers of the night vigils, that is to say Matins and Lauds. Matins itself is subdivided into three noctums, to correspond with the three watches of the night: nine o'clock at night, midnight, and three o'clock in the morning. The office of Lauds was supposed to be recited at dawn. The day offices corresponded more or less to the following hours: Prime to 6 a. .m., Terce to 9 \. m., Sext to midday, None to 3 p. M., Vespers to 6 p. M. — It is necessarj' to note the words more or less, for these hours were regulated by the solar system, and there- fore the length of the periods varied with the sea- sons. — The office of Compline, which falls somewhat outside the above division, and whose origin dates later than the general arrangement, was recited at nightfall. Nor does tliis division of the hours go back to the first Christian period. So far as can be ascertained, there was no other public or official prayer in the earliest days, outside the Eucharistic service, except the night watches, or vigils, which consisted of the chanting of psalms and of readings from Holy Scripture, the Law, and the Prophets, the Gospels and Epistles, and a homily. The offices of Matins and Lauds thus represent, most probably, these watches. It would seem that beyond this there was nothing but private prayer; and at the dawn of Christianity the prayers were said in the Temple, as we read in the -\cts of the Apostles. The hours equivalent to Terce, Sext, None, and Vespers were already known to the Jews as times of prayer and were merely adopted by the Christians. .At first meant for private prayer, they became m time the hours of public prayer, especially when the Church was enriched with ascetics, virgins, and monks, by their vocation consecrated to prayer. From that time, i. e. from the end of the tliird cen-