Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Monastic Diurnal Tutorial

Aaron, Fr's stalwart server, occasional M.C., and general factotum (sorry to tease you, mate!), came round for dinner to-night.  As well as having a good chat over curry with Mike, James and myself, he had driven over for a reason: he's in process of taking up the Monastic Diurnal, and wanted some advice on the mechanics of it...

To explain - Aaron has been coming to the Pro. for the last three years or so, he told us over dinner, and from liking the solemnity, the chant and so forth, but not understanding it, he's learnt how to follow the Mass, then how to serve at it (both Low and High), and has been reading the Little Office of Our Lady daily for over a year.  Last year he did an Ignatian retreat in Sydney directed by the Flavigny monks, and at that time bought a bilingual Diurnal put out by Farnborough Abbey, which he's decided it's time to turn to using.

Now, Aaron wanted to consult with me about all this, since he knows I say the Roman Breviary, and thought I would hopefully be able to help.  I've also put him onto Terra, since she is a worthy partisan of the Monastic Office!  But in the meanwhile, we had a look at setting up the tags and working out how to operate the Diurnal.  

We had a preliminary discussion about whether it were fitting for a layman to recite the Monastic Office.  I opined that, say, if one lived near a monastery, and customarily went there for Mass and Vespers, it would seem perfectly reasonable to take up their Breviary; and if one has some association with or interest in or perhaps vocation for monasticism, then it appears good to pray their way.  While I use the Roman Breviary, I have some past connexions to the Dominicans, in fact have a set of the Dominican Breviary, and even if I am not in a Dominican parish at present, it would seem allowable to pray that edition of the Breviary.  Basically, so long as one is not being eccentric about it, to pray any form of the Divine Office is to be joining in the prayer of the Church Catholic, and surely there is no sin in taking up the Monastic rather than the Roman Office...

I must say though, compared to the Roman it seems much more complicated!  The reason I say so is that in the Roman Breviary, the Hours for each day of the week simply follow each other - Matins, Lauds, Prime, Terce, and so forth through to Compline, then back to Matins of the next day and so on - whereas in the Monastic Breviary (of which the Diurnal is the excerpt containing all the Day Hours, as the name suggests, but omitting the psalmody and lessons of Matins), first comes Prime for each day but Sunday, then (Matins and) Lauds for each day, then Sunday Prime, Terce, Sext and None, then Monday Terce, Sext and None, then the set Terce, Sext and None for the rest of the week, then Vespers for each day, and finally the invariable Compline.  

The reason for this is that the Monastic Office, stedfast in obedience to Holy Father Benedict who drew up its peculiar method for reciting the psalms, arranges the Hours according to the rough order of the psalms, and basically Prime Monday through to Saturday runs through the first twenty psalms, Matins (in the full edition) runs through the next eighty or so, Lauds - despite being largely fixed, and a collection of psalms from all over the Psalter - comes next as allied to Matins, the three sets of the Little Hours follow this because they are drawn from Psalm 118 and the succeeding Gradual Psalms, and finally Vespers runs over the remaining residue of the psalms; Compline is placed last as the last Hour of the day.

We identified salient differences between the Little Office and Roman Office on the one hand, and the Monastic on the other.  These are most pronounced at Lauds, involving Psalm 66, the Laudate psalms, the short responsory and the Lord's Prayer. Firstly, after the usual Deus in adjutorium, St Benedict has Psalm 66 sung every day in directum, since, as his Rule provides, monks arriving during this may join the choir, but those so tardy as to come even later cannot and must penance do for their fault.  Secondly, as has been done in both East and West down the ages in all rites, and was done throughout the Roman Rite until the Breviary reforms under St Pius X as implemented at the start of 1912, less than a century ago, every day in the Monastic scheme Psalms 148-150 are sung together as one as the last 'psalm' of Lauds, from whose use that Hour derives its very name and special characteristic of Divine praise.  Thirdly, unlike in the Roman Office (where they are used instead at Prime, the Little Hours, and Compline), and unlike in the Little Office (where they are not used at all), in the Monastic Breviary short responsories are sung at Lauds - and Vespers - after the little chapter (the reading) and before the hymn.  Fourthly, while in the Roman Office the Lord's Prayer is only said at Lauds and Vespers when the preces are used, and while in the Little Office only Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison, Kyrie eleison was said before the Collect, in the Monastic Office both this threefold Kyrie and a Pater noster is said at every Hour prior to the Collect (the Dominican does much the same).

Monastic Compline is wholly unchanging, and famously lacks the Nunc dimittis that later came to be an integral part of the Roman version of that Hour.  Prime, apart from having different psalms appointed for each day of the week, is unchanging but for its psalm-antiphon, which makes it easy.  The Little Hours each have the same format, and each has only three sets of psalms - one for Sunday and one for Monday (covering Psalm 118 broken up into 22 octonaries), and one for the other five days (taken from the Gradual Psalms).  However, the psalm-antiphons can change, and so can the chapter, versicle and collect.  Vespers is like, in that its psalms vary each day of the week - but it only has four psalms, not the Roman five.  It is noticeably shorter than Lauds.

Since Aaron is well-practised with the Little Office, the structure of the Hours is thus familiar enough; what he has to adjust to, and what we tried to work through a bit, is finding where the relevant changeable parts are for each liturgical day.  To-day is a feria of Advent, so he has to turn to both the Ordinary of the ferias of Advent for the chapters, Lauds and Vesper responsories and hymns, and versicles, and for the Collect (taken from the Sunday) and to the exact day of Advent to obtain the proper Benedictus and Magnificat antiphons.  For St Damasus on the 11th, all he has to add is the appointed commemoration (antiphon, versicle and collect) at Lauds - which he is familiar with doing since his edition of the Little Office has a fixed commemoration at Lauds and Vespers.  For St Lucy on the 13th, proper antiphons and the rest are supplied, and he must follow the rubrics and use the Sunday psalms (and Sunday festal canticle) at Lauds, and the psalms from the Common of Virgins at Vespers.  And as for the feast of Doubting Thomas on the 21st, all that is not proper comes from the Common of Apostles out of Paschaltide.

Ah, the noble simplicity of the Divine Office...

(Thanks, mate, for letting me post a bit about this!)


Terra said...

Actually I mostly use the Monastic Antiphonale in order to sing the day hours, and the Monastic Breviary (or occasionally the nocturnale downloaded from the net) these days, but I am very familiar with the Diurnale, very happy to give whatever help I can! Just send me any particular queries.

A friend has actually done some how to notes on the Diurnale, so I might be able to post a short version of them, or send them to anyone interested.

The structure of the Diurnal follows pretty much the Breviary, and older than that the Monastic Antiphonale, which is useful as a means of leading up to using it. But I have to agree that it is counterintuitive, and it would have been much easier just to structure it by day!

I also find the flicking between pages because certain prayers and psalms etc are not put in under each day when they are repeated kind of annoying (the breviary thank goodness, doesn't do this, but then its two volumes), but I guess they had to save space to get it all into one volume somehow (and you could always learn them off by heart!)!

Some of the particular joys of the monastic version of the Office in my view are:
. the continuity with tradition - the Roman Office has been rearranged completely more than a few times, this follows the structure set down by St Benedict around 547;
. the way Lauds generally has the Miserere at the beginning, and the Laudate psalms at the end - the way our day and lives should progress, from contrition to rejoicing!
. using the same psalms for Compline everyday means you can learn them off by heart, and perhaps aspire to do the hour pretty much in darkness as many monasteries (used to) do, a very beautfiful experience.

Fraser Pearce said...

A nice post: this sort of stuff interests me.

I've had a soft spot for the Benedictines for some time - and have gone on retreat at the Anglican priory/monastery in Camperdown a few times.

Terra - if you'd be happy to send me the notes I'm at



Joshua said...

Thanks, Terra, and Fraser - good to hear from you both!

I have a soft spot for monastic Compline, because the schola I used to belong to in Hobart would sing monastic Compline at the end of our practice session each week, and I came to just about commit it all to memory - which is why I rejoice when Sunday Compline is used in the Roman Breviary, since Psalms 4, 90 and 133 are THE Compline psalms in my estimation.

The only thing that seems a drawback to me in monastic Compline is that it lacks three things that the Roman has: a psalm-antiphon; the short responsory "In manus tuas"; and above all the Nunc dimittis with its antiphon "Salva nos Domine". On the other hand, it does have the Kyrie and Pater noster, which I think really should be included at every Hour for obvious reasons.

Terra said...

I've now taken notes from all sources and put together a detailed set of my own on how to say the Monastic Office, which you can find here: