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Dissertation on The Prymer.
LTHOUGH I do not propose to give in my present work any portion of the Breviaries of the Church of England, yet the Prymer
which I am now about to lay before the reader is so connected with them, in matter and arrangement (in one sense, indeed, a part of them), that it would seem I think an unpardonable omission to pass them by unnoticed. And, moreover, these volumes being intended to illustrate, so far as their limits will allow, the early and later Ritual and Offices of our Church, I feel for that reason bound to take this opportunity of giving a short account of the ancient divisions and offices of the ecclesiastical day, from which our modern Matins and Evensong have been derived.
The remarks which I have made in the preface to the Ancient Liturgies, upon the variety of Uses as regarded the missal, which formerly to a much greater extent than now, prevailed through the whole Western Church, are equally applicable to the breviary. That power which, as I have there said, was vested in each Bishop to provide as he himself, under certain conditions, thought best for the public worship of the churches of his diocese, would not have failed to have
been exercised over the less solemn offices, as well as over the most important of them all, which concerned the Eucharist. Hence there were the Breviaries of York and Sarum, which have been printed ; and doubtless an accurate examination into the manuscript stores of our great libraries, would give us examples still extant of the Breviaries of the other great English Uses, the Hereford, the Lincoln, and the Bangor. The observations which follow, will not be affected by the differences, whether great or small, which unquestionably existed between the Service Books of those Churches.
By the word Breviary we are to understand an arrangement of certain Divine Offices, constructed out of Prayers, and Psalms, and Hymns, and Canticles, and Lessons taken from the sacred Scriptures or writings of the holy Fathers; which was authorized and ordained to be continually performed before God, at certain hours of the day and night throughout the year, by and for the Church.
Other terms to signify the same arrangement are · frequently to be met with : such as, Officium divinum, or ecclesiasticum, or canonicum; or Orarium, or Hora canonicæ, and sometimes Cursus.?
1 Compare Azevedo, de Div. his work “ de ordine AntiphoOff. Exercit. 1.
narii,” says in the Prologue, “cu• Cursus, to signify the service pio summatim aliquid scribere,
the Hours, occurs in an early quasi quoddam manuale de solis English canon, 7th of the council nocturnalibus officiis, et de his, of Chalcuith, A. D. 785, “ Ut
quæ vocantur vulgo cursus.” omnes ecclesiæ publicæ canonicis And immediately after, “ Cap. 1. horis cursum suum cum reverentia Incipit adnotatio de nocturnalibus habeant." Wilkins. Concilia. officiis et diurnalibus, quæ vulgo Tom. 1. 147. About the same cursus vocantur.” Bibl. Patr. time, Amalarius wrote: who in Auctarium. Tom. 1. 506.
Every reader of ecclesiastical history is aware that in the earliest ages, as well as in succeeding ones, there were heretics, who affirmed that men should never cease from prayer; such for example as were the Messalians, or Euchitæ. On the other hand, there were some, far more numerous, who objected to all stated forms and times for prayer ; such as the Pelagians, and many whom we could name. Holding as she ever has, the just mean between these two extremes, and guided by the Holy Spirit of God, His Church laid down precise rules upon this matter. With the one side which she condemned she yet agreed, knowing that there is no time which is not fit to be employed in prayer; that men must pray without ceasing: with the other, no less to be condemned, she yet sympathized, remembering the infirmity and weakness of humanity. Hence, according to the often cited passage of the Psalmist,“ Septies in die laudem dixi tibi,” she especially appointed seven Offices for seven different times of the day. These were portions which came to be so well known as the Canonical Hours.
We do not know when the first opposers sprung up of the laws and customs of the Church. Neither do we know how early the Canonical Hours were settled. Some would say, by Popes Damasus, or Gelasius, or Gregory : but these it is quite certain did nothing more than Popes in after times, that is, reform or correct the services which they found already in use.
We read that it was at the third hour when the Apostles were assembled together, that the Holy Ghost came down on them. Again, “ Peter and John went up together into the temple at the hour of prayer, being the ninth hour.” It was at night, towards the morning, when S. Peter, after the Angel
had loosed him from prison, knocked at the gate of the house “ where many were gathered together praying.” It was midnight, when “ Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God.” Tertullian speaks of the Christians meeting before dawn to worship God.' The Apostolical Constitutions are precise ! in their directions that prayers should be offered up
in the morning, at the third hour, the sixth, the ninth, vespers, and at the cock-crowing.* S. Cyprian's injunctions towards the end of his treatise upon the Lord's prayer, enforce the duty of prayer at certain hours, and recognize the truth of the application above made of the passages from Scripture. S. Athanasius, S. Basil, S. Augustine, and S. Gregory Nazianzen, all testify to the like purpose : and there is no need here to multiply authorities.
But not always have the same hours of the day and night been appointed for prayer. Like other matters connected with the public welfare and duties of the Church, this also has been subject to change, and made suitable to altered circumstances. During persecution it was fitting, because safety required it, that assemblies should be made at night: for a short time afterwards, until experience had proved the dangers which accompanied such meetings in times of peace, the same practice, by way of commemoration, might not unwisely be continued: afterwards it was forbidden generally to the people, and a new arrangement of the Canonical Hours was necessary.
3 De corona. Opera. p. 102. Edit. Paris. 1675. Compare also De Jejuniis. p. 549. Where Tertullian even speaks of the hours,
as Hora Apostolicæ.
215. Edit. Paris. 1726.
became joined with, and were to be said with Lauds : and the number of the Canonical Hours was fixed at seven : viz. Matins and Lauds, Prime, Tierce, Sext, Nones, Vespers, and Compline.
In England the night assemblies appear not to have been discontinued so late as the middle of the eighth century. One of the excerptions of Archbishop Eg
Septem synaxes sancti patres canendas constituerunt, quas omni die clerus singulis horis canere debet ; quarum prima est nocturnalis synaxis, secunda prima hora diei, &c.” This occurs in a canon especially directed to parish priests. Cardinal Lorenzana, in the preface to his edition of the Gothic, or as it is usually called, the Mozarabic Breviary, remarks upon the fact of its containing the night services. He says,
“Non leve ad asserendam nostri codicis vetustatem argumentum insurgit ex numero, et ordine Horarum Canonicarum ad quas aptatur Hymnus, et priorum Ecclesiæ sæculorum nobis speciem referunt : primo etenim in calce nostri codicis non solum Horas Matutinas et Laudum invenies, sed etiam Hymnos ad primam noctis vigiliam: ad Galli cantum, quod erat circa medium noctis, et ad pullorum cantum, quod erat circa exurgentem auroram.”? I do not mean to assert positively from the canon above of Egbert, that
6 Wilkins. Concilia. Tom. 1. Christi, diebus singulis recitant 103.
totum officium Mozarabicum: 7 Pref. p. 18. Edit. Matriti. mane Primam, Tertiam, Sextam 1775. With this, compare the et Nonam, nec non Missam: post account of the Mozarabic services meridiem, Vesperas, Completoin the chapel at Toledo, upon rium : et postea dicuntur MatutiCardinal Ximenes' foundation, as num et Laudes.” Pinius. Tracdescribed in the
Historico - Chronologicus. cellani autem sacelli Corporis Cap. 8. § 5. 365.