Nativity of the BVM (at Lauds)

The Diurnal as edited by St. John Mason Neale has some remarkable deviations from the Office as we know it from the Anglican Breviary. Comparing the two, as we did with Vespers, may enrich our understanding of what it is we are celebrating today:

    Versiculus Sacerdotalis

V. The Lord shall come down like the rain into a fleece of wool. R. Even as the drops that water the earth.

Many Medieval uses began Lauds by adding a V. & R. before the opening versicles. The Versiculus Sacerdotalis serves a similar function to the Invitatory verse at Matins: to set the tone of the Office to follow. 


  1. Who is she that looketh forth as the morning: fair as the moon, clear as the sun?
  2. My dove, my undefiled is but one: she is the only one of her mother, she is the choice one of her that bare her.
  3. The daughters saw her and blessed her: yea, the queens, and they praised her.
  4. Arise, and come away, O my dove: let me see thy countenance.
  5. How fair and how pleasant art thou: O love, for delights.

    Chapter     Baruch v

For God will shew thy brightness unto every country under heaven. For thy name shall be called of God for ever, the peace of righteousness, and the true glory of God’s worship.

    Ant. Ben. 

For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee.

The antiphons on the Psalms again identify the Blessed Virgin Mary (as at Vespers last night) by making scriptural allusions. In Neale’s Diurnal it is a  ery beautiful feature that for the Psalter of last night the Psalms used for the Vespers of Christmas Day was used. Thereby making a liturgical connection between the Blessed Virgin and her Son. The Virgin’s privilege is rooted in Him whose Mother she is. She therefore derives “her” Palms from her Son (Christmas ranks as a higher feast than the Nativity of the BVM ! ).

Likewise, at the second antiphon, when the BVM is names as “undefiled” such a privilege is derived from her Son. Those following the dogmatic definition proclaimed in the Roman Church concerning the immaculate conception of the BVM will, perhaps, find a connection between the new dogma and this antiphon here. Such a privilege is also derived from her Son. It seems that even the commemoration of today, St. Hadrian and his wife Natalie give symbolical expression of the Blessed Virgin’s loyalty to her Son as He hung dying on the Cross (like holy Natalie stayed by her husband’s side as he suffered his martyrdom). But there is more! Lesson ix, for St. Hadrian, tells us that because of  “[Natalie’s] share in his sufferings, she also is accounted as a Martyr, and was buried amongst the relics of those who were martyred at this time, albeit she herself died not the martyr’s death of violence.” Prefiguring, perhaps, the “piercing of Mary’s heart” as she co-suffered with her Son.

Much to meditatively chew on!

Fr. Gregory Wassen

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Nativity of the B.V.M.


The Diurnal in the edition based on the work St. John Mason Neale directs one to use the propers from the feast of the Conception of the BVM. There we find the following propers for tonight:


  1. There shall come a Star out of Jacob: and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel.
  2. The Ark went upon the face of the waters: and the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth.
  3. The Lord Himself shall give you a sign: Behold the Virgin shall conceive, and bear a son.
  4. When she which travaileth hath brought forth: then the remnant of his brethren shall return unto the children of Israel.
  5. The same is the woman: whom the Lord hath pointed out for my Master’s Son.

Chapter. Jeremiah XXIII

BEHOLD, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous branch, and a king shall reign, and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth.

R. Thus saith the Lord that made thee, and formed thee from the womb: I will pour My Spirit upon thy Seed, and My blessing shall be upon thine Offspring. V. That holy Thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. R. I will pour My Spirit upon Thy Seed, and My blessing upon thine Offspring. V. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. R. Thus saith the Lord that made thee, and formed thee from the womb: I will pour My Spirit upon thy Seed, and My blessing shall be upon thine Offspring.

V. This is God’s hill, in the which it pleaseth Him to dwell. R. Yea, the Lord will abide in it forever.

Ant. Magn. The work is great, for the palace is not for men: but for the Lord God.

Though there is nothing wrong with Common II as used in the Anglican Breviary it yet seems that these above propers really do cover both the Conception and the Nativity well. It also establishes and celebrates their connection. In the Anglican Breviary – which follows the new propers for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception – the connection of the feasts has not disappeared. Though both feasts could* have their own propers taken from Common I of BVM (Imm. Conc. of BVM) or from Common II of BVM (Nat. of BVM).

Fr. Gregory Wassen

* See the rubrics at the top of p. F193.

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Beheading of St. John Baptist & Commemoration of St. Sabina

Lessons selected from the II & III Nocturn:

Lesson iv: We must not hurry past the record of blessed Baptist John.  We must ask what he was; by whom he was slain; and why and how.  He was a righteous man, murdered  icon_of_john_the_baptist_yaroslavl_16cfor his righteousness by adulterers.  He was a judge, who suffered condemnation to death by the guilty ones because he had justly judged their guilt.  He was the prophet whose death was a fee paid to a dancing-girl for a lascivious dance.  And lastly a thing from which even savages would shrink his head was served up as a dish at a banquet.  For the order to commit the atrocity was given amid the merriment of a dinner-party; and the servants of the murderer introduced the murder amid the courses of the meal, running from banquet to prison, and from prison to banquet!  See how many infamies are contained in this one crime.

Lesson v: Who is there that, on seeing the messenger hasten from the dinner-table to the prison, would not have forthwith concluded that he carried an order for the prophet’s release?  If anyone had heard that it was Herod’s birthday, and that he was giving a great feast, and that he had offered a damsel the choice of whatever she wished, and that thereupon a messenger had been sent to John’s dungeon―if anyone, I say, had heard this, what would he have supposed?  He would have concluded that the damsel had asked and obtained John’s freedom.  What hath merry-making in common with cruelty? or pleasure-seeking with death-dealing?  While the banquet was in progress, the prophet was hurried to his doom, by an order from the reveller whom he had not troubled even by a prayer for release.  He was slain with the sword, and his head was served up in a charger.  This was the new dish demanded by a cruelty which the banquet had been powerless to glut.

Lesson vi: Look, O cruel king, and see a decoration which suiteth well thy banquet!  Stretch forth thine hand, and touch the head of death at thy feast.  So as to lose no part of the luxury of cruelty, let the streams of his sacred blood run between thy fingers.  Thine hunger the dinner hath been unable to satisfy; thy cups have not been able to quench thine inhuman thirst; drink the blood still flowing from the palpitating veins of this sacred head.  Look at the eyes!  Even in death they remain the witness of thine uncleanness, albeit they have made haste to close themselves upon the spectacle of thy pleasures.  Those eyes are closing, but, as it were, not so much from death, as from horror at thine enjoyment.  That golden mouth, whose bloodless lips are silent now, can repeat no more the denunciation which thou couldest not bear to hear!  But even yet thou art afraid of their unspoken judgments!

Lesson ix: St. Sabina, Holy Woman & Martyr. Sabina was a Roman lady, the wife of a distinguished nobleman named Valentine.  The Christian faith was taught to her by a maiden named Seraphia.  After the martyrdom of this holy virgin, Sabina gathered together her relicks, and buried them with godly service.  For this cause she was in a SabinaSeraphialittle while arrested, under the Emperor Hadrian, and brought before the Judge Elpidius.  Art thou, said he, the same Sabina who is so distinguished for her blood and her marriage?  She answered: I am; but I give thanks to my Lord Jesus Christ for having delivered me through the prayers of his hand-maiden Seraphia from the troubling of the devils.  Divers attempts were made to make her change her mind, but when they proved in vain, the Prefect passed sentence of death upon her for despising the gods.  The Christians laid her body in the same grave in which she had herself laid that of Seraphia, her teacher in the faith.


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St. Symphorian & Autumn

St.SymphorianToday: the Octave Day of the Repose of the Blessed Virgin Mary & the Commemoration of Sts. Timothy, Hippolytus, and Symphorian.

Liturgy tells time. St. Symphorian, in previous times, indicated the end of summer and the beginning of autumn according to an old verse:

“Winter goes off, and skies grow fair,
When Simon Peter fits in Chair [Febr. 22]:
Saint Urban bids the spring be gone [May25]:
Symphorian calls the autumn on [August 22]:
Saint Clement’s day [November 21] wind and rain
And cold of winter brings again.”

The cycle of the liturgical year “incarnates” the presence of God in Jesus Christ into the very fabric of our daily lives. If only we would let it.


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On the Psalter in the Western Church

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The Divine Office in pdf (Roman Breviary)

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Later Editions of Neale’s Breviary

As St. John Mason Neale died before he could complete his efforts at compiling a Breviary for the Order of St. Margaret, his friends continued his work using Neale’s notes. As they worked with these notes and published the results of their study and work, they become increasingly aware that they had made some mistakes in where Neale was actually going with his works on the Breviary and so his friends incorporated their latest insights in further publications. This explains the difference between the volumes that were supposed to match.

This means that the use of Neale’s work, if you are so inclined, might begin by looking at the latest publications and using the “older” ones to conform with the more recent. The following PDF’s are the Offices of Matins (including the Proper of the Season, but not the Proper of the Saints) and the Day Hours (Lauds to Compline) in the latest publication date I am aware off. To use them one would still need to consult the Volume 3 in the previous post in order to complete the Office of Matins.

Matins Volumes 1 & 2: Breviary_Offices_Vol_1_and-2

Matins Volume 3: The_night_hours_of_the_Church_Vol_3

Diurnal Volume: Breviary_Offices_from_Lauds_to_Compline_second_edition

Please do enjoy !

Fr. Gregory Wassen

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