14 November 2023

A Dodgy Trick (1)

As the Novus Ordo presbyter leaps out of his austere bed and reaches for his Liturgia Horarum, he is letting himself in for ... have I got this right? ... fourteen psalms, from the Invitatory to the end of Compline. Except, of course, that it's not actually fourteen psalms, because several of them are are likely to be psalms broken up into small segments.

During the pontificate of Pius IX, things were different. Simply to get through Mattins alone, Father might have needed to recite twelve psalms. And they were not sliced up into portions. There is evidence that this was quite a burden for a number of clergy. In fact, the Divine Office had been a problem area for quite a time. Benedict XIV had set up a commission in the hope of dealing with some, at least, of the difficulties, but his efforts came to nothing.

Nestling on my bookshelves is a second-hand book, still with the price (3/6) pencilled in. I bought it as a schoolboy; it describes itself as OFFICIA VOTIVA PER ANNUM a SS. D. N. Leone PP. XIII concessa, additis Lectionibus Scripurae occurrentis, Festorum simplicium ac Vigiliarum, Orationibus Sanctorum, necnon Vesperis Dominicarum Festorumque semiduplicium, quae ad Officia ista integre recitanda pertinent.

The publisher was Desclee; he explained that that these Votive Offices, semidouble in liturgical rank, were granted by the decree URBIS ET ORBIS of the SCR on 5 JULY 1883. They might be used except at such obvious times as Ash Wednesday ... Passiontide ... etc ....

You wanna know what was going on here? It all meant that a cleric who didn't feel quite up to the burden of psalmody in the then-current Breviarium Romanum could recite the Votive Offices in this volume, and because their rank was semidouble, they imposed on him a much smaller burden of psalmody to recite ... although still considerably greater than what today's Novus Ordo cleric faces.

Everybody knew that this business was really not quite kosher. The great historian of the Breviary, Batiffol, himself shamefacedly admitted "All of us have recited these votive offices, for lack of the leisure needed for the recitation of the ferial office". He considered it a mark of saintliness that Cardinal Richard, Archbishop of Paris, "a man possessed of a sound sense of liturgy" had never used these offices. Cardinal Parocchi let it be known that he considered these votive offices entirely contrary to the tradition and desire of the Church ... and he was actually a member of the SCR!

Mgr Grospellier wanted these offices suppressed, because their introduction was "a principle absolutely novel". 

But what were these votive offices? Do their texts contain anything of value? Those questions are for tomorrow.



Moritz Gruber said...

Wouldn't there be a somewhat easy solution for the problem that the (old) Office, and especially the ferial, was too burdensome?

Of course, it'd require a Pope who said yes to it, but hypothetically, assume a rescript by the responsible authority that said:

§ 1. Those bound to say the Office who, on account of their duties, especially in pastoral care, teaching (all kinds) and artistic creation, judge the burden of saying the Divine Office inconvenient are granted the relaxation to pray it mentally, rather than speaking it aloud.

§ 2. For this relaxation, it is immaterial whether their judgment that it is too burdensome for them is correct.

§ 3. The following have to say the office by at least speaking the words, as usual:
i. the Pope, Cardinals, bishops, canons and the religious clergy,
ii. those who say the Office in the fulfillment of a vow, provided the vow is made in the future and the option to pray mentally-only is not expressly included in the vow,
iii. those who receive a Benefice from the Church, except if occupied in pastoral care,
iv. those who have given to somebody their word that they will think of him also when praying their Office on a specific day, on that day.

§ 4. On I class doubles, II class doubles, major doubles, doubles of the Lord or of our Lady or of Angels, and during all Octaves, on Sundays, Vigils, Ember Days, Rogation Days, Ash Wednesday and in Passion Week, Holy Week and High Advent, the Office must be said aloud. This also holds true if such a day is merely commemorated, and for those days who have First Vespers from these onwards, even if the Office then is not actually of them.

§ 5. On days when someone wishes to use the relaxation, he still must say aloud at least
i) from Matins the parts from "Domine labia mea" until the end of the Matins hymn, at Matins, then the Te Deum on double feasts and during Octaves, if it then is provided, and Benedicamus Domino/Deo gratias,
ii) the entire hour of Lauds (except Pater & Ave before and Pater afterwards, which never are said aloud),
iii) for Prime the "Deus in adiutorium" with its response, the psalm or psalms which are neither 53 nor 118, the "Benedicamus Domino" immediately before the Martyrology, and the parts from "Deus in adiutorium" immediately after the Martyrology until the end,
iv) for Terce, Sext and None, the "Deus in adiutorium" with its response and the "Benedicamus Domino" with its response,
v) the entire hour of Vespers (same exceptions as for Lauds),
vi) almost the entire hour of Compline; the psalms however, but not their doxology, may be prayed mentally (and of course the concluding Pater, Ave and Credo are not said alound as they never are),
vii) the entire Officium Defunctorum, when applicable.

§ 6. In Advent and Lent, if this provision applies, those making use of it are required to spend half an hour in contemplation and to pray five decades of the Rosary, possibly at the same time. Those who have said their Rosary aloud during their contemplation time can count the half-hour fulfilled once they are finished.

§ 7. Let no one make use of this prevision except on the advice and with the consent of his spiritual guide.

§ 8. If someone does acts against § 6 or § 7, however, his sin will be but venial, and he will not have to pay back the fruits of his benefice for the day.

§ 9. For those wearing the Scapular, the mentally-prayed Office does not suffice as replacement for the Little Hours, except if the priest who laid it onto them has expressly provides it does.

§ 10. Let all who say the Office, even those who do say it aloud, unite themselves mentally with the Church, considering that chant is the proper form of the Office.

Wouldn't, then, they still pray much more than they do now, plus follow the entire Office, while having less burden than even in the year, say, 1953, without any change to the structure of the Office at all?

-- Cave: Just brainstorming of course. --

Moritz Gruber said...

"Spiritual guide": I mean, of course, "spiritual director".

Moritz Gruber said...

An addition to § 3:

v) seminarians who have reached the rank that encompasses the Breviary duty (subdeacon I believe), but not yet left seminary,
vi) priests within the ecclesial year that included their ordination to priesthood, or the one the follows.

("Let the relaxation be conceded to those who have already done the thing in the right manner, and not neglect the educational effects the Office has.")

Banshee said...

The point is that you are supposed to be chanting the Office, really. Singing silently is kinda pointless, because the music, and preferably the antiphonal singing with others, is a lot of the point of it.The Psalms are an offering to God, not a didactic duty.

But that is another argument.

Banshee said...

The point is that you are supposed to be chanting the Office, really. Singing silently is kinda pointless, because the music, and preferably the antiphonal singing with others, is a lot of the point of it.The Psalms are an offering to God, not a didactic duty.

But that is another argument.

Moritz Gruber said...

Yes, that is the full form. But neither is murmuring the full form. Murmuring does make you spend more time with it and get into prayer deeper and more properly, but it is almost as little chanting as reading silently is.

On a rather different matter and an side, it actually is kind-of a fun experience to sing silently, to our Lord present in the Tabernacle or the like, when, say, those who organize the prayer-for-the-departed saidly fail to include "Nearer my God to Thee" which I very much want to sing at this moment...