Liturgy of the Hours





Abbot Charles Egger, Canon Regular of Windesheim, Abbot Primate of the Confederation of Canons Regular of Saint Augustine.

(translated from the Italian by Fr. Lawrence Byrne C.R.L.)


This is an attractive theme because the celebration of the Liturgy of the Canonical Hours is something profoundly and typically canonical.  One can say that if one considers the development of our Order, the Choral Office of the Canonical Hours is a constitutive element of the Order itself. The Mendicant Orders can leave it out - and in part have already done so - the Monastic Orders among themselves could find other forms of common prayer which is not the official "Liturgy of the Hours", but Canons Regular must fulfill this Choral Office in virtue of their own institution.


Solemn Celebration of the Office of Reading for Pentecost at Stift Klosterneuburg


This acquires a particular importance in the period through which we are passing; we are witnessing in fact, a falling off of secular canonical chapters, instituted and required especially for liturgical prayer. It behooves us, Canons Regular therefore, to preserve in the Church this flame, and develop it.  The theme is a vast one, especially for the amount of the material which regards the celebration of the Canonical Hours. Suffice to think of the many old Constitutions or Rules, Customaries, Ordinals, etc. which dedicate a fairly large space to Choral Office. Then, there are not a few spiritual authors of our Order who, from time to time, have dealt extensively with this topic. I will endeavor to make a kind of synthesis, and highlight the principal points to illuminate the teaching of our Tradition on this important point of the Canonical Life.



Hugh of St. Victor in his work "Eruditiones Theologicae" has a book (II) on "De officiis ecclesiasticis" (On ecclesiastical offices), where he explains the structure of the Divine Office. It is interesting to hear the voice of the 12th century on the subject. He begins with the hour of Prime, viz. from the hour "the householder sent workers into his vineyard" (c.1).  In the hour of Terce we reunite again in church to praise God, and to offer and present ourselves to the service of God with the recitation of three psalms for the three following hours.1  At the hour of Sext, we come together again to sing psalms in honor of God, and saying three psalms we commend ourselves to the divine protection for the three successive hours, viz. the 7th, 8th, & 9th.2  Once again we come together for the hour of None, and reading three psalms we establish ourselves in the service of God for the three successive hours, i.e. we fortify ourselves against the wiles of the enemy for the 10th, 11th & 12th hour.3  Vespers: "at the beginning of the night, viz. at the setting of the sun, we offer an evening sacrifice when we reunite ourselves for His praise.4  Hugh of St. Victor recalls the custom, until recently in vogue, of reciting  psalms, reflecting the five senses of man which daily impede him in good. "Therefore at the beginning of the night, when we prepare for sleep, which is a kind of image of death, and is exposed to many dangers, we ask forgiveness for faults committed with our five senses; for this we sing five psalms."5


Hugh adds a chapter on the use of antiphons, (c.6). He affirms that St. Ignatius of Antioch introduced them. St. Ignatius had a vision of angels who sang hymns to the Trinity using antiphons. He then introduced their use at Antioch and from there it spread through the whole Church.  Compline: this "is recited because with it we accomplish all we have to do until time for sleep."6  There are 4 psalms which recall the 4 elements of our bodies.7  Hugh then gives 3 hymns, viz. "Procul recedant somnia etc.", "Fessa labore corpora noctis quiete recrea ..."; "Precamur, sancte Domine, defende nos in hac nocte, sit nobis in Te requies, quietam noctem tribue." It is interesting to note that there was then a greater variety of hymns than in the accepted Office, until the recent liturgical reform.


Then follows the chapter "De officio nocturnali" (C.8) (On Night Office). Hugh explains the antiphon "Domine labia mea aperies" (Lord open my lips); after sleep this invitatory occurs, by which we are recalled to divine praise. After psalm 94 follows the hymn "with which hearts inert by sleep become awakened to praise God."8  The hymn also has a special function, viz. to lift up hearts to God.  He then explains the three Nocturns which correspond to the three 'Vigils' of the Romans (c.9). The 4th vigil is the 'Antelucanum' to which corresponds the Lauds of the morning. The Responsorial Psalm is explained because the priest fulfilled some parts of the sacrificial rites together with the people.


In the chapter "De laudibus matutinis" it says; "the Lauds of the morning occupy the last part of the night, viz. the 4th vigil which extends to the rising of the sun"9 and the author continues: "At this hour we find one might say the only way of salvation and sing praises to God in various ways."10  Hugh recalls the five psalms of Lauds; viz. Ps.92 "Dominus regnavit"; Ps.97 "Jubilate Deo omnis terra"; Ps.62 "Deus deus meus ad te de luce vigilio"; Ps.66 "Deus misereatur." Finally there are two or three psalms which form a unity since they are not interupted with "Gloria Patri": Pss.148 "Laudate Dominum de coelis"; Ps.149 "Cantate Domino canticum novum"; Ps.150 "Laudate Dominum in sanctis." On ferial days, considered as days of penance, in place of the first psalm, there is the "Miserere." Hugh also alludes to the hymn of the three children (Tres Pueri) and to other hymns according to the variety of the days.


The Portuense Rule (1117): contains a kind of treatise on the Divine Office and the single hours to which we shall return. The structure is the traditional one.  Seven hours are established from ancient times according to the testimony of the psalmist, "Seven times have I sung your praises" and because there are as many celebrations of praise in one day as there are days in a week.11 The "Night Vigils", the "Morning Praises", are enumerated; Prime follows about which it is observed that it was introduced in more recent times in Palestinian monasteries, and then the whole church followed the example. It was added without doubt by the work of the Holy Spirit.12 With the introduction of Prime, one has eight canonical hours, and this number which is a perfect one, is a sign of universal joy for the Resurrection in which we shall see the mystery of the Blessed Trinity, and shall rejoice exceedingly without end.13  In the Portuense Rule there follow Terce, Sext, None, Vespers & Compline by which the various groups of three hour cycles of the day were sanctified.14


It would be interesting, but too long, to analyze in this regard the "Ordo Officiorum Ecclesiae Lateranensis", composed before 1145 by Bernard, Prior of the Lateran Regular Chapter, which drew it's origins from the Canonry of St. Frediano at Lucca.  The structure there is the usual one: at night "Matins", then the "Matudinal Lauds"; after Terce on Sundays and Feast days there followed a procession through the cloister with the "Station" for a reunion of prayer in the "old chapter", viz. in the ancient Chapter House.   In the "Ordo" is described the magnificent night liturgy of the Easter Vigil with twenty-four lessons, of which twelve were in Greek and twelve were in Latin, celebrated in the presence of the Pope and the whole curia.15  The same has to be said (thus says the Ordo) on the Vigil of Pentecost, "but only twelve lessons are read in the church, six in Greek, six in Latin. According to the ancient usage twenty-four lessons were required, but since the Curia got tired of it sometimes ("taedio affecta erat") and was sometimes impeded by other matters, this practice was abandoned. When on the big solemnities, the "Apostolic Lord" (the Pope) who resided then in the adjoining Lateran Patriarchate, assisted at the Office and celebrated Mass, the Lateran Prior had the duty to intone the antiphons. On feast days, the "Papal Choir" was present and took part on one side of the choir, whilst the Canons Regular of the Lateran were on the other side.


There follows an interesting fact: since according to God's goodness, the Canon Regular Life was observed in this church, and clerics come from other parts of the world to serve God, these latter do not know how to sing according to the Roman usage; and since the Canons Regular must sing the Choral Office on one side of the choir both at Matins and Lauds, the Prior must a few days beforehand depute two prudent brethren to invite five or six able cantors who are able to fulfill this task, and know how to alternate comfortably with the papal Choir which is on the other side.16


John the Deacon, a member of this ancient C.R.L. Chapter, who lived at the time of Pope Alexander III (1159-81) observes in his work "De Ecclesia Lateranensi" that in this church which is an image of the heavenly church, music is played at the Night Office, at Lauds, at Mass and at Vespers.17  However, there is no singing during the Mass. A special place is reserved for the "Pater Noster" which is used in each part of the Office; this church being consecrated to the Savior, considers the prayer which he taught to His disciples, to be most important and to be preferred to other prayers.18



Choral Office was accepted in Canonical Communities already in the first millenium, as a "service of God", a technical term and one meaning a service of praise.  Our spiritual masters insist on this point. "Divine praise" says St. Laurence Justinian, "is a salutary sacrifice."  Nobody is able to adequately appreciate the value of divine praise, comprehend it's usefulness or value it's joy.19   Bl. John Ruysbroeck says, "We ought to praise God with all our might. In fact to praise God is the action and occupation of a heart which loves, and when a heart is full of this divine praise, it desires that all creatures together with itself, burst forth in concord in the praise of God."  This is without doubt a general statement, but it leads us to the true significance of of Choral Office.  For the same John Ruysbroeck, the great contemplative canon regular, heaven will have two choirs, one over which Christ will preside in His human nature, the other will be the choir of angels. And what will be the task of these two choirs?  The author replies: "to praise God is the act proper to the angels and to the blessed and to those who love God on earth."20


In this regard, the Rule of Aachen speaks of a Heavenly Office (c.17). Thomas a Kempis in his writing on "Claustral discipline", has a lovely chapter on choir and carrying out the Divine Office (c.8), where he says: "the choir is the holy place of God and the angels, where the Divine Office is carried out by the ministers of the Church who sing the psalms with reverence and devotion. The Religious are disposed in choir as the angels in heaven.  It is the work of the angels to praise God without interruption and the work of Religious to sing the psalms and pray with attention."21


John Grüber, a Canon Regular of the Holy Cross of Augsburg, who lived in the 18th century, in his work "Alimenta pietatis Augustiniae" synthesized well the primary duty of Canons Regular. "Think", he says, "that after what concerns the care of souls, the principal function of Canons Regular is this: to praise God on earth with hymns and public chants after the example of the Blessed in heaven, and this night and day at the fixed hours in choir."22  St. Augustine seems to recommend this when in his Rule he says: "Orationibus instate horis et temporibus constitutis." (Your daily round includes fixed times of prayer; try to use these times well). It has been noted that according to him there is an actual theological profundity in this connection; according to him, the psalmody is the prayer of the chosen Mystical Body which raises it's voice every day at various times with Christ.23  The recitation of the psalms is the expression of joy, of sorrow, of penance of the Church in prayer. In the psalmody we invoke God with the prayers of the Lord Himself, viz. we pray Him through Him and in Him. He says the prayer with us and we recite it with Him.24 "Loquitur ergo christus, quia in Christo loquitur Ecclesia, et in Ecclesia loquitur Christus; et corpus in capite, et caput in corpore.25 ("Let Christ therefore speak, because in Christ the Church speaks, and in the Church Christ speaks; the Body in the Head, and the Head in the Body").


It is significant that the Second Vatican Council in the Constitution on the Liturgy, speaks of a heavenly hymn brought by Christ to this world, viz. "that hymn that is eternally sung in the heavenly places."  He unites to Himself the whole of humanity and associates Himself in the raising up of this divine song of praise."26   Therefore above all the public worship of God is the principal act of the virtue of religion.


But alongside this vertical dimension, there is also a horizontal dimension, enunciated by Vat.II: "The Church by the Divine Office intercedes for the salvation of the world."27   This concept is clearly expressed in the Rule of Aachen (c.17 "So that the Canons shall observe the Canonical Hours")."  Moreover, fulfilling the Divine Praises they ought to pray to the Lord for their own sins and those of the people, through whose offerings they live. Especially they ought, according to the admonition of the Apostle (1 Tim. 2), offer their supplications, prayers, requests and thanksgivings for all men, for kings and those who occupy places of responsibility."28   According to the Portuense Rule, as we shall see, in the hour of Terce an ecumenical aspect is found: the Holy Spirit ought to unite "into one flock of the Church", all those who are divided (c.5).  Thomas a Kempis, who is unjustly accused by some of being an introvert, far from real life, says in the above-sited chapter "On Choir and fulfilling the Divine Office": "From the fulfillment of such a holy office you do not only gain insofar as you merit an eternal reward from the Lord, but it can be useful to all the faithful, especially to the souls of the departed, by imploring graces and pardon in the daily Hours and Holy Masses. You will obtain that in fuller measure according as you shall pray for all with greater assiduity and intense fervor.29


We must now consider briefly the special significance of each Hour of the Divine Office by which we sanctify the night and various parts of the day. It is not in keeping with the genuine tradition of the church and in particular with the Canonical Order, the use introduced of accumulating the recitation of the Liturgical Hours.  Pius Parsch insisted greatly on the "veritas temporis" (right time), and explained in his work "Explanation of the Breviary" and other writings the key to understand the sense of the single Hours; on one side there is the same Hour determined of the night or day; on the other hand the mystery if salvation which is accomplished at that determined Hour (he called it the "soteriological background"). 


These concepts are well expressed in the 3rd part of the Rule of Portuense, where it deals with the Divine Office. These are the principal indications:  





A fairly large part of the canonical tradition- and here we consider especially the various "codices vitae" (manners of life)- and the spiritual authors pay special consideration to the manner of celebrating the Office.  It is a preoccupation which pervades all epochs of the Order, especially those of reform and fervor.

1. Assiduity

Before all else, assiduity or conscientiousness is recommended.  This is already inculcated in the ancient Rules of St. Chrodegang (c.6) and of Aachen (c.17).  In the latter it is said: "let the Canons strive with all their might to observe the aforesaid Hours 'with most watchful vigilance' (vigilantissima cura). Then in the various Constitutions and similar documents, this obligation of assiduity is insisted upon.  I cite two: the "Liber Ordinis" of St. Victor in Paris and the Constitutions of Windesheim, which in no small part depends in the first: "Liber Ordinis" c.26: "Regularibus horis omnes pariter canonici quam laici in choro interesse debent" (All the canons as well as the lay brothers should be in choir at the regular hours); Constitutions of Windesheim c.3 "Regularibus horis omnes pariter fratres clerici interesse debent" (All the brother clerics should be present at the regular hours).  It is prescribed that they should leave everything at the sound of the bell and go to church without delay.  Thomas a Kempis says that the true Religious is known by the fervor he shows in attending Office.  "The one then who is negligent in the divine praises or keeps silent or is absent, is not a friend of God nor a citizen of heaven, because the angels are always intent on praising God.30  And elsewhere: "It is an angelic life if one frequents choir with devotion and reverence."31


With regard to the fervor of attending Choral Office, even in small communities, we find a lovely testimony in the Constitutions of the Congregation of St. Bernard in 1437.  In chapter fourteen we read: "De divinis officiis discendis tam in Hospitali quam in membris" (with regard to saying  Office both in the Hospice and in the Community) it is said that where there are more than four religious, the Divine Office should be celebrated  every day, singing it as far as possible.  Where there are more than three priests they shall recite the Office together in a low voice, but on double feasts and on major solemnities, they should sing all the Office.  Where there are two priests, they shall say together on solemnities, Matins, Mass and Vespers.32


It is to be noted that the Apostolic Constitution "Ad decorem Ecclesiae sponsae Dei" of Benedict XII (1338), who wished to give a new and general adjustment to the whole Canonical Order, is very demanding on this point; in n.31 it is stated that "where there are three or more canons, one Mass at least shall be sung and the Hours shall be sung."33


To conclude and to pass on to other points, let us hear Hugh of St. Victor in his Commentary on the Rule of St. Augustine (c.3); "to pray before the time of Divine Office is foresight (providentia), to pray at the stated is obedience: to omit the time destined for prayer is negligence.34


2. Preparation

In the ancient Constitutions is often stressed the individual and collective preparation for Divine Office. According to the Customary or Constitutions of Marbach (c.5), the Canon Regular as soon as he hears the signal in the night, rises, makes the sign of the cross with an invocation to the Trinity: he then recites Psalm 24, "Ad te Domine levavi animam meam" ("To thee, O lord, I have lifted up my soul") enters the choir and prays with his heart more than with his mouth, saying this prayer: "Gratias tibi ago, omnipotens pater, qui me dignatus es custodire in hac nocte; et depecor clementiam tuam, misericors Domine, ut concedas mihi venturum diem ita peragere in tuo servitio, cum humilitate et discret ione, quatenus tibi complaceat servitus mea."  ("I give you thanks, Almighty Father, who has deined to guard me through this night, and I beg your clemency, merciful Lord, that you will grant me so to spend this coming day in your service with humility and discretion, so that my service may be pleasing to you").  Thereafter follows the Trinitarian prayer of the Community which immediately precedes the recitation of the Divine Office.35


In this matter, the prescriptions of the "Ordo Claustralis" of SS. Victor and John at Bologna (13th Century), are similar.  The Canons Regular on rising, make the sign of the Cross, say the verse "Domine, labia mea aperies", then Psalm 69 "Deus in adiutorium meum intende", the "Our Father", a prayer with which thanks is rendered for a peaceful night and asking to be able to pass the day in such a way "that in the evening and always, we may refer our thanks and praise" (ad vesperum et semper tibi, Domino Deo nostro, laudes et gratias referamus).  There follows the procession from the dormitory to the church, while each one recites to himself the psalm "To thee, O God, I have lifted up my soul" (Ad te, Domine, levavi animam meam)In choir the usual "Glory be..." is said before the Divine Office.36


This differs little from that described by the Constitutions of the Canonical Congregation of Arrouaise: the sign of the cross on rising, "Our Father", the private recitation in the dormitory of the psalms "Deus in adjoutorium" and the "To thee, O God, I have lifted up my soul" (Ad te Domine levavi animam meam), while they processionally go into church.37  Of the same tenor are the Constitutions which were introduced in the 13th Century in the various Austrian, Bavarian and Bohemian Canonries.38


Thomas a Kempis also exhorts his novices saying: "Let us prepare ourselves for the entry into choir with devout prayers;"39 and elsewhere "As soon as you have awakened, get up quickly and prepare your soul for the sacred vigil and the singing of the psalms."40  Finally, his confrere, the Windesheim Canon John Mombaer (Mauburnus) in his "Roseum spiritulium exercitiorum" gives the same admonition with these verses which should impress themselves on the mind: "Exsurgens alacer, benedic salveto Mariam" and "recollected, pure, approach the temple kindled."41


3. Attention and Devotion:

Here I wish to quote immediately the Rule of St. Augustine for the dignity he deserves, even if, as it is known, historically his is not the first Rule of the Order. There must be a perfect harmony between the material recitation and the internal spirit of praying: "As for vocal prayers, psalms, hymns and so on, take care that the voice does not do all the work, while the heart lags behind" (Psalmis et hymnis cum oratis Deum, hoc versetur in corde, quod profertur in voce).  May our sentiments be those which the Church furnishes in the recitation of the Divine Office.  Elsewhere the saint says: "many pray to God, but do not feel Him nor think of Him as they ought.  These can have the sound of supplicants, but not the voice of supplicants, since they lack spirit."42


This preoccupation is found also in the Rule of Aachen (c.18), "the minds of those singing to the Lord ought to be in concord with their voices" (Psallentium in ecclesia Dominomens concordare debet cum voce), words which Hugh of St. Victor repeats to the letter in His Commentary on the Rule of St. Augustine, where he explains precisely the necessity of harmony of between the external recitation with the internal attention.


Thomas a Kempis says in this matter, "Be in choir with fear and reverence and sing the psalms in honor of the Most High. Be continually recollected and continuously turned to God.  Listen with diligence to the Word of God which is there read and sung.  Do not allow yourselves to be distracted by annoyance, but constrain your body to serve the spirit. To the one who recites devoutly the psalms, a new grace is often granted.  If a reading or a psalm does not please you at the first sound of the voice, wait for the grace of the Spirit and persevere to the end.  The Lord will come without delay and will visit him who invokes Him with desire.43


Jean Santeuil (in Latin Santolius), a Canon Regular of St. Victor, the great French Humanist, has composed a verse on the way to sing the psalms.  He insists on attention..."Lest outward things violate the sanctity of the mind / hold the captive senses under a strong law" (Ne rerum species violent sacraria mentis / Captivos sensus dura sub lege tenete).  If anyone is struck by the fervor and recollection of one he sees in choir "let him feel that God is present and let him adore Him" (sentiat esse Deum presentem et pronus adoret).44


St. Laurence Justinian, General, before becoming Patriarch of Venice, of the Canonical Congregation of St. George in Alga, in his work "Sulla disciplina e perfezione religiosa" (On religious discipline and perfection) has a long chapter (c.17) entitled "Quales esse debeant qui divinis intersunt laudibus et Deo psallant" (what kind of men they ought to be who are present and sing to the Lord).  The soul must be attentive to to Him who is attentive to it.  During this blessed time do not think of anything else but let the presence of the Redeemer suffice.45


The Windesheim Canon Regular, Gerlac Peters (_1411), says in his work "Ignitum cum Deo soliloquium" (Afiery soliloquy with God), "In every time, place, event, but especially and in particular in the Divine Office, I wish to place myself before God entirely with the greatest humility of heart and of body."46


Thomas a Kempis exhorts his brethren to stand and sing in choir as though they stood in the midst of the angels of God.  He proceeds: "Let all your brethren be for you as the angels of God, and hope one day to sing in heaven with those whom you now sing the psalms on earth."  He also gives this practical admonition: "The enemy sows darnel. That which previously occupied the mind, returns during prayer.  But he who is devout, does not take notice in chior of anything but God and himself, as though he was already lifted up to the heavenly choir."47  St. Laurence Justinian affirms that the angels are present in the choir of those who sing God's praises as long as their prayer is sung distinctly, attentively, with care, with harmony: "si tamen distincte si attente, si vigilanter, si ardenter, si concorditer, si humiliter, proferantur."48


If the celebration of the Canonical Hours is executed with these internal and external dispositions, it becomes joyous.  St. Augustine already said: "Whoever sings praise, not only praises, but cheerfully praise" (Qui cantat laudem non solum laudat, sed hilariter laudat).49  Richard of St. Victor interprets this joyful praise when he describes the jubilation of the soul from which divine praise pours forth.50  Thomas a Kempis could well say to his novices that "nothing is more salutary, nothing more sweet and pleasant, than to praise God with hymns and direct the soul upwards with the angels in heaven, releasing oneself from the baseness of the earth."51  St. Laurence Justinian observes that the singing of psalms is a sweet colloquy, pleasant and familiar between God and man "which contains immense sweetness" (quae immensas in se continet delectationes).52


It is known that many canons regular rejoiced greatly about this "Heavenly Office."  Francis van Tolen records in his biography of Thomas a Kempis that they sang the psalms with such cheerfulness and devotion as though they were tasting exquisite "salmon."  Thus observes a confrere jocosely. Thomas replied to this play on words: "Thank God,  these psalms are like salmon to me." (Deo gratias psalmi mihi salmones - in Germanic languages, this play on words is more evident. In German, psalm = salm; in Dutch, psalm = zalm).53  Of Blessed Alain de Solminihac, a Canon Regular of Chancelade and later Bishop of Cahors, it is told that whilst he was singing in choir, he diffused from his countenance all the joy he felt in his soul.54


A spiritual school of the Order, viz. the "Devotio Moderna", whose principal supporters were the Canons Regular of Windesheim, and which was an effective, practical movement, but also not without mystical experiences, thought out various means to maintain the canon regular attentive to the Liturgy of the Hours and to increase him in fervor.  The already-mentioned John Mombaer is the principal master of this, so to say, spiritual technicality, but other members of his congregation made their contribution, as we shall see.  Faithful to the method of synthesizing the teaching by verses, Mombaer says: "sis reverens, simul attentus devotus in horis,"55 and in his work "Rosetum" there is a "Directory of fulfilling the hours", which is a complete treatise on this subject.  He prefixes that a knowledge of the psalms is necessary.  Following Gerson, he insists on attention to the words, but better still, and according to him, attention "to the sense", and and especially "to the end."  Happy the man who can apply himself to all three together at the same time, viz. to pronounce the words distinctly, attend to the meaning of the psalms and draw out elements to foster internal devotion.56  Nevertheless it is always better to acquire this pious and devout affection ("devotionis affectus") than to occupy oneself in two other things. Mombaer quotes also Hugh of St. Victor according to whom, prayer is not perfect unless it is accompanied or preceeded by meditation.57


On the basis of these principles, he constructed his "chiropsalterium" (from the Greek, cheir = hand, and psalterium"), viz. "hand psalmody" which should serve to maintain alive the triple attention.  In his work "Rosetum", there is a graphic design for this "chiropsalterium": all the left hand, the fingers and surface of the palm contain one or more words of which one must pay attention during Divine Office; this happens in practice if the mind fixes itself while the finger of the right hand touches the relative part of the left. If the finger of the right remains inert, that signifies that there is an omission or distraction.  Whilst this finger is in motion, the heart ought to excite itself to the internal sentiments corresponding to the fingering of the "psalmodic hand." These are divided into five principal parts; the first regards the acts of the soul which have for their object directly God himself,  and subdivide themselves in five groups localized on the five fingers.  In this, Mombaer follows Hugh of St. Victor in his work "De modo orandi" (on the manner of praying), e.g. on the thumb we have the rendering of thanks, admiration and praise.58  These three acts serve the "capatio benevolentiae" when one says something "in laudem ejus quem oras."  On the index finger, one finds the "commemoration of misery", considered for the past "cum dolores", for the present "cum pudore", for the future "cum timore."  Here Mombaer refers to St. Bonaventure. On the middle finger we have the "commendatio personae", viz. with desire "fecisti bonum participaliter", participating in the good works of the Church, "bonum ages confidenter", by confiding in God. The ring finger contains the consideration of one's enemy, viz. "accusatio partis adversae" of the devil and living men. The evil that comes to us from this part can be in the heart, in the mouth or in deeds. Touching the little, the Canon Regular implores the Divine mercy "imploratio divinae misericordiae."  I do not intend to delay on this.  With Mombaer, the "Devotio Moderna" loses some of its force, insisting on similar meticulous and complicated techniques, which seems to us excessive.


He also proposes other methods to keep the attention and arouse sentiments of devotion like the consideration of a mystery of Christ to be made in every canonical hour.  To facilitate this, he composed for each hour, short Latin verses.  He also gives us his "cithara spiritualis", (the spiritual zither), the work of of a devotee, probably a Windesheim Canon. He bases it on the vowals AEIOU, each one of which recalls to the mind a divine quality upon which to meditate during Divine Office.  It must be said in general that the use of these means- spiritual techniques- with a wise and moderate use- is the patrimony of the Devotio Moderna and one of it's characteristics, e.g. Florence Radewijns, Gerard van Zuphen, Brothers of the Common Life, and John Vos van Huesden, the great Prior of Windesheim, had fixed points and arguements on which to meditate every day of the week.


When according to the customs of Windesheim, the Office of Our Lady followed the long choral night office, tiredness came easily.  Mombaer counseled thinking of Hell and it's torments, and sleep would depart.  The same is found in Thomas a Kempis (Sermon to Novices 6). He recounts that a confrere was overcome by sleep during Night Office and the one next to him the single word "Hell"! Affrightened by this warning he woke up immediately.  Thomas adds: "Let the slothful one think of hell and he will not sleep in choir, tired through fatigue" ("Cogita ergo piger de inferno et non dormitabis in choro lassus prae taedio").  But if this will not produce the desired effect, stronger measures were taken, e.g. the application of vinegar to the eyes, or sticking the nails into the flesh.59


It is noted that in various Congregations and Canonical Communities, there were one or two "custodians" of the choir who had to watch the attention of those in choir and wake up those who had fallen asleep.  These placed themselves in the middle of the choir, and if it occurred, they approached the one overcome by sleep, put the breviary in front of him and woke him up.  Of this we have the testimony of the "Scutum Canonicorum" of Arno of Reichersberg.60


3. The Observance of the Rite

On this point, the Rule of St. Augustine is clear enough: "Sing or recite according to the book: do not put bits in to suit your own mood" (Et nolite cantare, nisi quod legitis esse cantandum. Quod autem non ita scriptum est, ut cantetur).  Hugh of St. Victor comments on this passage thus: "It is not convenient that singing in church is done according to one's whim, but what our fathers ("majores") have written and disposed in this connection, should be observed with fidelity."  If anything is to be changed, it should be done by the deliberation of the older part of the community.61  In fact, in the Canonical Order, minute ritual prescriptions have been elaborated concerning the Divine Office; these are found in the Constitutions, Statutes, Customaries or in similar texts like in the "Libri Ordinarii, Libri Ordinis, Libri Officiorum", which in detail establish the ritual part of the Divine Office, of the Mass and other liturgical functions.  There is no reason to delay on this. Only one thing I would wish to record about this is the "codices" which insist upon the concord of voices, viz. the harmony of the voices, the pause, and not to draw out the last syllables of the verses.  In the Constitution "Ad decorum Ecclesiae sponsae Dei" of Benedict XII above cited, there is a chapter "Divinorum Officiorum recitatio" (the recitation of the Divine Office) where it is said: that the canons "not rushing or syncopating, but clearly and distinctly and devoutly shall they sing."62  John Grüber quotes in this connection the following verses:


Dum licet, in medio fac pausam nec trahe finem,

Et non posterior versus prius incipiatur,

Donec anterior cantando perficiatur.63


(Where it is allowed, make a pause, nor draw out the end,

and the following verse should not be begun too quickly,

until the previous one is completed in the singing.)


4. After the Divine Office

The liturgical celebration of the Divine Office or a part of it being finished, the mind should remain recollected to foster the spiritual life which must be cultivated with care every day.  Here a proposition of St. Augustine fits in: "Consequently dear brothers, what we have sung with a consonant voice, we ought to know and see with the heart" (Proinde, carissimi, quod consona voce cantavimus, sereno etiam corde nosse et videre debemus).64  On this point the masters of the Devotio Moderna particularly insist. Thomas a Kempis in his "Brevis admonitio spiritualis exercitii", ("A short admonition on spiritual exercises"), has a short chapter on meditation "after Matins", viz. after Night Office.  Elsewhere he says that after the celebration of the Canonical Hours we ought not to lay ourselves open to outward things so as not to lose the grace received in prayer.  Rather we ought to recollect ourselves and remain far from noise, render thanks to God and considering that what we have heard sung.  "What does it help", he continues "to praise God for an hour, then give oneself to secular and futile things?  Seek not to lose the precious fruits of your prayers.  The spirit of devotion passes quickly if it is not guarded by silence."65


Mombaer also recommends that a fervent spiritual exercise should follow the Divine Office. In the quoted "Directorium", he has a chapter "De modo horas terminandi atque exercitiis assumendis" (On the manner of terminating the Hours and the execises to be undertaken after them).  He wishes us to examine ourselves on the way we have celebrated the Office and that we ask pardon for faults committed.  He exhorts us moreover to thank God because He has allowed us to praise Him; He has infused His grace and has comforted us with the hope of being heard. Finally we read "exhibitum officium domino devote offere" (to offer devoutly to the Lord the Office recited).  His observation is possibly interesting: "Unde numquam huiusmodi oblatio est intermittenda sed semper post horas agenda, quemadmodum facit et ecclesia, dum post missas, Suscipe, sancta trinitas, etc." (Whence this kind of offering is never to be left out, but always after the Hours to be sung, just as at the Church does, while after the Masses she says, "Suscipe sancta Trinitas etc"). It is known that this prayer was part of the offertory of the mass before the reform of Paul VI.


Mombaer presents us also with a prayer to recite privately after the canonical hours: "Accept, O Lord my God, by the merits and prayers of the glorious Virgin Mary and of all the Saints, in particular N. (of the angels or apostles etc) the submission of my service, and if in these praises I have done anything worthy, look kindly upon me, and if I have neglected anything, graciously forgive, through Christ our Lord."  (Suscipe, domine deus meus, precibus et meritis gloriosissimae Virginis Mariae et omnium Sanctorum tuorum singulariter N. [angelorum vel apostolorum etc] obsequium servitutis meae, et si quid his laudibus dignum egi, clemens respice, et, si quid negligentius actum est, propitius ignosce. Per Christum Dominum).




One has to say that in general, the participation of the faithful at the Divine Office was fairly rare during the Middle Ages and the more modern epoch almost to our own times, if not completely non-existent in various places.  The Office was reserved rather to clerics and religious. Nor can one call "lively participation" at least in the majority of cases, the singing of Vespers which took place on Sundays and feast days in Latin in churches.  This is naturally in contrast to ancient Christianity in which the psalms had penetrated into the use by the people.  This participation in the official prayer of the Church; suffice to read the wonderful accounts in "Peregrinatio Aetheriae" on the liturgy of Jerusalem about 400 A.D..66


Nevertheless there is something positive during the Middle Ages and it is the boast of Canons Regular to have cultivated popular sacred music (in the vernacular) and to have inserted it into the liturgical celebrations.  This is verifiable for regions of the Germanic language- but this needs to be further researched.


There appeared in the "Annals of Klosterneuburg" (Jahrlbuch des Stiftes Klosterneuburg) an interesting study of Walter Lipphardt concerning the music created in the medieval canonries of the Order.67  There is a lengthy description of a popular chant "Christ ist erstanden" (Christ is risen).  This is regularly joined to the liturgical rite of the "visitatio sepulchri" (the visitation of the sepulchre) in which is often sung the well-known Sequence "Victimae pascali laudes" (Praise to the pascal victim).  Here is how the rite is included according to the "Ordinarium" of the regular chapter of the cathedral of Salzburg (c.1160): Chorus: "Surrexit enim sicut dixit" (He rose as he said); Populus: "Christ ist erstanden von der marter" (Christ is risen from torment).  And so the clergy returns in choir (Et ita clerus redeat in chorum).  Then the Bishop or Prior begins: "Te Deum laudamus" (We praise you O God).68


We find the same rite at Seckau, St. Nicholas of Passau, Vorau, St. Florian, Herrenchiemsee, Ranshofen, all canonries of the Order.  In the last mentioned, and it is an important point, the above mentioned popular chant is inserted also in the Second Vespers of Easter.  The structure of this is the following "Second Vespers (sic): Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia. Psalmus Laudate Pueri. Psalmus  In exitu Israel. Chorus: Victime paschali. The people reply Christ ist erstanden. It should be noted ; if the people are not present, the antiphon Et respicientes and Magnificat is sung."69


A mention of the participation of the people is found also in the Constitutions of the Congregation of St. Nicholas & St. Bernard of 1438, published by Cardinal John Cervantes.  In the chapter on "De divinis officiis" (On the Divine Office), it is said: "Where indeed there would only be one (canon), let him study his day and night office devoutly, and distinctly fulfill it in church if he can; on Sundays and feast days as often as he can; at least on Sundays by singing it if there is a parish church and he has some knowledgeable persons to help him, he shall lead the celebration in a low voice. On major feasts, let him celebrate Matins, Mass and Vespers in a high voice.70


Generally speaking, we come to the time of Adrian Grea and then Pius Parsch, the celebrated Canon Regular of Klosterneuburg, to find in our Order a clear idea of this participation of the people.  Parsch already in 1926-27, on the occasion of meetings between priests and gatherings of reunions to promote the liturgy among the people, proposed such a participation.  In his book "Volksliturgie" (Liturgy of the people- Vienna 1952), and in other writings, he expounded his thesis: the breviary is not the monopoly of the clergy but ought to become again what it had been in ancient Christianity, viz. the prayer of the ecclesial community.  Finally, it is worth noting the following passage of "The Declaration on the Canonical Life" of the Primatial Council: "Canonical communities should strive that the people take on an active share with them in the Eucharistic sacrifice and the prayer of the Church."71


From all that has been said it results with outstanding evidence that the worthy celebration, dignified and attentive, of the Liturgy of the Hours was, ought to be, and ought to become again one of our principal preoccupations.  This thought is expressed in the same "Declaration", "Canons Regular therefore must have a great reverence for this Prayer of the Church and therefore take special pains over it's celebration, remembering that, while they are offering these prayers to God, they are standing before the throne of God, in the name of their mother, the Church."72



1 "Hora inquam tertia iterum in Ecclesia congregamur ad confitendum Domino, et per tres repetiones psalmi supradicti nos famulati Dei per tres sequentes horas praesentamus et offerimus" (c.3).

2"In sexta iterum congregamur ad psallendum Domino et per tres repetitiones psalmi supradicti nos divinae tuitioni per tres sequentes horas commendamus, scilicet per septimam horam, octavam et nonam" (ibid.).

3 "Iterum hora nona convenimus et tribus repetitionibus eiusdem psalmi nos in Dei famulatu per tres sequentes horas statuimus sive munimus nos ab insidiis inimici, scilicet per decimam et duodecimam" (ibid.).

4 "In noctis initio, sole videlicet occidente, vespertinum Deo offerimus sacrificium, quando ad confitendum Domino conventimus" (c.5).

5 "Unde in noctis initio quando ad dormitionem accedimus, cui multa assistunt pericula, pro mdelictis quinque sensuum veniam deprecando quinque psalmos cantamus" (ibid).

6 "Completorium ideo dicitur, quia in eo complentur quae usque ad dormitionis quietem facienda sunt" (c.7).

7 Ibid.

8 "Quo corda adhuc torpentia ad laudes Dei exctantur" (c.8).

9 "Laudes matutinae noctis partem sibivindicant ultimam, quartam videlicet vigiliam, quae usque ad solis ortum protenditur" (c.10).

10 "In hoc officio quasti reperta salutis via unica, Domino laudes multipliciter cantamus."

There is little doubt that Prime is of monastic origin; but as far as Palestine goes, we know that about 400 A.D. there were only 5 canonical hours: Vigils, Lauds, Sext, None, Vespers, to which in Lent, Terce was added. This results from the "Peregrinato Aetheriae." As far as Rome goes, it is known that at the begining of the 6th Century, there was the same structure, but Terce ocupied a fixed place.

11 "Septem horas antiquitus statutas testatur David Psalmographus dicens: Septies in die laudem dixi tibi, ut tot essent Laudum exhibitiones in die, quot et ipsi dies" (p.III, c.1).

12 "Prima vero licet novo tempore in Oriente apud monasteria Palestinorum primitus statuta sit et inventa, tamen quia omnis eam suscipit Ecclesia, pro eo quod Spiritu Sancto non dubitatur adiuncta, summa pariter devotione et laudem exhibitione celebranda est" (ibid., c. 4).

13 "Has itaque octo horas Spiritus Sanctus per antiquos et modernos Patres in Ecclesia diebus singulis celebrari instituit, ut quia dies decursionibus viginti quatuor horarum perficitur, singulae tres horae proprias laudes haberent, quarum exhibitione Trinitas Sancta semper coleretur et nosterinterior homo peccato cogitationis, et actionis semper purificaretur, quo et ipse dignius Trinitate adhaerere mereretur, quae et ideo ad octonarium surgunt, ut universale Resurrectionis gaudium praesignent, in quo a peccatis omnibus liberi ipsius Trinitatis mysterium plenissima cognitione videbimus et exinde cum ipsa fina gaudebimus" (ibid., c.1).

14 See note 13.

15 L. Fischer, Bernardi.... Ordo Officiorum Ecclesiae Lateranensis, München-Freising 1916, p. 62.

16 Ibid., p.140.

17  In hac eccleia, quia typum gerit coelestis Ecclesiae, die noctuque in Matutinis et Missa seu Vesperis festive pulsatur" (PL 194, 1549).

18 Ibid. 1550.

19 For the significance of "famulatus dei" see J. Siegwart, Die Chorherren- und Chorfrauengemeinschaften der deutschsprachigen Schweiz vom 6. Jahrhundert bis 1160, Freiburg 1962, p.200. - St. Laurence Justinian, De castro connubio verbi et animae: "Est namque divina laus sacrificium salutare.... Nullus divinae laudis valet aestimare pretium, profectum intelligere et pensare gaudium."

20 Bl. J. Rusbroeck, Spiritualium nuptiarum liber, II, 14: "Denique tota facultate nostra nobis laudandus est Deus... Sane laudibus Deum afficere cordium amantium iucundissima actio et occupatio est et cuius cor laude divina plenum est, in Dei laudem creaturas omnes una secum propumpere et consnare appetit." - De septem amoris gaudibus libellus "Christus autem in humana natura dexttrum moderabitur chorum, utpote qui celsissimus atque nobilissimus est omnium, quae umquam condita sunt a Deo et ad hunc chorum pertinent omnes in quibus ipse vivit et qui vivunt in ipso. Alter chorus angelicis spiritibus assignatur." - Spiritualium nuptiarum liber, II, 14: "Laudate Deum maxime proprius est actus angelorum et hominum beatorum, atque etiam Deum in terris amantium."

21 "Chorus est Dei et sanctorum angelorum locus sacratus, ubi divinum agitur officium, praesentibus ecclesiae ministris cum reverentia et devotione psallentibus. Sicut angeli in caelo, sic religiosi ordinati sunt in choro. Opus angelorum est Deum semperlaudare, opus religiosorum est intenta mente psallere et orare."

22 Alimenta pietatis Augustinianae, Lincii 1744, p.311.

23 De oper. mon. 29, 37; PL 40, 576; Enarr. in ps. CXVIII, 29, 4; PL 37, 1587; Epist. 29, 11; PL 33, 120; De civ. Dei XXII, 8, 7; PL 37, 1817.

24 cfr. Enarr. in ps. LXXXV, 1; PL 37, 1082 - Enarr. in ps. CLX, 3; PL 37, 1817.

25 Enarr. in ps. XXX, 2, 1, 4;PL 36,232.

26  n. 83.

27 Ibid., n. 83.

28 "Debent quoque iuxta Apostolum, 1 Tim. 2, primo omnium ab his fieri obsecrationes, orationes, postulationes, gratiarum actiones pro omnibus hominibus, pro regibus et omnibus, qui in sublmitate sunt constituti."

29 "Nequam enim in tam sancto opere tibi ipsi proficies aeternam a Domino mercedem promerendo, sed etiam cunctis Christifidelibus et praecipue anomabus defunctis prodesse potes, gratiam et veniam in cotidianis horis et missis implorando, et tanto plenius quanto saepius et ferventius pro omnibus oraveris."

30 "Qui ergo a Dei laudibus torpescit aut tacet aut se absentat, non est amicus Dei nec civis caeli, quia angeli semper in laudibus Dei sunt."

31 Libellus _piritualis Exercitii, 7: "Vita angelica est chorum cum devotione et reverentia frequentare."

32 L. Quaglia - C. Giroud, Les Constitutiones de la Priorate  du Grand-Saint-Bernard, Torino 1956, p.39.

33 E. Amort, Vetus discplina canonicorum, I, p.473.

34 "Ante tempus orare est providentia, in tempore constituto orare est oboedientia, tempus orandi praeterire est negligentia."

35 J. Siegwart, Die Consuetudines des Augustiner-Chorherrenstiftes Marbach im Elsaá, Freiburg, 1965, pp 107-108.

36 Ordo Canonicus, II, 1947, pp39-40.

37 Constitutiones Canonicorum Regularium Ordinis Arroasiensis, ed. L. Milis, Turnholti 1970, pp 30-31.

38 cf. E. Amort, op. cit., p.509.

39 Sermo ad nov. 6: "Ad ingressumchori devotis precibus nos praeparemus."

40 Lib. Spir. Exercitii, 6: "statim ut suscitatus fueris, surge alacriter et praepara cor tuum ad vigilandum et psallendum Domino in laetitia et exsulatione."

41 Rosetum spiritualium exercitorum, Dietarium exercitorum, III.

42 Enarr. in ps. CXXXIX, 19; PL 37, 1809: "Quam multi autem deprecantur Deum et non sentiunt nec bene cogitant de Deo. Sonum deprecationis habere possunt, vocem non possunt, quia vita ibi non est."

43 Exerctia spiritualia, 5: "Sta in choro cum metu et reverentia et psalle nomini Domini altissimi. Sis integre collectus, ac Deo familiariter intentus. Dilligenter ausculta Dei verba, quae ibi leguntur et cantantur. Noli taedio vinci, sed coge corpus spiritui servire. Datur enim frequenter nova gratia devote psallenti. Si non ad primum oris tui sonum lectio sapit aut psalmus, expecta Domini gratiam et persevera usque in finem. Veniat incunctanter Dominus et visitabit desideranter ad se clamantem.

44 Operum omnium editio secunda, Parisiis 1968, II, p. 58.

45 "Intendere debet (anima) omnino illi, qui intendit sibi... Nihil vero de iis quae foris sunt, illo beato tempore cigitet, nihil appetat, sed ei sufficiat praesentia redemptoria."

46 "In omni tempore, loco et casibus, maxime et praecipue in divino officio assistam coram Domino totus et integer, humilimo corde et corpore" (c. 18).

47 Libellus de disciplina claustralium, 8: "Omnes fratres tui sint tamquam angeli Dei. Et cum quibus nunc psallis in terris, spera etiam te cantaturum in caelis" - Cf. ibid.: "Quidquid homo ante exercet, hoc sibi frequenter postmodum in oratione occurrit. Inimicus ibi non venit nisi ut zizania superminet. Devotus choralis soli Deo et sibi intendit, tamquam in caelesti choro translatus et elevatus esset."

48 L.c.

49 Enarr in ps. LXXII.

50 Beniarmin maior, 5, 18; PL196, 190: "Hunc tunc procul dubio psaltem psallere facimus, quando ex magno cordis tripudio in divina praeconia iubilamus, et in gratiarum actionem assurgentes, ex intimis visceribus in divinas laudes cum magno cordis clamore reboamus."

51 Sermo ad nov. 28: "Nihil salubrius, nihil iucundius et dulcius, quam Deum laudare in hymnis et psalmis, et habere cor sursum cum angelis in caelis, infirmis neglectis."

52 L. c.

53 Vita Thomae a Kempis Francisco Tolensi Canonico Regulari authore: Ven. Viri Thomae Malleoli a Kempis Opera Omnia, opera et studio J. Henrici Sommalii, Coloniae Agr. 1680, pp36-37.

54 I. G. Grueber, op. cit., p. 317.

55 Rosetum spiritualium exercitorum, Directorium solvendarum horarum, tit. IV.

56 Ibid.

57 De modo orandi, 1: "Sic ergo orationi sancta meditatio necessaria est, ut omnino perfecta esse oratio nequeat, si eam meditatio non comitetur aut praecedat."

58 Ibid., 7: Est affectus dilectionis.... Est affectus admirationis.... Est affectus congratulationis.... De istis affectibus primi tres ad istud praecipue genus Scriptuarum pertinent, in quo fit laudatio."

59 P. Debongnie, Jean Mombaer de Bruxelles, Louvain-Toulouse 1928, p. 133.

60 "solent diligentiores quique vigiliarum in choro unum custodem ponere, qui in medio chori stans, interdum et sedens, et, cum opportuerit, obambulans, ei, quem dormientem, seu torpidum viderit, librum porriget.... eum suscitabit" (PL 194, 1510).

61 Expositio super Regulam S. Augustini, 3: "Non enmim decet cantus ecclesiasticus fieri debeat secundum arbitrium diversorum, sed firmiter servandus est secundum scripta et instituta maiorum.... Si quid autem mutari oportet aut constitui, non debet hoc cito fieri aut leviter, nec arbitrio tantum duorum vel trium, sed convocatis fratribus sicut sanior pars canonicae congregationis decreverit ordinandum est."

62 cap. 53; E. Amort, op. cit. I, p. 487.

63 Op. cit., p. 320.

64 Enarr. in ps. XVIII; PL 36, 157.

65 Libellus de disciplina clausralium, 8: "Finitis his quae in divino officio celebrantur, non statim te effundas ad exteriora, ne perdas gratiam, quam consecutus es orando; sed potius post vota labiorum tuorum te recollige et in maiori gratiarum actione ab omni strepitu solus permane ruminando ea, quae audisti. Quid prodest una hora Deum laudare, et altera saecularia et inania pertractare? Noli pretiosum fructum orationum tuarum et laborem divini operis pro vilibus exponere iocis et nugis. Nam cito perit devotio, quae non custoditur sub silentii freno."

66 St. Augustine refers that from the popular use of the psalms, linguistic errors cannot be extirpated like "floriet": "that" which we cannot now remove from the singing voices of the people: on this point the words 'floriet sanctificatio mea' take away nothing of the sense. A hearer more learned would wish to correct this so that not 'floriet' but 'florebit' would be used, nor does anything prevent the correction except the custom of the singers" (De doctr. christ. II, 13, 20).

67 Studien zur Musikpflege in den mittelalterlichen Augustiner-Chorherrenstiften des deutschen Sprachgebietes: Jahrbuch des Stiftes Klosterneuburg, N.F., 7, 1971, pp 7-102.

68 Ibid. p. 8.

69 Ibid. p. 17.

70 .  Ubi vero non fuerit nisi unus [canonicus], officium suum nocturnum et diurnum studeat devote adimplere in ecclesia si poterit; et diebus dominicis et festivis aut pluribus dispondat se celebraturum; saltem diebus dominicis et cantando, si parrochialis ecclesia fuerit et habeat parrochianos scientes eum juvare, nisi justa de causa, submissa voce duxerit celebrare. Majoribus vero festivitatibus matutinas, missam et vesperas alta voce, si habeat ministrum vel ministros, celebret. L. Quaglia - C. Giroud, op. cit., p. 86.

71 No. 24.

72 Ibid.