Divine Office – Divinum Officium

The Divine Office

A Study of the Roman Breviary


Note B. Particular Examen On The Recitation Of The Divine Office.

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I. How preparation for saying the Hours is to be made:–

(a) Have we before commencing to recite the Breviary made a fervent act of faith in the presence of God and in the sovereign majesty of Him to Whom we are going to speak?

Have we endeavoured to purify our hearts by an act of contrition, in order that we may escape the terrible reproach which God addresses to the sinner—"to the sinner God hath said, 'Why dost thou declare my justices and take away covenant in thy mouth?'" (Psalm 49, v.16)?

Have we taken particular care to clear off from our souls everything which can distract us, and above all others these things to which we are attracted and to which our minds may return during our prayer?

"Ante debes facere quod ait propheta: scopebam spiritum meum donec incalescat spiritus tuus ex devota meditatione et affectum et desiderium concipiat" (D. Gerhard Zutp. de spir. Ascen.). "Studeat oratione devota et recollectione animi interna divinum praevenire officium" (St. Bona. spec, di., p.2, c.7).

Have we recollected ourselves and remained silent for a time, particularly when passing from study or from a secular business, in order to banish vain or worldly thoughts, and to make ourselves ready to receive the Holy Ghost?

Have we united ourselves to Jesus Christ, Who is the perfect praise of God, the Father? Have we united ourselves in spirit to the Church, in whose name we are going to praise God? "In unione orationum ac meritorum Christi Jesu gratiam ad officium debite persolvendum petat" (St. Bona. ibid.)

Have we begged the Holy Ghost by the intercession of the Blessed Virgin and the saints, whose offices we read, that we may be allowed to join our praises to those which they give God?

Have we always formed intentions general and particular, not forgetting to form intentions embracing the intentions of Christ and His Church?

Have we adopted some pious thought prior to our reading, so that distractions may be excluded and fervour fostered during our recitation? Have we chosen suitable time and place to pray?

Have we taken pains to mark the places in the Breviary and looked over the rubrics? Has not negligence in these matters caused innumerable distractions?

II. Dispositions which we should have in saying the Office:–

Let us find out with what dispositions we recite the Divine Office, and if we say it in the manner in which the Church wishes it to be said, digne, attente, ac devote. (Orat. rec. ante offic.).

1. Have we considered well that God is present and that we speak to Him? Do we look on ourselves as instruments which need to be animated with God's holy spirit in order to bless His holy name? Have we said the Office with all the respect and all the veneration which His almighty majesty calls for? Cum timore et humilitate, tanquam Deo visibiliter presente, psallant (S. Bona, spec, discip., p. 1, c. 15).

2. In order to say it attentively have we taken great pains to put away all kinds of distractions?

"Munda cor meum ab omnibus vanis perversis et alienis cogitationibus" (ibid.).

Have we rejected even good thoughts which were unsuitable for the time of recitation, and above all have we banished idle or indifferent ones?

Have we tried, following the example of the saints, to excite in ourselves the different sentiments expressed by the Psalms, or to dwell on some perfection of God, or on some mystery of our Lord, or on some virtue of the saint whose office we read? Have we piously dwelt on these, or on some other subject proper to the Church's season or according to our needs?

"Si orat psalmus, orate; si gemit, gemite; si gratulatur, gaudete; si timet, timete" (St. Aug. in Ps. 30).

In order to say the Office devoutly, have we said it with love, having our hearts and souls fully alive to the advantages and the excellence and the beauties of the Divine Office?

Have we said it with fervour, abandoning ourselves to a good emotion, to holy affections, and to joyous transports, which the Holy Ghost usually works in fervent souls? Have we done this work with joy, taking a peculiar pleasure in this holy labour, recognising the great honour it is to be a partaker in the songs of praise offered to God by the heavenly company, whose hosts are filled with His glory?

III. How we must keep watch over ourselves in reading the Office:–

Let us examine ourselves to find out if in reading the Breviary we keep the rules of good recitation, as laid down by the saints—Distincte, integre, continue, reverenter, ordinate (St. Bonav., spec. discip. p. 1, c. 16).

1. Distincte. Do we recite distinctly, observing the ordinary pause at the middle and at the end of each verse, not hurrying the one on the other? Do we articulate every word, not adopting a careless or too speedy pronunciation?

"Non in gutture vel inter dentes, seu deglutiendo et syncopando dictiones vel verba" (Con. Basil, sess. 22).

2. Integre. Do we say the Office in its entirety, being scrupulously careful not to omit the smallest part, and taking great care that a part that we should wish or try to say by heart shall not slip out of our recitation altogether or be mutilated?

"Integre, ut de dicendis nihil omittant" (St. Bona., spec, discip., p. 1).

3. Continue. Do we say our Hours without interruption? Do we love this holy exercise? Or do we easily interrupt our prayer on any trifling pretext, and on the first opportunity?

"Interruptiones in eo non fiant, nisi urgente necessitate" (ibid.).

4. Ordinate. Do we say our Office with order, that is, order both in substance (not substituting one Office for another) and in manner, according to the rubrics arranging the several hours?

"Ordinate in substantia, tempore et modo" (St. Bona. spec., ibid.). 5. Have we said our Hours piously, with all the modesty and all the reverence which so holy an action demands? With becoming attitude, not lying prone, not crossing our legs; without saluting or speaking to those passing by?

"In officio curando magnopere reverentia et honestas, cum ubique sit eadem cui tune loquimur et adstamus Deitas et majestas" (ibid.). (From Examens Particulers sur l'Office Divin, par M. Tronson).


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Previous Note A. The Breviary Hymns.


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