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.

Previous Title IX.—Commemorations. | IndexTitle XI.—Concurrence.  Previous


When several offices fall on the same day, only one office, the one of highest rank or most important, is said. The others are transferred or commemorated. The last section dealt with commemorations, and now we come to the difficult question of the translation of feasts. Title X. of the general rubrics must be read in connection with the Apostolic Constitution, Divino Afflatu (1911) and with the Abhinc duos Annos (1913).

Translation of a feast may mean the removal of a feast from an impeded day to a day which is free. Thus a feast of higher rank may fall on a feast day of a saint whose feast is of lower rank; the latter may then be transferred. Transference is either perpetual or accidental and temporary. The former applies to feasts which are always impeded by the meeting with a feast of higher rite on their fixed days. A feast which would fall on 6th January would suffer perpetual translation. This translation bears different names in rubrics, decrees and liturgical writings–translatio ad diem, fixam, translatio ad diem assignatam, mutatio, etc. Accidental translation means occasional transference, a transfer in one year and not in another.

Title II., section i, of the Divino Afflatu gives the characters of preferential rank which are to be considered in occurrence, concurrence or translation of feasts, Ritus altior, ratio primarii aut secundarii, Dignitas Personalis, solemnitas externa.

Although in the General Rubrics of the Breviary, the title De Festorum praestantia is not found, the four principles, (1)gradation of rite, (2)classification as a primary or secondary feast, (3)personal dignity, (4)external solemnity, are mentioned in the sixth section of Title X., De Translatione Festorum, and the degrees of personal dignity are added in the second section of Title XL, de commemorationibus. Before 1897 precedence, and hence transference, was settled first by the rank of the rite (Double major, etc.); then, too, between two feasts of the same rite, transference was settled by dignity and finally by solemnity. But in 1897 the Sacred Congregation of Rites indicated two further notes to be observed in the weighing of claims for transference, (1)the classification into primary and secondary feasts, (2)the distinction between fixed and movable feasts. This latter distinction—between fixed and movable feasts—has been suppressed by the new legislation and some changes made in the others.

I. Gradation of Feasts makes a distinction between doubles, semi-doubles and simples, and distinguishes the various kinds of doubles. The order of procedure will be–(1)Doubles of the first class, (2)doubles of the second class, (3)greater doubles, (4)doubles, (5)semi-doubles, (6)simples. But as the section shows (Tit. II., sec. i) this is subject to the privileges of certain Sundays, ferias, and octave days or even days within an octave. And hence, an ordinary Sunday, though! only a semi-double, will take precedence of a double; and an octave day, though only a double, takes precedence of a greater double.

II. Classification as a primary or a secondary feast. Tables of classification are to be found in the prefatory part of the new Breviary, under the headings Tres Tabellae. They give a revised list of feasts with their rank and rites. Some feasts are reduced from primary to secondary rank (e.g., Feast of the Dolours); and the tables give a new division of primary and secondary doubles and semi-doubles.

III. Thirdly, the order of precedence among feasts will be determined by the dignity of the person who is the special object of the office that is to be recited. Hence, in the order set down in General Rubrics (Title XI, De Concurrentia officii, sec. 2) all feasts of our Lord, other things being equal, take precedence of the feasts of our Lady. And then, in order, come the festivals of the angels, of St. John the Baptist, of St. Joseph, of the Apostles and other saints. Amongst the saints who are honoured as martyrs, confessors or virgins there is no precedence as to personal dignity.

IV. Lastly, there is the note of "external solemnity," which may give precedence to one or two feasts, which are equal in the above-mentioned matters—i.e., in Gradation I., Classification II., Precedence III. But the main point is that only doubles of first and second class have the right, as a rule, of transference. Transference is now rather rare.

"From these rules it will be seen that in cases of concurrence, occurrence, perpetual transfer or translation, precedence between two feasts will first be decided by gradation of rite, a double of the first class being preferred to one of the second, and so on. If the feasts are of equal rank recourse must be had to the second test, the distinction between primary and secondary feasts. If both happen to be primary, or both are secondary, then precedence will be granted to the feast which has the greater personal dignity. And if both feasts should have the same dignity, then the fact of external solemnity would confer precedence" (The New Psalter and its Uses, p. 79). For practical help, a look at the first of the Duae Tabellae is a guide to find out which office is to be said, if more than one feast occur on the same day.

Before discussing new offices it may be well to remember that votive offices of all kinds, including the votive offices conceded by the decree of July, 1883, are abolished. These offices were drastic innovations, introduced to get rid of the very long psalm arrangement of the ferial office. The new distribution of the psalms got rid of the onus, and votive offices are no longer given in the Breviary.


NEXT SECTION: Title XI.—Concurrence. Previous

Previous Title IX.—Commemorations.


The Divine Office: A Study of the Roman Breviary