Archive for the ‘how-come?’ Category

O Antiphons

December 16, 2013 Leave a comment

I’ll note here briefly in advance of questions that the breviary follows the Sarum and prayer book practice of beginning the O Antiphons of Advent on the 16th of December. The Roman form, beginning on the 17th, lacks the last of the antiphons appointed in our scheme for the 23rd:

O Virgin of virgins, how shall this be? for neither before thee, nor shall there be after. Daughters of Jerusalem, why marvel ye at me? the thing which ye behold is a divine mystery.

For more, here’s a piece I wrote at the Episcopal Cafe a while back on the O Antiphons.

Categories: how-come?

On the Transference of the Annunciation

March 25, 2012 2 comments

I know I’m going to hear about it on this one so I thought I’d put up a preemptive post…

The ’79 BCP states that when prayer book Holy Days fall on  privileged Sundays, they: “are normally transferred to the first convenient open day within the week” (BCP, 16). What I ponder is the precise meaning of “convenient” and “open”. While having a broad appeal across the range of Anglican spiritualities, the breviary was set up with a particular eye towards traditional Anglo-Catholic practice and one of the key features here is the inclusion of Eves/First Vespers.

If we’re celebrating the First Vespers of a prayer book Holy Day then it can’t be put on Monday because the First Vespers will interfere with the Second Vespers of the Sunday. As a result, the first “open” day is the Monday for the First Vespers and Tuesday for the rest of the feast.

In making this decision, I’m following the official practice of the English Book of Common Prayer which spells this out. In the late 19th century folks like Vernon Staley and Walter Frere raised this question of transference and, eventually, a rubric to this effect was placed in the book: “…it shall be permissible to transfer a greater Holy Day falling on a Sunday to the following Tuesday, except that St. Stephen’s Day, Epiphany, and All Saints’ Day may not be so transferred.”

This is why, in the breviary, you’ll find the First Vespers of the Annunciation on Monday evening and the full feast celebrated on Tuesday.


Categories: announcements, how-come?

The Antiphon and the Venite

September 3, 2011 3 comments

The Issue of Antiphon Placement in the BCP

The use of the Venite/Psalm 95 as an opening element of the day’s praise has been a feature of Western Christian practice practically as far back as we have record. In order that this static element might reflect more of the character of the liturgy being celebrated, seasonal and festal antiphons were soon added and are a feature in the western liturgy by the early medieval period. (I just tried to find an early example in the monastic manuscripts of St Gall to back up this generality, but began to get sucked into the works of Eucherius of Lyon… )

As supplemental material, though, the invitatory antiphons  were left on the Reformation’s cutting room floor and would not reappear into the Books of Common Prayer until the 1928 revisions due, no doubt, to the influence of Frere and others in the Victorian Sarum Revival. with their reappearance comes a problem that catholic Anglicans have always faced: how do we properly incorporate fitting materials back into our liturgical practice? What are the points of negotiation necessary to intelligently fit the classic pattern to the often altered patterns of whatever current authorized BCP is being used?

The 1928 books solved the problem for us. The American book appoints the antiphon to only be used once: “On the days hereafter named, immediately before the Venite may be sung or said…” In the English Proposed 1928 book the Alternative Order for Morning Prayer directs that: “On the days hereafter named, before this Psalm and after the Gloria Patri which follows it, may be sung or said the Invitatory…”

The American 1979 book reopens the question: “One of the following Antiphons may be sung or said with the Invitatory Psalm.”

So—what’ll it be: before-and-after or some other pattern?

Historic Western Use

Historic Western use has never been thrilled with just a single repetition of the invitatory antiphon.

A classic early example is the use of the antiphon in the Office of the Blessed Virgin in the English prymers:

[psalm 95 ] : Venite, exultemus.
Come ye, make we ful out ioie  to þe lord; herteli synge we to god oure helþe;  [2] bifore occupie we  his face in knouleching; & herteli synge we  to him salmes.
Hail, marie, ful of grace ! þe lord is wiþ þee.
3 For god is a greet lord, and greet kyng aboue alle goddis. for þe lord schal not putte awey his puple ; [4] for alle þe endis of erþe ben in his hond,  & þe hignessis of hillis ben hise.
þe lord is wiþ þee.
5 For þe see is his, & he made it, & hise hondis formeden þe drie lond. [6] come ye, herie we, & falle we doun bifore god ; wepe we bifore þe lord þat made us ! [7] for he is oure lord god ; & we ben þe puple of his lesewe, & þe scheep of his hond.
Hail, marie, ful of grace ! þe lord is wiþ þee.
8 If ye han herde his vois to dai, nyle ye make harde youre hertis ; as bi þe terryng to wraþþe, bi þe dai of temptacioun in desert; [9] where youre fadris temptiden me; þei preueden & siyen my werkis.
þe lord is wiþ þee.
10 Fourti yeer y was oifendid to þis generacioun, and y seide : ‘ euere fei erren in herte.’ & þese men knewen not my weies ; [11] to whiche y swore in myn ire, þei sehulen not entre in-to my reste.’
Hail, marie, ful of grace ! þe lord is wiþ þee.
Glorie be to þe fadir, & to þe sone, & to þe holi gost ! As it was in þe beginnyng, & now, & euer in-to þe worldis of worldis. amen !
þe lord is wif fee.
Hail, marie, ful of grace ! þe lord is wiþ þee.

So—a few things jump out based on this use. First, it’s interspersed—not just before-and-after. Second, although the prymers were primarily (though not exclusively) designed for private recitation, the pattern of the antiphon betrays its origins in antiphonal choral recitation; the tell-tale sign is the use of the second half and the recitation of both elements at the end. Third, a key principle in the antiphon’s disbursement seems not to be sense-units. If we wanted to follow the literary structure of the psalm, we wouldn’t insert a break between elements of creation: “erþe ” and “see”.

When we turn to our early twentieth century Roman sources and the Anglican texts that follow them, we see the stability of this antiphon distribution from the Marquis of Bute’s 1908 translation of the Tridentine Breviary:

Invitatory. Let us worship the Lord, for * He is our Maker.
Repetition. Let us worship the Lord, for * He is our Maker.
O COME, let us sing unto the LORD, let us make a joyful noise to the God of our Salvation : let us come before His presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto Him with psalms.
Let us worship the Lord, for He is our Maker.
For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods : for the Lord will not cast off His people : for in His hand are all the ends of the earth ; and the heights of the hills are His also.
He is our Maker.
For the sea is His, and He made it : and His hands formed the dry land : O come, let us worship and fall down ; let us cry unto the LORD our Maker.  For He is the Lord our God ; and we are His people, and the sheep of His pasture.
Let us worship the Lord, for He is our Maker.
To-day if ye will hear His voice, harden not your heart ; as in “the Provocation,”; and as in the day of “Temptation”; in the wilderness : when your fathers tempted Me, proved Me, and saw My works.
He is our Maker.
Forty years long was I grieved with that generation and said, It is a people that do alway err in their heart, and they have not known My ways : unto whom I sware in My wrath that they should not enter into My rest.
Let us worship the Lord, for He is our Maker.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
He is our Maker.
Let us worship the Lord, for He is our Maker.

Likewise, this is the distribution in The Monastic Diurnal and the Anglican Breviary.

Turning to official Anglican sources, there is no paragraphing in either the Venite in Morning Prayer or Psalm 95 in the Psalter of the American ’28 book.

There are some changes in the ’79 book.

Paragraphing has been added to the Venite in both services of Morning Prayer, the Rite I version of Psalm 95 tucked away after the offices, and in the Psalm 95 of the Psalter. The last is the simplest—there is a gap between verse 7 and 8—but gets us to one of two major points of interpretation.

Oh, that today…

In the contemporary language versions of the psalm in both Rite II MP and in the Psalter, verse 7 has 3 sense units:

  1. For he is our God,
  2. and we are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand. *
  3. Oh, that today you would hearken to his voice!

But does element 3 belong with the rest of the verse or does it go with what comes after? A survey of other psalters (i.e., the ’28, the RSV, the  NIV, and the NRSV) quickly shows that these place element 3 with the next section, noting the parallelism between the “oh” that may start the previous section at the beginning of verse 6.

Note that the “Oh, that today” section does not appear in the Venite of either the ’28 BCP or Rite I, and that it is placed with what follows rather than what precedes in the Rite I version on BCP p. 146. Americans seem to have always been squeemish about the last part of Ps 95 and its references to God’s wrath and the first 1789 American BCP substitutes it with the section of Ps 96 with which we are familiar.

Part of the fervor of the Liturgical Renewal Movement that spawned the ’79 BCP was the desire to return ad fontes—to get back to the original sources and intentions and to see why certain elements were included in services at all. It’s clear from this alteration in customary practice that the editors decided that this phrase, “Oh, that today you would hearken to his voice!” was the chief reason why this psalm was appointed for daily use throughout Western practice. They kept the original 1789 decision to drop the rest of Ps 95, and simply tacked this (incomplete) phrase onto the previous section to sneak it in.

The sea is his…

The other paragraphing issue is the inclusion of verse 5, the section beginning “The sea is his…” with what precedes it rather than with what follows it in the versions of the Venite in both rites of Morning Prayer. This is clearly a sense-unit issue and is motivated by two points of evidence; first, since v. 5 continues the theme of creation as exemplification of God’s greatness, it properly belongs with what comes before. Second, as noted above, the hortatory “O” at the start of v. 6 identifies a new section of the psalm as well as a shift in thought.

So—bottom line: the BCP versions of the Venite alter the structure off traditional lines in order to better represent the literary sense-units of the psalm, and to tag on the line that may well have served as the impetus for this psalm’s selection in the first place.

A Resolution

So where should the antiphons go? Do we leave them in the traditional position or place them where the current paragraphs end? (I had defaulted to the traditional placement.)

I don’t think it makes a huge difference liturgically. If anything, using the antiphons with the current paragraphs is better exegetically, as the “sea” section does make more sense connected with the “earth” section rather than with the “O come” section with which it was grouped previously.

The final deciding factor that I had previously overlooked is the service music in the hymnal. S-2, 4-10, 34-40 clearly place the antiphons at the end of the current paragraphs and since the breviary does strive to follow the current books, this is where they shall go.

The only odd ambiguity here is S-9 and 10, the Rite I version of the full Ps 95 appointed for us in Lent and penitential days: It places the antiphon after “…sheep of his hand” making “Today if ye will hear his voice…” the start of the next section where the Rite II settings continue to lump “Oh, that today you would hearken…” with what comes before rather than what comes after!

So—for those of you who interchange between Rites I and II, using Rite I in the penitential seasons, you will notice an antiphon shift when the full Ps 95 is used.

Categories: how-come?

On Commemorations in the Evening

July 14, 2011 5 comments

A couple of people who use the breviary have asked what seems to a simple and straight-forward question:

Q: Why are there commemorations in the evening?

I’ve got a fairly simple answer, but I’m not going to give it yet. The reason is because there a lot more to this question than meets the eye. So—the first order of business is actually to explain the question, then I can get on to explaining the answer.

What’s a Commemoration?

The first step is to explain what the heck a “commemoration” is.

If a feast day falls on a Sunday or on another more important feast day, there are three basic strategies for dealing with it: suppression, transference or commemoration. That is, you can either keep the more important and ignore the less important, keep the more important and move the less important out to a more convenient (empty) day, or keep the more important but add in some selected elements from the less important.

Some kalendars—particularly those with quite a lot of saints—put some saints into a category of “memorial” or perpetual commemoration, meaning that even if they fall on an otherwise empty day, they’ll still only receive a commemoration rather than a proper office of their own. In the current St Bede’s Breviary, the kalendars from the Anglican Missal and the English/Knox Missal have occasions like these.

The way that we construct a commemoration for the Office is by taking three propers and bundling them together: the antiphon from the gospel canticle, the verse and response after the hymn, and the appointed collect. This prayer-packet is then inserted after the collect of the day.  For instance, this is the morning commemoration for St Swithun (Rite I), appointed by the English Missal for July 15th:

Commemoration of Swithun, Bishop of Winchester, c.862

Well done, good and faithful servant, * because thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things, saith the Lord.

V. The Lord guided the righteous in right paths.
R. And showed him the kingdom of God.

O God, our heavenly Father, who didst raise up thy faithful servant Swithun to be a bishop and pastor in thy Church and to feed thy flock: Give abundantly to all pastors the gifts of thy Holy Spirit, that they may minister in thy household as true servants of Christ and stewards of thy divine mysteries; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

So, the spacing helps you see the antiphon from the gospel canticle, the verse and response from the hymn, and then the collect. In this particular case, both the antiphon and the versicle are from the common of confessor bishops who weren’t martyrs; the collect is from the BCP’s common of priests.

So, in the Office, that’s a commemoration: a prayer-packet acknowledging a feast that doesn’t get a full celebration that is placed after the collect of the day.

What About the “Evening”?

Now, if you look in a number of Roman Catholic or Anglo-Catholic devotional materials, you note that commemorations are the kind of thing that tend to happen in the morning. For instance, the current (11th) edition of Ritual Notes states that for ordinary commemorations (which is what we’re dealing with here):

All other commemorations whatever are described as “ordinary,” and are made at Matins [Morning Prayer] and low Mass (and conventual solemn Masses) only; not, therefore, at parochial high or sung Mass, nor ever at Evensong, whether first or second (p. 269)

So—that seems pretty clear, doesn’t it?

Now we’re in a position to properly appreciate the question: Why are there commemorations in the evening?

It would seem that in doing so, I’m using an Anglo-Catholic custom, but then turning around and flying in the face of Anglo-Catholic custom…which does seem rather contradictory.

My Answer

There are, of course, two answers—the short answer and the long answer—and I’ll present them both in turn.

The short answer: The St Bede’s Breviary begins with the assumptions of the 1979 American Book of Common Prayer and then adds elements from catholic tradition to it.  In my application of catholic tradition, I have weighed historical use in relation to the underlying liturgical and theological logics that have driven and determined that use. In cases where the underlying logic is contrary to or nonsensical in relation to the ’79 BCP, I have either searched for a reasonable Anglican alternative or have followed my own best judgment. (My wife can give her own commentary on how successfully the latter course of action normally turns out…)

The long answer is an explanation of how the short answer works. To do that, we’ll have to begin with a quick introduction to medieval methods for structuring liturgical time…

Medieval Methods for Structuring Liturgical Time

The Western Church has tended to sort days into one of two categories: feasts days and regular days (aka ferial days or simply ferias [Yes, that’s not a correct Latin plural—deal with it.]). A feria is reckoned the same way a secular day is; it starts and ends at midnight. Speaking litgurically according to the old canonical hours, therefore,  ferias begin with Matins at 3:30 AM or so and end with the conclusion of Compline at around 8:30 PM. Feast days work on a slightly different axis.

Following Jewish tradition and therefore the practice of the first generations of Christians, feast days begin at sundown on the day prior to the feast and end at sundown on the day of the feast. However, sundown is easier said than scheduled. As a result, there’s a de facto “liturgical sundown.” On regular feasts—Simple feasts to use the technical term—the feast began at the Little Chapter during Vespers then would run through the end of the None Office the next day. Thus, a Simple feast is actually a little bit shorter than a full day; if back-to-back Simple feasts show up in the kalendar, it actually creates a little gap.

Example: on Monday, February 13th, in 1486, the Feast of St Valentine started at Vespers with the Little Chapter. February 14th continued the feast as it  ran through Compline on the night of the 13th, Matins in the wee hours of the morning on the 14th, Lauds, and the Little Hours up through None and therefore to the late afternoon. At that point, the feast of St Valentine ended. Vespers began as the Vespers for Tuesday, following the psalms appointed for Tuesday. After the opening and the psalms, though, the feast of Sts. Faustinus and Jovita starts and continues through the rest of the 14th and the 15th as far as None.

This looks confusing, but makes perfect sense if you recall one basic principle: the psalms for Lauds and the Little Hours were mostly static; to cover all of the psalms in a week (RB 18.22-25), 1-108 were covered at Matins and 109-147 were covered at Vespers (roughly). If proper psalms kept being appointed for feasts there’s no way they’d make it through the last third of the psalter!

Not all feasts are equal, though; not all feasts are Simple. The more important feasts were referred to as Doubles, presumably because at some point in the Early Church a regular Office of the day was said, then an additional Office was said for the saint or feast. By the time we have extant manuscripts and descriptions of Offices, though, this was not the case. Instead, Doubles were lengthened according to their importance. A Double began at the beginning of Vespers on the Day before, continued through Compline into the feast day proper and did not end after None but continued on through a second Vespers and a second Compline. Thus, a Double had two Vespers, one on the evening before the feast and one on the feast itself. (It had two Complines as well, but Vespers is a much larger, more involved, and more variable Office than Compline, so a second Compline has little practical effect on the liturgy’s celebration.

In theory, you might expect that most feasts would be Simples and that the more important feasts would be Doubles. And perhaps that how it was at one point. By the modern period, however, it was not the case. Looking at the kalendar of Pius Xth from 1920, we see that of the 296 fixed festal days of the year, 256 were Doubles of some sort; only 27 were Simples. (And it may be alleged that the psalm issue had something to do with it—the festal psalm sequence used for Vespers on Doubles tended to be a bit shorter than the ferial sequences; messing with the psalms was sometimes the intention!)

So to recap, in the West through the reforms of Pius X three kinds of days were reckoned differently in the church:

  • ferial days ran from midnight to midnight, starting at Matins and running to the end of Compline
  • Simple feasts ran from evening to evening in a shorter sense, starting from the Little Chapter at Vespers and running until the end of the  None Office
  • Double feasts ran from evening to the next night, starting at the beginning of Vespers the evening before and running through Compline on the day of the feast
  • (I’m skipping semidoubles because they don’t even begin to touch on what we’re talking about!)

Now—if there were a case of occurrence, two feasts happening on the same day, between a Double and a Simple, then the Double would get all of its regular offices and the Simple would get a commemoration after the Double’s Collect of the Day for its evening-before Vespers and its Lauds.

Then the 1950’s happened…

The Twentieth Century really was the great age of liturgical tumult for the breviary. First, Pius Xth started fussing with things in the ‘Teens and ‘Twenties, then we had the ‘Fifties and the run-up to the seismic shift that would occur with the Second Vatican Council in the ‘Sixties. In March of 1955, the Roman Catholic Congregation for Sacred Rites put out a document that radically changed how time was reckoned. It did so by stripping all feasts except for Doubles of the First and Second Class (Christmas, Easter, Feasts of Apostles, etc.) of their First Vespers. This meant that a Simple feast no longer went from its First Vesper to the following None, instead it went only from Matins to None.

Example: on  February 13th in 1956, the Feast of St Valentine didn’t start until the next day. February 14th began the feast with Matins in the wee hours of the morning, Lauds, and the Little Hours up through None and therefore to the late afternoon. At that point, the feast of St Valentine ended.

But what happened if the 14th were a Sunday? (No, I didn’t look it up…) St Valentine would only receive a commemoration at Lauds.  Since the feast only extended from Matins to None, it wasn’t celebrated at any Vespers whatsoever! As a result, it wouldn’t properly be commemorated at any Vespers whatsoever either.

Ritual Notes, 11th edition, quoted above was printed in 1964. Hence, following the new (Roman Catholic) rules that went into effect in 1956, it is correct. However, any time before 1956, a commemoration would have occurred at the Vespers on the evening-before when the First (and only) Vespers of the Simple was to be celebrated. (See the rubrics regarding commemorations in the Anglican Breviary and Monastic Diurnal for this practice.)

In light of all of this, my contention is that the commemorations-are-only-for-the-morning logic is based on a particular means of simplifying a historical method for reckoning the length of feast days.

When we come to the ’79 BCP, it knows nothing of Simple feasts that extend from the previous evening to the day’s afternoon. It does recognize the First Vespers of Principal Feasts, Sundays and Holy Days as it provides Eves for Calendar categories 1 and 3 and gives this note on the introduction to the Collects: “The Collect appointed for any Sunday or other Feast may be used at the evening service of the day before” (p. 158). However, there is no sign that the Days of Optional Observance are celebrated outside the boundaries of the natural day (i.e., midnight to midnight as we Americans normally tend to reckon them).

As a result, a Day of Optional Observance—which would be our version of a Simple—would be celebrated at both Morning and Evening Prayer. Therefore, if it were to be impeded through occurrence, it would likewise make sense to commemorate it at both Morning and Evening Prayer.

Thus, I agree wholeheartedly with the practice of commemorations and include them in the St Bede’s Breviary. However, I think the “traditional” practice of only using them in the morning is based in a logic that is at odds with both our prayer book and the way that we keep time.


Categories: how-come?