Wednesday, 19 October 2016

How The Benedictine Night-Office Is To Be Said On Saints' Feast Days.



The Monks would use The Night Stairs,
descending from their "Dormer" (Sleeping Quarters),
in order to say The Night Office (Matins and Lauds).
Photo by RoryHenry on Flickr.
Illustration: PINTEREST


The Nave,
Hexham Abbey,
Northumberland, England.
The Night-Office would have been
said by the Monks in this beautiful Abbey.
Photo: 3 February 2001.
Source: Own work.
Author: Tim Rogers.
(Wikimedia Commons)

This Text is taken from, and can be read in full at, VULTUS CHRISTI

CHAPTER XIV (of The Benedictine Rule).
How The Night-Office is to be said on Saints’ Days.
17 February. 18 June. 18 October.

On The Festivals of Saints, and all other Solemnities, let The Office be ordered as we have prescribed for Sundays; except that The Psalms, Antiphons and Lessons, suitable to The Day, are to be said. Their number, however, shall remain as we have appointed above.

The 4th-Century A.D., Feriale Philocalianum, gives a good idea of what The Roman Kalendar would have looked like in the time of Saint Benedict. It provides us with two lists, the Depositio Martyrum and the Depositio Episcoporum. One finds in the Feriale Philocalianum, among others, The Feasts of The Nativity of Our Lord, of Saints Peter and Paul, Fabian and Sebastian, Agnes, Perpetua, and Felicity, Abdon and Sennon, Sixtus, Laurence, Hippolytus and Pontianus, Cyprian, Callistus, Clement, and Saturninus.


The Carthusian Office of Matins (Vigils).
English: The Carthusian Monks of The Grand Chartreuse, France.
Français: Chœur des moines de la grande chartreuse.
Available on YouTube at

The Sanctoral Cycle was primarily linked to those Churches in which reposed the bodies or significant Relics of The Saints. By the 6th-Century A.D., however, the reception of a cloth, touched to the body, or even to the urn, of a Saint, as well as shavings from The Chains of Saints Peter and Paul, and Splinters of The True Cross, was reason enough for a local Feast. The reception of these “Relics of Contact” were the occasion of Solemn Celebrations; the Anniversaries of these receptions of Relics continued to be Celebrated.

Saint Benedict distinguishes between The Festivals of The Saints and what he calls “all other Solemnities”. This last expression refers to the various Christological and Marian Festivals that were already being Celebrated in his time. The Rule is, it would seem, designedly vague, because it was to be observed not only at Monte Cassino, but also in other places, each having its own local Kalendar.


Monastic Life at Holy Cross Abbey.
At Holy Cross Abbey, as in every Cistercian Monastery, the Monks rise long 
before Dawn for The Night Office of Vigils (Matins), followed by a period of silent Prayer.
The hours before The Morning Office of Lauds and The Mass are given to Scripture
and other Spiritual Reading, personal Prayer, and meditation.
After the morning’s work and simple noon meal, the Meridian provides an hour for rest or
reading before Mid-Day Prayer and the afternoon’s work or study. The Monks’ day comes
to a close with The Evening Office of Vespers, a light supper, and a time of quiet before
The Community’s final Prayer together, The Office of Compline.
Then, as the Monks retire, the silence of the night begins, deepening that stillness they observe throughout the day, to provide for each other an environment in which to respond to The Living God in Prayer, in The Scriptures, and in the ordinary experiences of Community Life.
Available on YouTube at

The first and indispensable expression of devotion to The Saints is the Celebration of their Feasts. Each Feast brings with it a Grace that is proper to it. Through the Antiphons, and Responsories, and Hymns, and Collects, of The Saints, we effectively call upon them, we ask for their help and, thus, we begin to benefit from their example, to live according to their doctrine, and to walk in their company.

We can hope, one day, to be united with The Saints in The Glory of Heaven, where the radiance of The Face of Christ, the brightness of The Lamb, will fill our Souls with an ineffable joy. Invoke The Saints, whom Our Lord has already brought into your life, and remain open, for there are others whom He will present to you, and to whom He will entrust you in the years to come.

The repetition, of The Sanctoral Cycle of The Divine Office, is a yearly opportunity to renew our friendship with The Saints and to receive from the particular alms of Grace that it please Our Lord to distribute by their hand.

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