Sunday, July 15, 2018

Liturgy of the Divine Office, Part 4: Prime

Previous parts in this series:
Part 1: Introduction to the traditional Divine Office
Part 2: Matins
Part 3: Lauds

The next four hours of the Divine OfficePrime, Terce, Sext, and None—are collectively known as the “little hours,” because they are all relatively short, with just three psalms each. They are offered throughout the workday: Prime at the first hour (about 6:00 a.m.), Terce at the third hour (about 9:00 a.m.), Sext at the sixth hour (about noon), and None at the ninth hour (about 3:00 p.m.). These times come from the work schedule of ancient Rome.

Whereas Matins is the beginning of the liturgical day, Prime is the beginning of the workday. There are three purposes for offering prayer at this hour: to offer our day's work to God, to pray for him to keep us safe throughout the day, and to ask him to protect us from sin. Like at Matins, the Apostles' Creed is traditionally said at the beginning of Prime in addition to the Aperi Domine, Our Father, and Hail Mary. Following these prayers, Prime begins with the usual verse.

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 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.

This is followed by the hymn Jam lucis orto, which is sung every day. This hymn asks God to protect us from sin and to give us what we need for today.

Iam lucis orto sídere,
Deum precémur súpplices,
Ut in diúrnis áctibus
Nos servet a nocéntibus.


Linguam refrénans témperet,
Ne litis horror ínsonet:
Visum fovéndo cóntegat,
Ne vanitátes háuriat.


Sint pura cordis íntima,
Absístat et vecórdia;
Carnis terat supérbiam
Potus cibíque párcitas.


Ut, cum dies abscésserit,
Noctémque sors redúxerit,
Mundi per abstinéntiam
Ipsi canámus glóriam.


Deo Patri sit glória,
Eiúsque soli Fílio,
Cum Spíritu Paráclito,
Nunc et per omne sǽculum.
Amen.
Now in the sun’s new dawning ray,
Lowly of heart, our God we pray
That he from harm may keep us free
In all the deeds this day shall see.


May fear of him our tongues restrain,
Lest strife unguarded speech should stain:
His favouring care our guardian be,
Lest our eyes feed on vanity.


May every heart be pure from sin
And folly find no place therein:
Scant need of food, excess denied,
Wear down in us the body’s pride.


That when the light of day is gone,
And night in course shall follow on.
We, free from cares the world affords,
May chant the praise that is our Lord’s.


All laud to God the Father be,
All praise, Eternal Son, to thee:
All glory, as is ever meet,
To God the holy Paraclete.
Amen.

We must always trust God to give us what we need and to protect us from evil in any given day. Jesus commanded us in Matthew 6:25, “Therefore I say to you, be not solicitous for your life, what you shall eat, nor for your body, what you shall put on. Is not the life more than the meat: and the body more than the raiment?” Later, in Matthew 6:34, he said, “Be not therefore solicitous for tomorrow; for the morrow will be solicitous for itself. Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof.” Thus, in the hymn at Prime, we ask God for protection from whatever evils may present themselves in our work that day. As with all hymns, we bow at the final stanza.

Next, the psalms for the day of the week are sung. As with every hour of the Divine Office, the psalms are the most important part of Prime. One antiphon is sung, followed by three psalms or portions of psalms, which are again followed by the antiphon. Whereas the hours of Matins and Lauds are more solemn, and as a result each psalm has its own antiphon, the little hours are less solemn, so there is only one antiphon for all three psalms. At Prime, the antiphon is usually dependent on the day of the week, but proper antiphons are appointed for first class feasts and for the seasons of Advent, Septuagesima, and Lent. As always, Gloria Patri is sung after each psalm.

On Trinity Sunday, the Athanasian Creed or Quicumque vult is sung. Until 1956, it was sung at Prime every Sunday. This is a long profession of faith, originating in the fifth or sixth century and attributed to St. Athanasius. It includes many of the same points of doctrine as the Apostles Creed, but it elaborates heavily on the mysteries of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ and the Holy Trinity. It begins with the solemn declaration, “Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholic faith. Which faith unless every one do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.” The Athanasian Creed is sung after the third psalm and before the antiphon is repeated. It is sung to a psalm tone and concluded with the Gloria Patri. Thus, it is essentially treated like a fourth psalm.

After the psalms and antiphon, the capitulum is sung, which is always 1 Timothy 1:17.

Regi sæculórum immortáli et invisíbili, soli Deo honor et glória in sǽcula sæculórum. Amen.
Deo grátias.
Now to the king of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Thanks be to God.

Since Prime and Compline were the last two offices to appear in the fourth century, they are also the least variable. They are mostly the same every day, other than the psalms and antiphons dependent on the day of the week. Thus, the capitulum is always the same. Notice again the theme of giving praise to God. This is a theme throughout the Divine Office, but especially in the morning. Praise to God is the primary function of Lauds, and since Prime developed later, it took on some of the character of Lauds. Thus, the capitulum of Prime is this verse from the First Epistle of St. Paul to Timothy giving praise to God.

After the capitulum is a short responsory in imitation of the responsories sung after the readings at Matins. The response is sung twice, then a verse is sung, followed by the second half of the response. The first half of Gloria Patri is then sung, followed by the response again. At Prime, the response is always the same.

Christe, Fili Dei vivi, miserére nobis.
Christe, Fili Dei vivi, miserére nobis.
Qui sedes ad déxteram Pátris.
Miserére nobis.
Glória Patri, et Fílio, et Spirítui Sancto.
Christe, Fili Dei vivi, miserére nobis.
Christ, Son of the living God, have mercy on us.
Christ, Son of the living God, have mercy on us.
Thou, who sittest at the right hand of the Father.
Have mercy on us.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.
Christ, Son of the living God, have mercy on us.

The verse, “Qui sedes ad dexteram Patris,” changes for certain feasts or seasons.

Advent and Christmas Eve
Qui ventúrus es in mundum.

Christmastide, feasts of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and Saturdays of our Lady
Qui natus es de María Vírgine.

Epiphany
Qui apparuísti hódie.

Paschaltide
Qui surrexísti a mórtuis.

Ascension
Qui scandis super sídera.

Pentecost
Qui sedes ad déxteram Patris.
Advent and Christmas Eve
Who is to come into the world.

Christmastide, feasts of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and Saturdays of our Lady
Who was born of the Virgin Mary.

Epiphany
Who is manifested unto us this day.

Paschaltide
Who has risen from the dead.

Ascension
Who has ascended above the stars.

Pentecost
Who sits at the right hand of the Father.

During Passiontide, the Gloria Patri is omitted from the short responsory. During Paschaltide, “alleluia, alleluia” is added. The short responsory is followed by an invariable versicle and response.

Exsúrge, Christe, ádiuva nos.
Et líbera nos propter nomen tuum.
Arise, O Christ, and help us.
And deliver us for thy name's sake.

During Paschaltide, “alleluia” is added to the versicle and its response. Here, we return to the theme, expressed in the hymn at the beginning, of asking for God's help and mercy as we begin the workday. We ask again for his help and protection in the prayer that follows. As always, a non-priest replaces “Dominus vobiscum” with “Domine, exaudi orationem meam.”

Dóminus vobíscum.
Et cum spíritu tuo.
Orémus.
Dómine Deus omnípotens, qui ad princípium huius diéi nos perveníre fecísti: tua nos hódie salva virtúte; ut in hac die ad nullum declinémus peccátum, sed semper ad tuam iustítiam faciéndam nostra procédant elóquia, dirigántur cogitatiónes et ópera.
Per Dóminum nostrum Iesum Christum, Fílium tuum: qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitáte Spíritus Sancti Deus, per ómnia sǽcula sæculórum.
Amen.
The Lord be with you.
And with thy spirit.
Let us pray.
O Lord, our heavenly Father, Almighty and everlasting God, who has safely brought us to the beginning of this day: defend us by thy mighty power; and grant that this day we fall into no sin, but that all our doings may be ordered by thy governance, to do always that is righteous in thy sight.
Through Jesus Christ, thy Son our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end.
Amen.

Another result of Prime and Compline appearing later is that the prayer at these hours always remains the same. These are the only two hours of the Divine Office at which the Mass's collect of the day is not sung. After this is the dismissal, “Benedicamus Domino,” as if the hour ended here.

Dóminus vobíscum.
Et cum spíritu tuo.
Benedicámus Dómino.
Deo grátias.
The Lord be with you.
And with your spirit.
Let us bless the Lord.
Thanks be to God.

What we have had up to this point is the usual structure of the little hoursthe opening verse, an invariable hymn, three psalms with one antiphon, capitulum, short responsory, verse, prayer, and dismissal. This first part of Prime developed from Lauds. The second part of Prime is known as the Office of the Chapter. In traditional Benedictine monasteries, after Lauds, the monks would have a period of silent prayer or study. They were then called back to the choir for the first part of Prime. Then, before beginning their manual labor, they would retreat to the chapter house to read from the Martyrology and Necrology, offer prayers for the dead, pray for their day's work, and read from the Rule of St. Benedict. The Office of the Chapter in the Roman liturgy comes from this Benedictine practice.

The Office of the Chapter begins with a reading from the Martyrology, a book containing the names of saints who are celebrated on each day. The veneration of saints has been a core part of Catholic liturgy since the earliest times. Under the Roman Empire, when Christianity was visciously persecuted, Christians held the holy martyrs who gave their life for God in highest honor. To this day, the Mass is always offered on top of the relics of martyrs. Even centuries after their deaths, the Church still never wishes to neglect any of her saints. Whereas the liturgical calendar usually only has one or two saints for each day, the Martyrology may have twenty or thirty saints for each day. The latest edition of the Roman Martyrology published by the Vatican in 2004 contains approximately seven thousand saints over the course of the year. There are many more millions of saints whose names are not known, but who are still gloriously alive with God in heaven. As Catholics, we can take great joy in knowing that we have such a tremendous throng of saints interceding for us to God!

The Martyrology is always anticipated, meaning the entry for the following day is sung. When Prime is offered privately, the Martyrology is optional, but in choir, it is mandatory. It always ends by acknowledging the saints whose names are not known, followed by the response “Deo gratias.”

Et álibi aliórum plurimórum sanctórum Mártyrum et Confessórum, atque sanctárum Vírginum.
Deo grátias.
And elsewhere many other holy martyrs, confessors, and holy virgins.
Thanks be to God.

Next, there is a versicle, response, and prayer venerating and imploring the intercession of the saints. The greatest of the saints, the Blessed Virgin Mary, is invoked by name.

Pretiósa in conspéctu Dómini.
Mors Sanctórum eius.
Sancta María et omnes Sancti intercédant pro nobis ad Dóminum, ut nos mereámur ab eo adiuvári et salvári, qui vivit et regnat in sǽcula sæculórum.
Amen.
Precious in the sight of the Lord.
Is the death of his saints.
Holy Mary and all the Saints, intercede for us with the Lord, our God, so that we may merit His help and salvation, who lives and reigns for ever and ever.
Amen.

This prayer is a fitting conclusion to the veneration of saints in the Martyrology. After that, prayers are sung for the day's work. These prayers begin with a threefold repetition of the verse Deus in adjutorium, followed by the Gloria Patri, a shortened form of the Kyrie from Mass, and the Our Father.

Deus in adiutórium meum inténde.
Dómine, ad adiuvándum me festína.
Deus in adiutórium meum inténde.
Dómine, ad adiuvándum me festína.
Deus in adiutórium meum inténde.
Dómine, ad adiuvándum me festína.
Glória Patri, et Fílio, et Spirítui Sancto.
Sicut erat in princípio, et nunc, et semper, et in sǽcula sæculórum. Amen.
Kýrie, eléison. Christe, eléison. Kýrie, eléison.
Pater noster, qui es in cælis, sanctificétur nomen tuum: advéniat regnum tuum: fiat volúntas tua, sicut in cælo et in terra. Panem nostrum quotidiánum da nobis hódie: et dimítte nobis débita nostra, sicut et nos dimíttimus debitóribus nostris:
Et ne nos indúcas in tentatiónem:
Sed líbera nos a malo.
Réspice in servos tuos, Dómine, et in ópera tua, et dírige fílios eórum.
Et sit splendor Dómini Dei nostri super nos, et ópera mánuum nostrárum dírige super nos, et opus mánuum nostrárum dírige.
Glória Patri, et Fílio, et Spirítui Sancto.
Sicut erat in princípio, et nunc, et semper, et in sǽcula sæculórum. Amen.
Orémus.
Dirígere et sanctificáre, régere et gubernáre dignáre, Dómine Deus, Rex cæli et terræ, hódie corda et córpora nostra, sensus, sermónes et actus nostros in lege tua, et in opéribus mandatórum tuórum: ut hic et in ætérnum, te auxiliánte, salvi et líberi esse mereámur, Salvátor mundi: Qui vivis et regnas in sǽcula sæculórum.
Amen.
O God come to my assistance;
O Lord, make haste to help me.
O God come to my assistance;
O Lord, make haste to help me.
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.
Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us.
Our Father, who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation:
But deliver us from evil.
Look upon thy servants and upon thy works: and direct their children.
And let the brightness of the Lord our God be upon us. Direct thou the works of our hands; yea, the work of our hands do thou direct.
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.
Let us pray.
O Lord, Almighty God, King of heaven and earth, Savior of the world, bless, lead, rule and govern our hearts and bodies, our senses, words and deeds today, following thy law and commandments, that here and for eternity with thy help we shall be saved in freedom. Who lives and reigns for ever and ever.
Amen.

Recall from the beginning of this article the three purposes of Prime: to offer the day's work to God, to ask God to keep us safe, and to ask God to protect us from sin. This prayer sung at the Office of the Chapter at Prime prays for all three purposes. We ask God to “bless, lead, rule, and govern our hearts and bodies,” placing our trust completely in God's will. Whatever our vocation is and whatever we have to do that day, we must always strive to trust and glorify God.

The Office of the Chapter in the old Benedictine monasteries consisted of a series of readings in the style of the readings at Matins. This tradition is somewhat preserved in the Roman liturgy. We have already had a reading from the Martyrology. Now, we have a short reading from scripture, in the style of a reading from Matins. It is preceded by a blessing.

Dies et actus nostros in sua pace dispónat Dóminus omnípotens. Amen. May almighty God arrange our deeds and our day in his peace. Amen.

The short reading (or lectio brevis) consists of one or two verses from scripture and depends on the season. For most of the year, it is from 2 Thessalonians 3:5. Like the readings at Matins, the short reading at Prime ends with the verse Tu autem Domine, asking for God's mercy.

Dóminus autem dírigat corda et córpora nostra in caritáte Dei et patiéntia Christi.
Tu autem, Dómine, miserére nobis.
Deo grátias.
And the Lord direct your hearts, in the charity of God, and the patience of Christ.
But thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us.
Thanks be to God.

Prime is concluded with one final blessing before we set out for the day's work. We implore God's help in the verse Adjutorium nostrum, from Psalm 123:8, also said at Mass before the Confiteor in the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar. Like at Mass, we make the Sign of the Cross.

Adjutórium nóstrum ☩ in nómine Dómini.
Qui fecit cælum et terram.
Benedícite.
Deus.
Dóminus nos benedícat, ☩ et ab omni malo deféndat, et ad vitam perdúcat ætérnam. Et fidélium ánimæ per misericórdiam Dei requiéscant in pace.
Amen.
Our help ☩ is in the name of the Lord.
Who made heaven and earth.
Bless.
God.
May the Lord bless us, ☩ protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life. And may the souls of the faithful, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
Amen.

The versicle and response, “Benedicite / Deus,” are difficult to translate accurately to English, but their purpose is to ask for God's blessing. Throughout all of Prime, we have been asking for God's blessing and protection. We ask him again in this final blessing. Finally, we end with the prayer Fidelium animae for the poor souls in purgatory. With that, the little hour of Prime is concluded.

New terms
  • little hours – The shorter hours of Prime, Terce, Sext, and None, occurring throughout the workday.
  • Athanasian Creed or Quicumque Vult – A long profession of faith from the fifth or sixth century attributed to St. Athanasius, elaborating on the Incarnation and the Trinity, sung at Prime on Trinity Sunday.
  • Office of the Chapter – The second half of Prime, consisting of the Martyrology, some prayers for the day's work, a short reading from scripture, and a final blessing.
  • Martyrology – The book containing the names of all of the saints celebrated on a particular day, read at Prime.

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