1902 Encyclopedia > Breviary


BREVIARY (Lat. breviarium), the book which contains the offices for the canonical hours. The word first occurs in the 11th century, and is said to denote that the book was an abridgment of several separate ones which had previously been in use. The English equivalent for it is portuary (from the mediaeval Latin portiforium), portesse, or portuasse, the name probably indicating the portability of the volumes.

In the earliest times most of the stated public devotions of the faithful grouped themselves round the daily celebration of the eucharistic sacrifice ; but by degrees other offices were added, in which the recitation of the Psalter formed the principal part. The rise of monasticism gave a great impulse to the movement, as the monks generally used the whole Psalter every week, and many of them every day. Numerous complications were added by degrees, in the shape of antiphons, responses, &c. Metrical hymns seem to date from St Ambrose in the middle of the 14th century. Select portions of holy Scripture were also read, as well as extracts from works of the Fathers and from lives of the saints.
The canonical hours are eight in number; the night office of matins (divided into three nocturns) and seven day offices,—lauds, prime (at 7 A.M.), terce (at the third hour or 0 A.M.), sext (at the sixth hour, noon), nones (at the ninth hour, 3 P.M)., vespers (at sunset), and compline before retiring to rest.

From this account it will at once be seen that the Breviary services can only be carried out in a monastic community where all other duties give place to worship. Accordingly, the secular clergy of the Latin churches who are obliged to recite them daily are allowed much latitude in the way of grouping services together, and saying them at any hour that may be convenient, which quite destroys the grand theory of the nightly and seven-fold daily offices of devotion. There were three leading types of this service book in the Western churches :—(1), the Mozarabic Breviary, once in use throughout all Spain, but now con-fined to a single foundation at Toledo; it is remarkable for the number and length of its hymns, and for the majority of its collects being addressed to God the Son; (2), the Ambrosian, now confined to Milan, where it owes its retention to the attachment of the clergy and people to their traditionary rites which they derive from St Ambrose; and (3), the Boman, which (with many minor variations) forms the ground-work of all others except those just mentioned.

Till the Council of Trent every bishop had full power to regulate the Breviary of his own diocese ; and this was acted upon almost everywhere. Each monastic community, also, had one of its own. Pope Pius V., however, while sanction-ing those which could show at least 200 years of existence, made the Roman obligatory in all other places. But the influence of the court of Borne has gradually gone much beyond this, and has superseded almost all the local "uses." The Boman has thus become nearly universal, with the allowance only of additional offices for saints specially venerated in each particular diocese.
The Boman Breviary has undergone several revisions. The most remarkable of these is that by Cardinal Quignon (1536), which, though not accepted by Borne, formed the model for the still more thorough reform made in 1549 by the Church of England, whose daily morning and even-ing services are but a condensation and simplification of the Breviary offices. Some parts of the prefaces at the beginning of the English Prayer-Book are free translations of those of Quignon. At the beginning of last century a movement of revision took place in France, and suc-ceeded in modifying about half the Breviaries of that country. Historically, this proceeded from the labours of Launoius and Tillemont, who had shown the falsity of numerous lives of the saints ; while theologically, it was produced by the Port Royal school, which led men to dwell more on communion with God as contrasted with the invocation of the saints. This was mainly carried out by the adoption of a rule that all antiphons and responses should be in the exact words of Scripture, which, of course, cut out the whole class of appeals to created beings. The services were at the same time simplified and short-ened, and the use of the whole Psalter every week (which had become a mere theory in the Roman Breviary, owing to its frequent supersession by saints' day services) was made a reality. These reformed French Breviaries show a deep knowledge of holy Scripture, and much careful adaptation of different texts ; but during the pontificate of the present Pope (Pius IX.) a strong Ultramontane move-ment has arisen against them. It was inaugurated by the Count de Montalembert, but its literary advocates were chiefly the Abbé Gueranger and M. Veuillot of tha Univers; and it has succeeded in suppressing them everywhere except at Lyons, where the shadow of St Ireneeus still pro-tects the local rites.

The beauty and value of many of the Latin Breviaries were brought to the notice of English churchmen by one of the numbers of the Oxford Tracts for the Times, since which time they have been much more studied, both for their own sake and for the light they throw upon the English Prayer-Book.

In a bibliographical point of view some of the early printed Breviaries are among the rarest of literary curiosities, being merely local. The copies were not spread far, and were soon worn out by the daily use made of them. Doubtless many editions have perished without leaving a trace of their existence, while others are known by unique copies. In Scotland the only one which has survived the convulsions of the 16th century is that of Aberdeen, revised by Bishop W. Elphinstone, and printed at Edinburgh by Walter Chepman in 1509. Four copies have been pre-served of it, of which one only is complete ; but it has been sumptuously reprinted in fac-simile for the Maitland Club by the munificence of the Duke of Buccleuch. It is particularly valuable for the notices of the early history of Scotland which are embedded in the lives of the national saints, and which are considered to be very authentic. For the sake of those who are not familiar with Latin typo-graphical contractions, it would be desirable if a more readable edition were printed, with explanatory notes on the many difficult points which occur in the rubrics.

The Sarum or Salisbury Breviary was much more widely used. The first edition was printed at Venice in 1483, by Raynald de Novimagio in folio; the latest at Paris, 1556, 1557. It may be noticed as a peculiarity that, while modern Breviaries are always printed in four volumes, one for each season of the year, the editions of the Sarum never exceeded two parts.

Further information on this subject will be found in the writers on the services of the Western churches, such as Maskell and Procter. Seager has printed a small portion of the Sarum Breviary with elaborate notes. The hymns have been printed separately, with more or less completeness, by Daniel, -Newman, and others ; and translations from them form the ground-work of Hymns Ancient and Modern, now so extensively used in the Church of England. Foreign writers on this subject may be consulted by those who wish to pursue it further, but they are too numerous to be. mentioned here. They will be found enumerated in biblio- graphical writers like Taccaria. (G. H. F.)

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