The epoch which we have just rapidly considered shows us the first beginnings of public prayer in the church. Mgr. Duchesne1 refuses to regard these supplications, variously distributed throughout the day, as anything else than purely private forms of devotion. By whatever name one may call these reunions on fixed days in the week, or on the occasion of the anniversary of a martyr’s feast, their existence is vouched for by the most authoritative witnesses of primitive Christian tradition. We have now to turn our attention to the elaboration of the divine office which was slowly effected little by little. This development is not without analogy to that by which the Apostles’ Creed became elaborated into the creeds of Nicæa or Constantinople. It seems as if the lex orandi was appealed to from this time to determine the lex credendi. Both owed their progress in the first place to the influence of local churches, and then, secondly, to the action of the Roman church and her pontiffs.
We are still dealing with a period where entire liberty of action was allowed to local churches in the determination of their office and in the choice of formulæ. It is necessary to take account of the points of difference between the Eastern and Western churches in the construction of the canonical hours, and one must also, at the same time, allow for the influence of one very powerful factor, i.e. the influence of monasticism, which became very widespread in the church during the period under consideration.
I. How did the influence of the monks affect the development of the divine office? Mgr. Batiffol2 answers the question in a few words: “The Christians, while they increased in numbers, did not increase in fervour; they neglected even the Sunday reunion, to the great sorrow of St. Chrysostom.” The ascetics and virgins, who from the earliest days of Christianity had consecrated their life to the service of God, now began to be united in communities under St. Antony, the Father of the Cenobites (about 305). This fact produced considerable effect, first in the East, and afterwards in the West. The monks did not create the divine office, Opus Dei, but, as they could give more time to it, “they organized it with zeal into a regulated and characteristic whole.” Since, too, at this period, “the most eminent and influential bishops had either been monks themselves or lived in intimate union with monks,” we find an additional explanation of the influence of the latter in the formation of the office. The Peregrinatio S. Sylviæ3 tells us that in Jerusalem the monks and pious lay folk celebrated the night office in the churches of the Holy Places. The rest of the people, as well as the priests and deacons, participated in this office only on certain days, although they assisted daily at the morning and evening prayers, Lauds and Vespers, which dated back to apostolic times. The same document mentions as canonical hours only Matins (or vigiliæ nocturneæ), Laudes (hymni matutini cum luce), Terce, Sext, None, and Vespers (lucernare). Prime and Compline did not yet exist. The spread of the influence of monasticism in the West is due to St. Athanasius, who made a deep impression on the Romans by describing in detail the life of St. Antony, and the monasteries founded by St. Pacomius at Tabennæ. It is also to be taken into consideration that, as parishes were not yet founded and bishops had to take with them their cathedral clergy on their visits, monks drawn from neighbouring monasteries replaced these clergy in reciting office in the cathedrals.
These considerations explain the part played by the monks in the organization of the divine office. Numerous documents attest their influence. It is in the East especially that they are to be met with in the fourth century, and it would be impossible to quote from them in a short work such as this. They will be found in full in Dom Bäumer’s first volume, pp. 109-169.
II. The East.—In order to show the state to which the divine office had attained towards the end of the fourth century, we must give in brief the evidence contained in the Institutions of Cassian and the Peregrinatio S. Sylviæ already quoted.4
1. Cassian wrote two important books, the Institutions and the Collations. In the first of these, he gives us detailed information concerning the divine office and liturgical prayers among the Easterns. As this work played an important part in the introduction into the West of the usages and liturgical arrangements of the East, it may be well to give a brief outline of it in this place. According to Cassian: (A) Among the monks of Egypt, it was the custom to assemble twice a day for prayer in common—Vespers, and the nocturnal Vigils or Matins. At each of these services twelve psalms were chanted, and two lections, one from the Old and the other from the New Testament, were read. On Saturday and Sunday, as well as during the Easter season, the lections were taken from the New Testament, the first from the Acts or the Epistles and the second from the Gospels. A legend attributed the number of twelve psalms to the instruction of an angel. At the end of each psalm or section of a psalm, which was sung by one monk while the others remained silent, all stood up and spent some time in meditation. They then knelt down, and the priest who presided recited a prayer or collect in the name of all. The Gloria Patri was said not after the psalm but after the antiphon, and the twelfth psalm was was always one of the “Alleluia” psalms. The Egyptian monks recited privately in their cells an office corresponding to our Lauds, and this completed their stated devotions during the day, though they prayed constantly while occupied at their daily tasks. (B) The monks of the East (Palestine, Mesopotamia, Asia Minor) followed different customs, (a) It seems that the night office was longer, though Cassian does not express himself very clearly on this point. He merely speaks of Vigils on Friday in preparation for Saturday, and during the night of Saturday in preparation for Sunday, adding that as many as eighteen, twenty, thirty, and even more psalms were recited. We may at least suppose that the Matins or Vigils of Sunday were composed of eighteen psalms and nine lections—three from the Old Testament, three from the Epistles, and three from the Gospels. There were also antiphons, responds, and short prayers, placed either between the psalms or at the end of the office. The office of Matins (or Lauds) was united to the Vigils, and contained psalms 50, 62, 89, 148-150. (b) During Cassian’s life an alteration was made in the monastery of Bethlehem, which resulted in the creation of a new office corresponding to our Prime. At the conclusion of Nocturns, the religious retired to their cells to rest or meditate for a short time. The more slothful, however, abused this liberty to prolong their repose to the hour of Terce, and so an office was drawn up in order to keep them awake and mark the hour for them to start work. Three psalms and some prayers were recited, and thus arose the hour of Prime, distinct from Lauds or Matins. The date of this fact is 390, or even 382.
“The phrase matutina solemnitas in Cassian means the hour of Prime, and not, as is often said, the office of Lauds.” In addition to other proofs, it must be borne in mind that Cassian, in speaking of the hour of Prime, mentions it as peculiar to the convent at Bethlehem, while there is nothing to the same effect in regard to Lauds or the other hours, which were then common enough in other places. Two passages of Scripture which he says were chanted at this matutina solemnitas come from psalm 62, one of the three psalms especially belonging to Prime.
“Thus in the Instituta (bk. iii, ch. 3) the day hours, apart from those of the night, amounted to five—Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers. When, in the fourth chapter of the same book of the Institutes, seven daily offices are enumerated, this is because Cassian is speaking of the twenty-four hours, and so includes the two night offices as well—Nocturns and Lauds. This enumeration not only dispenses with Compline, but even excludes all idea of it.”5 (c) In several places Cassian mentions Terce, Sext, and None, and shows that these hours were not all constructed on the same lines, for in some monasteries there were three psalms at Terce, six at Sext, and nine at None. However, the general custom was to recite three psalms at each of these hours. The little hours were not recited on Sundays, the psalms chanted during Mass and Communion being regarded as sufficiently supplying their place. It does not appear that the versicle Deus in adjutorium meum intende formed the opening sentence of the offices. Cassian alludes to it as merely a sort of ejaculatory prayer employed by zealous monks to stir up in themselves the spirit of prayer, and to strengthen them against temptations and lack of zeal, (d) With regard to the Lucernare or Vespers, Cassian refers us to the Mosaic ordinance for the evening sacrifice (Numb. xxviii., Ps. cxl. 2) so often spoken of in the Old and New Testaments. He remarks that this office must be regarded as intimately connected with the Last Supper and the death of Jesus on the cross. “It is,” he says, “a thanksgiving for the institution of the most holy sacrifice of the Mass, and a memorial of our redemption.” But he does not tell us how many and which psalms were recited at it. (e) Fr. Pargoire6 is of opinion that we find no references to Compline in Cassian’s Institutes (although Dom Plaine is of the contrary opinion), and that neither is Dom Bäumer justified in ascribing to St. Benedict the introduction of Compline as one of the canonical hours. He maintains that Compline, as distinct from Vespers, was known and used in the East about 360, and in support of this he cites the 37th of St. Basil’s rules. The great monastic lawgiver enumerates in this passage the fitting times for prayer, and, after having concluded what he has to say concerning Vespers, and before treating of Nocturns, he speaks distinctly of an intermediate office. This office can scarcely be anything else than the ἀποδειπνον, a part of the Greek office recited immediately after the evening meal, and corresponding to the Compline of the Latins. St. Basil points out that the recitation of psalm 90 was obligatory at this office, and gives, as the chief purpose of this service, the need of obtaining quiet repose from God. This also agrees well with what our hymn says: “Procul recedant somnia et noctium phantasmata.”
An additional proof that Compline was known before St. Benedict can be gathered from a passage in the Life of St. Hypatius, written by Callinicus between 447 and 450. The reference is to an intermediate canonical hour between the prayer “of the torches” and the prayer “of midnight,” i.e. Vespers and Nocturns. Hypatius is much earlier than St. Benedict, since he died an octogenarian in 446, having embraced the religious life in 386. At the time of his death he was superior of a monastery in the neighbourhood of Constantinople, and the probability is that Compline, having once been adopted by the monks of the capital, spread gradually throughout the entire East. “It seems,” adds Fr. Pargoire, “that the great monastic rules present an innovation, for Eastern monasticism appears to have known nothing of Compline before St. Basil.”
But to return to Cassian: his description of the divine office is certainly incomplete. He does not tell us, for instance, what were the prayers recited between and at the end of the psalms, although the antiphons were well known at that date.7Still, one can make out from his work the plan of the different hours which, Compline excepted, were to compose the Roman Breviary.
2. Sylvia, or rather the Spanish virgin Etheria, describes for us, in her Peregrinatio, the daily services celebrated in the principal church of Jerusalem in the fourth century. According to her: (A) On week days there were Vespers and Lauds. About 1.30 A.M. monks and virgins and lay-folk of both sexes assembled for a service consisting of psalms, antiphons, and responds, a prayer being said after each psalm. At daybreak followed the Matutini hymni, for which the bishop arrived with his clergy. Then there took place a prayer for all, a commemoration of the names of certain persons, a dismissal of the catechumens, then another prayer, and the benediction and dismissal of the faithful. The assembly broke up when it was daylight. Terce was celebrated by the community only during Lent in Jerusalem. At the sixth hour, i.e. about midday, the faithful assembled again; psalms and antiphons were recited until the bishop’s arrival was announced; he recited a prayer, blessed the faithful, and as he retired the people kissed his hands, as they had done at the conclusion of the earlier service. None was celebrated exactly in the same way as Sext. At the tenth hour (4 P.M.), at the time called “Lucernare,” the crowd returned to the Anastasis, and the lights were lit from the lamp which burns night and day in the grotto. The evening psalms (which are longer than those at Sext and None) are chanted with antiphons, the bishop appears, recites a prayer for all, blesses and dismisses the faithful, who once more kiss his hand. A “station” with prayers is made at the chapel where the large portions of the Holy Cross are preserved. Night falls before the office has come to an end.
(B) Sunday.—A crowd, as numerous as that which meets to celebrate Easter, assembles for the Vigils or Matins of Sunday, outside the church, at a spot illuminated by lamps. The psalms are chanted with antiphons, and after each psalm, or after each antiphon and respond, a prayer is said. It is the custom to open the doors of the Holy Place only at cockcrow. Then the bishop arrives, the basilica is opened and illuminated by a thousand lights. The prayers which took place before this seem to have been intended merely to occupy the people until the beginning of the office.8 Then a priest, a deacon, and a clerk in minor orders say, each in turn, a psalm and a prayer, incense is brought in, the bishop rises, takes the book of the gospels, descends into the grotto, and there reads the narrative of the resurrection. The crowd breaks out into lamentations at the thought of what the Saviour has suffered for us. At the conclusion of the gospel, the bishop, accompanied by the people, goes to the chapel of the Holy Cross. There a psalm is chanted and a prayer, and the bishop blesses and dismisses the faithful. The monazontes and the more devout of the lay-folk return to the Anastasis for the celebration of Lauds, which is composed of psalms with antiphons, and lasts until daylight. From this it appears that there was no solemn celebration of Lauds on Sunday, such as took place during the week.
A distinguishing feature of the Mass which followed was that those of the assistant priests who wished to do so addressed the congregation, the bishop speaking last of all. These sermons lasted to the fourth and even the fifth hour (10 or 11 A.M.), and not until then was the holy sacrifice celebrated. The Lucernare on Sundays was the same as on week days.
(C) Etheria (or Sylvia) then goes on to speak of the festivals, but it would take too long to give an account here of all she describes. We give, however, the conclusions drawn from this document by Dom Bäumer (vol. i. pp. 168-169), on account of their bearing upon the beginnings of the Breviary.
“1. Towards the end of the fourth century, five canonical hours were recited in Jerusalem—Vigils, Lauds, Sext, None, and Vespers. Terce formed a sixth hour during Lent.
“2. The festivals celebrated during the year were Epiphany (commemorating the birth and manifestation of our Lord) on the 6th January; Easter, with the preceding ceremonies (which lasted for eight weeks); the Ascension and Pentecost; lastly, the Dedication, and the festival of the Invention of the Holy Cross on the 14th September. The festivals of the martyrs are also mentioned (in the description of Lent) but without any being named in particular.
“3. The chief festivals — Epiphany, Easter, the Dedication, the Invention of the Holy Cross—were celebrated with an octave.
“4. The psalms were chanted with antiphons, prayers, responds, and hymns. The lections were taken from both the Old and New Testaments. At the conclusion of Matins on Sunday, the bishop sang the gospel of the Resurrection.
“5. The people and clergy assisted at Matins on Sunday, on Friday in preparation for Saturday, and on certain other occasions, but during the week the celebration of Matins was performed by the monks and more devout of the people, assisted by some priests or deacons, who recited the prayers or collects.
“6. The antiphons, prayers, lections, psalms, responds, and hymns were chosen with special reference to the particular mystery commemorated. This struck the western pilgrim as so new and interesting that she is continually alluding to it. Here we have the first attempts at bringing the mysteries of the ecclesiastical year to bear upon the divine office and the liturgy of the Mass—both having been heretofore, as they still were in the West, composed of invariable prayers and chants.”
III. The West.—(1) Let us now turn to the state of liturgical devotions in the West at the beginning of the fifth century. Tertullian and St. Cyprian have been our witnesses for Africa in the third century. After their date, various elements were imported into the formularies of prayer from the East, such as antiphonal chanting and hymns. (A) St. Hilary of Poitiers writes that in his time (towards the middle of the fourth century) Lauds and Vespers were recited in Gaul. Vigils were probably recited also on certain days.9 St. Jerome and St. Isidore say of St. Hilary that he composed hymns like those used in the Greek Syrian churches.
(B) But it was chiefly due to St. Ambrose that antiphonal chanting and hymns were introduced in the West, and that greater care was bestowed upon the celebration of Vigils. Starting from Milan, the usage spread to other churches, and the city, already rendered illustrious by its great bishop, became a centre of liturgical enrichment and development. That a particular church should exert so widespread an influence at this period is nothing remarkable, considering that each church was then free to make what alterations and innovations it thought good in its formularies of prayer. It is interesting to recall what were the circumstances under which St. Ambrose was led to modify the contents and manner of performing the divine office. St. Augustine, an eye-witness, has told the story in his Confessions.10 It was in the Holy Week of 385. Milan was in an uproar in consequence of the claims made by the Arians. On Palm Sunday (6th April), St. Ambrose was concluding the sacred ceremonies in a magnificent church recently constructed, called the Portian Basilica, when it and another church were claimed by the court for Arian worship. The bishop met the demands of the court by a direct refusal; but, fearing lest his flock should vent their indignation against the Arians in an unjustifiable manner, he assembled them in the principal church of Milan, like a general refusing to be driven from his post. During Sunday and the three following days he remained with his people in the basilica claimed by the Arians, surrounded by the imperial troops. Then it was that, in order to occupy the long and anxious hours, St. Ambrose introduced into the office the antiphonal chanting of psalms by two choirs, with antiphons, versicles, and several hymns of his own composition. He adopted this custom from the Eastern churches.
The innovation quickly spread throughout all Italy, and was adopted even at Rome itself, as we learn from the Milanese priest Paulinus, St. Augustine, Pope Celestine I. in an address delivered before a council in Rome, and from a letter of Bishop Faustus of Riez. It became in time fully established; and as it is perpetuated in the Roman Breviary, we must turn our attention to it for a few moments.
The antiphon11 (that which echoes back the sound) is a chant performed alternately by two choirs, and was already used in the pagan drama. At what period exactly it came into use among the Christians, it seems hard to say. If we are to believe the historian Socrates, it was St. Ignatius, the second bishop of Antioch, who introduced this alternate manner of chanting into the church, but no traces of its existence appear before the fourth century. Between 348 and 358 two members of a band of ascetics at Antioch, Flavian and Diodore, conceived the idea of associating the Christian laity with themselves in chanting the psalter during the night. This was intended to counterbalance the influence of the Arians and of the bishop, Leontius, who was secretly in sympathy with the heretics. Following the practice of the Syrian churches, these ascetics, instead of letting the lector recite the psalm, directed that it should be sung alternately by the faithful, divided into two choirs, both of which were to unite only in singing a refrain. The doxology Gloria Patri was certainly one of these refrains. St. Basil, in his treatise on the Holy Spirit, informs us that the formula was known in his time, although in slightly varying forms.12 Arius attempted to substitute another form—“Gloria Patri per Filium in Spiritu Sancto”—quite unobjectionable in itself, but rejected on account of the meaning given to it, and the intention of those who employed it. The ordinary form of the doxology—Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost—was adopted to repel Arianism, and attained to an important position in the liturgy. It is found from this period onwards in the churches of Antioch, Jerusalem, and Constantinople. The faithful thus had a short theological formula wherewith to cut short every dispute. Theodoret (Hist. Eccl., ii. 19) tells us how the vacillating bishop, Leontius, seeing his clergy and people divided between the two forms “Gloria Patri et Filio et Spiritui Sancto,” and “Gloria Patri cum Filio in Spiritu Sancto,” contrived that the faithful could hear him sing only the conclusion—“in sæcula sæculorum. Amen.” May we regard St. Ephrem († 363) or even Bardesanes of Edessa (154-222) as the originator of these doxologies? The attempt to do so has not yet resulted in more than an hypothesis. Dom Leclercq, under the word “Antienne (Litargie)” quotes a fragment of Theodore of Mopsuestia, according to which the formula would seem to be of Syrian origin, and thus all that Flavian and Diodore did was to translate it from Syriac into Greek. On the other hand, the Canons of Hippolytus enjoin “Gloria tibi Patri et Filio et Spiritui Sancto in sæcula sæculorum. Amen,” as a doxology to the prayers.13
It was with the same intention of counteracting the evil influence of the Arians, who energetically spread their errors by means of popular songs, that St. Ambrose trained the faithful to sing hymns which gave expression to orthodox tenets. He himself composed some of these hymns, though probably not so many as have been attributed to him. Writers of a later date, who followed his example, either were desirous of gaining acceptance for their compositions by using his name, or attempted to imitate the particular kind of composition which he had introduced.14
(C) St. Ambrose, then, celebrated the office of Vigils in church along with his people, He also speaks of the Laudes Matutinæ and of the day hours. We know, moreover, that the hymns for Vespers, Terce, and None (probably also the hymn for Sext) are his. We have additional evidence, belonging to the West, relating to the celebration of the divine office at this date. Thus St. Jerome furnishes many details concerning the liturgical forms of his time, especially in his letters and tracts against the heretics. When writing against Vigilantius he had to take up the defence of Vigils. He expressly enjoins the noble and pious matron Læta to take her daughter with her when she goes to church at night or in the evening, to assist at solemn Vigils. He mentions the morning prayer, and that of the third, sixth, and ninth hours, at which the young girl should assist like a soldier of Christ, and finally he speaks of the “sacrifice” of Vespers. His letters to Eustochium, Rusticus and Demetrius contain allusions to an Ordo Psalmorum et Orationum, and to the canonical hours known to all, at which Christians of both sexes do not fail to pray. There are the nocturnal prayer (Vigils), morning prayer (Lauds), Terce, Sext, None, and Vespers.15
(D) St. Augustine is also an unexceptionable witness to the existence of the different hours of prayer in the West at the beginning of the fifth century. He shows, moreover, that as yet there was no one uniform regulation in the Latin church as to the rite to be followed, and that the bishop of each diocese, or the metropolitans in conjunction with their suffragans, were left very free to establish and regulate the divine office. Provided they observed certain points of apostolic tradition, they might conform to the requirements of time, place, and persons. In his Confessions (bk. v. ch. 9), St. Augustine tells how his pious mother St. Monica went to church twice a day to hear the word of God and say her prayers. In his great work The City of God (bk. xxii. ch. 8), he speaks of Vespers as if it were a daily service, and gives us to understand that at it prayers were recited, and hymns and psalms sung.16
(E) It is more difficult to say what was the practice followed at Rome with regard to the divine office. The traditional ascription of the distribution of the psalms, such as it is in the Roman Breviary, to Pope St. Damasus (366-384), has been called in question. Still there is a constant tradition that St. Damasus did promulgate liturgical regulations, which probably is to be taken as referring to the canonical hours as well as to other parts of the liturgy. St. Jerome shows that in 380 and 390 several canonical hours existed in Rome. As early as 383 St. Damasus had introduced a revised psalter for liturgical use in Rome, since known as the Psalterium Romanum. It was also during his pontificate that antiphonal chanting established itself in Rome. In fact, the united force of all these indications proves that, at any rate, it is not rash to conclude that St. Damasus regulated the Roman liturgy, as St. Ambrose had done for Milan.17
Mgr. Duchesne18 enables us to deduce a posteriori the existence of a Roman use, when he says that the Roman liturgy was employed in Africa. We shall soon be able to establish another indirect proof to the same effect from the rules of St. Benedict.
(2) During the fifth and sixth centuries we do not find in the West any work dealing with the divine office as a whole. Such an undertaking would have been difficult owing to the lack of material, for the Apostolic See had not yet given, its imprimatur to an ordo which the bishops could modify, as we have said, according to the requirements of time, place, and people. There was no one codex then, such as there is now, containing the prayers and chants, to which recourse could be made. We must thus fall back upon the method we have heretofore followed, and seek out the scattered references in the Fathers and ecclesiastical writers of the time, in the decrees of councils or emperors, in the liturgical usages of Gaul and Italy given from time to time by Cassian, and in monastic statutes.
(A) The Fathers and Ecclesiastical Writers: — According to the Life of St. Melania the Younger, there were only six canonical hours — Nocturns, Matins, Terce, Sext, None, and Lucernare (Vespers). Prime, introduced according to Cassian about 400, seems still confined to the monasteries. There is no mention of Compline. We learn nothing additional from the writings of Sidonius Apollinaris, Faustus of Riez, and Gennadius.
(B) Conciliar decrees of this period (i.e. Agde, 506; Tarragona, 516; Epaone, 517; Agaune, between 515 and 523; Orleans, 541; Tours, 567) show the attempts made to introduce unity into the liturgy by conforming it to the usages of both the East and Rome (there must then have been Roman usages in existence at that period).
An important decree of the Emperor Justinian, of about 530, ordains that throughout East and West, in every church to which is attached a body of clergy, the nocturnal office—Lauds and Vespers—shall be solemnly recited day by day. On the other hand, Grancolas and Thomassin endeavour to prove that at this date priests and those in the lower ranks of the clergy were already bound to the private recitation of the office when prevented from assisting at the solemn celebration in the church. They were dispensed from the lections, as it was impossible to carry about the great MSS. of the Holy Scriptures or the homilies of the Fathers, while psalms, hymns, and the shorter prayers could be recited by heart.
(C) Cassian, to whom we owe our information concerning the monastic office in the East, throw’s light also on the development followed by the office in the West. The monks, following the Eastern usage, recited a prayer after each psalm. In Gaul this was accompanied by a prostration, and many more psalms were recited than in Egypt. The psalm was sung as a solo, the assistants singing only the Gloria Patri at the end. The night office or Nocturns was recited daily. Matins did not follow immediately. Cassian constantly affirms the existence in the West of Matins (meaning Nocturns), Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, and Vespers, at least in the monasteries. This was the general custom. In the prefaces affixed to his books De Institutions Cœnobiorum and his Conferences, Cassian shows how Egyptian customs were making their way in Gaul, where they became popular, and soon spread.19
(D) Monastic Statutes.—(a) St. Cæsarius of Aries († 542), who had been a monk at Lerins, is our informant concerning the development of the monastic office and that of the secular clergy in the fifth and sixth centuries. He shows that, as far as the monks were concerned, the burden of the divine office had become immensely increased by a quantity of psalms, lections, and prayers added to the different hours already mentioned. From the Life and Sermons of St. Cæsarius, it appears also that the observance of the canonical hours had become common among the secular clergy, and was popular with the laity. He himself appointed that in the church of St. Stephen at Aries the offices of Terce, Sext, and None should be celebrated solemnly every day, so that the penitents and other lay-folk could assist at them, while Prime was to be celebrated only on Sundays, festivals, and Saturdays.
(b) We learn some further details from St. Gregory of Tours. His book De Cursu Stellarum, recently discovered, shows us that the hour for the commencement of the night office at the different seasons of the year and the number of psalms the office was to contain was calculated by certain stars and constellations. Thus great freedom was used in the celebration of Vigils, only the minimum number of psalms and lections being set down. This writer gives no further details concerning the composition of the night office and the manner in which it was celebrated. From his other writings it appears that during the fifth century, on days when there were no nocturnal Vigils, the people assembled in the morning for Lauds, the essential parts of which in Gaul, as in Italy during the time of Cassian, were the Miserere, Benedicite, and the three concluding psalms of the psalter. No mention is made of Prime or None, and the allusions to Vespers are rare. This latter is referred to as a night office, because performed in the first watch.20
(c) The Development of the Office by the Monks of the West:—In concluding this period of the history of the Breviary, we must draw attention to two distinct tendencies equally plainly discernible among the monks of both the East (i.e. Egypt, Palestine, Mesopotamia, and Syria) and the West. These two tendencies find their expression both in the ritual usages and in the number of psalms, prayers, and lections recited in the office. Cassian recognized that the austerities of the Egyptians needed to be mitigated in order to suit the constitution of Westerns; and while the Irish monks, through their asceticism and mysticism, approached more nearly to the austerity of the Egyptians, Italy and Rome were more inclined to draw their inspiration from Palestine. Thus a double stream of tendency became manifest in the West during the sixth century—the chief representatives of the two schools of monasticism being St. Columban and St. Benedict. The former enjoins that “for the nocturnal office twelve psalms are to be chanted during the short nights of summer, but more as the nights grow longer; on Saturdays and Sundays eighteen psalms at least are to be sung, for the greater part of the time thirty-six. In winter, on week-days, thirty-six at Vigils, and sixty-five at the παννυχία on Saturday and Sunday.”21 The arrangement of the office, or Psalterium per hebdomadam, adopted by St. Benedict from the practices of the churches of Rome, Milan, and other parts of Italy, is inspired by five principles, which we give in brief from Dom Bäumer (Hist, du Brév. rom., i. pp. 243-245): (α) The entire psalter was to be recited at least once in the course of the week, i.e. a hundred and fifty psalms, with antiphons and prayers to correspond, and the scriptural canticles which were wont to form part of the office. (β) In the night office the sacred number of twelve psalms in a nocturn must be neither increased nor diminished (not counting the introductory and concluding prayers —i.e. psalms 3, 94, 50, and the canticles). In the same way, twelve psalms formed the day office, three in each of the hours, (γ) In order to leave sufficient time for manual labour, short psalms or sections of psalms (such as the sections into which psalm 118 is divided) were to be chosen for the day office. In summer the long lections at Matins which came after midnight were suppressed “propter brevitatem noctium.” On Sundays and festivals, when there was no manual labour, the whole office was recited with the long lessons. (δ) A reasonable discretion was always to be observed. There was to be no long office in the evening, (ε) Each hour was to be complete in itself, properly drawn up and uniform, and on this account long psalms are to be divided into two equal parts by a Gloria Patri; the 118th psalm is to be divided into twenty-two sections, each containing eight verses, and the 116th, “quia parvus est,” is to be united to the 115th under one Gloria Patri.
For the rest, when the object and rules of his order did not require the abandonment of existing usages, St. Benedict constantly kept the Roman office in view, and it is in this sense that we must understand not only the words Sicut psallit Ecclesia Romana in the 13th chapter of his rule, but many other directions which he has given for the office.
In St. Benedict’s rule we have the oldest and most complete scheme of the canonical hours to be found in the history of the church, and we may well think that, as he drew it up in Central Italy and not far from Rome, he followed, at least substantially, the already existing usage familiar to himself and to the people of the surrounding country.
One thing is certain. At the beginning of the eighth century a contemporary witness, in a treatise on the different arrangements of the office at that date, states that the “cursus” of St. Benedict bore a very strong resemblance to the Roman “cursus.”22 The latter, then, was in existence, and so we have an additional though indirect proof in favour of the assertion made above.
IV. Outline of the Evidence furnished by the First Period:—1. The festivals of our Blessed Lord were Christmas, Epiphany, Easter, and Pentecost. The Ascension is not distinctly named by St. Paulinus in the fourth century. It is only somewhat later that the earliest evidence for the existence of an office for this festival is forthcoming. The Peregrinatio Silviæ speaks indeed of the fortieth day after Easter as having its Vigil on the Wednesday. But it is curious that, according to this document, these Vigils were celebrated in the church of the Nativity at Bethlehem, although there was a church erected on the very site of the Ascension, on the Mount of Olives quite close to Jerusalem. As a matter of fact, the Peregrinatio gives us to understand that the mystery of the Ascension was celebrated in Jerusalem on the same day as Pentecost. The most suitable date to which we may assign this festival is probably the first quarter of the fourth century, for its celebration did not strike Sylvia (i.e. Etheria) as a novelty in 380, and it was just at the epoch we have mentioned that churches were built in Jerusalem, and that the pilgrimage to the Holy Places commenced. Indeed, according to one well-founded interpretation, the Council of Elvira in 300 affords evidence of the celebration of a festival on the fortieth day after Easter. At any rate, it is certain that in the fourth century the Ascension ranked as one of the great festivals of our Lord.23
2. The ecclesiastical year comprised thirty-three festivals, fairly generally observed (see the table in Dom Bäumer, i. p. 272), and a certain number of local festivals as well.
3. The development of the canonical office was strongly influenced by the usages of the East. This influence is traceable to a double tradition coming from Egypt and Palestine.
The night office (Vigiliæ), at first an occasional office in the primitive church, and monastic in its character, obtained, after the edict of Justinian, a place alongside the ancient and venerable offices of Matins (our Lauds) and Vespers—the morning and evening prayer. Not only was the night office adopted by all the clergy, and even by the Christian laity, but the day hours became to a great extent a recognized element in the public services. In cathedrals, where there were no canons and where the clergy were occupied with ministering to souls, monks and clerics from the different monasteries and churches of the diocese were pressed into the service, in order that the celebration of the divine office might not be interrupted.
St. Benedict’s rule brings before us a fresh change in the monastic office. The ancient office is curtailed, certain features are adapted from the existing Roman use, and the whole is arranged with respect to the requirements of the cloister. In this way it rendered the canonical “pensum” a sweet yoke and light burden, and so commended it to the adoption of all the secular clergy of the West. One may, in a certain sense, call St. Benedict the creator of the Breviary of the West, as he has been called the patriarch of the monks of the West.
1 Origines du Culte Chrétien, p. 433.
2 Histoire du Brév. Rom., Eng. trans., p. 15.
3 Peregrinatio S. Sylviæ, the diary of a lady [Etheria, from Spain], who visited the Holy Places ahout 385-388.
4 For Cassian, cf. D. Bäumer, i. pp. 136-137; Dict. Théol., edited by Vacant and Mangenot, ii. 1823. The locality of his birth, which took place about 360, is uncertain. He was carefully educated, entered at an early age a monastery at Bethlehem, visited the monasteries of Palestine and Egypt, travelled to Constantinople, Rome, and finally Marseilles, where he founded two monasteries, one for men and the other for women, and died about 435. He is thus a witness both for East and West.
5 Pargoire, Revue d’Histoire et de Littérature religieuses for 1898, art. Prime et Complies, p. 462.
6 In the article already quoted, and under the word Apodeipnon in the Dictionnaire d’Archéologie chrétienne et de Liturgie, i. 2579 et seq.
7 See below, page 32.
8 Dom Cabrol, in his edition of the Peregrinatio S. Sylvi&ae;, p. 51.
9 Commentary on the Psalms, 64 and 118. Migne, Patr. Lat., ix. 420, 550.
10 Bk. ix. ch. 7. Migne, Patr. Lat., xxxii. 770.
11 For further details, see Diction. d’Archéol. chrétienne et du Liturgie, by Dom Cabrol, i., 2282 et seq., 2428-2430, under the word Antienne (Liturgie)—Antioche (Liturg.).
12 Nuper precanti mihi cum populo et utroque modo glorificationem absolvendi Deoac l’atri interdum cum Filio una cum Sancto Spiritu, interdum per Filium in Sancto Spiritu. Pair. Gr., xxxii. 72.
13 See Dictionnaire d’Archéologie chrétienne et du Liturgie, under the words Ariens, 2816; Antioche (Liturgie d’), 2430; Antienne, Liturgie, 2284; Paléographie musicale, vol. vi. Introduction, pp. 18-19.
14 Dictionnaire d’Archéologie chrétienne et du Liturgie, art. Ambroise hymnographe, i. 1347.
15 St. Jerome, Patr. Lat., xxii. 909, etc., xxiii. 347.
16 Patr. Lat., xxxii. 714, xli. 765.
17 Dom Bäumer, i. pp. 199-205.
18 Origines du Culte Chrétien, p. 83.
19 Cassian, De Instit. Cœnob. Patr. Lat., xlix. 132.
20 For the fifth and sixth centuries, see more detail Dom Bäumer, i. pp. 206-233.
21 Regula S. Columbani, ch. vii., Patr. Lat., lxxx. 212.
22 Dom Bäumer, i. pp. 261-262.
23 Dictionnaire d’Archéologie chrétienne et du Liturgie; Ascension. Dom Cabrol, Étude sur la Peregrinatio S. Sylviæ, pp. 122-123.