Divine Office – Divinum Officium

The Divine Office

A Study of the Roman Breviary

Part I.—General Questions On The Divine Office.

Chapter IV. The Contents of the Breviary.

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Etymology, nature and synonyms. The word semi-double (semi-duplex) is derived from the Latin; and some writers hold that the word indicates feasts which are of lower rank and solemnity than double feasts. Others hold that it means simply, feasts holding a place between double feasts and simple feasts. Most writers on liturgy hold that on some days a double office—one of the feast and one of the feria—was held, and that in order to shorten this double recitation there was said a composite office, partly of the saint's office and partly of the feria; and they say that from this practice arose the term semi-double, or half-double.

Synonyms for the term "semi-duplex," are "non-duplex," "office of nine lessons."

1. The antiphons are not doubled in a semi-double office.

2. The Sundays of the year, excepting Easter Sunday, Low Sunday, Pentecost and Trinity, are said according to the semi-double rite. In the new Breviaries the Psalms for Matins are only nine in number, instead of the eighteen of the older book.

3. The versicles, antiphons, responses, preces and suffrages of saints, which are recited in semi-double offices, are given below under their own titles.


Etymology, nature and synonyms. The word simple comes from the Latin simplex, to indicate the least solemn form of office and it is the direct opposite in meaning to the term "double." It is synonymous with the term so often found in liturgical works, the office of three lessons.

This form of office is of great antiquity, going back to the fifth century. In the early ages of the Church and down to the fourteenth century the simple office consisted of the ferial office with lessons, antiphons and prayers. But in the end of the fourteenth century, simples came to be celebrated in the same manner as semi-doubles, with nine lessons and their nocturns, and in case of occurrence were transferred. As a result the offices of Sunday and the ferial offices were practically crushed out of the Breviary. The Commission of Reform applied an easy remedy, by restoring simple feasts to their ancient place and status. Now, they are not to be transferred; but in case of occurrence with a feast of higher rite they are merely commemorated.

These feasts have first Vespers only. At Matins, the nine psalms and three lessons are said as one nocturn. The psalms in semi-double feasts are from the Psalter under the day of the week on which the feast is celebrated. "In quolibet alio Festo duplici etiam major, vel semi duplici vel simplici et in Feriis Tempore Paschali, semper dicantur Psalmi, cum antiphonis in omnibus Horis, et versibus ad matutinum, ut in Psalterio de occurrente hebdomadae die" (Tit, I. sec, 3. Additiones et Variationes).

In commemorations in the Office, the versicle, response, antiphon and collect of a semi-double is made after the following commemorations (if they should have a place in the recitation of the day).

(1) Any Sunday, (2) a day within the privileged octave of the Epiphany or Corpus Christi, (3) an octave day, (4) a great double, (5) a lesser double. Of course the first commemoration is always of the concurring office except it be a day within a non-privileged octave, or a simple. In reckoning the order of precedence between feasts which occur on the same day, lists given in The New Psalter and its Use, p. 108, show that thirteen grades of feast stand before the feasts of semi-double rite. And in the order of precedence as to Vespers, between feasts which are in occurrence, these feasts stand in the eleventh place, being preceded by (1) doubles of the first class of the universal Church, (2) lesser doubles.


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