Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Compendium of the Reforms of the Roman Breviary, 1568-1961: Part 3.1 - 1529 versus 1568

We continue with the third part of our series on the compendium of reforms to the Roman breviary. This third part will be subdivided into two or three sections.

For terms and their definitions, please see the associated Glossary which accompanies this compendium.

Compendium of the Reforms of the Roman Breviary, 1568-1961

by Gregory DiPippo
for publication on the New Liturgical Movement

Part 3.1: 1529 versus 1568

The Breviary reformed in the wake of the Council of Trent was promulgated by the authority of Pope Saint Pius V in 1568, and is for this reason often referred to as the Pian Breviary. The history of how and why the Tridentine reform came about is not the subject of this particular article; those who wish to read about such matters in greater detail should consult the interesting book of Msgr. Pierre Batiffol, The History of the Roman Breviary. (Translated from the French by Atwell Baylay; Longmans, Green and Co., London, 1912) My concern here is simply to compare the Breviary of 1568 with its immediate predecessor, the Breviary of the Roman Curia of 1529, and explain the changes made by the Pian reform.

The 1568 reform is, unsurprisingly, a very conservative reform indeed in almost every respect. In comparing the two breviaries, one sees immediately that nearly the entire body of material which has proper musical notation, namely, the invitatories, hymns, antiphons, and responsories, has been carried over from the earlier Breviary into the Pian. The same holds true for most of the chapters, versicles and prayers, parts which have no proper notation.

The exceptions are mostly instances where the entire Office of a particularly feast day has been replaced with a different Office. Such is the case on the feast of the Holy Trinity, where a 13th century office Sedenti super solium, (named for its first antiphon) is replaced with the much earlier Office Gloria tibi Trinitas. In the case of the Visitation, the proper Office granted to the whole of the Western Church in 1389 by Pope Urban VI was suppressed; in its place, the Office of Our Lady’s Nativity was to be said, replacing the word ‘Nativitas’ with ‘Visitatio’, and with proper readings at Matins. However, a new office with many new propers was soon granted for this feast by Pope Clement VIII (1592-1605).

A number of minor adjustments are made, but few genuinely notable changes. The unusually lengthy psalmody of Sunday Prime is redistributed though the days of the week, the first time the distribution of the psalms was changed since the days of Pope St. Gregory the Great. In the preces of Lauds, psalm 50, which is already said at the beginning of the hour, is replaced in the Pian Breviary by psalm 129; the preces of Terce, Sext and None are reduced to a new form which retains only very end of the preces of Lauds. The obligation to recite the Little Office of Our Lady, the Office of the Dead, and the Gradual and Penitential Psalms is mitigated, although not to the prejudice of local customs. The rubrics throughout are made much shorter and infinitely clearer; for example, the bizarrely complicated rubric of the 1529 Breviary which governs the end of Advent, and which occupies 3 and a half pages, is reduced to a mere twenty lines. A new general rubric, succinct and well-organized, is placed at the beginning of the book; in the original edition of 1568, it occupies only seven pages.

There are a few significant changes made to the Calendar of Saints. Perhaps most noteworthy is the suppression of the Presentation of the Virgin (November 21), and the feasts of both Saint Anne and Saint Joachim; this was done because the history of the Virgin’s parents and Her early life is not recorded in the canonical Gospels, but rather in the apocryphal Proto-evangelium of Saint James. (St. Anne was a favorite target of Luther’s scorn.) However, the devotion to them was so strong among Catholics that Saint Anne’s feast was swiftly restored by Saint Pius V’s successor, Gregory XIII, in 1584, the Presentation by Sixtus V the following year, and Saint Joachim by Gregory XV in 1622. A few other saints whose written lives were known to be at best untrustworthy, such as Saint Juliana of Nicomedia (February 16) and Saint Leonard of Noblac (November 6), were also removed, but the great majority of the popular saints of the Medieval church remain in their traditional places. One octave, of the feast of the Visitation, was suppressed, although it continued to be observed on many local calendars.

Many Saints, however, are knocked down a grade or two in the Tridentine Breviary, greatly reducing the number of Saints’ offices of nine readings; certain other Saints of the ‘unreliable’ category, such as Saint Barbara, were reduced to mere commemorations. One notable change is made to the celebration of the lowest grade of feast, the ‘simplex’; in the medieval breviaries, the single nocturn of such a feast had the nine psalms from the appropriate common office of a Saint, but in the Pian, the ferial nocturn of twelve psalms is now said. The psalmody of semiduplex and duplex feasts is not changed.

A change is made to the manner of keeping vigils in the Office, conforming the Breviary more closely to the Missal. A vigil is the day before a major feast, on which a Mass of penitential character (in purple vestments, without Gloria in excelsis or Alleluja) is celebrated after None, in preparation for the feast itself. In the Roman use before Trent , most such vigils, e.g. that of the Assumption, consisted solely of a Mass between None and First Vespers, and had no presence in the Office. In the Pian Breviary, vigils are given a full office, occupying the whole of the liturgical day from Matins to None. The office is mostly that of the feria; however, a homily on the Gospel of the Vigil Mass is read in place of the Scripture lessons at Matins. The ferial preces are said at all hours, and the prayer of the vigil Mass is said at Lauds, Terce, Sext and None. Although rare elsewhere, this was a common custom in Germany even before Trent.

The one aspect of the Breviary which is extensively changed in the Pian reform is the corpus of readings at Matins, which is almost completely re-worked from beginning to end.

[To be continued in part 3.2.]

-- Copyright (c) Gregory DiPippo, 2009

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To read previous installments in this series, see: Compendium of the Reforms of the Roman Breviary, 1568-1961

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