Sunday, July 8, 2018

Liturgy of the Divine Office, Part 2: Matins

Click here for Part 1: Introduction to the traditional Divine Office.

The Divine Office begins each day with Matins, also historically known as “Vigils” or the “Night Office.” It is traditionally sung during the night. Matins is the longest hour of the Divine Office and is the second most important part of each day's liturgy, next to the Mass. It also follows most closely the form of Jewish synagogue worship. In addition to the psalms that form the core of the Divine Office, Matins also includes readings from Scripture, the writings of Church fathers and saints, and the lives of the saints.

After the prayer Aperi Domine and the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Apostles' Creed (if they are said), Matins begins with Psalm 50:17, Psalm 69:2, and the Gloria Patri. (Italics indicate responses by the choir if there is one.)

Dómine, lábia ✠ mea apéries.
Et os meum annuntiábit laudem tuam.
Deus ☩ in adjutórium meum inténde.
Dómine, ad adjuvándum me festína.
Glória Patri, et Fílio, et Spirítui Sancto. Sicut erat in princípio, et nunc, et semper, et in sǽcula sæculórum. Amen. Allelúia.
O Lord, ✠ open thou my lips.
And my mouth shall declare thy praise.
O God, ☩ come to my assistance.
O Lord, make haste to help me.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen. Alleluia.

At the verse, “Domine, labia mea aperies,” we bless our lips with a small Sign of the Cross made with the thumb. Since these are some of the first words we say in the day, we pray that everything we say that day may praise God. When a priest administers the Last Rites to a dying person, he anoints the person's lips with holy oil, praying that God may forgive any sins the person may have committed with his use of speech.

At the following verse, “Deus in adjutórium...” we make the Sign of the Cross in the usual manner. Since the time of St. Benedict of Nursia, this verse has been sung at the beginning of every hour of the Divine Office. It is followed by the Gloria Patri, or Glory Be, a short prayer of praise to God that is familiar to most Catholics. The Gloria Patri is used in the Mass as part of the Introit and at the washing of hands at the Offertory. In the Divine Office, it is sung at the end of every psalm. We bow our heads for the first part of the Gloria Patri. Afterwards, “alleluia” is sung. During Septuagesima and Lent, the wordalleluia” is never used in liturgy, so it is replaced with, “Praise be to thee, O Lord, King of eternal glory.” These opening verses are omitted at the Office for the Dead and the Sacred Triduum.

Next is the Invitatory, an antiphon proper to the day or to the type of feast being celebrated, sung with Psalm 94. First, the entire antiphon is sung twice. After every other verse of Psalm 94, the entire antiphon is sung. After the remaining verses of the psalm, only the second half of the antiphon is sung. Finally, after Gloria Patri at the end, the second half of the antiphon is sung, followed by the whole antiphon again. Psalm 94 is a joyful psalm of praise to God. Thus, we always begin the day's liturgy with praise to God and by inviting people to “Come, let us praise the Lord with joy.” At the words, “Come, let us adore and fall down,” in the third verse, we genuflect. Whereas many joyful elements of the liturgy are omitted during Lent or during the Mass and Office for the Dead, the Invitatory is only omitted during the Sacred Triduum. Here is the Invitatory for feasts of confessors who are not bishops.

Regem Confessórum Dóminum, Veníte, adorémus.
Regem Confessórum Dóminum, Veníte, adorémus.

Veníte, exsultémus Dómino, jubilémus Deo, salutári nostro: præoccupémus fáciem ejus in confessióne, et in psalmis jubilémus ei.

Regem Confessórum Dóminum, Veníte, adorémus.

Quóniam Deus magnus Dóminus, et Rex magnus super omnes deos, quóniam non repéllet Dóminus plebem suam: quia in manu ejus sunt omnes fines terræ, et altitúdines móntium ipse cónspicit.

Veníte, adorémus.

Quóniam ipsíus est mare, et ipse fecit illud, et áridam fundavérunt manus ejus (genuflect) veníte, adorémus, et procidámus ante Deum: plorémus coram Dómino, qui fecit nos, quia ipse est Dóminus, Deus noster; nos autem pópulus ejus, et oves páscuæ ejus.

Regem Confessórum Dóminum, Veníte, adorémus.

Hódie, si vocem ejus audiéritis, nolíte obduráre corda vestra, sicut in exacerbatióne secúndum diem tentatiónis in desérto: ubi tentavérunt me patres vestri, probavérunt et vidérunt ópera mea.

Veníte, adorémus.

Quadragínta annis próximus fui generatióni huic, et dixi; Semper hi errant corde, ipsi vero non cognovérunt vias meas: quibus jurávi in ira mea; Si introíbunt in réquiem meam.

Regem Confessórum Dóminum, Veníte, adorémus.

Glória Patri, et Fílio, et Spirítui Sancto. Sicut erat in princípio, et nunc, et semper, et in sǽcula sæculórum. Amen.

Veníte, adorémus.
Regem Confessórum Dóminum, Veníte, adorémus.
The Lord, the King of Confessors, O come, let us worship.
The Lord, the King of Confessors, O come, let us worship.

Come let us praise the Lord with joy: let us joyfully sing to God our saviour. Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving; and make a joyful noise to him with psalms.

The Lord, the King of Confessors, O come, let us worship.

For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods. For the Lord will not cast off his people: for in his hand are all the ends of the earth, and the heights of the mountains are his.

O come, let us worship.

For the sea is his, and he made it: and his hands formed the dry land. (genuflect) Come let us adore and fall down: and weep before the Lord that made us: For he is the Lord our God: and we are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand.

The Lord, the King of Confessors, O come, let us worship.

Today if you shall hear his voice, harden not your hearts: As in the provocation, according to the day of temptation in the wilderness: where your fathers tempted me, they proved me, and saw my works.

O come, let us worship.

Forty years long was I offended with that generation, and I said: These always err in heart. And these men have not known my ways: so I swore in my wrath that they shall not enter into my rest.

The Lord, the King of Confessors, O come, let us worship.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

O come, let us worship.
The Lord, the King of Confessors, O come, let us worship.

The Invitatory is followed by a hymn proper to the season or type of feast. Hymns were first introduced by St. Ambrose of Milan in the fourth century, but they were not used in Rome until the thirteenth century. They typically have a poetic meter but not rhyme. Many great saints wrote hymns that are now used in the Divine Office, including St. Ambrose, St. Gregory the Great, and St. Thomas Aquinas. The final verse of each hymn always gives praise to the Holy Trinity, in a similar fashion to the Gloria Patri, and like at the Gloria Patri, we bow our heads.

Since the fourth century, Matins has been traditionally divided into three nocturns, each with a certain number of psalms and readings. This may originate from the military custom of dividing the night into four night watches. On less important feasts, there is only one nocturn. For many centuries, Sunday Matins had eighteen psalms, with twelve in the first nocturn and three each in the second and third nocturns. Matins of ferias had just one nocturn of twelve psalms. However, since 1911, there are always nine psalms at Matins, either three nocturns with three psalms each, or one nocturn with nine psalms. Traditionally, Sunday had three nocturns, but in the 1960 Breviary, it has only one nocturn. In any case, each nocturn always has three readings. Thus, Matins of three nocturns has nine psalms and nine readings, and Matins of one nocturn has nine psalms and three readings.

The psalms are appointed for each day of the week, so that, over the course of a week, all 150 psalms are sung at the Divine Office. Each of the nine psalms at Matins is either an entire psalm or a portion of a longer psalm. On first class feasts, the psalms of Sunday are sung, which are of greater solemnity. On all other days, the psalms are those appointed for the day of the week. When Matins is sung in choir, the two halves of the choir sing the verses of the psalm alternately. Gloria Patri is always sung at the end of each psalm.

Before and after each psalm, there is an antiphon proper to the day. Nowadays, antiphons are always “doubled,” meaning the entire antiphon is sung before and after the psalm. Until recently, the antiphons were only doubled on feast days. On other days, including most Sundays, only the first few words of the antiphon would be sung before the psalm, and the entire antiphon would be sung after the psalm. In fact, for many centuries, the main distinction between days on the liturgical calendar was between “doubles” and “simples,” indicating whether or not the antiphons should be doubled. Since the psalms are not proper to the day, the antiphons are the main way that the Church celebrates the feast of the day at the Divine Office.

After the three or nine psalms in the nocturn, there is a versicle (a short sentence of prayer) and response proper to the day. This is followed by the Our Father, said silently. Once again, the Lord's prayer takes a prominent place in liturgy. Over the course of the entire day's liturgy (the entire Divine Office and the Mass), the Our Father may be said as many as fourteen times. The Our Father is the transition to the readings, always three at each nocturn. The readings are a unique feature of Matins, as every other hour of the Divine Office contains only a very short reading.

After the Our Father at each nocturn, “Amen” is not said, and it leads into an absolution. Each nocturn at Matins can be viewed as mirroring the structure of the Mass of the Catechumens. In the Mass, the Epistle and Gospel are preceded by prayerful preparation, in which we plead for God's mercy. Likewise, before we read the readings at Matins, we prayerfully prepare through the psalms, and we must ask God's mercy. The absolution forms a sort of elaboration on the end of the Our Father, similar to the prayer Libera nos at Mass. In any case, we prepare for the readings by saying the prayer that Jesus taught us and asking for his mercy.

At Matins of three nocturns, the three absolutions are as follows.

Exáudi, Dómine Jesu Christe, preces servórum tuórum, et miserére nobis: Qui cum Patre et Spíritu Sancto vivis et regnas in sǽcula sæculórum. Amen.

Ipsíus píetas et misericórdia nos ádjuvet, qui cum Patre et Spíritu Sancto vivit et regnat in sǽcula sæculórum. Amen.

A vínculis peccatórum nostrórum absólvat nos omnípotens et miséricors Dóminus. Amen.
O Lord Jesus Christ, graciously hear the prayers of thy servants, and have mercy upon us, who livest and reignest with the Father, and the Holy Ghost, ever world without end. Amen.

May his loving-kindness and mercy help us, who liveth and reigneth with the Father, and the Holy Ghost, world without end. Amen.

May the almighty and merciful Lord loose us from the bonds of our sins. Amen.

At Matins of one nocturn, the absolution is one of these three, depending on the day of the week. To continue the parallel with the Mass, before the Gospel at Mass, the deacon receives the priest's blessing. Likewise, at Matins, each reading is preceded by a blessing. If Matins is sung in choir and there is a priest present, nine lectors are appointed to sing the readings, and each receives the priest's blessing. Otherwise, the one offering Matins reads each blessing himself. At Matins of three nocturns, the nine blessings are as follows. The eighth blessing is different depending on if it is a feast of our Lord, of our Lady, or a saint.

First Nocturn
1. Benedictióne perpétua benedícat nos Pater ætérnus. Amen.

2. Unigénitus Dei Fílius nos benedícere et adjuváre dignétur. Amen.

3. Spíritus Sancti grátia illúminet sensus et corda nostra. Amen.

Second Nocturn
4. Deus Pater omnípotens sit nobis propítius et clemens. Amen.

5. Christus perpétuæ det nobis gáudia vitæ. Amen.

6. Ignem sui amóris accéndat Deus in córdibus nostris. Amen.

Third Nocturn
7. Evangélica léctio sit nobis salus et protéctio. Amen.

8. Divínum auxílium máneat semper nobíscum. Amen.

or Cujus festum cólimus, ipse intercédat pro nobis ad Dóminum. Amen.

or Cujus festum cólimus, ipsa Virgo vírginum intercédat pro nobis ad Dóminum. Amen.

9. Ad societátem cívium supernórum perdúcat nos Rex Angelórum. Amen.
First Nocturn
1. May the eternal Father bless us with an eternal blessing. Amen.

2. May the only-begotten Son of God mercifully bless and keep us. Amen.

3. May the grace of the Holy Spirit enlighten our hearts and minds. Amen.

Second Nocturn
4. May God the almighty Father be merciful and clement to us. Amen.

5. May Christ always give us the joys of life. Amen.

6. May God kindle in our hearts the fire of his love. Amen.

Third Nocturn
7. May the Gospel's holy lection be our safety and protection. Amen.

8. May the divine assistance remain always with us. Amen.

or May he whose feast we are keeping intercede for us to the Lord. Amen.

or May she, the Virgin of virgins, whose feast we are keeping, intercede for us to the Lord. Amen.

9. May the King of Angels lead us to that high realm. Amen.

Notice how the blessings of the first two nocturns have a trinitarian form, asking the blessing first of the Father, then of the Son, then of the Holy Spirit. In Matins of one nocturn, the blessings depend on the day of the week.

In Matins of three nocturns, the readings of the first nocturn are always from Sacred Scripture. Except on first class feasts, they are always from the scripture appointed for the proper of the time. Thus, the Church never neglects the season nor her saints. In the second and third nocturns, the readings may be from the life of the saint celebrated that day and from the writings of Church fathers. This is a direct continuation of the tradition of the apostles and early Christians. Before St. Jerome compiled the Holy Bible in the fourth century, Christian worship included readings from the Jewish scripture, the writings of the apostles and Church fathers, and the lives of saints.

Before 1960, when Sunday Matins had three nocturns, the readings of the third nocturn were always from a homily by a saint on the Gospel of the Mass. This originates from the Benedictine custom of reading the Gospel of the Mass at Matins. In the 1960 Breviary, Sunday Matins has only one nocturn, so the first two readings are from scripture, and the third reading is from a homily. On other days with only one nocturn at Matins, at least the first reading is always from scripture.

Each reading is concluded with a plea for God's mercy, followed by the response “Deo gratias,” the same response made after the Epistle at Mass.

Tu autem, Dómine, miserére nobis.
Deo grátias.
But thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us.
Thanks be to God.

After each reading is a responsory, with a response being repeated by the choir between verses of psalms or other scripture. It may or may not contain the first half of Gloria Patri. Like the psalms and lessons, the responsories are a very ancient part of the Office. They can be compared in form to the Introit or Gradual at Mass. Like the readings, the responsories are proper to the day.

At Mass, the Gloria is sung on days of a joyful nature. At the Divine Office, the hymn Te Deum is sung at Matins whenever the Gloria is sung at Mass. It is also known as the “Ambrosian Hymn” or the “Hymn of Saints Ambrose and Augustine,” because it was written in the fourth century by St. Ambrose of Milan and St. Augustine of Hippo on the occasion of the latter's baptism. Next to the Gloria, it is the Church's second greatest hymn of praise. When it is sung at Matins, it takes the place of the responsory after the last reading. It is also sung on certain extraordinary occasions, such as the election of a pope, the canonization of a saint, or the coronation of a Catholic monarch.

Te Deum laudámus: te Dominum confitémur.
Te ætérnum Patrem omnis terra venerátur.
Tibi omnes Angeli; tibi cæli et univérsae potestátes.
Tibi Chérubim et Séraphim incessábili voce proclámant:
Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus, Dóminus Deus Sábaoth.
Pleni sunt cæli et terra majestátis glóriæ tuæ.
Te gloriósus Apostolórum chorus;
Te Prophetárum laudábilis númerus;
Te Mártyrum candidátus laudat exércitus.
Te per orbem terrárum sancta confitétur Ecclésia:
Patrem imménsæ majestátis;
Venerándum tuum verum et únicum Fílium;
Sanctum quoque Paráclitum Spíritum.
Tu Rex glóriæ, Christe.
Tu Patris sempitérnus es Fílius.
Tu ad liberándum susceptúrus hóminem, non horruísti Vírginis úterum.
Tu, devícto mortis acúleo,
aperuísti credéntibus regna cælórum.
Tu ad déxteram Dei sedes, in glória Patris.
Judex créderis esse ventúrus.
Te ergo quǽsumus, tuis fámulis súbveni,
quos pretióso sánguine redemísti.
Ætérna fac cum sanctis tuis in glória numerári.
Salvum fac pópulum tuum, Dómine, et bénedic hæreditáti tuæ.
Et rege eos, et extólle illos usque in ætérnum.
Per síngulos dies benedícimus te.
Et laudámus nomen tuum in sǽculum, et in sǽculum sǽculi.
Dignáre, Dómine, die isto sine peccáto nos custodíre.
Miserére nostri, Dómine, miserére nostri.
Fiat misericórdia tua, Dómine, super nos, quemádmodum sperávimus in te.
In te, Dómine, sperávi: non confúndar in ætérnum.
We praise thee, O God: we acknowledge thee to be the Lord.
All the earth doth worship thee, the Father everlasting.
To thee all Angels cry aloud: the heavens, and all the powers therein.
To thee Cherubim and Seraphim continually do cry:
Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts.
Heaven and earth are full of the majesty of thy glory.
The glorious company of the Apostles praise thee.
The goodly fellowship of the Prophets praise thee.
The noble army of Martyrs praise thee.
The holy Church throughout all the world doth acknowledge thee:
The Father of an infinite Majesty;
Thine honourable, true and only Son;
Also the Holy Ghost, the Comforter.
Thou art the King of Glory, O Christ.
Thou art the everlasting Son of the Father.
When thou tookest upon thee to deliver man, thou didst not abhor the Virgin's womb.
When thou hadst overcome the sharpness of death, thou didst open the kingdom of heaven to all believers.
Thou sittest at the right hand of God, in the glory of the Father.
We believe that thou shalt come to be our Judge.
We therefore pray thee, help thy servants, whom thou hast redeemed with thy Precious Blood.
Make them to be numbered with thy Saints in glory everlasting.
O Lord, save thy people, and bless thine heritage.
Govern them and lift them up for ever.
Day by day we magnify thee.
And we worship thy Name, ever world without end.
Vouchsafe, O Lord, to keep us this day without sin.
O Lord, have mercy upon us, have mercy upon us.
O Lord, let thy mercy lighten upon us, as our trust is in thee.
O Lord, in thee have I trusted, let me never be confounded.

The Te Deum roughly follows the structure of the Apostles' Creed, praising each of the core tenets of the Christian faith – the Incarnation, the Passion, the Resurrection, and the Second Coming of Christ. Towards the beginning, there is a quote of the Sanctus from the Mass, the angels' eternal hymn of adoration. Like at the Mass, we bow our heads at the words, “Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus...” At the verse, “Tu ad liberandum...” praising the Incarnation, we make a profound bow, similar to how we kneel when the Incarnation is mentioned in the Nicene Creed and the Last Gospel at Mass. At the verse, “Te ergo quaesumus...” we kneel as we plead for God's help. Finally, at the verse, “Et laudamus nomen...” we bow in adoration of the Holy Name of Jesus.

If Matins and Lauds are offered together, as they commonly are, then Matins ends here, and we proceed with the beginning of Lauds, starting with the verse, “Deus in adjutórium...” If, however, Matins is offered alone, there is a short conclusion. If Matins is offered in choir led by a priest or deacon, the priest sings the greeting, “Dominus vobiscum,” like at Mass, with its usual response. However, since only a priest offers this greeting, anyone else offering the Divine Office (or a priest offering the Divine Office alone) replaces it with the following verse.

Dómine, exáudi oratiónem meam.
Et clamor meus ad te véniat.
O Lord, hear my prayer.
And let my cry come unto thee.

This verse comes from Psalm 101:2 and is also found in the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar at Mass. The collect for the Mass of the Day is then sung. This collect is sung at every hour of the Divine Office except Prime and Compline. Since the entire Divine Office is a supplement to the Mass of the day, it is fitting that the Divine Office be connected to the Mass in this way. Commemorations are not made at Matins, only at Lauds and Vespers.

After the collect, Matins is concluded with the dismissal, “Benedicamus Domino,” which is used at Mass when another ceremony is to follow, or traditionally on penitential occasions when we want to stay and keep watch longer with Christ. This is followed by a short prayer for the souls in purgatory, for whom the Church always offers her prayers. As mentioned before, anyone who is not a priest replaces “Dominus vobiscum” with “Domine, exaudi orationem meam.”

Dóminus vobíscum.
Et cum spíritu tuo.
Benedicámus Dómino.
Deo grátias.
Fidélium ánimæ per misericórdiam Dei requiéscant in pace.
The Lord be with you.
And with your spirit.
Let us bless the Lord.
Thanks be to God.
May the souls of the faithful, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

Finally, on a self-referential note, the texts from Matins included in this article are the ones that remain the same every day. However, unlike the Mass, the most important parts of Matins are different every day, and thus cannot be included here. The psalms and readings form the core of the hour of Matins.

New terms
  • Gloria Patri or Glory Be – A short prayer giving praise to the Holy Trinity, sung at the end of every psalm.
  • Invitatory – Psalm 94 and its antiphon, which are sung at the beginning of Matins every day except during the Sacred Triduum.
  • nocturns – The parts into which Matins is traditionally divided, each consisting of a certain number of psalms and readings. Matins may consist of three nocturns or one nocturn.
  • responsory – Verses from psalms or other scripture, including a response that is repeated after each verse, sung after each reading.
  • Te Deum – A great hymn of praise to God sung at Matins whenever the Gloria is sung at Mass.

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