The Office in Holy Week

The Office in Holy Week, or more particularly the Triduum, is quite different in form to the rest of the year, so it is important to pay close attention to the rubrics as set out in your Diurnal or Breviary, and follow the Ordo closely.

This post provides something of an overview, but should be read in conjunction with the Ordo.

Psalm Sunday to Holy Week Wednesday

The first days of Holy Week are all first class days:
  • For those who say it, Matins each day has two nocturns/three readings, with the invitatory antiphon and hymn of passiontide;
  • Lauds to None have proper antiphons for each day, with other texts from the ordinary of passiontide;
  • Vespers uses the antiphons from the psalter, with a proper canticle and collect each for the Magnificat.
The Sacred Triduum

From Holy Thursday, follow the Office as set out in the Diurnal, ignoring the psalter section of the book. There are a number of special features of the Triduum that are worth taking note of.

It is worth noting that the Benedictine Office is, for all purposes and intents, identical to the traditional Roman Office during this period. So if you have the opportunity to attend Tenebrae or other Offices sung publicly, take them! You may also wish to listen to the monks of Norcia, who broadcast many of these Offices each year.

The other key point to note is that some of the Holy Week ceremonies include parts of the Office - so those who attend them do not need to sing or say those particular hours separately (see the Ordo).

Tenebrae (Matins and Lauds)

The Office of Tenebrae, or Matins and Lauds, is a special feature of the Triduum. It is said in darkness, and a candle is extinguished as each of the psalms is said.

The 1962 rubrics specify that Tenebrae not be anticipated, or said the night before. As this generally makes public recitation of the Office impractical outside a monastery, it is generally ignored. Thus the normal practice is to perform Tenebrae for Maundy Thursday on Wednesday night, and so forth. Note that the Diurnal does not contain the Matins psalms for Tenebrae, so you will need to obtain these from elsewhere should you wish to say it in full.

Prime to None from Maundy Thursday to None on Holy Saturday

The psalms for Prime, Terce, Sext and None during the Triduum are set out on MD 279*ff. No introductory prayer or hymns are said, and the Gloria Patri is not said at the end of each psalm.

Each hour closes the antiphon ‘Christus factus est’ – each day of the Triduum, an additional phrase of the antiphon is added, as set out on MD 282*.

Vespers

Vespers (if said) is often said quite early, in order to make room for Tenebrae/the Easter Vigil.

The antiphons and psalms for Vespers can be found on MD 296*ff.

Note that:
  • There are no introductory prayers;
  • As for the other hours, the Gloria Patri is not said at the end of each psalm;
  • The first psalm on Holy Saturday is on MD 298*;
  • Antiphons for the Magnificat each day are on MD 303*;
  • On Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, the antiphon Christus factus est is said;
  • On the concluding prayers for Holy Saturday, see MD 305*.
Compline

The rubrics for Compline from Maundy Thursday to Holy Saturday are set out on MD 305*ff. Note the addition of the Nunc Dimittis.

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