The Common of the Season (i)


Prayer is always to be vocalized. It does not suffice to merely “mentally peruse” the Breviary:

To pray is to ask to be made ready to hear. … prayer is a kind of hearing – not a mere opening of the ears, but a trained attentiveness in a habit acquired over years, even decades; a directedness towards in a particular manner. ‘I pray you …’ is a construction now rarely heard in contemporary speech, but once it meant a gracious form of address, attempting to draw towards one the attention of one greater than oneself, an openness for them to speak, to act, to direct their attention to the one uttering the request.

Laurence Paul Hemming, “Worship as Revelation: The Past, Present and Future of Catholic Liturgy,” p. 1.

Even mere reading was out loud in ancient times so that Phillip was able to hear the Ethiopian Eunuch read the prophet Isaiah (Acts 8). Directing ourselves to anyone other than ourselves requires speech. If prayer occurs only within our own minds it is a monologue rather than the beginning of a dialogue. The Anglican Breviary correctly, in my view, requires that – at least – “each word thereof must be formed with the lips” which includes those words which are directed to be “silent” by the Rubrics. Silent means whispering words not merely thinking the words. In reading the Breviary we are about to enter a dialogue, we direct ourselves to God.

The Introduction to the Office

The Office is preceded by introductory devotions which help us break free from our previous activity and to prepare for an entirely different kind of activity. These introductory devotions are not “unnecessary repetitions” or “expendable elements” hindering rather than serving the performance of the Divine Office. The introductory devotions are:

  • Aperi, Domine
  • The Prayer of St. Gertrude
  • Triple or Dual Prayer
    • Pater Noster
    • Ave Maria
    • Credo in Deum

These prayers are the means of preparation for the prayer of the Divine Office. They do not themselves require preparation. It is unfortunate that the Book of Common Prayer and the 1962 (and later) Roman reforms of the Breviary have eliminated these preparations from the Divine Office. Even though these introductory devotions may be relative latecomers in the development of the Divine Office, that does not mean they are without function. The introductory devotions themselves break us out of whatever we were doing before, sleep, work, whatever, and render us prepared for the performance of the Divine Office. To make this point more clear let me add the following: Just because the Book of Revelation is a relatively late addition to the canon of Scripture it does not therefore follow that it is without function, expendable, or an unnecessary addition to the Bible. The same is true for the introductory devotions of the Anglican Breviary. That is not to say that the introductory devotions are of as much authority and necessity as the Book of Revelation, but the analogy serves to undermine the principle that “late addition” equals useless, expendable and/or unnecessary addition.

How these Payers are used

The Aperi Domine is always used in combination with the Prayer of St. Gertrude they are never separated. The are always said before beginning an OfficeWhen once said and more Hours are aggregated (adding several Hours into one sitting as it were) they are NOT repeated for each Hour aggregated. They are said ONLY once at the beginning of the first Hour of the aggregation.

The Pater noster, Ave Maia, and Credo in Deum are always said before Matins (no matter where Matins may or may not occur in an aggregation) and similarly before Prime (no matter where Prime may or may not occur in an aggregation), they are also always said after Compline immediately following the Marian Antiphon (of which more will be said later). This trio is referred to as The Triple Prayer and above is described how this devotion is used. The other Hours of the Anglican Breviary are preceded not by the Triple Prayer but by the Dual Prayer which consists of the Pater noster and the Ave Maria. They are always used when beginning any Hour of the Divine Office which is not Matins or Prime, in aggregation, however, they are not repeated at the beginning of those Hours which are part of the aggregation. Therefor if it should occur that Compline is followed by Matins in an aggregation the Triple Prayer will be said for the ending of Compline as well as for the beginning of Matins.

Once these introductory devotions have been completed the Divine Office proper begins with the Opening Versicles which is where the next post will pick up.

Gregory +


About Father Gregory

I am an Anglican Catholic Priest, currently residing in Orvelte, the Netherlands.
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