Friday, July 11, 2008

Book of Divine Worship and Rule of Benedict

In honor of St. Benedict on this his day, I prepared a comparision of the Daily Office in the Book of Divine Worship with the Rule of Benedict. It's part of a larger, uncompleted, effort to annotate the Rule and is on the web at Agathon Associates (Click on E-TEXTS The Great Books of Western Civilization free online.)

In chapters 8 through 20 Benedict lays out the regulations for saying the daily office.

He begins with the regulations for Matins, which he prescribes to be read in the early morning in the winter (the eigth hour corresponding roughly to two a.m., and in the summer just before dawn. Matins is followed by Lauds and together correspond to Morning Prayer in the BDW.

Our Morning Prayer begins, after preparatory sentences of scripture and penitential rite, with the invitatory "Lord open thou our lips. And our mouth shall show forth thy praise." (Domine, labia mea aperies...) followed by Psalm 95 (usually in an altered form) as prescribed by Benedict. But the "O God, make speed to save us. O Lord, make haste to help us." (Deus, in adjutorium meum intende...) has been moved to the opening of Evening Prayer in the BDW.

The body of Benedict's Matins is largely preserved in our Morning Prayer--the recitations of Psalms and the lessons from the Old and New Testaments.

A weakness of the Daily Office in the BDW compared to Benedict's prescriptions is the lack of assigned readings from the Fathers. Our Office also omits the Kyrie of Benedict's Office.

Benedict varies the length of the office according to the time of year in order to accomodate the variance in the length of an hour of time as the nights waxed or waned in length. Today, with the hour a fixed duration of time this no longer is applicable.

Benedict prescribes the Te Deum laudamus for all Sundays at Matins; the BDW suggests this canticle for all Feasts and Solemnities.

Now that Matins and Lauds are combined to form our Morning Prayer and the Psalms are distributed in the BDW according to the seven week or 30-day arrangment, Benedict's presciptions for the Psalms at Lauds no longer apply. One wonders what Benedict, who wrote, "Our holy forefathers promptly fulfilled in one day what we lukewarm a week" would say about our even laxer arrangment of the Psalms?

The BDW follows Benedict's prescription of the Our Father at each of the morning and evening offices.

owever, we depart from Benedict in not prescribing the Ambrosian hymn (Te Deum laudamus) at every morning office. Like Benedict, the BDW offers several choices at Morning Prayer for canticles drawn from the Old and New Testament.

As prescribed by Benedict, the feasts of the saints and solemn festivals take precedence over the ordinary weekday or feria in the BDW.

As does Benedict, the BDW provides for a distinctive tone to the liturgy for Lent, for Easter, and for the balance of the year.

For the little hours, Benedict prescribes Psalms, the Kyrie and the collects. The BDW Noonday Office is composed of some of the Psalms. The collects have been moved to Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer and the Kyrie dropped from the Office.

As does the DBW, Benedict concludes the day with a brief office of Compline with the 4th, 91st, and 134th Psalms.

While Benedict arranges for entire Psalter to be read once every seven days, our BDW provides for two distributions of the Psalms, one over 30 day, the other over seven weeks. The current Roman breviary has a four-week distribution of the Psalms.

The biggest change between Benedict's order of prayer and the Daily Office of our BDW is the number of offices, or hours. The BDW has four hours: Morning Prayer being the longest and corresponding to Matins, Lauds, and some elements of the little hours. Evening Prayer, which is a bit shorter than Morning Prayer, corresponds to Vespers and some elements of the little hours. Noonday Prayer, as mentioned above, incorporates Psalms from the former hours. Compline is largely as arranged by Benedict. The current Roman breviary has seven hours, Lauds (Morning Prayer) the little hours of Terce (9 a.m.), Sext (noon) , and None (3 p.m.), Vespers (Evening Prayer), Compline, and the newly fashioned Office of Readings. The little hour of Prime was suppress as one of the Vatican II reforms. The modern revision of the Liturgy of the Hours allows for one to recite either one single "Daytime Prayer", which one can choose to be Terce or Sext or None according to the time of day that the recitation takes place, so effectively, for those who elect that option, the Roman breviary can be said to also have five offices.

--David Trumbull, Boston

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