Abbreviating the Breviary (ii)

The Greater Form for Lauds:

  • Psalm 51 or on Sundays and feasts Ps. 93.
  • The daily Psalm (from Sunday to Saturday): 100, 5, 43, 90, 143, 92.
  • Psalms 63 & 67 as one Psalm.
  • The daily Canticle (from Sunday to Saturday): Benedicite, Confitebor, Ego dixi, Exsultavit, Cantemnus, Domine audivi, Audite caeli. The Canticle for Lauds II on Sunday is never taken, and neither are the Canticles of Lauds I ever taken throughout the week but always those of Lauds II.
  • The Psalms of Praise (Laudes): 148 – 149 – 150.

The Greater Form for Lauds is simply Lauds the way it was done before the Pian reforms of 1911.  The new canticles introduced by the Pian reforms are ignored and the traditional ones are used instead. The following commemorations could be used on days below double rank instead of the commemorations provided by the Pius X Breviary: Traditional Commemorations (click link). The devotions before and after the Divine Office (as they are still found in the 1911 edition are not found in the 1962 edition of Pope John XIII) could be ignored since they are not essential to the Office  (though on a personal note they seem quite appropriate to be said under one’s breath while getting dressed to sing the Office in Choir).

The Common Form for Lauds

  • Psalm 51/93.
  • Daily Psalm.
  • Psalm 63/67 in daily alternation.
  • Canticle as in the Greater Form but using the division as provided in the AB.
  • Psalm 148 – 149 – 150 on Sundays as one Psalm but on weekdays one Psalm every day alternately.

This abbreviates the Office of Lauds, but in such a way that the Greater Form can still be seen as its parent form while reducing the time spent on performing the Office (particularly when it is sung).

The Briefer Form for Lauds

In this form Psalm 51/93, the daily Psalm, or Psalm 63/67 should at least be taken. The Canticle and Laudate Psalms are taken as in the Common Form. Care should be taken that eventually all the Psalms for Lauds are in fact used. How to fit those in could be left to the Communities, Parishes, and or individuals using this form. This is a more serious concession but it seems to me that it answers the concerns expressed by Pope Pius X in his Divino Afflatu reforms as well as the concerns of traditionalists such as myself that we do not invent a new Office without any sort of connection to the original.

For the above reforms I have heavily relied on the suggestions given by Prof. Dobszay and it seems to me they are a decent place to start. The original Psalms remain in the Office they belong to in (relatively) the same position they should be in. The antiphons, hymns, versicles, etc. all remain as they were before the 1911 reforms.


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Abbreviating the Breviary (i)

In this abbreviation of the Divine Office I am following the suggestions made by the late Prof. Laslzo Dobszay (The Restoration and Organic Development of the Roman Rite, p. 109-113). Though I have not followed his suggestions to the letter I have tried to come up with what seems to me a practical (simpler?) adaptation.

Three Forms of One Rite

Following Prof. Dobszay I also suggest that the one Roman Rite could be used in three different forms:

  1. Greater Form (Forma plenior): the original form and archetype celebrated (at least) by appointed communities.
  2. Common Form (Forma Communis): some minor concessions to the Greater Form celebrated by the majority of communities.
  3. Briefer Form (Forma breviour): some major concessions – without undoing the Roman Rite as such – celebrated by individual believers, and communities/parishes/clergy as necessity demands.

Each of these forms is the Roman Rite and does not – so Prof. Dobszay and I suggest – distort this ancient way of praying the Divine Office. One of my main concerns in all this is that it should remain clear and easy to see that the abbreviations of the Office are adaptations within the original Roman form. As Prof. Dobszay puts it: “The books should be edited so that the Greater Form appears as a point of reference (Dobszay, Restoration, p. 109).” In other words it should be obvious that there is adaptation of an existing form rather than the creation of an entirely new form never seen before (as was done in the “reforms” which resulted in the Book of Common Prayer and the Liturgy of the Hours). Eventually, though it lies beyond the purpose of this blog and perhaps beyond the possibilities of the Anglican Breviary, such an adaptation could be made of the Sarum Use for use by Catholic Anglicans.


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The structure of Vespers

Vespers an Introduction

The Roman Divine Office seems to have achieved a stable structure in the 8th century, though other features of this Office date back much further (4th century or earlier see Dobszay, Critical Reflections on the Bugnini Liturgy: The Divine Office, p. 3). For my purpose, describing the basic structure of the Offices, a look at the Office as it was around the time of Charlemagne suffices. This a convenient point to start, but in no way indicates an ideal age* to which we must return. The liturgical day begins with Vespers following the order of creation in Genesis. Vespers, as Battifol suggests, is one of the three components of the Nocturnal course and is followed by Matins and Lauds. The second group of offices is Terce, Sext and None comprising three diurnal offices. The last group consists of Compline and Prime.

Vespers and Lauds are sister offices. They are placed at the pivots the day where darkness gives way to light and light to darkness. The predominant tone of these offices is praise. They progress from from Old testament Psalms through the Chapter and Hymn to the New Testament Canticle concluded by the Collect (or collects for often there are more than one). The story of fall and salvation is thus contained in the structure of these offices from prophecy to fulfillment. In the words of Prof Dobszay:  “from Creation (psalms) through redemption (hymn, canticle) to sanctification (collect)” (Dobszay, Critical Reflections, p. 4). The Office of Vespers begins with Opening Versicles which is invariably followed by five Psalms (well, except in the Office of St. Benedict where there are only four) and each Psalm has an antiphon. A Chapter, Hymn, Versicles, Antiphon, Magnificat, (sometimes Preces) and is finally concluded by the Collect.

*(Archaeologism is – in my view anyway – ill suited in Liturgics. Archeologism has corrupted the understanding of Liturgy as “given” and has rendered Liturgy malleable. Liturgy is now what we create rather than Liturgy is God’s given means to re-create us in His Image and Likeness. This explains such disastrous projects as the Book of Common Prayer in the English Catholic tradition and the Liturgy of the Hours in the Roman Catholic tradition.)

Deus in adiutoriam …

In the Anglican Breviary there are devotions given with which we may prepare ourselves to perform the Divine Office. These are the Prayers before the Office and consist of the Aperi DomineThe Prayer of St. Gertrude, Pater Noster, Ave Maria, and the Credo. These are not constituent parts of the Divine Office but devotions in preparation to the Divine Office (this is not to discourage them from use, but just to clarify what they are and are not).

The Office itself begins with “O God, make speed to save me. * O Lord, make haste to help me.” which is a citation taken from Psalm 70 vs. 1 (see Anglican Breviary, p. B123 & A2 though the translations of the verse vary slightly). The liturgical historian Father Pierre Battifol speculated at this point (see History of the Roman Breviary, p. 70) that the entire Psalm used to be said here not just the first verse. He provides some evidence for his assertion based on Chrodegang Regula 14 where it is said that Psalm 70 is recited out of Choir in the Dormitory preceding the Divine Office. Perhaps Battifol’s suggestion is not unreasonable but it is also not entirely convincing either. Saint Chrodegang did not in fact say that Psalm 70 was recited as the beginning of the Office and Amalrius of Metz a little later also seems to know nothing of such a practice:

Because of the aforementioned wild beasts, our shepherd says: “God, come to my assistance; Lord make haste to help me.” At the beginning of the office he requests that they be unable to succeed to such an extent as to separate someone from our gathering through their cleverness.

Amalarius of Metz, On the Liturgy, Bk 4. 2. 11.

It is, I suppose, possible that Amalarius is referencing the whole Psalm by its first verse but it seems a rather clumsy way to do it (if indeed he intended to indicate the whole Psalm which the text does not say). As it is it seems a more natural way to read Amalarius as confirming our traditional custom of just using the first verse.  Be that as it may the custom of simply using the first verse is entirely appropriate to begin the Office with. In fact, when you think about it, reciting the first verse rather than the whole Psalm seems to a better use rather than reciting the whole Psalm. Using only the first verse directs the attention to the specific content of this verse rather than distributing the focus at the beginning of the Office over the whole of Psalm 70. The invocation of God’s help to be able to pray is – it seems to me – better achieved with simple recitation of the first verse rather than the whole Psalm.

Psalm 70 vs 1 is followed by the Doxology which immediately gives the Office a specifically Christian shape. The doxology praises the Holy Trinity, as Father, Son, and Holy Ghost in the way St. Basil the Great had adapted it. The doxology accomplishes several things. On the one hand it makes immediately clear that the God of the Bible (the God invoked for help in Psalm 70) is none other but the Most Holy Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. This is an important point being made here. The God of the Scriptures is not the deity worshipped by Judaism, Islam, and certainly not the deity (or any of the deities) of the various forms of polytheism. The God of the Scriptures, as Christians know Him, is the Trinity. It is the Trinitarian God who is invoked to come to our help and assistance that we may be able to pray and commune with Him.

The Doxology itself also has an interesting history. Up until at least the time of St. Basil the Great (4th Century) the traditional form of the Doxology had been: Glory be to the Father, Through the Son, in the Holy Ghost. Some heretical teachers had used the different prepositions used for Father, Son and Holy Ghost to assert a difference of nature between Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. So that to the Father, through the Son, and in the Holy Ghost were taken as proving this point in a liturgical form. Clearly, it was argued, the Son and the Spirit are oriented toward the Father and thus subject to Him, and therefore different in nature from Him. The Glory, after all, is offered to the Father and not to the Son nor the Holy Ghost. St. Basil immediately recognized this was not the traditional understanding of the this liturgical formula and he countered the heretical assertion by laying down the traditional theology of the Trinity while also adapting the liturgical formula to Glory be to the Father, with the Son, and with the Holy Ghost which in our Western formula is Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. This formula leaves no room for the assertion of a difference of nature in the Trinity. The basilian formula is unambiguously Trinitarian.


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Completed Psalter Distribution

The series concerning the traditional distribution of the Psalter is now complete. I will now proof-read all the posts and link all of them together on one page for convenience. On that page I will also include pdf files of the same.

The traditional distribution I have used in this series was not based on Sarum but rather on the distribution as it was given at Trent. This distribution of the Psalter is near identical with how it was before Trent but it does have differences when compared to Sarum. Though this blog deals with the Anglican Breviary and the expectation might be that Sarum ought to be the ultimate resource I am not convinced that is necessarily the case. The Anglican Breviary and Missal are mostly modeled on the post-Tridentine Roman Rite and it makes sense (to me at least) to look at precisely that form of the Roman Rite to undo the destruction of the traditional Psalter performed under St. Pius X.

In addition to this I will also provide an abbreviated way of using the traditional distribution of the Psalms inspired by the work of the late Prof. Laszlo Dobszay (The Restoration and Organic Development of the Roman Rite.). The latter has worked hard to preserve the traditional Roman Office intact while also using the principally intact Roman Office as the basis for abbreviation so that shorter versions of the Office are still oriented toward their original and are versions of it rather than the destruction of it.

Gregory +

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Traditional Psalm Distribution for Terce, Sext, and None


The Psalms are distributed as given for Sunday and are repeated in the same way throughout the week. The Antiphons are as follows:


Sunday: Alleluia,* Alleluia, Alleluia.

Eastertide: Alleluia,* Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.

The above Antiphon is used every day in Eastertide.

Monday through Friday:

Antiphon throughout the year: Lead me* in the path of Thy commandments, O Lord.

Antiphon in Lent: Behold now the day* of repentance, to redeem sin, and save the world.

Antiphon in Passiontide: O Lord, Thou hast judged* the cause of my soul. Thou hast redeemed my life, O Lord my God.


Antiphon: Hold Thou me up,* O Lord, and I shall be safe.

Antiphon in Lent: Let us approve ourselves* in much patience, in much fasting, by the armour of righteousness.

Antiphon in Passiontide: O My people* what have I done unto thee, and wherein have I wearied Thee? Testify against me.


Antiphon: Look Thou upon me*, O Lord, and be merciful unto me.

Antiphon in Lent: Let us approve ourselves* in much patience, by the armour of righteousness, by the power of God.

Antiphon in Passiontide: Did not they reward me evil for good?* for they digged a pit for my soul.

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Traditional Psalm Distribution for Prime


Prime on Sundays

Antiphon: Alleluia.

Psalm 54 – B16

Psalm 118 – B17

Psalm 119 i & ii – B18-9

Antiphon: Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.

Prime on Weekdays

All the same as on Sunday, except as otherwise given here:


Antiphon throughout the year: Blessed are they that walk.

Antiphon in Lent: As I live.

Passiontide: Deliver me, O Lord.

Throughout the week Psalm 54 is here said but not 118.

Psalm 24 – B47-8


Psalm 25 – B70-1


Psalm 26 – B92


Psalm 23 – B116


Psalm 22 – B139-40


Psalm 118 is simply omitted and no other is substituted for it.

Antiphon throughout the year: Blessed are they that walk in Thy law, O Lord.

Antiphon in Lent: As I live saith the Lord, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that he turn from his way and live.

Passiontide: Deliver me, O Lord, and set me beside Thee: and any man’s hand may fight against me.

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Traditional Psalm Distribution for Compline


Antiphon: Have mercy.

Eastertide: Alleluia.

Psalm 4

Psalm 30 (vs 1-8) – B50-51

Psalm 91 – B33

Psalm 134 – B34

Antiphon: Have mercy upon me, O Lord, and hear my prayer.

Eastertide: Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.

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