When may a priest begin the recitation of Matins and Lauds for the following day? There were two different replies given to this question. One opinion stated that it was lawful to begin Matins and Lauds after 2 o’clock, p.m., and this could be lawfully done every day in the year, and in every land. Another opinion—and St. Alphonsus calls it sententia verior—denies that such a course is lawful. The old French Breviaries gave a horarium arranging the hour of anticipation of Matins and Lauds, so that no one should, through temerity or ignorance, begin the anticipation before the sun had passed half way in its course between mid-day and sunset. On January 20th the time to begin the anticipation of hours was 2.15 p.m., but on June 8th the anticipation was not to begin till 4 p.m.
Nowadays, the first opinion is held almost universally. The principal internal argument for this opinion is the teaching that the anticipation may begin from the public hour of first vespers, and these may be recited publicly according to present-day custom at 2 p.m. Therefore, this time, 2 o’clock p.m., is the beginning of the ecclesiastical day, and can be taken as the time for private anticipation of Matins and Lauds. The external argument in favour of this opinion is the authority of theologians. In 1905, the Sacred Congregation of Rites was asked the question “Utrum in privata recitatione Matutinum sequentis diei incipi possit, 2da pomeriddiane?”. The reply was, “Consulantur probati auctores” (Acta Sanctae Sedis XXXVII., p. 712). Now many approved authors (e.g., Lehmkuhl, II., 793; Ballerini-Palmieri, IV. 515; Slater I., p. 609) hold that it is lawful, privately, to anticipate Matins and Lauds at 2 o’clock, p.m. Lehmkuhl, who previously favoured a stricter view, was compelled, in the latest editions of his Moral Theology, to say of this opinion which allows anticipation to begin at 2 o’clock, p.m.: “Quae sententia hodie a multis usque gravissimis viris tenetur et observatur, ut, spectata consuetudine, extrinseca saltem probabilitas negari nequit.” We conclude, accordingly, that always and everywhere the private anticipation of Matins and Lauds may begin at 2 p.m. (cf. Irish Ecclesiastical Record, Fifth Series, Vol. I., No. 541).
Doubts have arisen in connection with time changes made by various States in Europe. The various schemes of new time, of daylight saving, of co-ordinations of time, uniformity of time all through certain States, have given rise to doubts and queries regarding the time for fulfilling the precept of the office and also regarding the time for lawful anticipation of Matins and Lauds. These doubts were solved several years ago, and now there is no longer any difficulty or anxiety over “true time,” “new time,” “legal time,” in relation to matters ecclesiastical. In reply to queries, Dr. M. J. O’Donnell, in the Irish Ecclesiastical Record (Vol. III., p. 582), explains clearly