The Divine Office eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 261 pages of information about The Divine Office.

General questions.




Etymology.—­The word, Breviary, comes from an old Latin word, Breviarium, an abridgment, a compendium.  The name was given to the Divine Office, because it is an abridgment or abstract made from holy scripture, the writings of the Fathers, the lives of the Saints.  The word had various meanings assigned to it by early Christian writers, but the title, Breviary, as it is employed to-day—­that is, a book containing the entire canonical office—­appears to date from the eleventh century.  Probably it was first used in this sense to denote the abridgment made by Pope Saint Gregory vii. (1013-1085), about the year 1080.

Definition.—­The Breviary may be defined as “the collection of vocal prayers established by the Church, which must be recited daily by persons deputed for that purpose.”

Explanation of the Definition.—­“Prayers,” this word includes not only the prayers properly so called, but also, the whole matter of the divine office.  “Vocal,” the Church orders the vocal recitation, the pronunciation of each word.  “Established by the Church,” to distinguish the official prayers of obligation from those which the faithful may choose according to their taste.  “Which must be recited,” for the recitation is strictly obligatory.  “Daily,” the Church has fixed these prayers for every day of the year, and even for certain hours of the day.  “By persons deputed for that purpose,” therefore, persons in holy orders recite these prayers not in their own name, but as representatives of the universal Church.

Different Names for the Breviary.—­This book which is, with us, commonly called the Breviary, has borne and still bears different names, amongst both Latins and Greeks.

Amongst the Latins, the recitation of the Breviary was called the Office (officium), that is, the duty, the function, the office; because it is, par excellence, the duty, function and office of persons consecrated to God.  This is the oldest and most universal name for the Breviary and its recitation.  It was called, too, the Divine Office (officium divinum), because it has God for its principal object and is recited by persons consecrated to God.  It is called the ecclesiastical office (officium ecclesiasticum), because it was instituted by the Church.  Other names were, Opus Dei; Agenda; Pensum servitutis; Horae; Horae Canonicae.

Which books were employed in olden times in reciting the Office?

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The Divine Office from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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