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Vespers have been very few, but the simplification of the rubrics of the Breviary, introduced by Pope Pius XII, has increased their use and perhaps the future will see a further increase.
1. MATINS The name Matins is a later and not very apt name for what is a night office. Its divisions are still called Nocturns and each of its hymns (in this section) makes mention of the night. The old name for this night office was Vigilia, to which the first hymn refers in its opening words Nocte surgentes vigilemus omnes.
The essence of the vigiliary office was that there was public prayer at dead of night, the Nox atra of Thursday's hymn, but its length and the hour at which it began seem to have varied. As will be seen from the notes, it is not possible to say who wrote the Matins hymns, nor can their date be settled beyond the fact that they were already in use, and perhaps had long been in use, by the ninth century. They cannot therefore be used with much precision to illustrate the history or development of Matins. The most that can be said is that the writers seem to have had in mind people who had been to bed and then rose for the night office.
The idea of rising to pray is found in all these hymns, except perhaps the Thursday
Nocte surgentes vigilemus omnes,
Now that we have risen while it is still night, let us all keep watch, fixing our attention always on the psalms and in pleasing unison singing our hymns to the Lord. So may it be that we who, as a group and in union with His saints, sing to the loving King, may be counted worthy to enter heaven's court, there to live for ever. May the blessed God, whose glory resounds through all creation, Father, Son and likewise the holy Spirit, grant us this.
s Ut pio regi pariter canentes
Cum suis sanctis mereamur aulam
Praestet hoc nobis Deitas beata 10 Patris ac Nati pariterque Sancti Spiritus, cujus resonat per omnem
one. The Christian casts off sloth and sleep and rises to sing God's praises and to implore His help and pardon. The praise of God is to be the first action of the day, 3, 5, and the inspiration of the day's work, 3, 8. As is natural, the spiritual imagery suggested by night, darkness, sleep, sloth and their opposites is also to be found here, except in the first hymn; e.g., 3, 9–12; 4, 5–8; 6,9–12. To be occupied with spiritual duties at night suggested also a comparison with sentinels, excubantes, 7, 4 and excubent, 8, 11, alert and guarding the whole church by their prayers at a time when God is most likely to hear them, 2, 13–16.
Matins has a long, solemn prelude made up of the Venite and the hymn. The Venite joins together the psalmist's invitation to praise God with a special reason found in the season or feast of the day. The hymn then puts these sentiments in verse form, most of the emphasis being on the feast or season. These eight hymns, however, not being peculiar to any particular period, find their inspiration in the special circumstance of praise being offered to God at night. And in general this marks the difference between the hymns assigned for the days and the hours and those for the seasons or for saints' days.
Matins ends, except on certain days, with the Te Deum—the culmination of all the praise given to God at Matins and a fitting prelude to Lauds.
Notes on Hymn 1 Author. Unknown. W suggested Alcuin (735 to verse is a prayer that those who as a group on earth about A.D. 804) as the author of this and 10. A are praising God in unison with the Saints may be Carolingian date seems probable, and Alcuin did reunited with one another and united with the Saints write some sapphics whose thought and style are not in heaven. unlike these two hymns.
6. mereamur. Mereri means, according to the conMetre. First Sap; hic.
text, win, succeed in gaining, be counted worthy, Use. From the fourth Sunday after Pentecost until merit. It is usually found with the accusative or with the end of September.
ut; the infinitive, as here, is rare. 2. meditemur, reflect, ponder over; cf. meditabor in 9. Praestet, grant. Here and in 71, IS praestare is mandatis tuis, Ps. 118,47.
used with the accusative, but it is often found without S. pariter, together. This word and cum suis sanctis an object expressed, as in 4, 13. are connected in thought with canentes and mereamur. 10. pariter, likewise, no less; cf. line s. Breviaries mostly have a comma after canentes. But if II. cujus refers to Deitas. Resonat, resounds. one is needed, after sanctis seems a better place. The
Primo die quo Trinitas Beata mundum condidit, Vel quo resurgens conditor Nos, morte victa, liberat,
Hymn 2 Sunday Matins (6)
On the first day of the week, the day when the blessed Trinity created the world and the risen creator conquered death and brought us freedom, let us cast aside all slothful feelings, rise even more readily than on other days and, as the prophet commands, seek God by night. May He heed our prayers, stretch out to us His right hand, cleanse us from our sins, restore us to our home in heaven and then reward with the gift of unfailing bliss all of us who, assembled at the hallowed part of the present day, sing His praises during the hours of quietness.
s Pulsis procul torporibus,
Surgamus omnes ocius
Nostras preces ut audiat 10 Suamque dextram porrigat,
Et expiatos sordibus
Ut quique sacratissimo
Hujus diei tempore 15 Horis quietis psallimus,
Donis beatis muneret.
Jam nunc, paterna claritas,
faces libidinis 20 Et omnis actus noxius,
Ne foeda sit vel lubrica Compago nostri corporis, Ob cujus ignes ignibus Avernus urat acrius.
And now in this very
hour we address an urgent prayer to You, the glory of the Father: Let all that would move us to sin as well as sin in any
of its forms be far from us, so that this body of ours, which You have so marvellously knit together, be not shamefully defiled by sin or brought perilously near to it; for if the fires of passion burn in us now, the fires of hell will for that reason burn all the more fiercely. We beg You, redeemer of the world, wash away our shameful sins and of Your bounty grant us the blessings of everlasting life so that being absent now from fleshly activity and becoming hereafter like the angels in heaven, we may—as we humbly hope—sing the song of Your glory.
25 Mundi redemptor, quaesumus,
Tu probra nostra diluas
Quo carnis actu exsules, 30 Effecti ipsi caelibes,
Ut praestolamur cernui –
Notes on Hymn 2
Author. Unknown. W thinks this may be two 10. porrigat. The imagery may be suggested by the hymns joined into one, because the style of the healing of the leper, Mt. 8, 2–3. original text is different in the two halves, because of
II. expiatos, sc. nos; purified, cleansed from. the length, because Jam nunc was a favourite way
of 12. polorum, of heaven; cf. 11, 10, note. beginning hymns and because, it may be added, 13. ut quique, that all of us who ... Quisque was lines 13-16 are as probable an ending as 8, 13-16. If commonly used in late Latin for quicunque. Sacratisthat be true, we must look for two authors.
simo, because prayer at night was always so thought The date of the supposed joining is not known, but of, and here also because it is the Lord's day. the hymn appears in its present form by the time of The first four verses form one sentence in the Latin. the earliest MSS of the Later Hymnal. The reason for 17. paterna claritas. This could refer to the Father the joining is not known, unless it be that the new or to the Son, but it more probably refers to the Son; arrival, Nocte surgentes, 1, threatened the survival of cf. Mundi redemptor in line 25. Paternae gloriae, 12, I the somewhat uncouth Jam nunc paterna claritas. and paterna gloria, 85, 25, refer to the Father.
Use. From October to Lent, Advent and the 18. affatim (=ad and fatim, to satiety or fatigue), Christmas season excepted.
incessantly, urgently, until God is fatigued with our 1. Trinitas. The reference to the Trinity and to the prayers. first day of creation is due to the revisers. The original 19. faces libidinis. Flames of lust, B; or, metaPrimo dierum omnium/Quo mundus exstat conditus phorically, incitement to sin. refers to our Lord (conditus of line 2 and conditor of 20. noxius, guilty, sinful; cf. omne noxium, 22, 15 line 3 being connected) and to the eighth day, i.e. to
and noxa, 3, 14. the first day after the day of rest. The day after the 21. lubrica. Lubricus always connotes danger, and is Sabbath was also the day of the Resurrection. The applied in the hymns to sin, its occasions and to unrevised text thus explains the Lord's day, as St desires leading to sin; cf. 12, 12, etc. Gregory did: Dies dominicus, qui tertius est a morte 22. compago, structure, fastening together. Lest our dominica, a conditione dierum numeratus octavus, In body so marvellously knit together, W. Ezech., II, iv, 2. The line Octava prima redditur of an 23. cujus, i.e. the body; ignes, passions. Easter hymn has the same meaning.
24. Avernus, a lake near Cumae in Italy. The 2. mundum; cf. 8, 2, note.
name was adopted from Virgil by Christian writers 3. vel, and; a common meaning in late Latin; cf. to denote hell. 25,9.
30. caelibes, unwedded; like the angels in heaven. 6. ocius, comp. of ociter, with greater speed 31. ut, as; cernui; cf. 71, 13. because it is the Lord's day.
32. melos, song, hymn. 8. praecipit. In noctibus extollite manus vestras, Ps. Lines 29–32, not used in the Roman Breviary, 133, 2.
explain the end of the preceding verse.
Somno refectis artubus, Spreto cubili, surgimus; Nobis, Pater, canentibus Adesse te deposcimus.
Hymn 3 Monday Matins
With our bodies refreshed by sleep, we rise from our bed with alacrity and ask You, Father, to assist us as we sing Your praises. Let our tongue magnify You first of all and our soul most fervently seek out Your help so that You, holy One, may be the starting-point of all else we do in the day. Oh that the soul's darkness would give place to light and night to day so that the sin which night brought may lose its hold through light's action. We also ask and pray You to prune away all our sins and to grant that we who now sing of You, may praise You through eternity.
Hymn 4 Tuesday Matins
Sharer of the Father's light, Yourself light of light and source of man's light, we break night's silence with our sung praise; hear us with favour as we make this prayer. Dispel the darkness from our souls; put to flight the bands of evil spirits; drive away sloth that it may not overwhelm us, liable as we are to inertia. Grant pardon, Christ, to all of us believers so that the praise we sing in Your presence may win for our earnest prayers a favourable
s Aufer tenebras mentium,
Fuga catervas daemonum,
Sic, Christe, nobis omnibus 10 Indulgeas credentibus,
Ut prosit exorantibus