Learning the Office Part XIIA: A note on calendars

We are getting down, now to the technical stuff which is not absolutely essential to understanding and saying the Office, but which is at least useful to have thought about briefly. So if you've just found this blog and want to learn how to say the monastic Office, please do start at Part I of this series.

In terms of what I still plan to cover, my list currently is calendars/Ordos, pronouncing the Latin (and learning it), and singing the Office. Feel free to make suggestions though!

In the meantime, here first is a note on calendars and Ordos. The points I want to look at briefly are:

  • which calendar you should be using;
  • how to construct your own personal Ordo; and
  • how to adapt the Benedictine Office to the Roman (EF) calendar.

I'll devote a second post to the differences between the pre-1962, 1962 and 1970 calendars, sources of Ordos and more - those who want to sing the Office in particular will need to know something about the pre-1962 calendar.

A plethora of calendars: rubrics

The first point to note is that if you are just saying the Office as a devotional exercise, it really doesn't matter which calendar you are using. And really, for most people that will be the case, and so you can take or leave what I have to say below!

But if you want to formally join yourself to the liturgical prayer of the Church, you probably need to use one of the calendar systems that is actually approved by the Church and one that you are entitled to use.

In effect that means firstly either the 1962 calendar (Extraordinary Form) or the 1970 (Novus Ordo) version or the calendar of the monastery you are an oblate of (abbeys can construct their own calendars within certian constraints), rather than any of the earlier or alternative versions (for example as on breviary.net, or the Orthodox calendar). It also means that you need to include the appropriate local feasts that you won't necessarily find in the Diurnal.

Benedictine Oblates are entitled to follow the Benedictine calendar of the monastery they are aggregated to (and many monasteries send out copies of their calendar for this purpose) but the situation for other followers of St Benedict is a little fuzzier shall we say!

Fortunately, the differences between the Roman calendar and the Benedictine calendar are not huge - the liturgical seasons are the same, so mostly it is a matter of omissions and additions of feasts, and changes to the level of some feasts.

The Mass and the Office

One key consideration aside from the rubrics is that the Office is very closely linked to the Mass. If you can get to daily mass at a traditional monastery you are all set with the Diurnal - but not many of us have that privilege! If you don't go to daily mass, this isn't much of an issue (you just need to think about the Sunday feasts and liturgical seasons). But if you do, it makes sense to try and line up your Office with the calendar used where you go to Mass as much as possible. If you go to an EF (1962) Mass, that is pretty easy to do, and I'll talk about it below. Much harder for the novus ordo though.

Constructing an Ordo

The Farnborough Diurnal actually gives you all of the information you need to construct an Ordo for each week as far as the universal feasts of the Church goes provided you know the rules about which feasts have priority. However, unless you have some expertise on this front, I'd strongly suggest using the Ordos provided on various sites, including this one, at least as a starting point. I'll talk more about this in the next post.

To that Ordo, though, you ideally need to add a few things (General rubrics, 45-50):

  • any feasts particular to the Congregation of Benedictines your monastery belongs to;
  • feasts particular to your monastery, such as the name feast of the oratory or church; and
  • feasts celebrated in your diocese, such as the patron saint of your country, region, province or diocese (all Class I feasts); your parish churches feast day; and the anniversary of the dedication of your cathedral (Class I).
Using the Roman EF calendar with the Benedictine Office

The other issue is how to add feasts or change their level to line up with the (EF) mass you attend! If you want, for example, to say the Office of a saint who is celebrated in the Roman calendar, but only rates a commemoration or is not celebrated at all in the Benedictine calendar, it is really pretty straightforward.

All you really need to know is what type of saint he or she is - and then look at the Common of (martyrs, confessors, etc). All of the Commons provide a standard collect where you can just insert the appropriate saint's name. But the better alternative is to use the collect for the mass provided in your missal.

Use the card that comes with the Diurnal to help you work out what parts of the Common to use, and whether or not to use the 'festal' psalms at lauds and vespers. So for a third class feast, use the antiphons and psalms from the psalter, the rest from the common; for a second class feast, use the festal psalms and antiphons from the common.

Another possible source for antiphons is the Liber Usualis, which contains antiphons (with chant) for vespers on many major feasts, and is available online.

A similar process applies to adding a commemoration of a saint at Lauds - simply say the Benedictus antiphon, versicle and collect from the relevant common (or from your missal).

Hope that doesn't confuse, but do ask if it does!

You can find the second part of this discussion on calendars and Ordos here.


Mark said...

I have found 'traditional' Benedictines also do not omit certain feasts removed by Bl. Pope John XXIII's reforms in 1962, e.g. the Holy Cross recently.

Terra said...

Mark - Monasteries actually do have some freedom to include feasts not in the universal calendar if they wish, so for example Le Barroux did as you suggest perfectly legitimately. If I were an oblate of Le Barroux, then it would be fine for me to do likewise - but not otherwise, except as a devotion. I've amended the text a little to make that clear.

That said, nothing wrong with devotional offices - that's how many feasts come into being after all, a monastery starts saying it, it catches on, and a pope decides he likes it and legislates for it be used universally!

And it is always possible to celebrate the Office of a particular saint from the martyrology as a devotion in the same way a priest can say a votive mass.

I'm just drawing the line (somewhat arbitrarily!) at other Churches/older calendars per se!