7 February 2011

What time is Vespers this morning?

That's right, "this morning". You see there are some traddies who can't tell the time when it comes to the Sacred Liturgy. They go so far as to try and make a virtue out of it. It really doesn't help the cause at all.

There’s a blog that doesn’t seem to like this one and that shouts of the Pimpernel that “nobody cares who you are, or what you think”. One of the main purposes of that blog seems to be the mutual admiration between its owner and another blogger, named after rubrics. He is often intelligent.

They’ve been discussing evening Mass of late. Their comments got on to the timing of Vespers. Apparantly, if one is a Catholic of the Roman Rite, Vespers is a liturgical service of the morning, at least on penitential days. With apologies to Fr Q, the Pimpernel fisks.

Help is available
“The practice of having Vespers in the morning - and I must say when I first discovered the practice for the Roman rite in 1987 [we won't ask where or how] I was awestruck by wonderful [sic] it was  - is not a random praxis but something closely linked to penitential days. [Oh? Time is different on those days? Or is its horologcal absurdity the penance?] The Byzantine rite [relevance to the Roman Rite?] extends the practice beyond Lent to where it is [no, this is 2011, it "was", and by no means always] confined in the old Roman rite.

Of course this was all ridiculed and derided by the twentieth century Liturgical Movement. [perhaps rightly?]  Now of course [why "of course"?] there are emerging theologies [beware of "emerging theologies"] of the Liturgy of the Hours, two outstanding contributions being by the late Fr. Gregory Woolfenden (VP) and Dr. Laurence Hemming. [Surely these learned people are able to tell the time. Do they really maintain that there is a liturgical value and integrity in the celebration of Vespers in the morning, or do they try to create a theological virtue out of practice arising from historical necessity?] There is more to the Office than a mere [merely "mere"?] sanctification of time and theology about life and death, light and darkness inherent in structure and sequence of the hours of Vespers, Mattins and Lauds distinct to what is happening at the other hours. [sic, or, 
what on earth does this sentence mean? It may be an "emerging theology".] As we don’t fully understand these things [Some of us do understand the literal, theological and traditional meaning of "Lauds" and "Vespers" etc. well enough, thank you.] I believe only fools rush in [Sorry, but this time that analogy doesn't work. Intelligent people can soundly justify the liturgical celebration of Vespers in the evening, even on penitential days. There was no rush. But there was a consensus.] to change [or correct?] received praxis [the value of which, if it ever really existed beyond convenience, or bad practice become customary, is not understood, however many people - even revisionist traditionalists - try and "emerge" a theology for it.] – as we saw in the reform of the Roman liturgy the past 100 years.”

Sure, there are lots of things in the reform of the Roman Rite in the last hundred years, even before, that are debatable. But really, this is going too far.



  1. I don’t know what Dr Hemming thinks but I don’t know why Rubricarius claims the support of Dr Woolfenden for his views. In his 2004 book ‘Daily Liturgical Prayer’ page 217 Woolfenden says “A later development again, was to anticipate Matins and Lauds the night before – thus emptying Lauds of its real meaning. This was particularly chatacteristic of the last three days of Holy Week down to 1955, when the combined service was known as Tenebrae (darkness) – a complete reversal of its original purpose.”

    His conclusion on page 294 says that “really effective reform must return to first principles” and that “the return to first principles must begin with recovery of the original meaning of these rites. Then they may be celebrated in a way that reflects their integral meaning.”

    It seems that he thinks that celebrating Lauds in the morning and Vespers in the evening have something to do with their integrity and that he saw the sense of this 1955 reform of their timing, unlike Rubricarius.

  2. So, who IS that raving loon at "that blog" anyway? The guy is definitely logorrhoeic.

  3. Pimpernel,

    I do wonder why you bother following my blog as you find my views so offensive. I confess to being rather flattered that I get the 'Z' treatment from you, I am most honoured but would much prefer not be termed a 'Trad'. You are helping my stats so thank you, please keep up the good work.

    Anonymous, I referred to my late friend GW as a contributor to modern theologies of the Office - I did not claim he agreed with my views on the times of services.

  4. OI! We need to look at a whole picture to make any sense of this at all.

    1. All of this blather about AM vespers in lent and on some other days rises from fasting. This was quite clear in the Office at these times. I think monks of an earlier age were very hearty souls and bodies. On a fasting day meals were taken in tthe evening ( one meal for the day) That meant after Vespers came supper. It explains why the very monastic Grace in the Breviary provides that during fasts the Grace at the main meal is the form for evening. The ordinary European main meal was prandium, at noon, not ientaculum , in the evening. Each had a proper Grace formula and the oone for ientaculum was used at the main meal. When I was a religious in the Ice Age we would do this on days of bread and water and sing Misserere in procession to the chapel and complete the service there.

    2. Older rubrical schemes required that the Conventual Mass be said after Sext or None on these days. I do not remember the exact provisions. When these hours were observed at proper times, this would roughly require a 3:15 Mass. If the Eucharist was received, the fasting rules would have required nothing all day. Now those were real men!! I suspect thin men.

    3. Time and duty made this scheme impossible, if it was ever observed exactly and so we have the spectacle that, during Lent, places with choral obligation ended up having Nocturns and Laudes, possibly the penitential psalms and the Litany of the Saints , morning meditation, Prime Terce Sext and None Conventional Mass and whatever other exercises ( The Gradual Psalms?) accomplished early so that a Collatio could be taken (read continental breakfast) and the days work done. Vespers at 11 and dinner,an evening meal, at noon. Nothing much in the afternoon, although popular devotions came into use and then another Collatio at night. Compline might also be attached to Vespers. Now there's a stretch.

    4. Nocturnes and Laudes celebrated the afternoon before made no sense. Even when these were separated and Mattins was anticipated alone this seemed unreasonable.

    Quite honestly, what the Council laid down about the Office, that Laudes and Vespers were Cardinal and that The Office of Readings should be nocturnal makes good sense. It does not mean that all problems are solved. The work- oriented themes of Prime really have short shrift in the present form. Those things can be fixed. But nostalgia for something that made no sense.... I just don't get it. The Rev. Michael P. Forbes, Minnesota

  5. I wonder if the question doesn't come down to this: the practice of fasting, in particular the Eucharistic fast, was "impractical" and needed to be done away with (what was good and holy for previous generations--as it were--is senseless nowadays). Either that, or this practice of celebrating Mass after None on penitential days makes no sense. Of course, somebody would have to explain a little more completely (not that the LP or anyone here has really addressed this point) how this practice arose in the first place. But again, maybe it's just a question of something that was handed on without interruption for so many generations needed to be abruptly done away with, so that in our times no one would have to bear the cross of considering nooontime as the evening. (By the way, doesn't the word "noon" come from None in the first place?) The ancient practice of fasting or observance of the times for Mass: one or the other needed to be changed or ended according to the arguments presented here, it seems to me. Or am I missing something?

  6. Annibale,

    You are not missing anything. The fact is that what seems to be a monastic practice(I have to check my Latin Rule of St. Benedict) moved out of monastic circles and, I suspect, got all tangled in the parochial life of the Diocese and in the lives of active communities.

    Fact is it rendered things unbalanced. I believe in fasting, both penitentialand Eucharistic. I think maybe the present Roman discipline, rather than more realistic is too lax. Bible study and mission work aregreat in lent. We also need self denial, external, and lots of devotion. That can all be done within a horarium that makes sense.

    There was a warm custom that came from misplaced times. In the former Easter Vigil (7:30 am in our parish) the service ended with Vespers, the first of Easter. This became calculated as ending at noon and so the penitential season with the fast was over. Parishes with bells rang them joyfully at that hour.

    When I was a preschooler and in early grades. Mom would tell my brother and me to sit on the radiator cover in the sun room near an open window and come find her when the bells rang. Upon making the announcement, we were treated to a festive lunch of the German sausage and cold cuts which had been absent all Lent. As much as Iloved the practice, I would rather have the Easter Vigil in the middle of the night. By the way, If the vigil isin progress at Midnight, I think it should end with Lauds. My $.o2. Mike Forbes

    PS our western anomoly has nothing with the displaced (seemingly) horarium of the Byzantine Rite. Look to Mt.Athos for thhe answer to that subject.

  7. fr.guido@telus.net12 February 2011 at 13:06

    Ordinary Orthodox Byzantine (as opposed to Western Rite) practice does not serve Vespers in the morning, except it be the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts during Great Lent. And even there, the older practice is reviving, viz., fasting all day (or at least from noon onward, if one is older/infirm) and serving that Liturgy in the later afternoon/early evening. [And yeah,it's not as easy as falling off a log. But since when is Great Lent supposed to be easy?] In any event, and Athonite practice aside, other than in Great Week, when Vespers is served in the early afternoon and Matins is sung by anticipation in the evening (theoretically, about 8:00pm),in Orthodoxy Vespers is an evening service. What does mess up the liturgical day is the Russian practice of "Vigil" (Vespers plus Matins, both rather truncated, with the kathismata abbreviated or cut altogether) on Saturday evening and the eves of feasts. On Athos these really still are "All-night Vigils;" but in parish practice and in all too many monasteries, "Vigil" is a way of fulfilling the rule while missing out on the core of the ancient services, the psalms. Sigh.

    Igumen Philip (Speranza)

  8. Dear Igumen Philip,

    Enlightening! can you explain Athonite practice? It seems that the Holy mountain tells time very differently.

    I am aware of the oddities of Great week. I suspect popular practice has a lot to do with this.

    It is possible that most of the readership does not know what the Kathismas aree or what it means to abreviate same.

    If you would rather not take up blog space you can contact me at Milou35@charter.net. Mike Forbes+ Minnesota