Saturday, April 17, 2010

Tres Psalmi ad Matutinum Dicuntur, Alleluia

Taking up the Dominican Breviary, I thought it interesting for those liturgically inclined to note how the Black Friars of old marked Eastertide: above all, by shortening Matins.  Of course, there are the usual abundant Alleluia's; but - and I say my own Alleluia to this - the most marked feature of the Dominican Office is that, from Easter Sunday to Whit Saturday, only three psalms are appointed for Matins each day.  

As a consequence, all days, even the greatest feasts, have only three lessons and three responsories also.  (Bear in mind that, unlike the Roman Rite, but like the Benedictine, the Dominicans do not let the last responsory be replaced by the Te Deum, but rather the responsory is read, then the Te Deum, as throughout this festal season.)

During the Easter Octave, the psalms for Matins were as follows: on Sunday, Pss 1, 2, 3; on Monday, Pss 4, 5, 6; on Tuesday, Pss 7, 8, 10; on Wednesday, Pss 11, 12, 13; on Thursday, Pss 14, 15, 16; on Friday, Pss 18, 19, 20; on Saturday, Pss 22, 23, 25; and on Low Sunday, the three psalms of Easter Sunday Matins were repeated.

(Whence come these particular psalms?  They seem to be roughly those used, until St Pius X's reforms of the distribution of the psalms in the Office, implemented by the Dominicans in 1922 or thereabouts, at Sunday Matins: Pss 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20 – but omitting the two longest of these (marked in bold) – plus several psalms used prior to St Pius X's reforms at Prime in the Dominican Rite on Sundays from Septuagesima to Palm Sunday: Pss 21, 22, 23, 24, 25 – again omitting the two longest.  Pss 4 and 5, otherwise used at daily Compline and once a week at Lauds respectively, must be made use of as both apposite and fitting the sequence of the psalms.)

In similar manner, the three Matins psalms for the Sundays after Easter are in all cases the first three of the usual nine, that is, Pss 1, 2, 3, which are those of Easter Sunday, and bear the typic imprint of the Lord's Resurrection.

We are now in the first week after the Octave of Easter; the three psalms to be read or sung at Matins on all the weekdays are the first three of the usual nine.  Come next week, the second after the Octave, the three psalms to use will be the middle three of the usual nine; and in the third week after the Octave, the last three of the usual nine psalms will be those to recite.  Then, as is sensible, the cycle repeats: in the fourth week after the Octave, the first three psalms; in the fifth, the middle three; and in the week after the Sunday after Ascension, the last three.  (For Ascension Thursday, Pss 8, 10 and 18 are appointed.)

Pentecost Octave is even simpler: the three Matins psalms of the feast are repeated all week: Pss 47, 67 and 103.

As for any feast days occurring in Paschal Time that have proper psalms at Matins, only three are used – those of the first Nocturn of the relevant Common, as all the rubrical notes in the Proper of Saints puts it (whether for the Annunciation when transferred to after Easter, or for the feast of St Peter Martyr), although, when the Commons are consulted, in the absence of any direction in the Proper, the particular psalms to be chosen are to be selected secundum ordinem Nocturnorum: that is, on Sundays, Mondays and Thursdays from the first Nocturn; on Tuesdays and Fridays, from the second; and on Wednesdays and Saturdays, from the third.  This rule would be used for feasts of Apostles during Eastertide, since there is no direction to the contrary in the Proper.

Since I've always found the nine psalms of Matins a real chore to work through, I'm delighted (as Abp Hart would say) to find the Dominicans agreed to the extent that, for 56 days of the year, they make the task so much sweetly shorter.  Alleluia!


P.S.  In private use, lest the Office feel too much of a burden for a layman (e.g. me!) who prays it pro pia devotione, seeking to join in the liturgical life of the Church to the extent possible, but yet to keep a rule of prayer that is doable rather than too onerous given one's circumstances, it could be advisable to adapt this rule of three psalms at Matins for the whole year...

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