Sunday, July 21, 2013

A festal week and a reflection

Outside of the fortnight (a true fortnight to boot) of Octaves in late June/early July, the festal office has been quite limited since the CTO began. That is, until this fourth week of July. The week ahead features no fewer than four feasts of Double rank, of varying grades, making it have a much more 1910ish feel. As such, Vespers from the Psalter only reappear again next Saturday. The ferial psalms for Mattins and Lauds are only prayed twice this week - Wednesday and Saturday. The same holds for the Preces and Suffrages, though the Ferial Preces at each Office from Lauds-None make a one-time appearance this month on Wednesday for the Vigil of St. James.

Having now experienced the liturgical cycle under this new CTO arrangement for five weeks, here are some observations I've noticed and reflected upon:

1. The Per Annum season's laborious "grind" stands out more clearly with the frequent repetition of Psalm 50 at Lauds and likewise quite frequent supplications of the Preces and Suffrages. It truly mimics more closely the long stretch of life, which this season represents, wherein nothing particularly exciting or new or "fun" happens.

2. Octaves were truly experienced. By pausing the ferial cycle for the Octaves of St. John the Baptist and Sts. Peter & Paul, those celebrations more clearly stood apart from the experience of #1. This would not be so much the case post-1911 in which these two "common" Octaves would have used ferial psalmody to a large extent.

3. The martyrs have pride of place to the confessors. Instead of praying the 1954 after-Pentecost "Common Office" otherwise known as singing the "Iste Confessor" at Vespers every evening and "Euge, serve bone" daily at Lauds, the ferial Office combined with an alternations between the Offices of One Martyr or Several Martyrs is the typical variation. Truly, I think I've prayed the Office of Several Martyrs more times in the last five weeks than would be the case using the 1962 Breviary in an entire year. This seems right, however, since the cult of saints originated from honoring martyrs in particular. I have nothing against confessors, but the later Kalendars in their "obsession" with making every newly canonized Confessor saint into a Double feast truly made the Office of Confessors (Bishops or Not) into an annual default liturgical "season" which is mostly only interrupted by Sundays and Lent with an occasional scattering of Apostles, Martyrs, and Virgins.

4. A few occasions for the plain, old ferial Office which are too rare in the 1954 Kalendar. After the recent Octaves were over, there were a couple back-to-back ferial days to make a clear transition back into the Per Annum.

5. The Office takes no longer to pray than a typical day using the 1954 Breviary. Ergo, no real change needed to already existing habits or budgeting of time. The one exception is Sundays because of the 18-psalm Mattins, but being that it's not a work day, it doesn't prove to be difficult to incorporate an additional 10-15 minutes, on the Lord's Day no less.

I am quite pleased with the practical application of the CTO thus far.


  1. "Instead of praying the 1954 after-Pentecost "Common Office" otherwise known as singing the "Iste Confessor" at Vespers every evening and "Euge, serve bone" daily at Lauds"

    I have quite a chuckle when I read that! For a month or two I tried praying the Divino Afflatu Vespers but found the second half of it so damn repetitive. The old rite, with its varying ferial and festal antiphons (ones for St. Mary Magdalene tomorrow are truly beautiful) and the hymns unique for each day of the week give far more variety.

    The octaves really do create a sharp contrast between celebration and the ferial "grind." The longer psalms on Fridays and Saturdays at Vespers, and the 5-fold Suffrage and the Preces at the Hours really drive home that outside of festal occasions our focus out to be on prayer and penance. Octaves are the exception to this, something I cannot help but think is lost in the 1911-1974 Office. As a non-practitioner of the Liturgia Horarum (I accidentally prayed/was cajoled into singing it three times in my life with someone) I cannot comment on it, but the Kalendar is similarly impoverished, although of octaves, not of ferial days.

    Your work is wonderful, John! As Fr. Capreolus writes "Fortiter!"

  2. I find your reflections on the post-Pentecost season very much in agreement with my own. I would add, too, that there is a kind of adaptation of the pre-Pius X office to be found in the proper breviary of certain ancient Orders, one in particular being the Premonstratensians: they retained the Preces for every office and the suffrages (usually two a day, e.g. St. John the Baptist and "Pro Pace") for ferias and lesser feasts. So, there is a true penitential character to the Office outside the greater feasts, which is befitting the life of a Religious. And of course the Benedictines retained, according to their particular distribution of the Psalms, the older arrangement of the Psalter. And so there are good precedents for your excellent undertaking.
    --Valeas, floreas!
    Fr. Capreolus