Monday, October 28, 2013

The Office of All Souls' Day

Some CTO readers have been waiting for this topic to be discussed further. Alas, here it is - the Office of the Dead for All Souls' Day.

The CTO has adopted the Pius X/Benedict XV establishment of All Souls' Day (the Commemoration of all the Faithful Departed to be more precise) as a liturgical day and Office in its own right as opposed to the Tridentine practice of treating 2 November as the second day within the Octave of All Saints (i.e. a Festal Office) to which are added the Votive Offices of Vespers, Mattins, and Lauds of the Dead, after the respective Offices the night before and the morning of. The question remains as to how to adopt (or adapt) the full Office of the Dead, composed just a century ago, into the Tridentine psalter.

The first difficulty arises with the Little Hours. Before 1911, Ps. 118 was prayed every day, without exception, divided into its respective segments for the Hours. To introduce a proper Psalter for the Hours for All Souls' Day, and just for All Souls' Day, would not seem coherent or advisable, though the choice of psalmody in the newer Office is beautiful and themed appropriately (e.g. Ps. 87 at Prime). In order to be consistent, the CTO retains Ps. 118 for the Hours.

The second difficulty is Compline. From one perspective, the adoption of a penitential Compline of the Dead on the very same night as the Double I Class feast of All Saints is jarring. From an Eastern perspective, in which second Vespers (and Compline) do not exist, it seems more plausible. The question of psalmody also arises, but like the Hours, Compline will naturally retains its daily, fixed psalms in our usage. This may not be a sufficiently good reason to do so, but we propose adopting a Compline of the Dead on the night of All Saints with the Eastern reckoning of days in mind and with keeping in mind that the seven nights following will allow sufficient space for "festal" Compline of the feast during its Octave.

The third question, though not a difficulty, is the "skeleton" structure of the Office for All Souls. Since we have the Sacred Triduum, and to some extent the Paschal Octave, as a case in point of a bare Office hearkening back to the more ancient Roman custom, there is already a precedent to introduce a similarly stripped Office structure for All Souls. Therefore, outside the question of psalmody, the CTO adopts the basic structure and additional preces/orations as given in the newer Office for All Souls. We will treat the All Souls' Office as being of Double Rite.

The last question, already implied in the Compline question, is the duration of this Office and its related affect on the Office of the feast or Octave. From time immemorial (until 1960), Vespers of the Dead were sung immediately following second Vespers of All Saints; we absolutely keep this practice, so the Office of All Souls begins with Vespers the night before and ends with None the following day. Vespers on the evening of 2 November are of the Octave, Feast, or Sunday following as the case may be.

In summary, the CTO's Office of All Souls' Day is as follows:

Vespers of the Dead (double rite) as given in the Tridentine Votive Office of the Dead following second Vespers of All Saints. The Collect is as given in the post-1911 Office.

Compline of the Dead which begins with the Confiteor and Absolution. Then follow the Compline psalms and the Nunc dimittis without antiphons and without chant. Requiem aeternam replaces the Gloria Patri at the end of each psalm or canticle. Compline concludes with the verses and oration kneeling. There is no short lesson in the beginning, no hymn, chapter, short responsory, or Marian anthem.

Mattins & Lauds of the Dead (double rite) as given in the Tridentine Votive Office of the Dead with the exception of the proper lessons and the Collect which are taken from the post-1911 texts. There is no Commemoration of the Octave at Lauds.

The Little Hours begin immediately with Ps. 53 at Prime or the respective divisio of Ps. 118 at Terce, Sext, and None. The usual psalms are prayed without antiphon and without chant. Requiem aeternam instead of Gloria Patri. The concluding petitions and oration(s) are followed per post-1911 texts. At Prime, the Martyrology and a proper versicle which follows are prayed between the two orations as given in the rubrics.


  1. On the whole a coherent adaptation and generally what I would like to see.

    What you said about the skeletal structure of the Office of the Dead is true, but it should resemble the Triduum Office because the Triduum Office is the pre-Gallicanized Roman Office from the first millennium and which was retained in the Roman basilicas until the papacy of Nicholas III. The Office of the Dead was sung daily in those same basilicas on days with three Mattins lessons. The common setting would mean the two offices would inevitably look the same.

    Another consideration, which would probably elicit the same result as your proposed Office of the Dead, is the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which is a votive Office created out of Marian feasts (choice of psalms, antiphons, lessons, hymns etc). Your Office of the Dead reverse engineers itself using the same methodology.

    The idea of a Saturday of the BMV with a Mass is somewhat similar to All Souls day in that they both formalize the practice of a votive office.

    In the end, I will be following your Ordo on November 2!

  2. No.

    Specifically. Oh dear, no. I am sorry to disagree with you and His Traddiness but I think you are both wrong.
    The commemoration of the departed on the second day in the Octave is an activity, not a day.
    The exercise this blog represents has been re-examining the workings of Trent. Sorry, but I cannot square your conclusions here with this ambition.
    I accepted your taking up of Christ the King because it is a feast, like Trinity Sunday, and they occur, concur, get added, removed, etc.
    The creation of a liturgical day of celebrating a votive office by Pius X was highly anomalous - the excuse was his attempt to reduce the length of the office, so he clearly started from the position that the Office of the dead must be said, and looked for a way to keep that while jettisoning the day's own office. We need to get behind that assumption. I also say S Pius X, as worthy as he was in many ways, loses his way in this matter.
    Thus instead of a commemoration on a day, he created the commemoration of a day.
    Speaking of the efect of 1962, Rubricarius writes that only the vespers of the feast are sung and "not Vespers of the Dead as they, rather strangely, get treated as Vespers of All Soul's Day"
    but that is the logical outcome of treating the commemoration in a votive office as if it were a liturgical day.
    And so we have witnessed the conjuring up of a peculiar day, inserted into the Octave, stripped of its proper office which is replaced by a votive office. It is as if he had also decided to do the same to a Monday in Lent.
    The Office of the Dead is a votive office. It should be said often.
    November is the month of the dead. The office of All SS is a festal period.
    The OCtave needs to be restored in its pristine purity as a festal period during which inter alia, we look forward to our destiny. The rest of the month is to commemorate and pray for those whose glory is not assured.
    I would cheerfully say both offices for at least the week, and preferably the month. Those not bound to say the office can say that of the dead only, or the traditional parts thereof.
    It is a distortion of the practice to award it a day, and as you ackowledge, there are clear disortions when the non-existent parts have to be supplied.
    Sorry again. But what you propose just is not Trent. whatever its merits.

    May the holy souls rest in peace : And may they pray for us.

    1. After thinking about it I change my opinion. Pseudo John may be right on this one. All Souls day is a commemoration whereby a votive Office and Mass is customarily said, not a day made for a specific commemoration. Giving an entire Office to a commemoration and neglecting the Octave, to an extent, isn't cricket.

      Still I think some good came of the reform, such as Benedict XV's permission for all churches to celebrate three Requiem Masses on that day.