Monday, June 25, 2007

The Vatican's Abandoment of the Divine Office

The further I delve into the study of chant, the more I realize that the Church does little more than give lip service to the public celebration of the Divine Office, the Liturgy of the Hours.

Why do I say this?
1) Consider the fact that, 20 years after the publication of the second edition of the LOTH, there is still no official english translation of it. The official translation of the 1974 edition is so poorly presented that, unless one is a liturgical scholar, knowing which texts to select becomes an exercise in futility. And the psalm translation used is presented in such a way that it is far from conducive to the use of Gregorian Chant.
2) Consider the fact that, 30+ years after the new Office's official promulgation, it is rare to hear it even recited at the parish level. In November 1995, newly received into the Catholic Church, I wrote to the local Latin Ordinary, reminding him of section 100 of Sacrosanctum Concilium: “Pastors of souls should see to it that the chief hours, especially Vespers, are celebrated in common in church on Sundays and the more solemn feasts. ” He wrote back to me, suggesting that I speak to the rector and organist of the Cathedral. I did that, and, although I spent the next 2-1/2 years as a cantor there, there was never a celebration of the Vespers, let alone any other hour. The reason? In the words of the rector, “We have to find the right time to do it.” When is not the right time to pray?
3) Consider the fact that no chant has been officially promulgated for the antiphons in the new office. Yes, Liber Hymnarius, vol. 2 of the new Antiphonale Romanum has been published, and, thankfully, contains many newly recovered old Latin hymns (but, again, not english translation is yet available, after 24 years). But there is no music for the antiphons. Contrast this with the last major reform of the Office, Pius X's Breviarium Romanum of 1911. The companion Antiphonale Romanum was published in 1912 - the next year.

As to the Eastern Catholic Churches, I cannot say for sure. I know that my own parish does not regularly celebrate the Office; Great Compline on Christmas Eve, Great Friday Matins (on Thursday evening), Great Friday Vespers, Jerusalem Matins, and an abbreviated Paschal Matins is the extent of it.

If the Divine Office is indeed the prayer of the Church, why is it not better promoted?
If the Divine Office is the means whereby the Royal Priesthood is exercised, why is it not better promoted?

Why don't the Catholic Churches truly support this gift from God?


Monk Augustine said...

From an Eastern Orthodox monk, who loves his western heritage and prays it, when he can, daily.

Try the following website:

There, you will find much information about the liturgy. I especially direct your attention to the following two links from that page:

The first contains the Tridentine-era recension of the Roman Divine Office, and the Monastic Breviary. It is in English, and contains the chant.

The second contains the Sarum-use recension of the Divine Office. Also in English with much of the music.

Lastly, try here:

You will find an English version of the Monastic diurnal (sorry, no Matins) and a noted version of the same. This monastic book, I believe, follows Benedictine usage (i.e., the Anglilcan povenance shouldn't be too bothersome to the book).

Of course, none of these books will suit as a ready-to-use Novus Ordo Roman Catholic Divine Office. But, for someone who's really dedicated, the present Roman books can be used, and the psalms and chants can be culled from these other books. A really industrious person could use the electronic resources, and do a cut-and-paste, "emergency requisites" suppliment to the present office books. That way, you can use your books, and occasionally turn to your own little pamphlet of the most needed hymns and antiphons.

Anyway, I sympathize with your plight. I pray God will grant His very great and plentiful assistance to all faithful Roman Catholics, trying to preserve the good in their Tradition, even while so many others seem intent on burying and destroying it.

Monk Augustine

Mr. Louis Pizzuti, OP said...

Monk Augustine,
Thank you for your comments. I'm familiar with all of the resources. In fact, I'm am beginning to correlate these materials and others that I have in order to do this.

I often pray the Monastic Diurnal and the Monastic Diurnal Noted and greatly appreciate the work of Father Aidan.

Mr. Louis Pizzuti, OP said...

A further comment: Lancelot Andrewes Press recently printed a Monastic Matins, in a beautiful edition.

Anonymous said...

I stumbled upon this site searching for "monastic" and found information about the "Monastic Diural, Notes and Matins" and immediately ordered them all. I had no idea these works existed. I have been praying the LOTH for awhile now, and sometimes it just doesn't feel well put together. And then, I have the black leather set with no notes or music. I always hunt for the music to the hymns, without much success. I can't wait to start praying this new (to me) Breviary.I really love all this as my way to get closer to God, and I can't thank you enough for your blog and the people who have posted to it.

John C. Hathaway said...

Intersting, and sad. As for easter churches, I have a deep interest in the East, though the closest Byzantine Catholic CHurch is 1 1/2 hours away. We have 3 or 4 Orthodox Churches in our town, and I have a strong inclination to try them. Anyway, most Byzantine and Orthodox parishes whose websites I've visited have regular Hours.

We have one parish in town that has a weekly "Vespers" service on THursdays, but it is very "ad-libbed": politically correct scripture translations, the Deacon makes up his own general interecessions, etc.

I've been experimenting with chanting the office, and collecting different resources in Latin and ENglish to help, but it drives my wife nuts.

Mr. Louis Pizzuti, OP said...

Have you seen the Mundelain Psalter? I understand that it has simplified Gregorian Chant for the LOTH.

Mr. Louis Pizzuti, OP said...

Happily, I was wrong. There is a schema of chants available. It's just that the the antiphons differ somewhat from the published LOTH, but it is official.
It the Ordo Cantus Offici.

Mr. Louis Pizzuti, OP said...

The situation has improved!

Solesmes is finally beginning to release the Antiphonale Romanum, beginning with Volume II, Vespers for Sundays and Feasts.

Deo Gratias!