O Lord, in union with that divine intention wherewith thou thyself on earth didst render thy praises to God, I desire to offer this my Office of prayer unto thee
This subject may be divided, for convenience of treatment, as follows:
III. THE HOURS;
IV. COMPONENT PARTS OF THE OFFICE;
V. HISTORY OF THE BREVIARY;
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St. Gregory VII having, indeed, abridged the order of prayers, and having simplified the Liturgy as performed at the Roman Court, this abridgment received the name of Breviary, which was suitable, since, according to the etymology of the word, it was an abridgment. The name has been extended to books which contain in one volume, or at least in one work, liturgical books of different kinds, such as the Psalter, the Antiphonary, the Responsoriary, the Lectionary, etc. In this connection it may be pointed out that in this sense the word, as it is used nowadays, is illogical; it should be named a Plenarium rather than a Breviarium, since, liturgically speaking, the word Plenarium exactly designates such books as contain several different compilations united under one cover. This is pointed out, however, simply to make still clearer the meaning and origin of the word; and section V will furnish a more detailed explanation of the formation of the Breviary.
In the Breviary, however, the Psalter is divided according to a special plan. In the earliest period the use of the Book of Psalms in the Office was doubtless exactly similar to that which prevailed amongst the Jews. The president of the choir chose a particular psalm at his own will. Some psalms, such as xxi, seem specially appropriate to the Passion. Another was adapted to the Resurrection, a third suited the Ascension, while others again are specially referable to the Office of the Dead. Some psalms provide morning prayers, others those for night. But the choice was left in the hands of the bishop or president of the choir. Later, probably from the fourth century, certain psalms began to be grouped together, to respond to the divers requirements of the Liturgy.
Another cause led to these groupings and arrangements of the Psalter. Some monks were in the habit of reciting daily the whole of the 150 psalms. But this form of devotion, apart from lessons and other formularies, occupied so much time that they began to spread the recitation of the entire Psalter over a whole week. By this method each day was divided into hours, and each hour had its own portion of the Psalter. From this arrangement arose the idea of dividing the Psalter according to specially devised rules. St. Benedict was one of the earliest to set himself to this task, in the sixth century. In his Rule he gives minute directions how, at that period, the psalms were to be distributed at the disposition of the abbot; and he himself drew up such an arangement. Certain psalms were set apart for the night offices, others for Lauds, others for Prime, Terce, Sext, and None, others for Vespers and Compline.
It is a subject of discussion amongst liturgists whether this Benedictine division of the psalms is anterior or posterior to the Roman Psalter. Although it may not be possible to prove the point definitely, still it would seem that the Roman arrangement is the older of the two, because that drawn up by St. Benedict shows more skill, and would thus seem to be in the nature of a reform of the Roman division. In any case, the Roman arrangement of the Psalter reaches back to a hoary antiquity, at least to the seventh or eight century, since when it has not undergone any alteration. The following is its disposition.
Psalms i-cviii are recited at Matins, twelve a day;
but Sunday Matins have six more psalms divided between
the three nocturns. Thus:
The psalms omitted in this series, namely, iv, v, xxi-xxv, xlii, l, liii, lxii, lxiv, lxvi, lxxix-xcii, and xciv, are, on account of their special aptitude, reserved for Lauds, Prime, and Compline.
The series, from Ps. cix to Ps. Cxlvii inclusively, are used at Vespers, five each day, except Psalms cxvii, cxviii, and cxlii, reserved for other hours. The last three, cxlviii, cxlix, and cl, which are specially called the psalms of praise (Laudes), because of the word Laudate which forms their leitmotiv, are always used in the morning Office, which thus gets its name of Lauds.
A glance at the above tables will show that, broadly speaking, the Roman Church did not attempt to make any skilful selection of the psalms for daily recitation. She took them in order as they came, except a very few set apart for Lauds, Prime, and Compline, and selected Ps. cxviii for the day hours. Other Liturgies, as the Ambrosian, the Mozarabic, and the Benedictine, or monastic, have Psalters drawn up on wholly different lines; but the respective merits of these systems need not be here discussed. The order of the ferial Psalter is not followed for the festivals of the year or for the feasts of saints; but the psalms are selected according to their suitableness to the various occasions.
The history of the text of this Psalter is interesting. The most ancient Psalter used in Rome and in Italy was the "Psalterium Vetus", of the Itala version, which seems to have been introduced into the Liturgy by Pope St. Damasus (d. 384). He it was who first ordered the revision of the Itala by St. Jerome, in A. D. 383. On this account it has been called the "Psalterium Romanum", and it was used in Italy and elsewhere till the ninth century and later. It is still in use in St. Peter's at Rome, and many of the texts of our Breviary and Missal still show some variants (Invitatory an Ps. xciv, the antiphons of the Psalter and the responsories of the Proper of the Season, Introits, Graduals, Offertories, and Communions). The Roman Psalter also influences the Mozarabic Liturgy, and was used in England in the eighth century. But in Gaul and in other countries north of the Alps, another recension entered into competition with the "Psalterium Romanum" under the somewhat misleading title of the "Psalterium Gallicanum"; for this text contained nothing distinctively Gallican, being simply a later correction of the Psalter made by St. Jerome in Palestine, in A. D. 392. This recension diverged more completely than the earlier one form the Itala; and in preparing it St. Jerome had laid Origen's Hexapla under contribution. It would seem that St. Gregory of Tours, in the sixth century, introduced this translation into Gaul, or at any rate he was specially instrumental in spreading its use; for it was this Psalter that was employed in the Divine psalmody celebrated at the much honoured and frequented tomb of St. Martin of Tours. From that time this text commenced its "triumphal march across Europe". Walafrid Starbo states that the churches of Germany were using it in the eighth century: -- "Galli et Germanorum aliqui secundum emendationem quam Hieronymus pater de LXX composuit Psalterium cantant". About the same time England gave up the "Psalterium Romanum" for the "Gallicanum". The Anglo-Saxon Psalter already referred to was corected and altered in the ninth and tenth century, to make it accord with the "Gallicanum". Ireland seems to have followed the Gallican version since the seventh century, as may be gathered from the famous Antiphonary of Bangor. It even penetrated into Italy after the ninth century, thanks to the Frankish influence, and there enjoyed a considerable vogue. After the Council of Trent, St. Pius V extended the use of the "Psalterium Gallicanum" to the whole Church, St. Peter's in Rome alone still keeping to the ancient Roman Psalter. The Ambrosian Church of Milan has also its own recension of the Psalter, a version founded, in the middle of the fourth century, on the Greek.
Just as Easter was followed by fifty days of rejoicing, so it had its period of preparation by prayer and fasting, from which arose the season of Lent, which, after various changes, commenced finally forty days before Easter, whence its name of Quadragesima. The other rallying-point of the liturgical year is the feast of Christmas, the earliest observance of which is of very remote antiquity (the third century at least). Like Easter, Christmas had its time of preparation, called Advent, lasting nowadays four weeks. The remainder of the year had to fit in between these two feasts. From Christmas to Lent two currents may be observed : into one fell the feasts of the Epiphany and the Purification, and six Sundays after the Epiphany, constituting Christmastide. The remaining weeks after these Sundays fall under the influence of Lent and, under the name of Septuagesima, create a sort of introduction to it, since these three weeks, Septuagesima, Sexagesima, and Quinquagesima, really belong to Lent by reason of their character of preparation and penance.
The long period between Pentecost and Advent, from May to December, still remains to be dealt with. A certain number of Sundays cluster round special great festivals, as those of St. John the Baptist (24 June), the holy Apostles Peter and Paul (29 June), St. Lawrence (10 August), and St. Michael (29 September). At later date these days, which did not fit very conveniently into the general scheme, tended to disappear, and were absorbed into the common time after Pentecost, made up of twenty-four Sundays, thereby uniting Pentecost with Advent; and thus the cycle of the liturgical year is completed.
The Proper of the Season contains, therefore, the Office of all the Sundays and festivals belonging to it, with special lessons, extracts from the Gospels, and frequently also proper antiphons, responsories, and psalms, adapted to the peculiar character of these different periods. It is in the composition of this Liturgy that the Roman Church has displayed her gifts of critical judgment, liturgical taste, and theological acumen. The difference in the character of these periods may be studied in such works as Dom Guéranger's "Liturgical Year".
The Office of Dead is, without a shadow of doubt, one of the most venerable and ancient portions of the Breviary, and deserves a lengthy study to itself. The Breviaries also contain Offices proper to each diocese, and certain special Offices of modern origin, which, consequently, need not here detain us.
The office of Compline, which falls somewhat outside the above division, and whose origin dates later than the general arrangement, was recited at nightfall. Nor does this division of the hours go back to the first Christian period. So far as can be ascertained, there was no other public or official prayer in the earliest days, outside the Eucharistic service, except the night watches, or vigils, which consisted of the chanting of psalms and of readings from Holy Scripture, the Law, and the Prophets, the Gospels and Epistles, and a homily. The offices of Matins and Lauds thus represent, most probably, these watches. It would seem that beyond this there was nothing but private prayer; and at the dawn of Christianity the prayers were said in the Temple, as we read in the Acts of the Apostles. The hours equivalent to Terce, Sext, None, and Vespers were already known to the Jews as times of prayer and were merely adopted by the Christians. At first meant for private prayer, they became in time the hours of public prayer, especially when the Church was enriched with ascetics, virgins, and monks, by their vocation consecrated to prayer. From that time, i.e. from the end of the third century, the monastic idea exercised a preponderant influence on the arrangement and formation of the canonical Office. It is possible to give a fairly exact account of the establishment of these Offices in the second half of th fourth century by means of a document of surpassing importance for the history we are now considering: the "Peregrinatio ad Loca Sancta", written about A. D. 388, by Etheria, a Spanish abbess. This narrative is specifically a description of the Liturgy followed in the Church of Jerusalem at that date.
The Offices of Prime and Compline were devised later, Prime at the end of the fourth century, while Compline is usually attributed to St. Benedict in the sixth century; but it must be acknowledged that, although he may have given it its special form for the West, there existed before his time a prayer for the close of the day corresponding to it.
A few words must be said about each of these elements from the particular point of view of the Breviary.
This list of canticles coincides more or less with those used in the Greek church. St. Benedict admits these canticles into his Psalter, specifically stating that he borrows them from the Church of Rome, and thus providing a further argument for the priority of the Roman Office over the monastic.
Further, as regards these lessons, it is well to notice that, as in the case of the psalmody, two lines of selection were followed. The first, that of the order of ferial Offices, ensures the reading of the Scripture, from Genesis to the Apocalypse, in sequence; the second, that of the order for feasts of the saints and festivals, breaks in upon this orderly series of readings and substitutes for them a chapter or a portion of a chapter specially applicable to the feast which is being celebrated.
The following is the table of lessons from the Bible. In its
essential features, it goes back to a very venerable antiquity:
It was under Innocent III (1198-1216) that the use of Breviaries began to spread outside Benedictine circles. At Rome, no longer solely for the Roman Basilicas, but still for the Roman Court alone, Breviaria were drawn up, which, from their source, are called Breviaria de Camerâ, or Breviaria secundum usum Romanæ Curiæ. Texts of this period (beginning of thirteenth century) speak of "Missalia, Breviaria, cæterosque libros in quibus Officium Ecclesiasticum continetur", and Raoul de Tongres specifically refers to this Roman Breviary. But this use of the Breviary was still limited, and wa a kind of privilege reserved for the Roman Court. A special cause was needed to give the use of this Breviary a greater extension. The Order of Friars Minor, or Franciscans, lately founded, undertook the task of popularizing it. It was not a sedentary order vowed to stability, like those of the Benedictines or Cistercians,or like the Regular Canons, but was an active, missionary, preaching order. It therefore needed an abridged Office, convenient to handle and contained in a single volume small enough to be carried about by the Friars on their journeys. This order adopted the Breviarium Curiæ with certain modifications which really constitute, as it were, a second edition of this Breviary. It is sometimes called the Breviary of Gregory IX because it was authorized by that pontiff. One of the chief modifications effected by the Friars Minor was the substitution of the Gallican version of the Psalter for the Roman. The cause was won; this eminently popular and active order spread the use of this Breviary everywhere. Antiphonaries, Psalters, Legendaries, and Responsoraries disappeared by degrees before the advance of the single book which replaced them all. Still more, by a kind of jus postliminii -- a right of resumption -- the Church of Rome, under Nicholas III (1277-80), adopted the Breviary of the Friars not merely for the Curia, but also for the Basilicas; and, as an inevitable consequence, this Breviary was bound, sooner or later, to become that of the Universal Church.
Dom Bäumer, in his "Histoire du bréviaire",
repeatedly points out that it is impossible to separate the history
of the Liturgy from the occurrences that make up the general history
of the Church, and that the phases through which the general
history takes us are reflected in the evolution of the Liturgy. It
is not surprising, therefore, that the sojourn of the popes at
Avignon and the Great Schism have exerted their baneful influence
on the history of the Liturgy. And the reaction is still being felt.
Raoul de Tongres, who died early in the fifteenth century, was even
at that early period a critic and a reformer; in his famous work
"De observantiâ Canonum" he agitated for some
settlement of liturgical rules. The "XV Ordo Romanus" already
referred to, the work of Amelius, sacristan to Urban V and librarian
to Gregory XI, breathes the same idea. The abuses pointed out by the
different authors of the time may be reduced to the following:
The Humanism of the Renaissance, which had its ardent champions even in the Church -- as Bembo, Sadoletus, etc., to say nothing of certain popes -- caused the idea of a special reform of the Breviary, in the direction of greater literary purity and prefection, to be entertained in certain quarters. Strange schemes were propounded, little in consonance with the spirit of the Church. A Florentine canon, Marsiglio Ficino, and Peter Pomponatius, for instance, suggested that the clergy should read the classical authors instead of the Breviary. Others, though not going so far as this, thought the diction of the Breviary barbaric, and wanted to translate it into Ciceronian Latin. The corrections suggested included such astounding phrases as the following: the forgiveness of sins becomes "superosque manesque placare"; the Begetting of the Word was to be "Minerva Jovis capite orta"; the Holy Ghost was "Aura Zephyri coelestis", etc. These attempts failed; nevertheless, at a later date, under Urban VIII, similar Humanist tendencies came again to the surface and this time asserted their power by an emendation of the hymns. Amongst such attempts may be mentioned that of Ferreri. He was the Bishop of Guarda Alfieri in the Kingdom of Naples, a Humanist, and wrote under the auspices and patronage of Leo X. He began with the hymns. His work, which has been preserved, is interesting and contains some very beautiful pieces, polished in style. A good number of them have, unfortunately, nothing more of the spirit of poetry in them than harmony and rhythm; they are wanting in inspiration and above all in the warmth of piety; nearly all are strewn with Pagan names and allusions, representing Christian verities, as "Triforme Numen Olympi" for the Trinity, "Natus Eumolpho Lyricenque Sappho . . . Thracius Orpheus", referring to the Blessed Virgin, etc. Ferreri also busied himself with a revision of the Breviary, but nothing was published, and now no trace of the materials he collected is forthcoming.
Another attempt at reform, much better known, and having results of far-reaching importance, was that of Quignonez, Cardinal of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, who was entrusted by Clement VII with the task of completing the work begun by Ferreri. He was a Franciscan, and had been successfully employed on various commissions. His revision was the most original that has ever been attempted, and liturgical experts, like Guéranger, Edmund Bishop, and Bäumer, have studied his labours in detail. Only the principal points of his scheme can be mentioned here. Considered theoretically, it cannot be denied that his Breviary is drawn up on easy, convenient, and logical lines, and, on the whole is felicitously arranged. But in the light of tradition and of liturgical principles the only possible verdict in that Quignonez' Breviary, being constructed on a priori principles, violating most of the liturgical rules, must be codemned. The author starts with the theory, contrary to all tradition, that an essential difference exists between the public celebration of the Office and its private recitation. For private recitation, therfore, all such portions as antiphons, responsories, versicles, little chapters, even hymns may be eliminated, as, according to Quignonez, these are meant solely for choir use. According to his arrangement, the entire Psalter was to be recited once a week -- an excellent idea, in consonance with primitive practice; but it was applied too rigidly and narrowly, for no attention was paid to the suitability of certain psalms to special feasts. Feasts were never to change the order of the psalms, which were to be recited successively from i to cl.
Every hour had three psalms; and in consequence of this severe regularity, there disappeared the deep and historical motive which gave to each hour its own characteristics. The legends of the saints and the hymns underwent drastic, but designed, revision. Another principle, which would be deserving of all praise had it not been applied too rigorously, was that the entire Scriptures should be read through every year. Quignonez' Breviary, as might be expected, met both with enthusiastic approval and with determined opposition. Its success may be judged from the number of editions through which it passed. The Sorbonne criticized it severely, and other experts declared against Quignonez and attacked his work mercilessly. In the end, opposition proved the stronger, and even popes rejected it. Moreover, it was supplanted by other revisions made on more orthodox liturgical lines, less ambitious in scope, and more in accordance with tradition. The newly founded Congregation of Theatines applied itself to this task with energy and enthusiasm. Caraffa, one of its founders, took a share in the work, and when he became pope under the name of Paul IV (1555-59), he continued his labours, but died before seeing their completion, and it was thus reserved to others to bring them to a successful issue.
The Council of Trent, which effected reforms in so many directions, also took up the idea of revising the Breviary; a commission was appointed concerning whose deliberations we have not much information, but it began to make definite inquiries about the subject entrusted to it. The council separated before these preliminaries could be concluded; so it was decided to leave the task of editing a new Breviary in the pope's own hands. The commission appointed by the council was not dissolved, and continued its investigations. St. Pius V, at the beginning of his pontificate (1566), appointed new members to it and otherwise stimulated its activity, with the result that a Breviary appeared in 1568, prefaced by the famous Bull, "Quod a nobis". The commission had adopted wise and reasonable principles: not to invent a new Breviary and a new Liturgy; to stand by tradition; to keep all that was worth keeping, but at the same time to correct the multitude of errors which had crept into the Breviaries and to weigh just demands and complaints. Following these lines, 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. More intimate accounts of this revision should be studied at length in the approved authorities on the history of the Breviary. Here it will be enough to give a short sketch of the chief points affecting this Breviary, as it is substantially the same as that used at this date. The celebrated Bull of approval, "Quod a nobis" (9 July, 1568), which prefaced it, explains the reasons which had weighed with Rome in putting forth an official text of public prayer, and gives an account of the labours which had been undertaken to ensure its correction; it withdrew the papal approbation from all Breviaries which could not show a prescriptive right of at least two centuries of existence. Any Church which had not such an ancient Breviary was bound to adopt that of Rome. The new Calendar was freed from a large number of feasts, so that the ferial Office was once more accorded a chance of occupying a less obscure position than of late it had. At the same time the real foundation of the Breviary -- the Psalter -- was respected, the principal alterations made being in the lessons. The legnends of the saints were carefully revised, as also the homilies. The work was one not only of critical revision, but also of discriminating conservatism, and was received with general approval. The greater number of the Churches of Italy, France, Spain, Germany, England, and, generally, all the Catholic States, accepted this Breviary, saving only certain districts, as Milan and Toledo, where ancient Rites were retained.
This Pian Breviary (Breviarium Pianum), while still remaining the official prayer book of the Universal Church, has undergone certain slight alterations in the course of time, and these must here be noted, but without reference to the new feasts of saints which have been added to the Calendar century by century, even though they occupy a not inconsiderable space in the ecclesiastical disposition of the year. The chiefest and most important changes were made under Sixtus V. At first the text of the versions of the Bible used in the Liturgy was altered. As soon as the revision of the Vulgate undertaken during this pontificate was completed, the new text replaced the old one in all official books, particularly in the Breviary and the Missal. Sixtus V instituted a new Congregation -- that of Rites -- 1588, charging it with a study of the reforms contemplated in the Pian Breviary, which had then been in use more than twenty years. To him is due the honour of this revision of the Breviary, although till lately it had been ascribed to Clement VIII (1592-1605). Although the first suggestion came from Sixtus V, nevertheless it was only under Clement VIII that the work was really vigorously pushed forward and brought to a conclusion. The revising committee had as its members such men as Baronius, Bellarmine, and Gavanti. The first-named especially played a most important part in this revision, and the report which he drew up has recently been published. The emendations bore especially on the rubrics: to the Common of Saints was added that of Holy Women not Virgins; the rite of certain feasts was altered; and some new feasts were added. The Bull of Clement VIII, "Cum in Ecclesiâ", enjoining the observance of these alterations, is dated 10 May, 1602.
Further changes were made by Urban VIII (1623-44). The commission appointed by him was content to correct the lessons and some of the homilies, in the sense of making the text correspond more closely with the oldest manuscripts. There would therefore be no call to treat of this revision under Urban VIII at greater length but for the fact that, outside the work of this commission, he effected a still more important reform, over which even now discussion has not ceased to make itself heard. It affected the hymns. Urban VIII, being himself Humanist, and no mean poet, as witness the hymns of St. Martin and of St. Elizabeth of Portugal, which are of his own composition, desired that the Breviary hymns which it must be admitted are sometimes trivial in style and irregular in their prosody, should be corrected according to grammatical rules and put into true metre. To this end he called in the aid of certain Jesuits of distinguished literary attainments. The corrections made by these purists were so numerous -- 952 in all -- as to make a profound alteration in the character of some of the hymns. Although some of them without doubt gained in literary style, nevertheless, to the regret of many, they also lost something of their old charm of simplicity and fervour.
At the present date , this revision is condemned, out of respect for ancient texts; and surprise may be expressed at the temerity that dared to meddle with the Latinity of a Prudentius, a Sedulius, a Sidonius Apollinaris, a Venantius Fortunatus, an Ambrose, a Paulinus of Aquileia, which, though perhaps lacking the purity of the Golden Age, has, nevertheless, its own peculiar charm. Even the more barbarous Latinity of a Rhabanus Maurus is not without its archaic interest and value. Moreover, the revisers were ill-advised inasmuch as they adopted a via media; they stopped half-way. If, as it is freely admitted, the Roman Breviary contains many hymns of inferior poetic worth, and whose sentiment is perhaps commonplace, then there is no reason why they should not be eliminated altogether, and replaced by new ones. Many of the older ones, however, were worthy of being preserved just as they stood; and, in the light of the progress made in philology, it is certain that some of the corrections in prosody made under Urban VIII convict their authors of ignorance of certain rhythmic rules, whose existence, it is only right to say, came to be known later. However it may be, these corrections have been retained till the present time. A comparison of the older with the modern text of the hymns may be consulted in Daniel, "Thesaurus Hymnologicus", (Halle, 1841).
Nothing further was done under the successors of Urban VIII, except that new Offices were added from time to time, and that thus the ferial Office began again to lose ground. We must come down to the pontificate of Benedict XIV, in the second half of the eighteenth century, to meet with another attempt at reform; but before doing so, reference must be made to efforts inaugurated in France during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, whose history has been learnedly elucidated in detail by Dom Guéranger in vol. II of his "Institutions liturgiques", devoted in great part to an account of this struggle. The Roman Breviary, revised by Pius IV, had been received in France without opposition. Under Louis XIV, however, attempts at revision were made, inspired by a spirit of resistance and antagonism to the Roman Court. They took form amongst the two parties which made open profession of Gallicanism and Jansenism. The supporters of this reform, several of whom were men of learning and culture, were aided by the historical and critical works which at that time were being poured forth in France, so that in these projects for the reform of the Breviary, side by side with rash suggestions, there were many which were both useful and well judged. One of the first schemes was that of the Paris Breviary, mooted in 1670 and pursued under the patronage of Archbishops Hardouin de Péréfixe and de Harlay. The Breviary called after de Harlay appeared in 1680. The corrections it embodied affected in particular the legends of the saints and the homilies, but numerous other parts were also touched. The details and the examination of them may best be studied in Dom Guéranger's pages. Although it might have seemed that the Breviary had by then been sufficiently emended, in the following century another Archbishop of Paris, Monseigneur de Vintimille, had another Breviary drawn up, which was published in 1736, and remained in use till the middle of last century. It partly embodied what is called the "liturgical Utopia of Quignonez". Its source, however, was not above suspicion, for some of those who had laboured at its production were Jansenists. This reform, while not wanting in sound ideals, was carried out, however, regardless of liturgical traditions.
What had been going on in Paris had its counterpart in other dioceses of France, where new Breviaries were were introduced, for the most part inspired by the ideas which had dominated those of de Harlay and of Vintimille. A reaction against these broke out in France between 1830 and 1840, having for its leader a Benedictine monk, Dom Guéranger, Abbot of Solesmes and an eminent liturgist, who, in his "Institutions liturgiques", arraigned the new Breviaries, exposed the mistakes underlying their construction, and proved that their authors had acted without warrant. His onslaught met with immediate success for in twenty years the greater number of the dioceses gave up their Gallican Breviaries and adopted once more the Roman Liturgy. The exact figures are as follows: in 1791 eighty dioceses had rejected the Roman Liturgy and had fashioned special liturgies for themselves; in 1875 Orléans, the last French diocese which had retained its ownliturgy re-entered Roman liturgical unity.
While France, during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, was letting herself be carried away in the reform of her Breviaries by Gallican and Jansenist leanings, other countries were following in her wake. In Italy, Scipio Ricci, Bishop of Pistoia, an ardent Jansenist, drew up a new Breviary, and certain districts of Germany adopted the same course, with the result that Breviaries modelled on those of France appeared at Trier, Cologne, Aachen, Mnnster, and Mainz; and it was long before Germany returned to liturgical unity.
While the Jansenists and Gallicans were creating a new Liturgy, Prosper Lambertini, one of the most learned men in Rome, who became pope under the name of Benedict XIV, determined to copy the example of some of his predecessors, and to carry out a further reform of the Breviary. A congregation was instituted for the special purpose; its papers, for long unedited, have of late years been gone through by MM. Roskovány and Chaillot, each of whom has published considerable portions of them. The first meeting of the congregation was in 1741, and the discussions which took place then and later are of interest from the liturgist's point of view, but need not detain us. Although this project of reform came to nothing, nevertheless the work accomplished by the congregation was of real value and reflects credit on its members, some of whom, like Giorgi, were eminent liturgists. Future workers in this department of learning will have to take account of their collections. After the death of Benedict XIV (4 May, 1758) the labours of this congregation were suspended and were never again seriously resumed. Since Benedict XIV's time changes in the Breviary have been very few, and of minor importance, and can be outlined in a few words. Under Pius VI the question of a reform of the Breviary was brought up once more. By that pontiff's orders a scheme was drawn up and presented to the Congregation of Rites, but it was found impossible to overcome the difficulties which surrounded an undertaking of this kind. In 1856 Pius IX appointed a commission to examine the question: is the reform of the Breviary opportune? But again only preliminary matters engaged their attention. Amongst the Acts of the Vatican Council a series of propositions are to be found, whose object was the simplification or correction of the Breviary, but the inquiry never got beyond that stage. Finally, under Leo XIII, a commission was appointed, at the close of 1902, whose duties were a study of historico-liturgical questions. Its province is a wider one, comprising not only the Breviary, but also the Missal, the Pontifical, and the Ritual. It has, further, to supervise future liturgical edittions, and thus to see that they conform as closely as possible with historical data. This commission, though attached to the Congregation of Rites, is nevertheless autonomous. It consisted at first of five members under the presidency of Monsignor Duchesne, namely: Mgr. Wilpert, Father Ehrle, S.J., Father Roberti, Mgr. Umberto Benigni, Mgr. Mercati, and a few consultors. What the results of their labours may be is not yet known.
This sketch of the reforms of the Breviary proves, however, the desire of the Church to eliminate the blemishes which disfigure this book. All these efforts have not been sterile; some of these revisions mark real progress; and it may be hoped that the present commission will effect certain improvements which the progress of historical studies and criticism have made the more needful.
Transcribed by Marcial David
The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume II (1907)
Imprimatur. John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York
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