Divine Office – Divinum Officium

The Divine Office

A Study of the Roman Breviary

Part III.—The Canonical Hours.

Chapter II. Lauds. (Prime. Title XV)

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Etymology. The name Prime is derived from the Latin prima because this part of the Office was said at the first hour of the day, 6 a.m., with us, following the old Roman distribution of the day.

Origin. It was stated by some writers that this Hour was established by St. Clement and should therefore date from almost apostolic times. But modern writers, following the statement of Cassian, date the origin of this Hour from about the year 382. It was believed, too, that the monastery indicated by Cassian as the cradle of Prime was the monastery of Bethlehem, St. Jerome's monastery. But it was probably established not there, but in a monastery in the neighbourhood, Dair-er-Raociat (convent of the shepherds) or in Seiar-en-Ganheim (enclosure of the sheep). Cassian tells us the reason that led to the introduction of this Hour. Lauds ended at dawn, and the monks retired to rest. As no other choir work called them until Terce, at 9 a.m., some of them were inclined to rest until that hour and to neglect the spiritual reading and manual work laid down by their rule. To prevent this prolonged rest, it was decided to introduce a short choir service, the recital of a few psalms, and then the monks went to work until Terce (Cath. Encyclopedia, "Prime").

Contents. Originally the matter for Prime was drawn from Lauds and was a repetition of part of Lauds. Prime consists of two parts. The first part consists of hymn, psalms, little chapter and collect. The prayers and confiteor inserted before the collect and said on certain days are adjuncts. The second part contains the Martyrology (when Prime is said in choir) and other prayers peculiar to the Hour. "The reason for this divergence may be traced to the fact that Prime is of monastic institution and the second portion, which is said in the chapter house, has reference to monastic customs. The Martyrology and Necrology having been read, prayers were said for the dead recommended to the Community, as benefactors, friends, patrons, protectors, etc. Then followed a special prayer in preparation for manual labour of the day, and a chapter of the rule was read, on which the Abbot briefly commented or else gave some admonition to the Community. This monastic character will be easily recognised by a glance at the formulas used. The prayer, 'Sancta Maria et omnes sancti' forms a natural conclusion, to the reading of the Martyrology, The 'Deus in adjutorium,' the 'Pater Noster' with accompanying versicles, and the collect, are the prayers before manual labour: 'Respice,' etc., Look, O Lord, upon Thy servants and upon Thy works... and direct Thou the work of our hands. 'Dirige et sanctificare,' etc., 'Vouchsafe to direct and sanctify our senses, words and actions,' etc. Whilst the 'Dominus nos benedicat' and the 'Fidelium animae' are the conclusion of the prayers for the dead" (Dom Cabrol, Introduction to the Day Hours of the Church).

Structure:-i. Pater, Ave, Credo, silently. 2. Deus in adjutorium. ... Domine ad adjuvandum .. with sign of the cross, Gloria Patri. ... Sicut erat. ... 3. Hymn, fam lucis. 4. Antiphon, first words only. 5. Psalms for the Sunday or feria as rubrics direct, with the Athanasian Creed if it be ordered, then the antiphon in full. 6. Regi saeculorum ... or, Pacem et veritatem. ... Deo Gratias, Christie, Fili Dei vivi.... 7. Preces, if they are ordered in the Office of the Day, Preces Dominicales or Preces feriales as rubrics direct. These include versicles, responses, confiteor, misereatur... indulgentiam... versicles responses. 8. Dominus vobiscum. Et cum spiritu tuo. Oremus, Domine Deus..... Amen. Dominus vobiscum, Et cum spiritu tuo. 9. Benedicamus Domino, Deo Gratias. 10. In choir, the martyrology is here read, 11. Pretiosa... mors.... 12. Sancta Maria et omnes Sancti.... 13. Thrice, Deus in adjutorium meum intende, Domine ad adjuvandum... without the sign of cross, Gloria Patri.... Sicut erat. 14. Kyrie Eleison, Christe Eleison, Kyrie Eleison, Pater Noster, qui es in coelis... (in silence). Et ne nos inducas in tentationem. Sed libera nos a malo. 15. Respice in servos tuos.... Et sit splendor....16. Gloria Patri.... Sicut erat....Oremus, Dirigere et sanctificare.... l7. Jube, Domine.... Deus et actus nostros....Amen. 18. Lectio brevis, which in feast offices is the Capitulum from None. 19. Adjutorium nostrum in nomine Domine (with sign of cross on forehead, breast and shoulders); Qui fecit....20. Benedicite, Deus; Domine nos benedicat...in pace, Amen. To the lectio brevis at Prime, Tu autem Domine, miserere nobis, is added.

The Athanasian Creed. In the Roman Breviary prior to the reform of 1911, the title given to the formula of faith was Symbolum S. Athanasi. In the new Breviaries the title stands Symbolum Athanasianum. Why was the change made?

During the past two hundred years the authorship of this formula has led to great discussion and its reading has led to much bitter and heated controversy in Anglican and Protestant churches. Many contended for its retention in Protestant services and many rejoiced at its partial exclusion, its truncated revision and clamoured for its rejection everywhere from service. Controversy led to the study of its origin. In 1872 a Protestant author, Ffoulkes, maintained that it was not composed by St. Athanasius (296-373) but by Paulinus of Aquileia (A.D. 800). But the literature of the age of Charlemagne proves that this creed had at the beginning of the ninth century an antiquity of at least more than a century (Ommaney, History and Structure of the Athanasian Creed, Oxford, 1897). Scholars, basing their opinions on words found in the Expositio Fidei Fortunati, date the origin of this symbol from the fifth century. It contains certain expressions which a writer subsequent to the Council of Chalcedon (451) would have been most unlikely to employ, and omits certain expressions which such a writer would have been most unlikely to omit. However, it is likely that the creed dates from the fifth century. Who its author was, is quite doubtful. It was not St. Athanasius, it may have been St. Hilary of Aries, or St. Vincent of Lerins, or some local bishop in southern France, "But let us only suppose that the real author was some local bishop—or the theologian employed by some local bishop—and that it was composed in the first instance for purely local use in some district of southern France—then does not the difficulty disappear, and are not the facts of its silent and gradual adoption suitably explained? Not coming from an author of wide reputation, it would not at first have attracted much attention and would have been used only in the locality of its origin; from there its use would have spread to neighbouring districts; as it got more known it would have been more widely adopted, and the compactness and lucidity of its statements, and the enthusiasm-inspiring character of its style would have contributed to make it highly prized wherever it was known. Then would come speculation as to its authorship, and what wonder if in uncritical times an Athanasian authorship was first guessed, then confidently affirmed and believed?" (Father Sydney F. Smith, S.J., The Month, October, 1904).

This opinion is only one of several held by Catholic scholars. Dom Morin holds strongly, and gives very good reasons for his view, that it was written by Martin of Braga between the years 550 and 580. It was written, he says, for the people of Galicia in Spain, who had been recently converted from Arianism (Journal of Theological Studies, April, 1911). It was adopted into Gallican liturgy and office about 980, and in the Roman office only when the Curial Breviary was adopted.

"The liturgical use of the Athanasian Creed was Frankish in origin (ninth century) and spread through the influence of the Cluniac reform (tenth century), but only found its way to Rome in the Supplementary prayers in the twelfth and thirteenth century" (Burton and Myers, op. cit., p. 51).

Rubrics. Athanasian Creed, to be said (1) Trinity Sunday, (2) Sundays after Epiphany, (3) Sundays after Pentecost unless there be in (2) and (3) the commemoration of a double, or of an octave.

Why is prayer offered at this first hour of the day?

Writers on liturgy answer, 1st to offer to God the first fruits of our day, of our work, of our devotion, following in this the example of Christ, Who from His first entry into the world offered Himself to His Father for the salvation of mankind. 2d To beg of Him to keep us safe during the day, 3d To beg of Him to keep us free from sin, "ut in diurnis actibus nos servet a nocentibus."

"May God in all our words and deeds Keep us from harm this day. May He in love retain us still, From tones of strife and words of ill, And wrap around and close our eyes To earth's absorbing vanities. May wrath and thoughts that gender shame Ne'er in our breasts abide. And painful abstinences tame Of wanton flesh, the pride" (Hymn at Prime).

Rubrics. The Office of Prime begins in choir with the silent recitation of Pater Noster, Ave, Credo. Then, if in choir (aloud) Deus in adjutorium. ... Domine ad adjirvandum. ... Gloria Patri.... Alleluia, or Laus tibi.... Then the hymn fam lucis is said. The antiphon for the day is said as far as the asterisk (*), then the Psalms of the day's Office as arranged in the new Pian Psaltery, according to the day of the week, except on some special feasts, when the Psalms at Prime are the Sunday psalms. When the ordo recitandi marks an Office as officium solemne (an excepted feast), the psalms at Lauds and Hours are the Sunday psalms; and at Prime the psalm Deus in nomine tuo (Psalm 53) takes the place of Psalm Confitemini (Psalm 117). At Prime, and at the small Hours, Terce, Sext, None, only one antiphon is said. It is said in full at the end of the last Psalm in each Hour.

The Capitulum, the little Responsory, Christe, Fili Dei vivi ... is then said. In this responsory the versicle Qui sedes ad dexteram Patris is sometimes changed, e.g., in paschal time it is, Qui surrexisti a mortuis.

The manner of reciting this responsory is sometimes not correctly understood, owing, perhaps, to its printed form in some Breviaries. The normal method is to repeat the whole response, then say the versicle, and then the second portion of the response; then the Gloria Patri el Filio et Spiritui Sancto, without the Sicut erat, is said, and the response repeated. The versicle Exsurge and the response Et libera are then said. This is the method of recitation in all the small Hours and at Compline.

After this responsory, if the Office be of double rite or be an Office within an octave, or on the vigil of Epiphany or on Friday or Saturday after Ascension, or on a Sunday on which a double is commemorated, or an octave is celebrated, or on a semi-double feast within an octave, Dominus vobiscum, Et cum spiritu tuo, and the prayer Dominus Deus omnipotens is said. But if the Office be not any of these mentioned just now, the responsory is followed by the Preces.

Preces (Title XXXIV.) In the Breviary there are two sets of preces, the Preces Dominicales for Sunday and the Preces Feriales for ferial Offices. These ferial preces of Prime differ from the ferial preces of Lauds, and are said in Prime when the ferial preces are said in Lauds, That is, on the ferias of Advent, Lent, Passiontide, Ember days and Vigils. The ferial preces of Lauds are found in the Breviary, immediately after the second set of Psalms for ferial Lauds and after the short responsory in the psalm arrangements for the days of the week. (See Lauds, supra, p. 188.)

These prayers were introduced at a very early stage of Christian liturgy. St. Isidore writes that they come from Greek liturgy and the opening words Kyrie eleison seem to indicate remnants of an old litany. Formerly they were read oftener during the liturgical year than we now are called on to repeat them. They are sometimes referred to as the preces flebiles, tearful prayers, because they are said in times of penance, and are formed to excite tears. In choir recitation they are said kneeling. When the preces or the preces feriales are said the sign of the cross is made from the forehead to the breast, at the words Adjutorium nostrum in nomine Domini. Then the Confiteor is said.

The Confiteor was from an early date a prayer said privately as a preparation for Mass. It is found in several forms; Confiteor Deo, beatae Mariae, omnibus sanctis et vobis (Sarum Missal), but since the time of St. Pius V. (1566-1572) our present form alone was followed and allowed (S. R. C., 13th February, 1666). If the Office be recited privately or with one or two companions, the confiteor is said once only and simultaneously in the preces, and the words vobis fratribus and vos fratres, which priests say in the opening prayer of Mass are omitted. It should be remarked, too, that the Misereatur and Indulgentiam have not in this location vestri, vestris, vos, but nostri, nostris, nos. Sometimes errors in this part of the recitation of the Office are unnoticed, and this pronoun error makes the formula meaningless.

After the Indulgentiam come the concluding versicles of the preces, Dignare ... sine peccato ... miserere ... miserere ... Fiat ... Quemadmodum ... Domine ... Et ... Dominus vobiscum, Et cum spiritu tuo, and the prayer Domine Deus Omnipotens ... Amen. ... Dominus vobiscum, Et cum spiritu tuo. ... Benedicamus Domino, Deo gratias. If the Office be said in choir, the martyrology is read at this part of Prime. The reading of the martyrology is not of obligation in private recitation of the Office; but the reading of it was highly recommended, even in private recitation, by Pope Gregory XIII. (14th January, 1584; see his words in the beginning of the Martyrology).

Then are said, Pretiosa ... mors ... sancta Maria ... Deus in adjutorium... Domine ad adjuvandum (both the latter being repeated thrice) ... Gloria Patri ... Sicut erat ... Kyrie eleison ... Christe eleison ... Kyrie eleison ... Pater Noster (silently) until words "Et ne nos" ... Sed libera ... Respice ... Et sit ... Gloria Patri ... Sicut erat ... Oremus, Dirigere et ... Amen, Jube Domine ... Dies et actus ... Amen.

The short lesson which, on all feasts, is the same as the chapter which is said at None will be found in the proper or common, under that Hour, The new Psalter and new rubrics made no change in this matter. Hence, for example, on the feast of SS. Peter and Paul the short lesson at end of Prime is taken from None of the feast, "Et Petrus ad se reversus"; the short lesson for Prime on the feast of St. Aloysius is "Lex Dei ejus" and not the short lesson printed in the Psalter under the day's Office.

On all Sundays and week days it varies according to the season. Thus–

1. From the 14th January until the first Saturday in Lent, from Monday to Wednesday in Trinity week, from the Friday after the octave of Corpus Christi until the Saturday before Advent, the short lesson is "Dominus autem" (II. Thess. iii.),

2. From the first Sunday of Advent until the 23rd December inclusive it is "Domine miserere" (Isaias xxxiii,).

3. From the first Sunday of Lent until the Saturday before Passion Sunday inclusive it is "Quaerite Dominum" (Isaias iv.).

4. From Passion Sunday until Wednesday in Holy Week it is "Faciem meam" (Isaias, 1.),

5. From Easter Sunday to the Vigil of Ascension inclusive, the short lesson is "Si consurrexists" (Coloss. iii.).

At the end of the short lesson the words "Tu autem Domine, miserere nobis; Deo gratias" are added, and after these words are said "Adjutorium nostrum ... Qui fecit ... Benedicite Deus" and the Blessing, "Dominus nos benedicat ... requiescant in pace, Amen." Then Pater Noster is said silently, unless another Hour is to follow immediately.


1. "Herod and his army set him at nought" (St. Luke, c. 25).

2. "Not this man, but Barrabas. Crucify Him."

3. "I find no cause in Him. I will chastise Him and let Him go" (St. Luke).

4. "But Jesus he delivered up to their will" (St. Luke, c. 23).

5. "Shall I crucify your King?," (St. John, 19).

General Intentions. The Pope and his intentions; the propagation of the Faith; the priesthood; the Catholic laity; Catholic Missions in the East; Catholic Europe.

Personal Intentions. The spirit of meekness and humility; greater devotion to the Eucharist; greater love of the Blessed Virgin; the priestly vows.

Special Intentions. For our friends; for the sick and sorrowful; for the Church in Scotland; for our enemies; for the priesthood of America.


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