Thursday, December 28, 2006

Reform of the Roman Breviary

[This text is taken from the Catholic Encyclopedia of the early 20th century. This particular article is their writing on the reform of the Breviarium Romanum, following shortly after it had been promulgated and effected, that was undertaken by Pope St. Pius X.

This article writes from the perspective of a positive assessment on this reform. However, as we have discussed here in recent weeks and months, there has been an increasingly critical (but by no means reactionary) look by liturgical scholars of the "school of continuity" (an informal term I am coining for purposes here) at the reform of the Roman Breviary and what has been potentially lost in that process. This question has primarily circled around the pre-conciliar Divine Office, but certainly, the further reform of the breviary after the Council is certainly worth noting as well.

The NLM is pleased to be hosting, very shortly, a series of scholarly considerations on the question of the history of the reform of the Roman breviary (particularly in its pre-conciliar manifestation) which will take a more critical and historical look at this question.

However, as background reading, I thought it would be good to present this summary of the reform that was undertaken. I would note only that you might reserve judgement about whether said reform was desireable or not, in view of the forthcoming study which will look more thoroughly at the question, and with a more critical eye than is present in this article of the Catholic Encyclopedia.]

By the Apostolic Constitution "Divino Afflatu" of Pius X (1 November, 1911), a change was made in the psalter of the Roman Breviary. Instead of printing, together with the psalms, those portions of the Office which specially require rubrics, such as the invitatory, hymns for the seasons, blessings, absolutions, chapters, suffrages, dominical prayers, Benedictus, Magnificat, Te Deum, etc., these are now all in due order printed by themselves under the title Ordinary. The psalms, under the title Psaltery, are printed together, so arranged that the entire psalter may be chanted or recited each week, and so distributed, or, when too long, divided, that approximately there may be the same number of verses for each day's Office.

This change has been made with a view to restoring the original use of the liturgy
[NLM note: as with the missal reform that followed the Council, the question of what is the ancient usage is debated in this regard], which provided for the chant or recitation of the entire Psaltery each week. It became necessary by the fact that as the saints' days, with common or special Offices, grew more numerous, the ordinary Sunday and week-day or ferial Offices, and consequently certain of the psalms, were rarely recited. In making the change, occasion was taken to facilitate the reading of the Office by the separation of the Ordinary and Psaltery proper, but chiefly by allotting about the same number of verses for each day.

Further to this, of course, was the eventual reform of Pius X's Breviarium with that which followed the Second Vatican Council. The Wikipedia article on the Liturgy of the Hours has this to say in relation to it as well as Pius X's reform:

[The Office of] Prime was abolished by the Second Vatican Council, reducing the number of canonical hours to the biblical seven.

After Pius X's reform, Lauds was reduced to 4 psalms or portions of psalms and an Old Testament canticle, putting and end to the custom of adding the last three psalms of the Psalter (148-150) at the end of Lauds every day. The number of psalms or portions of psalms is now reduced to 2, together with one Old Testament canticle chosen from a wider range than before. After these there is a short reading and response and the singing or recitation of the Benedictus. Vespers has a very similar structure, differing in that Pius X assigned to it 5 psalms (now reduced to 2 psalms and a New Testament canticle) and the Magnificat took the place of the Benedictus. On some days in Pius X's arrangement, but now always, there follow Preces or intercessions. In the present arrangement, the Lord's Prayer is also recited before the concluding prayer.

With this background reading in mind, I hope it will begin to give a sense of some of the issues that will be discussed in the coming weeks and months.

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