|Vespers in the Church of S Francis in Assisi by Mikhail Petrovich Botkin|
My edition of the Breviarium Romanum is an editio post typicam from the era of Pius IX. It includes the feast of Saint Joseph under the title Patron of the Universal Church. Someone printed the additional votive offices of Leo XIII and the instruction to cease transferring Semi-Doubles and put these things in the back at a later date. Since the first week of May I have followed the rubrics and instructions in my Breviary exactly, although I confess my ignorance of when the local cathedral or my home parish were consecrated, so those octaves may have been neglected. What follows are some observances on the late Tridentine Office prior to the alterations of S Pius X.
As noted elsewhere on this blog, by the time of Divino afflatu the Roman Office was encumbered with feasts of nine lessons, bringing out the psalms from the Commons on a near-daily basis outside of Lent and putting the Roman psalter into considerable desuetude. This is largely true in my late Tridentine Office, with even formerly minor saints from the original medieval kalendar of S Pius V receiving promotions of their feasts from Simples to Semi-Doubles.
That said, there are still a sufficient number of feriae and Simples in a given month to give the psalter its place. This month the 7th and 9th were feriae while Pius I (11th), Praxedes (21st), Pantoleon (27th), Ss Abdon and Sennen (30th), and the vigil of the Apostle James (24th) all employ the psalter of the day on Simple feasts. Simples still use the Dominical Lauds and Prime psalms, but those hours already have very little true daily variability. Most of the variability happen at Mattins, where the ferial psalms would be said on all of these days. However, given the rarity of adjoining Simples and feriae even in as sparse a month as July, the Vespers of the day are rarely sung unless a lesser feast falls on Sunday. This month only the first Sunday was a Dominical Semi-Double. The rest have been impeded by John Gaulbert, Vincent de Paul, and Saint Anne, the mother of Our Lady. This is a remarkable contrast because in the kalendar of S Pius V the month of July compares to Lent in its sparsity of feasts in between the comparatively festive months of June and August. In this kalendar May and June have more feriae than July.
Variety is the Spice of Life
The monotony of the late Tridentine Office can be overstated. Although there is great repetition of the psalms, the differences in feasts and their nature (bishops, martyrs, virgins, confessors etc) means different Mattins responses, chant tones, and lessons are employed throughout the Office. An Orthodox friend once observed that the true treasure of the Roman Office is the second nocturne of Mattins, with the unique readings on the lives of the saints or the mysteries that day celebrated.
Another less obvious source of variety in the late Tridentine Office is the occurring Scripture. Despite the prominence of Double feasts and the de facto ignorance of the ferial psalter most days, the occurring Scripture is generally observed during the first nocturne of Mattins while the lessons from the back of the book only take precedent on the more ancient feasts or feasts which possess unique texts, today's feast of Saint Mary Magdalen being an example.
The Office of Our Lady on Saturday was observed a few times during the last three months and of course the Office of the Dead on the first day without a feast of nine lessons was read, too. These do add something to look forward to and supply the medieval spirit of devotion through liturgy to a kalendar with little room for personal discretion.
Variety does have its limitations, however, in this Office. Next month is August, the most festive month of the year in the Roman rite, with the feasts of Peter in Chains—ancient and great, the finding of Saint Stephen, the dedication of Our Lady of the Snows, the Transfiguration, Saint Lawrence and his octave, Our Lady's Assumption and her octave, Bernard of Clairveaux, Augustine, Louis IX of France, the Beheading of John the Baptist, and a number of other lesser days. There is not one day without a feast or vigil, and the 1570 kalendar of S Pius V is not much freer.
Despite the density of feasts, August has no sequence of identical days. This past week my Breviary called for the exact same texts of a Confessor for four consecutive days (five if factoring in first Vespers). None of the saints were Doctors or martyrs, so aside from the occurring commemorations and Scripture, the exact same Office was said for four days without an octave occurring. This would not be a problem, as octaves are replete in the old kalendar and repeat aspect of the same Office for eight days aside from readings, if not for the fact that this particular Common is used numerous times every single month. At second Vespers of S Camillus de Lellis it instructed me to read Vespers as at first Vespers for a Confessor, non-martyr, non-bishop until the Chapter, at which point I was to switch to the Vespers of S Vincent de Paul, and read onward from the Vespers of a Confessor, non-martyr, non-bishop. By Sunday night I knew instinctively to begin Vespers with Domine quinque talenta tradidisti mihi....
These points are important if only because they mean Divino Afflatu outmoded the ancient Roman psalter to fix one problem without fixing the rest. Every day in the S Pius X system is a day of nine psalms and the occurring Scripture is read just as much. While I would not say Domine quinque talenta tradidisti mihi as often I would continue to say the chapter, Iste Confessor, and the antiphon Similabo just as often. The quasi-Novus Ordo nature of the Divino Afflatu rubrics—mixing ferial psalms and festive readings on Simple, Semi-Double, and Double days—means that the tonal diversity of even the late Tridentine Office was suppressed in favor of more or less the same thing weekly.
Divino Afflatu accomplished some reasonable things in the kalendar, making the "lollipop" Dominical feasts optional in favor of fixed days. Formerly the Patronal feast of the Church was always observed on the third Sunday after Pascha, Saint Joachim always fell on the Sunday after the Assumption, the Precious Blood was always the first Sunday of July, and Our Lady of Sorrows was always the third Sunday of September, and Our Lady of the Rosary would always be on the first Sunday of October, permanently suppressing those days.
What was needed was not necessarily a reform of the psalter, but a reform of the kalendar. Almost every Italian or French founder of a minor religious order after the Council of Trent found his or her way into the kalendar as a Double feast of the universal Church despite the absence of wider devotion to these saints and their lack of enduring interest. Even a reduction of their ranks to Simple would not clear out the clutter.
We need to relearn the craft of local kalendars. Would it be so bad if Camillus de Lellis and Jerome Aemeliani were only on kalendars in Italian dioceses? While local medieval rites are largely extinct, the principle of local kalendars is not and is a good solution to this problem, allowing these saints' veneration to continue where they are revered. Vincent de Paul would be a proper Semi-Double feast in France, widely loved, but perhaps not on the level of their patrons, Michael the Archangel and Joan of Arc.
Despite its repetition, my Breviary does represent the Roman Office and liturgy more fully than what came after it so I will continue to use it. It is the Roman rite, albeit an imbalanced expression of it. Despite its imperfections it also reflects the kalendar, on most days, as it is in both the pre-Pius XII and 1962 rites used by most traditional Catholics today, differences acknowledged (ex. switching S Dominic and S Jean Vianney).