« Bretschneider, Karl Gottlieb Breviary Brewer, Leigh Richmond »


BREVIARY: The name of the Roman Catholic service-book containing what is called the "divine office" or the services for the canonical hours, as distinguished from the missal, which contains the altar-service, and the ritual, which has the rites for the administration of the sacraments, etc. It is a practically arranged, well-divided collection of prayers with numerous brief extracts from Scripture, and the Fathers and ancient hymns. From the subdeacon upward every Roman cleric is bound to recite the whole office daily.

The Canonical Hours.

The breviary is based on the idea of realizing, in the spirit of the Church, at least symbolically, the apostolic command to "pray without ceasing"; the whole life of the Christian is to appear as a continuous prayer, not only in heart and works, but also in words; at all hours and places of the earth the prayer of the Church is to ascend to God. The custom of the synagogue (Dan. vi, 10, 13; Ps. iv, 18) in regard to morning and evening hours (I Chron. xxiv, 30) as well as other times of prayer (Ps. cxix, 62, 64) was taken as a standard. At first there were the three hours, the third, sixth, and ninth, or 9 A.M., noon, and 3 P.M. (cf. Acts ii, 15, 46; iii, 1; x, 9). To these were added midnight, the hour when Paul and Silas prayed in the prison (Acts xvi, 25), and the beginning of the day and the night. This arrangement of prayer is mentioned in Tertullian, Cyprian, Justin Martyr, Clement of Alexandria, and the Apostolic Constitutions. In the fourth century, Athanasius (De virginitate, xii–xx) knows of seven hours; Gregory Nazianzen speaks with approval of the nightly vigils and the antiphonal singing. All these hours were adopted in the monasteries especially, as Jerome (Epist., vii, cviii, cxxx), Basil, and Augustine attest. From the monasteries these hours of prayer (called canonical as a part of canonical life) spread to the cathedral and collegiate chapters. Benedict added the seventh (compline, completorium), and since the sixth century the order and number of hours have not varied. The day-hours are prime (normally at 6 A.M.), terce (9 A.M.), sext (noon), none (3 P.M.), and vespers (6 P.M.); nowadays compline and lauds are usually reckoned with them. (See the articles under these titles.)

Matins, answering to the three Roman vigils, is divided into three nocturnes, and was originally followed by the present lauds.

Sources and Revisions of the Breviary.

The bulk of the prayers for all these hours was taken from the Psalms, to which antiphons were added, giving the psalms a special meaning appropriate to the occasion. Afterward collects were added, which were intended to prevent distraction and excite devotion, and are accordingly brief. The posture varied between standing, sitting, and kneeling. The whole structure was enriched and completed by the addition of other prayers, responsories, versicles, etc. The musical element was provided for by official books known as antiphonaries, especially that composed under Gregory I, and the so-called Micrologus (twelfth century). Cassian attests that each three psalms at matins were followed by three lessons, taken from Scripture, on Sunday only from the New Testament; later on the lives of the saints and exegetical passages from the most prominent teachers of the Church were inserted. The introduction of metrical hymns was long opposed (Council of Braga, 553), especially in Rome. So many arbitrary additions made the offices too long, and Gregory VII reduced them; other revisions were made under Gregory IX, Clement VII, who had the assistance of the Franciscan general, Cardinal (Quignonez (1536), Clement VIII (1602), and Urban VIII (1631). The late Vatican Council also introduced some changes.

Contents of the Roman Breviary.

At present the Roman breviary, which has at last succeeded in supplanting the many local or diocesan uses, consists of four parts, corresponding, to the four seasons of the year. Each part again has four divisions: (1) The psalter, or ordinary week-day service for each day and hour; (2) the "proper of the season," the service for the festivals of Christ and the Sundays of the various seasons; (3) the "proper of saints," the special service for the festivals of particular saints; and (4) the "common of saints," providing, under separate classes, services for those saints who have no special one. Appendices contain the office for the dead, the gradual and penitential psalms, prayers for the dying and for travelers, and grace before and after meals.

The analogous service-book in the Greek Church is called Horologium. In the Evangelical Church a similar service was often retained in cathedral and collegiate chapters, for which Luther's suggestions of 1523 and 1526 furnished a basis. The matins and vespers were especially retained. Attempts have lately been made, with varying success, to restore the other hours; but the problem can not be considered as solved. The Anglican Church, in its Book of Common Prayer, has made skilful use of important portions from the ancient order.

M. Herold.

The calendar of the Roman breviary is a complicated affair, especially since the multiplication of festivals in the last two or three centuries. These are classed as double or simple. The simple form the lowest class, and have no second vespers. The double (so called from the antiphons being doubled, or recited entire both before and after the psalms and canticles at lauds and vespers) are classed in order of importance as doubles of the first class (with or without an octave), second class, greater, and lesser. Where two feasts occur, i.e., fall on the same day, or concur, i.e., the first vespers of one conflict with the second vespers of the other, the difficulty is met, according to detailed rules based on the rank of the feasts, either by "transferring" the less important to the first unoccupied day, or by "commemorating" it with the recitation of its chief antiphon, versicle and response, and collect, after the collect for the day at lauds and vespers.

Bibliography: A complete Eng. transl. of the Roman Breviary was made by John Marquese of Bute, 2 vols., London, 1879. Consult also: C. H. Collette, The Roman 264Breviary, London, 1880; G. Schober, Explanatio critica . . . breviarii Romani, Regensburg, 1891; S. Bäumer, Geschichte des Breviers, Freiburg, 1895, Fr. transl., Paris, 1906; P. Batiffol, Histoire du bréviaire Romain, Paris, 1893, Eng. transl., London, 1898; Bingham, Origines, book xiii, chap. 9; J. Baudot, Le Bréviaire romain, ses origines, son histoire, Paris, 1906.

On the Scripture reading consult E. Ranke, Das kirchliche Perikopensystem aus den ältesten Urkunden der römischen Liturgie, Berlin, 1847.

On the hymns consult: F. Probst, Brevier und Breviergebst, Tübingen, 1868; J. Kayser, Beiträge zur Geschichte und Erklärung der alten Kirchenhymnen, 2 vols., Paderborn, 1881–86; Julian, Hymnology, pp. 170–181. A rich bibliography of Breviaries is to be found in the British Museum Catalogue, s.v. Liturgies.

« Bretschneider, Karl Gottlieb Breviary Brewer, Leigh Richmond »
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