TO THE BARONIUS EDITION OF
THE ROMAN BREVIARY
From the first rays of the rising sun until heaven’s fiery orb sheds its final light – and even beyond that – the Church offers a spiritual sacrifice of praise through the Divine Office, that compliments the sacrifice of the Mass, and in union with it serves to sanctify the day, returning praise to the God who gives us not only the day but every good and perfect gift. Through the seven day-time offices, and the office of Matins which is properly said either as the clock strikes midnight to announce the new day or as the streaks of dawn announce the returning sun, the Church draws on hymns, psalms, and scriptural canticles, to raise praise, prayer and petitions of every kind to God.
The heart and soul of the Office is the Psalter. Pope Pius X noted the supreme value of the psalms in his encyclical Divino Afflatu, and his revision of the Office’s Psalter in the early twentieth century was designed to restore the ancient tradition of reciting the entire book of psalms over the course of a week. Quoting St Athanasius, he bears testimony to the power of the psalms in our spiritual life:
The psalms have the power to fire our souls with zeal for all the virtues. ‘All our scripture, both Old and New Testaments, is divinely inspired and is useful for teaching, as the apostle says. But the book of psalms is like a garden which contains the fruits of all the other books, grows a crop of song and so adds its own special fruit to the rest.’ These are the words of Saint Athanasius, and he goes on: ‘It seems to me that for him who recites them the psalms are like a mirror, in which a man may see himself and the movements of his heart and mind and then give voice to them.’
The psalms, containing within them the joys, sorrows, glories, and whole spectrum of our lives as we journey to the heavenly Jerusalem, became the heart the early Church’s daily worship as they had been in Judaism. As Dr Pius Parch notes in his introduction to the Hours in this edition of the Breviary, “The Psalter is and will remain the many-stringed harp upon which we can sound all the chords of our prayer life and from which we can draw out all the deep notes of our heart.” Each provides its own insight into some aspect of the spiritual life and human experience, be it the depths of despair or the exuberance of praise.
The Council of Trent
Although the pre-conciliar Breviary was shaped by the revisions of Pope Pius X, it also bears the marks of the Council of Trent, and some background to that Council’s work and its subsequent history of the Office may help to understand its form. By the sixteenth century the practise of combining all the texts for the Office into one volume – essentially the modern Breviary – had led to changes in the way the Hours were recited. Notably the weekly recitation of the entire Psalter was overshadowed, as the number the feasts of Saints, which had proper psalms assigned to them sharply increased. Cardinal Francis Quignonez was entrusted by Pope Clement VII with the task of revising the Divine Office. The weekly recitation of all 150 psalms was to be restored. Yet while trying to restore this ancient practice to the very heart of the Office his revision was, in many ways, a radical departure from the traditional Roman form. Each Hour was to have three psalms, which were to be unrepeated elsewhere. Previously Terce, Sext, None and Compline had invariably repeated the same psalms every day, while some of the psalms appointed to Lauds and Prime were also repeated daily. Quignonez saw that in practise the Office served two functions, as public prayer in choir and as the private prayer of individual priests. His restructuring of the new Offices emphasised the Hours as the cleric’s private prayer and he removed many features more suited to recitation in choir, such as Antiphons, Responsories, and so on. This attracted considerable criticism from those who were shocked by the break with established liturgical practice. This did not prevent it being widely used by clerics for private recitation, and Quignonez later restored some of the ommitted features in response to these criticisms in a revised version of the
Breviary. The reaction to Cardinal Quignonez’s Breviary illustrates the tension implicit in the Office. On one hand, it was supposed to be the Church’s public prayer, chanted every day in Cathedrals and larger churches. On the other hand it had become the priest’s private reserve.
Others schemes for the revision of the Breviary were also mooted: with the rise of Humanism there came a call for a return to the standards of classical Latin, in reaction to the ‘debased’ Medieval Latin, and in particular for hymns to reflect the ‘perfection’ of Cicero or Seneca. A new hymnary for the Breviary was begun in the 1530s under the patronage of Pope Leo X. Bishop Ferreri of Guarda Alfieri in Naples, worked to produce a hymnary which reflected these aspirations. It showed a strong affection for classical literature and the compositions were strewn with allegorical references to Pagan deities, even the Trinity was described as “Triforme Numen Olympi”. The project was never concluded, but raised the possibility of the traditional hymns being altered.
After these various schemes for reform which tried to push the liturgy in one direction or the other, the Council of Trent more or less settled the question of the Office for 400 years, by largely canonizing the medieval form of the liturgy, with some modifications – such as a reduction in interruptions to the weekly Psalter. As Dom Ferdinand Cabrol said, “They corrected the lessons, or legends, of the saints and revised the Calendar; and while respecting ancient liturgical formularies such as the collects, they introduced needful changes in certain details.” The Breviary of Trent essentially reaffirmed the Gregorian schemata of psalms. The only change was a small concession to those who found the larger number of psalms appointed to the Sunday morning Offices to be a burden – and the large number of psalms was onerous by any standards – so in Prime a number of psalms were redistributed across the weekdays, instead of being recited en bloc on Sunday. The Breviary of Pope St. Pius V, published in 1568 remained the exemplar for all editions of the Breviary until the early twentieth century.
Further minor changes were made to the Breviary: by Pope Sixtus V in 1588, who introduced the revised Vulgate text; and Pope Clement VIII in 1602, who set Cardinals Baronius and Bellarmine to overhaul the rubrics. More substantial changes were introduced by Pope Urban VIII who revived the idea of “correcting” the hymns according to classical rules of grammar and metre which ante-dated their composition. Dom Prosper Gueranger unflatteringly described the revised hymns as “touched up in the seventeenth century according to the taste of that age”. Later commentators have not been as kind. The revised hymns were not universally embraced – they were never adopted in the Basilica of St Peter, nor by the Monastic Orders who were more conservative in their hymnary. The judgement of history appears to be on their side, and the scholary assessment of these compositions in the twentieth century has generally been that the seventeenth-century revisions are inferior to the originals in terms of literary merit. For better or worse the hymns in this volume are those of Urban which were in use in the Roman Breviary of 1961, that being the edition referred to in Summorum Pontificum.
Schemes to rearrange the Psalter did not abate, and the Gallican Breviaries of the eighteenth century made sweeping changes. They followed Cardinal Quignonez’s principal of only reciting each psalm once, while keeping the traditional number of psalms to be recited at each hour, but also abandoned most traditional hymns, antiphons and responsories in favour of newer compositions. There is a magnificent use of Scripture in many of the newer compositions, which means some incredible typological pieces, such as some of the Marian responsories. Unfortunately it seems that a quasi-Jansenist mistrust of Tradition, rather than a pure love of Scripture motivated the revisers who, once again, set out to conform the prayer of the Church to contemporary tastes. While these were abandoned in the nineteenth century, its Psalter probably paved the way for later schema of a similar nature. The Benedictine Congregation of St Maur, taking advantage of the passage in The Rule that the psalms could be arranged differently “provided that care be taken that every week a hundred-and-fifty psalms be sung”, produced a scheme influnced by the Gallican Breviaries that involved only reciting each psalm once in the course of the week.
Early Twentieth Century
In 1902 Pope Leo XIII appointed a commission to consider the renewal of the liturgy, including the Breviary, but no major changes were made until the pontificate of Pope St Pius X. Again the object of this Holy Pontiff’s revision was that those praying the hours would recite the entire book of psalms every week. As he wrote, “the offices of the Sundays and ferias are hardly ever heard, and thus neglect has fallen on not a few psalms”. Pius X must have been well aware of previous reforms, such as that of the Benedictines of St Maur, when he revised the weekly cycle of psalms, and one can see the influence of these on his Breviary. The Breviary of 1911 also introduced divisios (the breaking up of psalms into smaller sections) into the Roman Office from the Monastic form.
His reasons for the revision were that following the First Vatican Council:
a great many bishops in various parts of the world [...] asked, among other things, that the ancient custom of reciting the whole Psaltery within the week might be restored as far as possible, but in such a way that the burden should not be made any heavier for the clergy, whose labours in the vineyard of the sacred ministry are now increased owing to the diminution in the number of labourers.
While the repetition of material made it easier to learn to chant the Minor Hours and Compline in the pre-1910 scheme, this was far from the way the Office was normally prayed in the early twentieth century. First and foremost it was used as the priest’s private prayer, and Pius X’s revisions reduced what many priests considered the burden of the number of verses they repeated every day, in order to make it a more effective tool of sanctification. Yet Pope Pius recognised that the prayer of the Church was used as a public choral office, as can be seen in his revised scheme for Sundays and Feast days, where the psalms appointed for the Day Hours was practically unchanged (on Sundays he removed three psalms from Lauds, one from Prime, and the verses of Psalm 30 appointed for Compline). This meant that on those occassions when the Office was more likely to be chanted it would continue to be so with practically no disruption.
While it is easy to mourn the loss of the old Psalter from a choral perspective, it is easy to overlook exactly how much priests had to recite in the pre-1910 office, and how rushed recitation could be. The new arrangement meant no less than 1844 fewer verses were recited over the course of a typical week. Pius’ reforms were eminantly pragmatic at all levels: retaining both the weekly recitation of the entire Psalter, and the familiar chants for Sundays and festivals. The only other solution open to him would have been to have abandoned the one-week Psalter, possibly moving to a two-week cycle as in the Ambrosian rite. This would have been a radical change for the Roman rite, but it would have allowed for the repetition of the psalms in the day hours to be kept.
Pius X forbade the use of the old Office after the 1st January 1913: “Wherefore, let nobody infringe or temerariously oppose this page of our abolition, revocation, permission, ordinance, precept, statue, indult, mandate and will. But if anybody shall presume to attempt this let him know that he will incur the indignation of almighty God and of his apostles the blessed Peter and Paul.” Pius X made clear his absolute authority as reigning Pontiff to legitimately implement the revision of the Psalter. While regrets were expressed over the discontinuation of certain immemorial traditions, such as the loss of the daily recitation of the Lauds Psalms – which certainly dated back to the fourth century as part of the Christian liturgy, and may have been continuously prayed by Christians from the early first century when Our Lord recited them as part of the daily Jewish services – no one opposed the new Breviary’s introduction, recognising that it had behind it the full force of the Petrine Office.
After Pius X
Although Pius X’s changes were the most sweeping reforms to the traditional Breviary in the twentieth century – one may even be tempted to say in its history – the Office was not set in aspic after his revisions. 1945 saw the introduction of a new Psalter from the Hebrew which could be used as an alternative to St Jerome’s so-called ‘Gallican’ translation from the Greek Septuagint. It was promulgated by Pope Pius XII in his motu proprio In Cotidianis Precibus, in which henoted how the new Psalter was introduced in response to requests from the clergy:
What they desired was a Latin Psalter that would bring out more clearly the meaning the Holy Spirit had inspired, that would give truer expression to the devout sentiments of the Psalmist’s soul, that would reflect his style and his very words more exactly. [...] We decided to comply with these devout wishes and gave orders that a new Latin translation of the psalms be provided. [...] We hereby of Our own free choice [motu proprio] and upon mature deliberation permit them to use [the new Psalter], should they wish to do so, in either private or public recitation [...]
It is often said that Pope John XXIII disliked the Psalter approved by his predecessor and invariably used the Gallican Psalter when he prayed the Office. While this may be apocryphal, the anecdote illustrates how a preferance for the older Psalter has endured in the Church. While publishers in the 1960s favoured the new Psalter, the faithful continued to prefer the familiar cadences of St Jerome. It is easy to unfavourably compare Pius XII’s Psalter with Jerome’s work, but we should recognise both that it is a solid, readable translation of the Hebrew that could be prayfully employed, and that the Gallican Psalter contains some obscure passages which are so dark as to be unintelligable. Given that the sensus fidelium settled on the Gallican Psalter it seemed only right to include that text in this edition. Certainly it would seem odd to hear any other version chanted in the traditional Office.
The drive for the new translation from the Hebrew was conditioned by several factors, one of which was increasing disatisfaction with the difficult passages in Jerome’s work. There were conservative responses to this issue, which could easily be regarded as part of an organic development of the Church’s liturgical practice. Notably Dom Rob Weber of Clairvaux Abbey, produced a recension of the Gallican Psalter in 1961 (Psalterii secundum Vulgatem Bibliorum Versionem nova recensio), altering only those verses in Jerome’s translation which were wholly unintelligiable. With a view, both to the difficulties in Jerome, and, perhaps, to the failure of the Hebrew Psalter promulgated by Pius XII to win widespread popularity, the Second Vatican Council leant its support to another revision of the Psalter, which took into account “the style of Christian Latin, the liturgical use of psalms, also when sung, and the entire tradition of the Latin Church”. Rather than either adopting Dom Weber’s work, or undertaking a revision along similar lines, a thorough revision of the Gallican Psalter was made, which not only cleared up textual difficulties, but also conformed the Latin to the Hebrew version of the psalms. While the resulting Neo-Vulgate Psalter retains many of Jerome’s rich phrases, and (in my opinion) is easier Latin than either of its predeceasors it omits many familiar verses from the Gallican Psalter.
In the wake of the Second Vatican Council came a thorough-going revision of the Liturgy of the Hours. In the late 1960s optional adaptations of the Divine Office were permitted, including abbreviating the number of psalms at Lauds and Vespers to three to allow for longer readings (taken from the Missal) and intercessory prayers throughout the year. The permission to use the Sunday psalms and antiphon whenever Compline was prayed in public reflected the liturgical tradition pre-dating Pius X’s reforms. However, the possibility of removing of the opening blessing (reflecting a parallel option in Matins) was an innovation without precedent. The Interim Breviaries of the early 1970s prepared the way for the Breviary of Paul VI in 1974 which displaced the traditional Office in the life of the Church.
For the best part of 40 years the traditional Liturgy of the Hours remained the preserve of those in traditional orders and associations. Lay liturgy enthusiasts also continued to harbour a love for the older Office, and in a technological age second-hand editions of the Breviary of Pius X have frequently changed hands on various internet trading sites. Of course, the laity have the right to excercise any form of prayer in their private devotions, and can therefore use any form of the Office they wish, including pre-concilar forms of the Breviary. However for clerics who are bound by canon law to certain forms no such freedom attached itself. The motu proprio Summorum Pontificum of Pope Benedict XVI changed that. Establishing that both the pre-conciliar Mass of Pope John XXIII and the revised form promulgated by Paul VI following the Council are two forms of the Roman rite, the latter ordinary, the former extraordinary, the Holy Father then went on to grant secular clergy the right to use whichever form of the Breviary they wished to. Indeed, some Religious congregations have already accepted the Pope’s invitation to take up the older form of the Office. Summorum Pontificum restored the Breviary of Pius X to its position as a tool of sanctification for all the people of God who wish to draw from its spiritual riches. As Benedict XVI points out in his historic motu proprio: “[T]he Latin liturgy of the Church in its various forms, in each century of the Christian era, has been a spur to the spiritual life of many saints, has reinforced many peoples in the virtue of religion and fecundated their piety.”
Pius X’s Breviary provided a suitable form of the traditional liturgy for clerics and laity in the twentieth century, keeping the historic structure of the Office while revising the Psalter to return to the patristic principle of the weekly recitation of the whole book of psalms. Yet the Breviary of 1961 is not just a historic curiosity, consigned to the dusty stores of a library or museum, only to be sought out by antiquarians and scholars. Benedict’s decree validates the continued relevance and value of this version of the Divine Office for the Church in the twenty-first century. So from the first rays of the rising sun until heaven’s fiery orb sheds its final light, the Church – with the blessing of its supreme Pontiff, the successor of St Peter – may once more offers its spiritual sacrifice with the ancient words of St Jerome’s Psalter, and the traditional order of the Office, which would be familiar to countless generations of saints. God, Our Father, grants us every good and perfect gift, and now by the hand of his Pope He has returned this Breviary to the whole Church. May the tongues of the Adam’s sons and daughters join with those of the angels of heaven in raising the never-ending round of praise to the eternal and undivided Trinity.
Feast of SS. Peter and Paul, 2010
New Liturgical Movement
"Speaking for myself, from what I have seen of this edition of the breviary so far, I believe it was well worth the wait. It is a beautiful, well produced edition of the Divine Office which employs qualitative materials in its construction – which is exactly as it should be."
"This Breviary is a monumental work for the traditional movement in the Catholic Church. It aids in the accessibility of the texts of the Roman Breviary to all. So many people, even in traditional circles, are intimidated by all-Latin Breviaries.This publication will ease the intimidation."
Fr. Z's Blog – What Does The Prayer Really Say?
"This set of the reworked "Collegeville" breviaries could be a huge help to someone whose Latin isn't that strong, or who doesn't want to fight with some of the harder bits during Matins, etc."
Antiphon (vol 16. no. 2, 2012) — Review by Dom Alcuin Reid
"Most importantly, the type is clear and bold―those praying the hours in dimly lit churches need not fear! Six good ribbons serve well, and sturdy leather slipcases protect each volume. From endpapers, sewn leather covers, gold-edged pages, etc., Baronius Press has produced a thing of beauty, as indeed any book used for the sacred liturgy ought to be. "
The Roman Breviary in English and Latin
London: Baronius Press, 2011
3 vols (6,064 pp.). Flexible leather. $350.
In 1963, The Liturgical Press (Collegeville, Minnesota) published in three volumes The Hours of the Divine Office in English and Latin. It followed the 1961 typical edition of the Breviarium Romanum, giving clergy and laity an English translation of all the liturgical texts and an English edition of the rubrics. Making the riches of the Divine Office so accessible to all was a noble and sound testament to the ideals of its editors and of the Liturgical Movement; but the appearance of this edition in 1963 rendered it obsolete after only a few years. That it employed the Latin psalter permitted (not imposed) by Pope Pius XII in 1945—an initiative that has simply not stood the test of time―meant that its continuing value as a Latin text was minimal.
Following the 2007 authoritative clarification of the Motu proprio of Pope Benedict XVI, Summorum Pontificum (art. 9 §3), that the Breviarium Romanum of 1961 may indeed be used, and that of the 2011 Instruction Universae Ecclesiae (no. 32) that clergy must pray it in Latin, the need arose for new editions of the Roman Breviary. Yet many if not most Anglophone clergy, through no fault of their own, lack the level of formation in Latin that they ought to have. It is precisely here that this new edition of the old Office comes into its own. While the Baronius Breviary is modeled on the Liturgical Press edition of 1963, Baronius Press undertook the painstaking task of typesetting it anew and replacing the Pius XII psalter with the Gallican/Vulgate psalter—the traditional liturgical version. Moreover, the English translations have been revised to conform more closely to the Latin original. This enormous work renders these volumes an invaluable source not only of the liturgical text but also for their comprehension.
So too, their production speaks of quality and care. Most importantly, the type is clear and bold―those praying the hours in dimly lit churches need not fear! Six good ribbons serve well, and sturdy leather slipcases protect each volume. From endpapers, sewn leather covers, gold-edged pages, etc., Baronius Press has produced a thing of beauty, as indeed any book used for the sacred liturgy ought to be.
The Baronius Breviary comes with several cards and a book entitled, Learning the Traditional Breviary. The latter is a new edition of Learning the New Breviary by Bernard A. Hausmann, S.J., first published by Benziger in 1961. While the title of the Baronius edition is perhaps a little over-enthusiastic (more below), for those unfamiliar with the older Divine Office, as indeed for those in formation in Institutes that celebrate it, Hausmann’s book is very helpful indeed. The sturdy cards included with this Breviary reproduce frequently recurring liturgical texts and thereby facilitate a tranquil celebration of the Office, particularly when one is less familiar with it. One card provides the “Prayers before and after reciting the Divine Office.” Although these prayers were not obligatory in 1961 (as the card itself is careful to make clear), their ad libitum use is laudable and can be only to the good.
My one reservation about this edition arises from the editor’s “Introduction.” He offers an historical survey of the Roman Breviary containing much valuable material for the non-specialist, but lacking in bibliography. Yet his conclusion that “The Breviary of Paul VI in 1974... displaced the traditional Office in the life of the Church” (xix), is far too simplistic and perhaps self-serving. Certainly the Liturgia Horarum promulgated after the Second Vatican Council is in little demonstrable continuity with the Breviarium Romanum of 1961. But the latter is itself by no means the apotheosis of the liturgical history of the Divine Office. As the editor admits, the 1911 reforms of St Pius X were not unsubstantial. Indeed, this reviewer would say that aspects of them were radical, and that to apply the adjective “traditional” to elements of the Pius X Breviary is not possible. They are “authoritative,” certainly, but, for example, to abolish the tradition of praying the Laudate psalms (Pss 148-150) each morning at Lauds—which tradition in all likelihood Our Lord himself observed according to Jewish custom—is no small matter. So too, to retain Pope Urban VIII’s awful revision of the Latin breviary hymns (in both the 1911 and 1961 editions) is hardly “traditional.” The 1963 Breviarium Monasticum, which never suffered these injuries, would be much more deserving of the epithet. That said, the 1961 Breviarium Romanum is the edition of the older Breviary authorized for current use by secular clergy, which surely explains the editor’s enthusiasm for it. It is a pity, though, that his Introduction does not signal the need for further study of these issues.
Pius Parsch’s “Introduction to the Hours of the Breviary” from the 1963 Collegeville edition follows. His “tour” of the origin and meaning of each of the hours is valuable, as is his introduction to praying the psalms. He echoes the hope of the Liturgical Movement out of which grew the Church’s desire, as expressed in the Vatican II Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, that the Divine Office once again become the prayer of the Church, when he writes: “It is our task, and a richly rewarding one, to restore the Psalter to its place of honour in Christian prayer. The Psalter is a sacred heritage, the treasury of the Church’s finest prayers, and it is lying open for us if we but take it and make it our own” (16). There is no question that the Baronius Breviary will help further to realize that vision.
Evelyn Waugh, in his 1962 article “The Same Again, Please,” described himself as “typical of that middle rank of the Church, far from her leaders, much farther from her saints” and admitted that at Mass he was given to “glance rather often at the vernacular translations of the Latin.” There are very few today who, in opting for the older version of the Divine Office, do not experience the same need, at least occasionally. They, and those who will come to know and use the Roman Breviary in the future, have good reason to be grateful to Baronius Press.
Dom Alcuin Reid
La Garde-Freinet, France