Breviary.—This subject may be divided, for convenience of treatment, as follows: I. DEFINITION; II. CONTENTS; III. THE HOURS; IV. COMPONENT PARTS OF THE OFFICE; V. HISTORY OF THE BREVIARY; VI. REFORMS.
I. DEFINITION.—The word breviary (Lat. breviarium), signifies in its primary acceptation an abridgment, or a compendium. It is often employed in this sense by Christian authors, e.g. Breviarium fidei, Breviarium in psalmos, Breviarium canonum, Breviarium regularum. In liturgical language Breviary has a special meaning, indicating a book furnishing the regulations for the celebration of Mass or the canonical Office, and may be met with under the titles Breviarium Ecclesiastici Ordinis, or Breviarium Ecclesice Rominsa: (Romance). In the ninth century Alcuin uses the word to designate an office abridged or simplified for the use of the laity. Prudentius of Troyes, about the same period, composed a Breviarium Psalterii (v. inf. V. Hisvoay). In an ancient inventory occurs Breviarium Antiphonary meaning “Extracts from the Antiphonary“. In the “Vita Aldrici” occurs “sicut in plenariis et breviariis Ecclesim ejusdem continentur”. Again, in the inventories in the catalogues, such notes as these may be met with: “Sunt et duo cursinarii et tres benedictionales Libri; ex his unus habet obsequium mortuorum et unus Breviarius”, or, “Prater Breviarium quoddam quod usque ad festivitatem S. Joannis Baptist retinebunt”, etc. Monte Cassino about A.D. 1100 obtained a book entitled “Incipit Breviarium sive Ordo Officiorum per totam anni decursionem”.
From such references, and from others of a like nature, Quesnel gathers that by the word Breviarium was at first designated a book furnishing the rubrics, a sort of Ordo. The title Breviary, as we employ it—that is, a book containing the entire canonical Office—appears to date from the eleventh century.
St. Gregory VII having, indeed, abridged the order of prayers, and having simplified the Liturgy as performed at the Roman Court, this abridgment received the name of Breviary, which was suitable, since, according to the etymology of the word, it was an abridgment. The name has been extended to books which contain in one volume, or at least in one work, liturgical books of different kinds, such as the Psalter, the Antiphonary, the Responsoriary, the Lectionary, etc. In this connection it may be pointed out that in this sense the word, as it is used nowadays, is illogical; it should be named a Plenarium rather than a Breviarium, since, liturgically speaking, the word Plenarium exactly designates such hooks as contain several different compilations united under one cover. This is pointed out, however, simply to make still clearer the meaning and origin of the word; and section V will furnish a more detailed explanation of the formation of the Breviary.
II. CONTENTS.—The Roman Breviary, which with rare exceptions (certain religious orders, the Ambrosian and Mozarabic Rites, etc.) is used at this day throughout the Latin Church, is divided into four parts according to the seasons of the year: Winter, Spring, Summer, and Autumn. It is constructed of the following elements: (a) the Psalter; (b) the Proper of the Season; (c) Proper of the Saints; (d) the Common; (e) certain special Offices.
(a) The Psalter.—The Psalter is the most ancient and the most venerable portion of the Breviary. It consists of 150 psalms, divided in a particular way, to be described later. These psalms formed the groundwork of the Liturgy of the Jews for twelve centuries before Christ, and He certainly made use of these formularies for His prayers, and quoted them on several occasions. The Apostles followed His example, and handed down to the Christian Churches the inheritance of the Psalter as the chief form of Christian prayer. The Church has carefully preserved them during the lapse of centuries and has never sought to replace them by any other formularies. Attempts have been made from time to time to compose Christian psalms, such as the Gloria in excelsis, the Te Deum, the Lumen Hilare, the Te Decet Laus, and a few others; but those which the Church has retained and adopted are singularly few in number. The rhythmic hymns date from a period later than the fourth and fifth centuries, and at best hold a purely secondary place in the scheme of the Office. Thus the Book of Psalms forms the groundwork of Catholic prayer; the lessons which fill so important a place in this prayer are not, after all, prayer properly so called; and the antiphons, responsories, versicles, etc., are but psalms utilized in a particular manner.
In the Breviary, however, the Psalter is divided according to a special plan. In the earliest period the use of the Book of Psalms in the Office was doubtless exactly similar to that which prevailed amongst the Jews. The president of the choir chose a particular psalm at his own will. Some psalms, such as xxi, seem specially appropriate to the Passion. Another was adapted to the Resurrection, a third suited the Ascension, while others agg’ain are specially referable to the Office of the Dead Some psalms provide morning prayers, others those for night. But the choice was left in the hands of the bishop or president of the choir. Later, probably from the fourth century, certain psalms began to be grouped together, to respond to the divers requirements of the Liturgy.
Another cause led to these groupings and arrangements of the Psalter. Some monks were in the habit of reciting daily the whole of the 150 psalms. But this form of devotion, apart from lessons and other formularies, occupied so much time that they began to spread the recitation of the entire Psalter over a whole week. By this method each day was divided into hours, and each hour had its own portion of the Psalter. From this arrangement arose the idea of dividing the Psalter according to specially devised rules. St. Benedict was one of the earliest to set himself to this task, in the sixth century. In his Rule he gives minute directions how, at that period, the psalms were to be distributed at the disposition of the abbot; and he himself drew up such an arrangement. Certain psalms were set apart for the night offices, others for Lauds, others for Prime, Terce, Sext, and None, others for Vespers and Compline.
It is a subject of discussion amongst liturgists whether this subject division of the psalms is anterior or posterior to the Roman Psalter. Although it may not be possible to prove the point definitely, still it would seem that the Roman arrangement is the older of the two, because that drawn up by St. Benedict shows more skill, and would thus seem to be in the nature of a reform of the Roman division. In any case, the Roman arrangement of the Psalter reaches back to a hoary antiquity, at least to the seventh or eighth century, since when it has not undergone any alteration. The following is its disposition. Psalms i-cviii are recited at Matins, twelve a day; but Sunday Matins have six more psalms divided between the three nocturns. Thus:
The last three, cxlviii, cxlix, and el, which are specially called the psalms of praise (Laudes), because of the word Laudate which forms their leitmotiv, are always used in the morning Office, which thus gets its name of Lauds.
A glance at the above tables will show that, broadly speaking, the Roman Church did not attempt to make any skillful selection of the psalms for daily recitation. She took them in order as they came, except a very few set apart for Lauds, Prime, and Compline, and selected Ps. cxviii for the day hours. Other Liturgies, as the Ambrosian, the Mozarabic, and the Benedictine, or monastic, have Psalters drawn up on wholly different lines; but the respective merits of these systems need not be here discussed. The order of the ferial Psalter is not followed for the festivals of the year or for the feasts of saints; but the psalms are selected according to their suitableness to the various occasions.
The history of the text of this Psalter is interesting. The most ancient Psalter used in Rome and in Italy was the “Psalterium Vetus”, of the Itala version, which seems to have been introduced into the Liturgy by Pope St. Damasus (d. 384). He it was who first ordered the revision of the Itala by St. Jerome, in A.D. 383. On this account it has been called the “Psalterium Romanum”, and it was used in Italy and elsewhere till the ninth century and later. It is still in use in St. Peter’s at Rome, and many of the texts of our Breviary and Missal still show some variants (Invitatory and Ps. xciv, the antiphons of the Psalter and the responsories of the Proper of the Season, Introits, Graduals, Offertories, and Communions). The Roman Psalter also influences the Mozarabic Liturgy, and was used in England in the eighth century. But in Gaul and in other countries north of the Alps, another recension entered into competition with the “Psalterium Romanum” under the somewhat misleading title of the “Psalterium Gallicanum”; for this text contained nothing distinctively Gallican, being simply a later correction of the Psalter made by St. Jerome in Palestine, in A.D. 392. This recension diverged more completely than the earlier one from the Itala; and in preparing it St. Jerome had laid Origen’s Hexapla under contribution. It would seem that St. Gregory of Tours, in the sixth century, introduced this translation into Gaul, or at any rate he was specially instrumental in spreading its use; for it was this Psalter that was employed in the Divine psalmody celebrated at the much honored and frequented tomb of St. Martin of Tours. From that time this text commenced its “triumphal march across Europe“. Walafrid Strabo states that the churches of Germany were using it in the eighth century:—”Galli et Germanorum aliqui secundum emendationem quam Hieronymus pater de LXX composuit Psalterium cantant”. About the same time England gave up the “Psalterium Romanum” for the “Gallicanum”. The Anglo-Saxon Psalter already referred to was corrected and altered in the ninth and tenth century, to make it accord with the “Gallicanum”. Ireland seems to have followed the Gallican version since the seventh century, as may be gathered from the famous Antiphonary of Bangor. It even penetrated into Italy after the ninth century, thanks to the Frankish influence, and there enjoyed a considerable vogue. After the Council of Trent, St. Pius V extended the use of the “Psalterium Gallicanum” to the whole Church, St. Peter’s in Rome alone still keeping to the ancient Roman Psalter. The Ambrosian Church of Milan has also its own recension of the Psalter, a version founded, in the middle of the fourth century, on the Greek.
(b) The Proper of the Season.—This portion of the Breviary contains the Office of the different liturgical seasons. As is well known, these periods are now thusarranged: Advent, Christmastide, Septuagesima, Lent, Holy Week, paschal time, and the time after Pentecost. But only by slow degrees did this division of the liturgical year develop its present form. It must be traced through its various stages. It may indeed be said that originally there was no such thing as a liturgical year. Sunday, the day above all of the Eucharistic celebration, is at once the commemoration of the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ; men spoke of the “Pasch of the Crucifixion”, of the “Pasch of the Resurrection“—pascha staurosimon; pascha anastasimon every Sunday was a renewal of the paschal festival. It was only natural that on the actual anniversary the feast should be kept with peculiar solemnity, for it was the foremost Christian feast, and the center of the liturgical year. Easter drew in its train Pentecost, which was fixed as the fiftieth day after the Resurrection; it was the festival commemorating the Descent of the Holy Ghost on the Apostles. These fifty days made up an unbroken festival, a Jubilee, a time of joy during which there was no fasting and when penitential exercises were suspended. These two feasts thus linked together are mentioned by ecclesiastical writers from the second century onwards.
Just as Easter was followed by fifty days of rejoicing, so it had its period of preparation by prayer and fasting, from which arose the season of Lent, which, after various changes, commenced finally forty days before Easter, whence its name of Quadragesima. The other rallying-point of the liturgical year is the feast of Christmas, the earliest observance of which is of very remote antiquity (the third century at least). Like Easter, Christmas had its time of preparation, called Advent, lasting nowadays four weeks. The remainder of the year had to fit in between these two feasts. From Christmas to Lent two currents may be observed: into one fell the feasts of the Epiphany and the Purification, and six Sundays after the Epiphany, constituting Christmastide. The remaining weeks after these Sundays fall under the influence of Lent and, under the name of Septuagesima, create a sort of introduction to it, since these three weeks, Septuagesima, Sexagesima, and Quinquagesima, really belong to Lent by reason of their character of preparation and penance.
The long period between Pentecost and Advent, from May to December, still remains to be dealt with. A certain number of Sundays cluster round special great festivals, as those of St. John the Baptist (June 24), the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul (June 29), St. Lawrence (August 10), and St. Michael (September 29). At a later date these days, which did not fit very conveniently into the general scheme, tended to disappear, and were absorbed into the common time after Pentecost, made up of twenty-four Sundays, thereby uniting Pentecost with Advent; and thus the cycle of the liturgical year is completed.
The Proper of the Season contains, therefore, the Office of all the Sundays and festivals belonging to it, with special lessons, extracts from the Gospels, and frequently also proper antiphons, responsories, and psalms, adapted to the peculiar character of these different periods. It is in the composition of this Liturgy that the Roman Church has displayed her gifts of critical judgment, liturgical taste, and theological acumen. The difference in the character of these periods may be studied in such works as Dom Gueranger’s “Liturgical Year”.
(c) Proper of the Saints.—Following on the Proper of the Season comes in the Breviary the Proper of the Saints, that is to say, that part which contains the lessons, psalms, antiphons, and other liturgical formularies for the feasts of the saints. In reality this
Proper commemorates a very large number of saints who find mention in the ecclesiastical Calendar; this, however, need not be given here, as it can easily be 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 overwhelmed 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 imperceptibly. It was not always thus; in the beginning, up to the seventh, and even up to the ninth, century, the feasts of saints observed in the Breviary were not numerous, as may be proved by comparing modern Calendars with such ancient ones as may be seen in “An Ancient Syrian Martyrology“, “Le calendrier de Philocalus”, “Martyrologium Hieronymianum”, “Kalendarium Carthaginense”. These Calendars contain little more than the following list, beyond the great festivals of the Church:
Exaltation of Holy Cross—September 14. Presentation of Jesus, or Purification of B. V. M.—2 or February 15.
Dormitio, or Assumption, B. V. M.—August 15. St. Michael, Archangel—September 29.
Sts. Macchabees—August 1.
St. John Baptist—June 24.
St. Stephen, Protomartyr—December 26.
Sts. Peter and Paul—June 29.
Chair of St. Peter (at Antioch)—February 22.
St. Andrew, Ap.—November 30.
Sts. James the Greater and John, App.—27 or December 28.
Sts. Philip and James the Less, App.—May 1.
Holy Innocents—23 or December 28.
St. Sixtus II, Pope—1 or August 16.
Sts. Perpetua and Felicitas, MM.—March 7.
St. Flavian or Fabian—May 15.
St. Lawrence, M.—August 10.
St. Hippolytus, M.—August 13.
St. Cyprian, M.—September 14.
St. Sebastian, M.—January 20.
St. Agnes, V. & M.—January 23.
St. Timothy, M.—August 22.
St. Vincent, M.—February 22.
St. Felicitas, M.—November 23.
St. Ignatius, M.—October 17, or December 20, or January 29, or February 1.
St. Polycarp, M.—February 26. Seven Holy Sleepers—variable. St. Pantaleon—variable.
(d) The Common.—Under this designation come all the lessons, Gospels, antiphons, responsories, and versicles which are not reserved to a special occasion, but may be employed for a whole group of saints. These Commons are those of Apostles, Evangelists, Martyrs, Confessors Pontiffs, Confessors non-Pontiffs, Abbots, Virgins, and Holy Women. To these may be added the Offices of the Dedication of Churches, and of the Blessed Virgin. The Office of the Dead occupies a place apart. It is most difficult to fix the origin of these Offices. The most ancient seem to belong to the ninth, the eighth, and even the seventh century, and through special formularies may even date still further back. To give one example, the antiphons of the Common of Martyrs in paschal time, “Sancti tui, Domine, florebunt sicut lilium, et sicut odor balsami erunt ante to”, “Lux perpetua lucebit sanctis tuis, Domine, et aeternitas temporum”, are taken from the Fourth Book of Esdras (apocryphal), which was rejected almost everywhere about the end of the fourth century; these verses, therefore, must probably have been borrowed at a period anterior to that date. Probably, also, in the very beginning, the most ancient 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 Martyrs: “Volo, Pater, ut ubi ego sum, illic sit et minister meus”, “Si quis mihi ministraverit, honorificabit illum Pater meus”, seem to point to a martyr-deacon (diakonos, minister), and may perhaps specially refer to St. Lawrence, on account of the allusion to the words of his Acts: “Quo, sacerdos sancte, sine ministro properas?” Also, the numerous allusions to a crown or a palm in these same antiphons refer without doubt to the holy martyrs, Stephen, Lawrence, and Vincent, whose names are synonyms for the crown and laurel of victory. The details necessary 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 archaeology or liturgy, these Offices of the Common contain gems of great artistic beauty, and are of very great interest.
(e) Special Offices.—The Office 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 portions 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 us.
III. 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, liturgically, 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 nocturns, 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 A.M., Sext to midday, None to 3 P.M., Vespers to 6 P.M.—It is necessary to note the words more or less, for these hours were regulated by the solar system, and therefore the length of the periods varied with the seasons.—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 this 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 Acts 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 in 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 third century, the monastic idea exercised a preponderant influence on the arrangement and formation of the canonical Office. It is possible to give a fairly exact account of the establishment of these Offices in the second half of the fourth century by means of a document of surpassing importance for the history we are now considering: the “Peregrinatio ad Loca Sancta”, written about A.D. 388, by Etheria, a Spanish abbess. This narrative is specifically a description of the Liturgy followed in the Church of Jerusalem at that date.
The Offices of Prime and Compline were devised later, Prime at the end of the fourth century, while Compline is usually attributed to St. Benedict in the sixth century; but it must be acknowledged that, although he may have given it its special form for the West, there existed before his time a prayer for the close of the day corresponding to it.
IV. COMPONENT PARTS OF THE OFFICE.—Each of the hours of the Office in the Roman Liturgy is composed of the same elements: psalms (and now and then canticles), antiphons, responsories, hymns, lessons, versicles, little chapters, and collects (prayers).
A few words must be said about each of these elements from the particular point of view of the Breviary. Psalms and Canticles.—Nothing need here be added to what has already been said in section II concerning the psalms, except that they are used in the Breviary sometimes in order of sequence, as in the ferial Offices of Matins and Vespers, sometimes by special selection, independently of the order of the Psalter, as in Lauds, Prime, Compline, and, in general, in the Offices of the Saints and other feasts. Another point to notice in the composition of the Roman Office is that it allows of the inclusion of a certain number of canticles, or songs, drawn from other portions of Holy Writ than the Psalter, but put on the same footing as the psalms. These are: the Canticle of Moses after the passage of the Red Sea (Exodus, xv); the Canticle of Moses before his death (Deut., xxxii); the Prayer of Anne the mother of Samuel (I Kings, ii); the Prayer of Jonas (Jon., ii); the Canticle of Habacuc (Habacuc, iii); the Canticle of Ezechias (Is., xxxviii); the Canticle of the Three Children (Dan., iii, 26); The Benedicite (Dan., iii, lii); lastly, the three canticles drawn from the New Testament: the Magnificat, the Benedictus, and the Nunc dimittis.
This list of canticles coincides more or less with those used in the Greek Church. St. Benedict admits these canticles into his Psalter, specifically stating that he borrows them from the Church of Rome, and thus providing a further argument for the priority of the Roman Office over the monastic. Antiphons.—The antiphons which are read nowadays in the Breviary are abridged formularies which almost always serve to introduce a psalm or canticle. They consist sometimes of a verse taken from a psalm, sometimes of a sentence selected from the Gospels or Holy Scripture, e.g. “Euge, serve bone, in modico fidelis, antra in gaudium Domini tui”; occasionally they consist of phrases not culled from the Bible, but modeled on its style, i.e. they are the invention of a liturgical author, for example: “Veni, Sponsa Christi, accipe coronam, quam tibi Dominus praeparavit in wternum”. Originally, the meaning of the word, and the function fulfilled by the antiphon, was not what it is now. Although it is difficult to determine precisely the origin and purport of the term, it seems that it is derived from antiphona (antiphone) or from the adjective antiphonos, and that it, signified a chant by alternate choirs. The singers or the faithful were divided into two choirs; the first choir intoned the first verse of a psalm, the second continued with the second verse, the first followed with the third verse, and so on to the end of the psalm. The anti phoned chant is thus recitation by two choirs alternately. This term has given rise to technical discussions which cannot here be entered into.
Responsory, whose composition is almost the same as that of the antiphon—verse of a psalm, sentence out of Holy Scripture or of ecclesiastical authorship—nevertheless differs from it entirely as to the nature of its use in recitation or chant. The precentor sang or recited a psalm; the choir or the faithful replied, or repeated either one of the verses or simply the last words of the precentor. This form, like the antiphon, had already been in use amongst the Jews, and appears even in the construction of certain psalms, as in cxxxv, “Laudate Dominum quoniam bonus”, where the refrain, “Quoniam in aeternum misericordia ejus”, which recurs in each verse, certainly corresponds to a responsory.
Hymns.—The term hymn has a less definite meaning than those of antiphon or responsory, and in the primitive liturgies its use is somewhat uncertain. In the Roman Breviary, at each hour either of the day or of the night there is a little poem in verses of different measures, usually very short. This is the hymn. These compositions were originally very numerous. Traces of hymns may be discerned in the New Testament, e.g., in St. Paul’s Epistles. In the fourth and fifth centuries hymnology received a great impetus. Prudentius, Synesius, St. Gregory of Nazianzus, St. Hilary, and St. Ambrose composed a great many. But it was above all in the Middle Ages that this style of composition most developed, and collections of them were made, filling several volumes. The Roman Breviary contains but a moderate number of hymns, forming a real anthology. Some of them are masterpieces of art. It was at a comparatively late date (about the twelfth century) that the Roman Liturgy admitted hymns into its Breviary. In its primitive austerity it had hitherto rejected them, without, however, condemning their employment in other liturgies.
Lessons.—By this term is meant the choice of readings or of extracts in the Breviary, taken either from Holy Writ or from the Acts of the Saints, or from the Fathers of the Church. Their use is in accordance with the ancient Jewish custom, which, in the services of the Synagogues, enjoined that after the chanting of psalms, the Law and the Prophets should be read. The primitive Church partly adopted this service of the Synagogue, and thus brought into being the service of the night watches. But the course of readings was altered; after a lesson from the Old Testament, the Epistles of the Apostles or their Acts or the Gospels were read. Some Churches somewhat extended this usage; for it is certain that the letters of St. Clement of Rome, of St. Ignatius, and of Barnabas, and the “Pastor” of Hermas were read. Some Churches, indeed, less well instructed, allowed books not wholly orthodox, like the Gospel of Peter, to be read. In time lists were made out to fix what books might be read. Muratori’s “Canon” and, still better, the “Decrees of Gelasius” may be studied from this point of view with profit. Later on men were not content to confine themselves to the reading of the holy books; certain Churches wished to read the Acts of the Martyrs. The Church of Africa, which possessed Acts of great value, signalized itself in this respect. Others followed its example. When the Divine Office was more developed, probably under monastic influence, it became customary to read, after Holy Writ, the commentaries of the Fathers and of other ecclesiastical writers on the passage of the Bible just previously heard. This innovation, which probably began in the sixth, or even in the fifth, century, brought into the Divine Office the works of St. Augustine, St. Hilary, S. Athanasius, Origen, and others. To these, later, were added those of St. Isidore, St. Gregory the Great, the Venerable Bede, and so on. This new development of the Office gave rise to the compilation of special books. In primitive times the Book of Psalms and the books of the Old Testament sufficed for the Office. Later, books were compiled giving extracts from the Old and New Testaments (Lectionary, Gospel, and Epistle Books) for each day and each feast. Then followed books of homilies (Homiliaries)—collections of sermons or of commentaries of the Fathers for use in the Office. All these books should be studied, for they form the constituent elements which later combined into the Breviary.
Further, as regards these lessons, it is well to notice that, as in the case of the psalmody, two lines of selection were followed. The first, that of the order of ferial Offices, ensures the reading of the Scripture, from Genesis to the Apocalypse, in sequence; the second, that of the order for feasts of the saints and festivals, breaks in upon this orderly series of readings and substitutes for them a chapter or a portion of a chapter specially applicable to the feast which is being celebrated.
The following is the table of lessons from the Bible. In its essential features, it goes back to a very venerable antiquity:
Time after Pentecost—Books of Kings.
Month of November—Ezechiel, Daniel, the twelve minor Prophets. Versicles and Little Chapters.—The Capitulum, or Little Chapter, is really a very short lesson which takes the place of lessons in those hours which have no special ones assigned to them. These are: Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers, and Compline. By reason of their brevity and of their unimportance, they are much less complicated than the longer ones, and no more need here be said about them. The Versicles belong to the psalmody, like responsories and antiphons; usually they are taken from a psalm, and belong to the category of liturgical acclamations or shouts of joy. They are usually employed after lessons and little chapters, and often take the place of responsories; they are, in fact, brief responsories. The ferial Preces and the Litanies probably belong to the category of versicles.
Collects.—Collects, also called prayers, are not psalmodic prayers; they are of a completely different character. Their place in the Breviary changes little; they come towards the end of the Office, after the psalmody, the lessons, little chapters, and versicles, but preceded by the Dominus vobiscum, and they gather up in a compendious form the supplications of the faithful. Their historical origin is as follows: During the earliest period, the president of the assembly, usually the bishop, was entrusted with the task of pronouncing, after the psalmody, chants, and litanies, a prayer in the name of all the faithful; he therefore addressed himself directly to God. At first this prayer was an improvisation. The oldest examples are to be found in the Didache ton Apostolon, and in the Epistle of St. Clement of Rome, and in certain Epistles of St. Cyprian. In time, towards the fourth century, collections of prayers were made for those who were not adepts in the art of improvisation; these were the earliest forerunners of Sacramentaries and Orationals, which later occupied so important a place in the history of the Liturgy. The Leonine, Gelasian, and Gregorian Sacramentaries form the chief sources whence are drawn the collects of our Breviary. It may be observed that they are of great theological importance, and usually sum up the main idea dominating a feast; hence, in them the significance of a festival is to be sought.
V. HISTORY OF THE BREVIARY.—In the preceding paragraphs, a certain portion of the history of the Breviary, as a choir book at least, has been given. At first, there was no choir book, properly so called; the Bible alone sufficed for all needs, for therein were the psalms for recitation and the books which furnished the various lessons. It is of course most probable that the Psalter is the most ancient choir book; it was published apart to fulfil this special function, but with divisions—marks to indicate the portions to be read; and at the end were copied out the canticles recited in the Office like the psalms, and sometimes, following each psalm, came one or more prayers. A study of manuscript Psalters, which has not as yet been methodically undertaken, would be extremely useful for the Liturgy. Then, little by little, as the canonical Office was evolved, books were drawn up to meet the wants of the day—Antiphonaries, Collectaria, etc. In the twelfth century John Beleth, a liturgical author, enumerates the books needed for the due performance of the canonical Office, namely:—the Antiphonary, the Old and New Testaments, the Passionary (Acts of the Martyrs), the Legendary (Legends of the Saints), the Homiliary, or collection of homilies on the Gospels, the Sermologus, or collection of sermons, and the treatises of the Fathers. In addition to these should be mentioned the Psalterium, Collectarium for the prayers, the Martyrology, etc. Thus, for the recitation of the canonical Office, quite a library was required. Some simplification became imperative, and the pressure of circumstances brought about a condensation of these various books into one. This is the origin of the Breviary. The word and the thing it represents appeared—confusedly, it might be—at the end of the eighth century. Alcuin is the author of an abridgment of the Office for the laity—a few psalms for each day with a prayer after each psalm, on an ancient plan, and some other prayers; but without including lessons or homilies. It might rather be called a Euchology than a Breviary. About the same time Prudentius, Bishop of Troyes, inspired by a similar motive, drew up a Breviarium Psalterii. But we must come down to the eleventh century to meet with a Breviary properly so called. The most ancient manuscript known as containing within one volume the whole of the canonical Office dates from the year 1099; it comes from Monte Cassino, and at the present time belongs to the Mazarin Library. It contains, in addition to other matter which does not concern the present inquiry, the Psalter, canticles, litanies, hymnary, collects, blessings for the lessons, little chapters, antiphons, responsories, and lessons for certain Offices. Another manuscript, contemporary with the preceding, and also coming from Monte Cassino, contains Propers of the Season and of the Saints, thus serving to complete the first-mentioned one. Other examples of the Breviary exist dating from the twelfth century, still rare and all Benedictine. The history of these origins of the Breviary is still somewhat obscure; and the efforts at research must continue tentatively till a critical study of these manuscript Breviaries has been made on the lines of such workers as Delisle, Ebner, or Lhrensperger, on the Sacramentaries and Missals.
It was under Innocent III (1198-1216) that the use of Breviaries began to spread outside Benedictine circles. At Rome, no longer solely for the Roman Basilicas, but still for the Roman Court alone, Breviaria were drawn up, which, from their source, are called Breviaria de Camera, or Breviaria secundum usum Romance Curiae. Texts of this period (beginning of thirteenth century) speak of “Missalia, Breviaria, cterosque libros in quibus Off’icium Ecclesiasticum continetur”, and Raoul de Tongres specifically refers to this Roman Breviary. But this use of the Breviary was still limited, and was a kind of privilege reserved for the Roman Court. A special cause was needed to give the use of this ‘Breviary a greater extension. The Order of Friars Minor, or Franciscans, lately founded, undertook the task of popularizing it. It was not a sedentary order vowed to stability, like those of the Benedictines or Cistercians, or like the Regular Canons, but was an active, missionary, preaching or-der. It therefore needed an abridged Office, convenient to handle and contained in a single volume small enough to be carried about by the Friars on their journeys. This order adopted the Breviarium Curiae with certain modifications which really constitute, as it were, a second edition of this Breviary. It is sometimes called the Breviary of Gregory IX because it was authorized by that pontiff. One of the chief modifications effected by the Friars Minor was the substitution of the Gallican version of the Psalter for the Roman. The cause was won; this eminently popular and active order spread the use of this Breviary everywhere. Antiphonaries, Psalters, Legendaries, and Responsoraries disappeared by degrees before the advance of the single book which replaced them all. Still more, by a kind of jus postliminii a right of resumption—the Church of Rome, under Nicholas III (1277-80), adopted the Breviary of the Friars not merely for the Curia, but also for the Basilicas; and, as an inevitable consequence, this Breviary was bound, sooner or later, to become that of the Universal Church.
VI. REFORMS OF THE BREVIARY.—In the preceding sections, the history of the ecclesiastical Office has been unfolded from its inception. If this history could be put into few words, though necessarily forming an incomplete statement, it might be said that from the first to the fifth century it was in formation; from the fifth to the eleventh century it was in process of development and expansion; and during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries the Breviary properly so called was emerging into being. From then till now (that is, from the fourteenth century onwards) might be termed the period of reform. The fourteenth and fifteenth centuries represent for the Liturgy, as for the greater number of other ecclesiastical institutions, a period of decline, for it is the time of schisms, and in that one word everything harmful is summed up. The few documents that are available for the liturgical history of that time attest this, as, for example, the “Gesta Benedicti XIII” and the “XV Ordo Romanus”. Disorder and abuses crept into the Liturgy as into everything else.
Dom Baumer, in his Histoire du breviaire”, repeatedly points out that it is impossible to separate the history of the Liturgy from the occurrences that make up the general history of the Church, and that the phases through which the general history takes us are reflected in the evolution of the Liturgy. It is not surprising, therefore, that the sojourn of the popes at Avignon and the Great Schism have exerted their baneful influence on the history of the Liturgy. And the reaction is still being felt. Raoul de Tongres, who died early in the fifteenth century, was even at that early period a critic and a reformer; in his famous work “De observantia Canonum” he agitated for some settlement of liturgical rules. The “XV Ordo Romanus” already referred to, the work of Amelius, sacristan to Urban V and librarian to Gregory XI, breathes the same idea. The abuses pointed out by the different authors of the time may be reduced to the following: (a) The almost complete suppression of the Offices of Sundays and ferias, so that it became impossible that the whole Psalter should be recited every week, and certain psalms were never recited at all. (b) An accumulation of Offices on the same day, tending to the destruction of their solemnity and also to the elimination of the Offices of the Season. (c) Substitution for the lessons from Holy Scripture of legends and apocryphal histories and of texts of doubtful value for antiphons, hymns, and responsories. On this subject the “Consultatio” presented by John de Arzo to the Council of Trent should be studied. (d) The introduction of superstitious usages, strange formularies of prayer, and feasts bordering in character on the grotesque.
The Humanism of the Renaissance, which had its ardent champions even in the Church, as Bembo, Sadoletus, etc., to say nothing of certain popes, caused the idea of a special reform of the Breviary, in the direction of greater literary purity and perfection, to be entertained in certain quarters. Strange schemes were propounded, little in consonance with the spirit of the Church. A Florentine canon, Marsiglio Ficino, and Peter Pomponatius, for instance, suggested that the clergy should read the classical authors instead of the Breviary. Others, though not going so far as this, thought the diction of the Breviary barbaric, and wanted to translate it into Ciceronian Latin. The corrections suggested included such astounding phrases as the following: the forgiveness of sins becomes “superosque manesque placare”; the Begetting of the Word was to be “Minerva Jovis capite orta”; the Holy Ghost was “Aura Zephyri ceelestis”, etc. These attempts failed; nevertheless, at a later date, under Urban VIII, similar Humanist tendencies came again to the surface and this time asserted their power by an emendation of the hymns. Amongst such attempts may be mentioned that of Ferreri. He was the Bishop of Guarda Alfieri in the Kingdom of Naples, a Humanist, and wrote under the auspices and patronage of Leo X. He began with the hymns. His work, which has been preserved, is interesting and contains some very beautiful pieces, polished in style. A good number of them have, unfortunately, nothing more of the spirit of poetry in them than harmony and rhythm; they are wanting in inspiration and above all in the warmth of piety; nearly all are strewn with Pagan names and allusions, representing Christian verities, as “Triforme Numen Olympi” for the Trinity, “Natus Eumolpho Lyricenque Sappho . Thracius Orpheus”, referring to the Blessed Virgin, etc. Ferreri also busied himself with a revision of the Breviary, but nothing was published, and now no trace of the materials he collected is forthcoming.
Another attempt at reform, much better known. and having results of far-reaching importance, was that of Quignonez, Cardinal of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, who was entrusted by Clement VII with the task of completing the work begun by Ferreri. He was a Franciscan, and had been successfully employed on various commissions. His revision was the most original that has ever been attempted, and liturgical experts, like Gueranger, Edmund Bishop, and Baumer, have studied his labors in detail. Only the principal points of his scheme can be mentioned here. Considered theoretically, it cannot be denied that his Breviary is drawn up on easy, convenient, and logical lines, and, on the whole is felicitously arranged. But in the light of tradition and of liturgical principles the only possible verdict is that Quignonez’ Breviary, being constructed on a priori principles, violating most of the liturgical rules, must be condemned. The author starts with the theory, contrary to all tradition, that an essential difference exists between the public celebration of the Office and its private recitation. For private recitation, therefore, all such portions as antiphons, responsories, versicles, little chapters, even hymns may be eliminated, as, according to Quignonez, these are meant solely for choir use. According to his arrangement, the entire Psalter was to be recited once a week—an excellent idea, in consonance with primitive practice; but it was applied too rigidly and narrowly, for no attention was paid to the suitability of certain psalms to special feasts. Feasts were never to change the order of the psalms, which were to be recited successively from i to cl.
Every hour had three psalms; and in consequence of this severe regularity, there disappeared the deep and historical motive which gave to each hour its own characteristics. The legends of the saints and the hymns underwent drastic, but designed, revision. Another principle, which would be deserving of all praise had it not been applied too rigorously, was that the entire Scriptures should be read through every year. Quignonez’ Breviary, as might be expected, met both with enthusiastic approval and with determined opposition. Its success may be judged from the number of editions through which it passed. The Sorbonne criticized it severely, and other experts declared against Quignonez and attacked his work mercilessly. In the end, opposition proved the stronger, and even popes rejected it. Moreover, it was supplanted by other revisions made on more orthodox liturgical lines, less ambitious in scope, and more in accordance with tradition. The newly founded Congregation of Theatines applied itself to this task with energy and enthusiasm. Caraffa, one of its founders, took a share in the work, and when he became pope under the name of Paul IV (1555-59), he continued his labors, but died before seeing their completion, and it was thus reserved to others to bring them to a successful issue.
The Council of Trent, which effected reforms in so many directions, also took up the idea of revising the Breviary; a commission was appointed concerning whose deliberations we have not much information, but it began to make definite inquiries about the subject entrusted to it. The council separated before these preliminaries could be concluded; so it was decided to leave the task of editing a new Breviary in the pope’s own hands. The commission appointed by the council was not dissolved, and continued its investigations. St. Pius V, at the beginning of his pontificate (1566), appointed new members to it and otherwise stimulated its activity, with the result that a Breviary appeared in 1568, prefaced by the famous Bull, “Quod a nobis”. The commission had adopted wise and reasonable principles: not to invent a new Breviary and a new Liturgy; to stand by tradition; to keep all that was worth keeping, but at the same time to correct the multitude of errors which had crept into the Breviaries and to weigh just demands and complaints. Following these lines, they corrected the lessons, or legends, of the saints and revised the Calendar; and while respecting ancient liturgical formularies such as the collects, they introduced needful changes in certain details. More intimate accounts of this revision should be studied at length in the approved authorities on the history of the Breviary. Here it will be enough to give a short sketch of the chief points affecting this Breviary, as it is substantially the same as that used at this date. The celebrated Bull of approval, “Quod a nobis” (July 9, 1568), which prefaced it, explains the reasons which had weighed with Rome in putting forth an official text of public prayer, and gives an account of the labors which had been undertaken to ensure its correction; it withdrew the papal approbation from all Breviaries which could not show a prescriptive right of at least two centuries of existence. Any Church which had not such an ancient Breviary was bound to adopt that of Rome. The new Calendar was freed from a large number of feasts, so that the ferial Office was once more accorded a chance of occupying a less obscure position than of late it had. At the same time the real foundation of the Breviary—the Psalter—was respected, the principal alterations made being in the lessons. The legends of the saints were carefully revised, as also the homilies. The work was one not only of critical revision, but also of discriminating conservatism, and was received with general approval. The greater number of the Churches of Italy, France, Spain, Germany, England, and, generally, all the Catholic States, accepted this Breviary, saving only certain districts, as Milan and Toledo, where ancient Rites were retained.
This Pian Breviary (Breviarium Pianum), while still remaining the official prayer book of the Universal Church, has undergone certain slight alterations in the course of time, and these must here be noted, but without reference to the new feasts of saints which have been added to the Calendar century by century, even though they occupy a not inconsiderable space in the ecclesiastical disposition of the year. The chiefest and most important changes were made under Sixtus V. At first the text of the versions of the Bible used in the Liturgy was altered. As soon as the revision of the Vulgate undertaken during this pontificate was completed, the new text replaced the old one in all official books, particularly in the Breviary and the Missal. Sixtus V instituted a new Congregation—that of Rites—in 1588, charging it with a study of the reforms contemplated in the Pian Breviary, which had then been in use more than twenty years. To him is due the honor of this revision of the Breviary, although till lately it had been ascribed to Clement VII (1592-1605). Although the first suggestion came from Sixtus V, nevertheless it was only under Clement VII that the work was really vigorously pushed forward and brought to a conclusion. The revising committee had as its members such men as Baronius, Bellarmine, and Gavanti. The first-named especially played a most important part in this revision, and the report which he drew up has recently been published. The emendations bore especially on the rubrics: to the Common of Saints was added that of Holy Women not Virgins; the rite of certain feasts was altered; and some new feasts were added. The Bull of Clement VII, “Cum in Ecclesia”, enjoining the observance of these alterations, is dated May 10, 1602.
Further changes were made by Urban VIII (1623-44). The commission appointed by him was content to correct the lessons and some of the homilies, in the sense of making the text correspond more closely with the oldest manuscripts. There would therefore be no call to treat of this revision under Urban VIII at greater length but for the fact that, outside the work of this commission, he effected a still more important reform, over which even now discussion has not ceased to make itself heard. It affected the hymns. Urban VIII, being himself a Humanist, and no mean poet, as witness the hymns of St. Martin and of St. Elizabeth of Portugal, which are of his own composition, desired that the Breviary hymns which it must be admitted are sometimes trivial in style and irregular in their prosody, should be corrected according to grammatical rules and put into true metre. To this end he called in the aid of certain Jesuits of distinguished literary attainments. The corrections made by these purists were so numerous—952 in all—as to make a profound alteration in the character of some of the hymns. Although some of them without doubt gained in literary style, nevertheless, to the regret of many, they also lost something of their old charm of simplicity and fervor. At the present date, this revision is condemned, out of respect for ancient texts; and surprise may be expressed at the temerity that dared to meddle with the Latinity of a Prudentius, a Sedulius, a Sidonius Apollinaris, a Venantius Fortunatus, an Ambrose, a Paulinus of Aquileia, which, though perhaps lacking the purity of the Golden Age, has, nevertheless, its own peculiar charm. Even the more barbarous Latinity of a Rhabanus Maurus is not without its archaic interest and value. Moreover, the revisers were ill-advised inasmuch as they adopted a via media; they stopped half-way. If, as it is freely admitted, the Roman Breviary contains many hymns of inferior poetic worth, and whose sentiment is perhaps commonplace, then there is no reason why they should not be eliminated altogether, and replaced by new ones. Many of the older ones, however, were worthy of being preserved just as they stood; and, in the light of the progress made in philology, it is certain that some of the corrections in prosody made under Urban VIII convict their authors of ignorance of certain rhythmic rules, whose existence, it is only right to say, came to be known later. However it may be, these corrections have been retained till the present time. A comparison of the older with the modern text of the hymns may be consulted in Daniel, “Thesaurus Hymnologicus”, (Halle, 1841).
Nothing further was done under the successors of Urban VIII, except that new Offices were added from time to time, and that thus the ferial Office began again to lose ground. We must come down to the pontificate of Benedict XIV, in the second half of the eighteenth century, to meet with another attempt at reform; but before doing so, reference must be made to efforts inaugurated in France during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, whose history has been learnedly elucidated in detail by Dom Gueranger in vol. II of his “Institutions liturgiques”, devoted in great part to an account of this struggle. The Roman Breviary, revised by Pius IV, had been received in France without opposition. Under Louis XIV, however, attempts at revision were made, inspired by a spirit of resistance and antagonism to the Roman Court. They took form amongst the two parties which made open profession of Gallicanism and Jansenism. The supporters of this reform, several of whom were men of learning and culture, were aided by the historical and critical works which at that time were being poured forth in France, so that in these projects for the reform of the Breviary, side by side with rash suggestions, there were many which were both useful and well judged. One of the first schemes was that of the Paris Breviary, mooted in 1670 and pursued under the patronage of Archbishops Hardouin de Pert fire and de Harlay. The Breviary called after de Harlay appeared in 1680. The corrections it embodied affected in particular the legends of the saints and the homilies, but numerous other parts were also touched. The details and the examination of them may best be studied in Dom Gueranger’s pages. Although it might have seemed that the Breviary had by then been sufficiently emended, in the following century another Archbishop of Paris, Monseigneur de Vintimille, had another Breviary drawn up, which was published in 1736, and remained in use till the middle of last century. It partly embodied what is called the “liturgical Utopia of Quignonez”. Its source, however, was not above suspicion, for some of those who had labored at its production were Jansenists. This reform, while not wanting in sound ideals, was carried out, however, regardless of liturgical traditions.
What had been going on in Paris had its counter-part in other dioceses of France, where new Breviaries were introduced, for the most part inspired by the ideas which had dominated those of de Harlay and of Vintimille. A reaction against these broke out in France between 1830 and 1840, having for its leader a Benedictine monk, Dom Gueranger, Abbot of Solesmes and an eminent liturgist, who, in his “Institutions liturgiques”, arraigned the new Breviaries, exposed the mistakes underlying their construction, and proved that their authors had acted without warrant. His onslaught met with immediate success for in twenty years the greater number of the dioceses gave up their Gallican Breviaries and adopted once more the Roman Liturgy. The exact figures are as follows: in 1791 eighty dioceses had rejected the Roman Liturgy and had fashioned special liturgies for themselves; in 1875 Orleans, the last French diocese which had retained its own liturgy, reentered Roman liturgical unity.
While France, during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, was letting herself be carried away in the reform of her Breviaries by Gallican and Jansenist leanings other countries were following in her wake. In Italy, Scipio Ricci, Bishop of Pistoia, an ardent Jansenist, drew up a new Breviary, and certain districts of Germany adopted the same course, with the result that Breviaries modeled on those of France appeared at Trier, Cologne, Aachen, Munster, and Mainz; and it was long before Germany returned to liturgical unity.
While the Jansenists and Gallicans were creating a new Liturgy, Prosper Lambertini, one of the most learned men in Rome, who became pope under the name of Benedict XIV, determined to copy the example of some of his predecessors, and to carry out a further reform of the Breviary. A congregation was instituted for the special purpose; its papers, for long unedited, have of late years been gone through by MM. Roskoviny and Chaillot, each of whom has published considerable portions of them. The first meeting of the congregation was in 1741, and the discussions which took place then and later are of interest from the liturgist’s point of view, but need not detain us. Although this project of reform came to nothing, nevertheless the work accomplished by the congregation was of real value and reflects credit on its members, some of whom, like Giorgi, were eminent liturgists. Future workers in this department of learning will have to take account of their collections. After the death of Benedict XIV (May 4, 1758) the labors of this congregation were suspended and were never again seriously resumed. Since Benedict XIV’s time changes in the Breviary have been very few, and of minor importance, and can be outlined in a few words. Under Pius VI the question of a reform of the Breviary was brought up once more. By that pontiff’s orders a scheme was drawn up and presented to the Congregation of Rites, but it was found impossible to overcome the difficulties which surrounded an undertaking of this kind. In 1856 Pius IX appointed a commission to examine the question: Is the reform of the Breviary opportune? But again only preliminary matters engaged their attention. Amongst the Acts of the Vatican Council a series of propositions are to be found, whose object was the simplification or correction of the Breviary, but the inquiry never got beyond that stage. Finally, under Leo XIII, a commission was appointed, at the close of 1902, whose duties were a study of historleo-liturgical questions. Its province is a wider one, comprising not only the Breviary, but also the Missal, the Pontifical, and the Ritual. It has, further, to supervise future liturgical editions, and thus to see that they conform as closely as possible with historical data. This commission, though attached to the Congregation of Rites, is nevertheless autonomous. It consisted at first of five members under the presidency of Monsignor Duchesne, namely: Msgr. Wilpert, Father Ehrle, S.J., Father Roberti, Msgr. Umberto Benigni, Msgr. Mercati, and a few consultors. What the results of their labors may be is not yet known.
This sketch of the reforms of the Breviary proves, however, the desire of the Church to eliminate the blemishes which disfigure this book. All these efforts have not been sterile; some of these revisions mark real progress; and it may be hoped that the present commission will effect certain improvements which the progress of historical studies and criticism have made the more needful.