WISH TO EXPRESS my heartiest thanks to Corpus Christi Watershed for posting a PDF version of the Dominican Breviary of 1967. The Dominican liturgy of the hours has been my daily companion since 1960, when I entered the novitiate of the Central Province, St. Albert’s Province. Thus I was privileged to get to know it in its beautiful, though interminably long and often difficult to understand Latin form before the 1962 revision that eliminated Prime and the attached chapter office of Pretiosa. I continued to pray in private or chant in choir that revised Latin version until the English translation appeared in 1967, when I was sent to Germany for further studies. Though I regretted the loss of the beautiful Latin cadences and sonorous chant, I immediately appreciated the enormous gain in understanding brought by the English translation, even to one who, like myself, was habituated to reading and even speaking Latin.
After a psychiatric crisis in 1971/72 followed by several years of reflection granted me by my provincial, I eventually left the Order for reasons of health and obtained a full dispensation in 1976. Thus I did not personally experience the Order’s adoption of the 1971 revised Roman Breviary with the Dominican supplement, since by that time I no longer lived in a Dominican house nor did I purchase the English versions that appeared only in 1973/74. Both in principle and in terms of practicality, I fully supported the reforms undertaken under Paul VI—over the years, I had personally experienced the problems of fitting the old office into a busy day, resulting, for instance, in the absurd practice of bundling and anticipating the hours so that they no longer fitted the times when they were meant to be prayed: we chanted Compline at midday (!). And, despite my deep love of the divine office, in order to crowd in all the hours, I often had to recite them hastily, crammed in between my other obligations. I also deplored the way “working” fathers were so often dispensed from participating in the lengthy, and oft perfunctorily chanted choral office, leaving its celebration mostly to the novices and student brothers or to a handful of retired fathers. I also found annoying the predominance of the sanctoral over the temporal office and the many monotonous repetitions, for instance, of the psalms of Sunday Lauds and Vespers on all major feasts, the displacement of the ferial offices by the commons of martyrs, confessors and virgins, and so forth. Thus, even as I acknowledge the losses, I strongly welcome the changes, and now, when I visit Dominican houses that use the new office, I am deeply impressed by the devotion with which it is celebrated there.
Nevertheless, this revised liturgy was not the office that I had come to love since my youth: in particular I regretted the loss of the many proper antiphons, hymns, and responsories especially in the temporal cycle. Furthermore I shied away from having to purchase and to juggle with the new books. Thus, since I am not under any obligation to pray the office according to one or the other set of prescribed rubrics, I continue to use my old Dominican Breviary in the spirit of the Vatican II revisions. To the extent of my ability as a layman with family and profession, I try to pray daily or at least on Sundays and feastdays the hours of Matins and Lauds in the morning and Vespers in the evening, if possible also Compline as a bed-time prayer.
Praying the old Dominican Breviary along the lines of the Vatican II reform
In case anyone is interested. I give here a brief description of how I have adopted the old Dominican Breviary to the spirit of the novus ordo. The first problem was to reduce the number of psalms to be said each day. There I took my cue from the traditional Dominican practice of celebrating Matins during Pascaltide with only a single nocturn of three psalms and three lessons plus responsories. Thus, to insure the recitation of the full psalter over a period of eight weeks, I take successively the three psalms for Matins from the the original three daily nocturns and then from the hours of Prime, Terce, Sext, None, and Compline. When, as in Lent and on ember days, the original Old Testament readings (reflected in the surviving responsories) have been suppressed at Matins in favor of the Gospel of the day with a patristic commentary, I supply the missing Old Testament texts to serve as the first and second readings, and then I read the Gospel commentary as a single third reading. All in all, in the spirit of the Vatican II revision, I give precedence to the temporal over the sanctoral cycle, reducing most feasts of the saints or minor mysteries to mere commemorations. Thus at Matins, after the ferial lessons with their responsories, I read the proper lesson(s) of the feast, especially those recounting the life of the saint or the history of the feast. At Lauds, then, (and where appropriate at Vespers as well), after the collect of the day, I pray en block the feast-day’s proper (or sometimes the corresponding texts from the common) chapter, hymn, Benedictus or Magnificat antiphon, versicle and collect. Normally I do not pray the little hours, but when I do, I take the antiphon, chapter, and responsory from the office of the day for the appropriate time of the day, omitting the psalms, which, as described above, I recite over an eight week cycle at Matins. Thus, when I pray Compline as a night prayer, I similarly omit the psalms, and this allows me to concentrate my attention on the prayers and hymns appropriate to the bedtime hour.
I am especially grateful that vol. II of the Dominican Breviary is now available on your site as a PDF. I hope that the first volume will soon follow, for it contains the richest Dominican variants in its temporal cycle from Advent through Pentecost, as well as for proper feasts like those of St. Thomas and St. Catharine. To save space, one can omit the lengthy introduction and calender materials at the beginning and the supplementary prayers at the end, since these are identical with the texts in Vol. II. Thus it should be possible to bring the relevant materials into two PDFs, one for the ordinary and the temporal cycle and the other for the sanctoral cycle with the commons.
We hope you enjoyed this guest article by Thomas Riplinger.
THOMAS RIPLINGER grew up in Chicago, joined the Dominicans in 1959, and after completing his studies at the Aquinas Institute was sent to Germany by his superiors to study ecclesiology under Hans Küng and Joseph Ratzinger at the University of Tuebingen. Although he had to leave the Dominicans for reasons of health in the mid 70’s, he remains in close contact with the Order, especially with his former province and confreres, and at the same time he is a close friend and adviser to Prof. Hans Küng. After leaving the Order, he worked first as a historian of the Byzantine Empire in the Middle East and then, for 25 years, as a librarian for theology and philosophy at the university library.