It is often asked why are there different grades of feasts. Three reasons are given by writers on liturgy. First, to mark the diversity of merit in God’s saints, their sanctity and their different degrees of service to His Church. Second, to mark their different degrees of glory in Heaven. “One is as the sun; another, the glory of the moon; and another the glory of the stars. For star differs from star” (1 Cor.). Third, for some special national or local reasons—e.g., patron of a country.
The rules laid down in the general rubrics in the new Breviary, for doubles and semi-doubles, are left unchanged almost by the regulations laid down by the Commission and by the Variationes. Their numbers were reduced, so that there now stand in the new Breviary only seventy-five doubles, sixty-three semi-doubles, and thirty-six movable feasts.
A reason for the new arrangement of double feasts in the Pian Breviary is the general one, that the Pope wished above all things the weekly recitation of the Psalter, and to bring about this weekly recitation and the restoration of the Sunday Office a mere rearrangement of the Psalms was quite insufficient, and a rearrangement of the gradation of feasts of concurrence and of occurrence was necessary.
TITLE II.—THE OFFICE OF A SEMI-DOUBLE.
Etymology, nature and synonyms. The word semi-double (semi-duplex) is derived from the Latin; and some writers hold that the word indicates feasts which are of lower rank and solemnity than double feasts. Others hold that it means simply, feasts holding a place between double feasts and simple feasts. Most writers on liturgy hold that on some days a double office—one of the feast and one of the feria—was held, and that in order to shorten this double recitation there was said a composite office, partly of the saint’s office and partly of the feria; and they say that from this practice arose the term semi-double, or half-double.
Synonyms for the term “semi-duplex,” are “non-duplex,” “office of nine lessons.”
1. The antiphons are not doubled in a semi-double office.
2. The Sundays of the year, excepting Easter Sunday, Low Sunday, Pentecost and Trinity, are said according to the semi-double rite. In the new Breviaries the Psalms for Matins are only nine in number, instead of the eighteen of the older book.
3. The versicles, antiphons, responses, preces and suffrages of saints, which are recited in semi-double offices, are given below under their own titles.
TITLE III.—THE SIMPLE OFFICE.
Etymology, nature and synonyms. The word simple comes from the Latin simplex, to indicate the least solemn form of office and it is the direct opposite in meaning to the term “double.” It is synonymous with the term so often found in liturgical works, the office of three lessons.