Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Hymns at the Lesser Hours: Prime I

This is the first of five posts on the topic of the hymns at Prime; this post describes the Office of Prime in a general way, but contains no chant scores or audio files.  For the music, please see Part II here; Part III here; Part IV here; Part V here.

The following are the hymns listed for Prime, in  Hymn melodies for the whole year, from the Sarum service-books:
Daily throughout the year :-
Jam lucis orto sidere
    (1) On Sundays in Advent ... ... ... ... 24
(2) On all Ferias except in Paschal-tide ... ... 1
(3) On Xmas Day, Feasts of the  B.V. M.,  Dedication of a Church, Nativity of S. John Bapt, SS. Peter and Paul, Translation of S. Thomas, Abp., Feast of' Relics, S. Gregory, & S. Ambrose, (if they fall before Passion-tide), S. Augustin of England, if celebrated out of Paschal-tide, S. Augustin of Hippo, S. Michael & all Angels, S. Jerome, & Translation of S. Edward, K. Conf.  ... ... ... ... 3
(4) On the Feast of S. Stephen & the three days following, & on the Feasts of the Circumcision & of S. Vincent ... 27
(5) On the 6th day in the 8ve of Xmas & daily till the Vigil of Epiphany, and on the Vigil, (if it be a Sunday), & on all Feasts, except those of the lowest class, from the 8ve of Spiphany until the Purification of the B. V. M. ... ... ... ...26
(6) On the Vigils of Christmas & Epiphany (not being a Sunday), & on all Ferias & Vigils from Low Sunday to Ascension Day, & on the Vigil of Pentecost, & on all Simple Feasts of the lowest class throughout the year, & during 8ves. ... ... ... ...2
(7) On the Feast of Epiphany, the Sunday within the 8ve, & on the 8ve day ... ... ... ... ... ... 28
(8) On the remaining days of the 8ve ... ... ... 29
(9) On all Sundays from the 8ve of Epiphany until the 1st  Sunday in Lent, when the Service is of the Sunday ... ... 21
(10) On the 1st & 2пd Sundays in Lent ... ...  ... ...30
(11) On the 3d & 4th Sundays in Lent ... ...  ... ...33
(12) On Passion & Palm Sundays, & on Feasts of the Holy Cross  ... ...   ... ... 35
(13) On all Sundays from Low Sunday until Ascension Day, when the Service is of the Sunday ... ... ... ... 37
(14) On Ascension Day & daily until the Vigil of Pentecost, & on the Feast of Corpus Christi ... ... ... ... 41
(15) On Whitsun Day & daily until Trinity Sunday ...  ... ...42
(16) On Trinity Sunday & all following Sundays until Advent, when the Service is of the Sunday ... ... ... ... 43
(17) During the 8ve of the Dedication of a Church, & on all Feasts, except those of the lowest class, from the Purification of the B.V. M.. until Passiontide, & from Trinity until Advent ... ... ... 4
(18) On all Feasts of Apostles & Evangelists out of Xmas & Paschaltides, except SS. Peter & Paul  ... ... ... ...48
(19) During the 8ves of the Assumption & Nativity of the B.V.M.  ... ... ... ... 63
(20) On all Feasts of Saints occurring between Low Sunday & Ascension Day, except the Annunciation of our Lady ...  ... ...39
(21) On the Feast of All Saints  ... ... ... ...3 or 26
[At Christmas-tide (York) : Agnoscat omne seculum ... ... 55]

Well.  That's quite a mouthful, isn't it?   I saved this one for last, since it's sort of out of control.

I'll have to break this post into several sections in order to report on all these melodies.  This post will be only the list itself, along with some information about Prime; I'll post chant scores and audio files in subsequent posts.

Prime was said at 6 a.m., the first office of the new day said in daylight, during periods when Matins and Lauds were said during the wee hours (i.e., the night office started with Matins at around 3am and ran till Lauds was complete).  Prime has been abolished in most modern uses (but was still in use in the late 19th Century, as you can see here, Breviary Offices, from Lauds to Compline Inclusive (Society of St. Margaret, Boston, 1885));  see its full history below.   I'll link-in via iFrame to the SSM book at the bottom of the post too.

Here's a bit of Wikipedia's entry on Prime:
Prime, or the First Hour, is a fixed time of prayer of the traditional Divine Office (Canonical Hours), said at the first hour of daylight (approximately 6:00 a.m.), between the morning Hour of Lauds and the 9 a.m. Hour of Terce. It is part of the Christian liturgies of Eastern Christianity, but in the Latin Rite it was suppressed by the Second Vatican Council.[1] However, clergy who have an obligation to celebrate the Liturgy of the Hours may still fulfil their obligation by using the Roman Breviary promulgated by Pope John XXIII in 1962,[2] which contains the Hour of Prime. Like all the liturgical hours, except the Office of Readings, it consists primarily of Psalms. It is one of the Little Hours.


The word "Prime" comes from Latin and refers to the first hour of daylight (i.e., dawn). Originally, in the West, Prime was called matitutina (hora), "morning hour". Later, in order to distinguish it from the nocturnal offices of Matins and Lauds, and to include it among hours of the day, it was called prima.[citation needed] The name is first met with in the Rule of St. Benedict. In the Antiphonary of Bangor it is called secunda.[citation needed]

In the Eastern liturgies, the names for this office in the various languages also mean "first (hour)", based upon the traditional methods of calculating the hour of the day. In Ancient Rome, the period of daylight was divided into 12 hours, but the length of each hour would change depending upon the season of the year.[citation needed] In the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, in some monasteries the times of the services are still calculated by the shadow of the sun to this day.[citation needed]

This is New Advent's entry for Prime; it comes from the Catholic Encyclopedia of 1913:

The name

The name Prime (prima hora) belongs with those of Terce, Sext, None, to the short offices recited at the different hours of the day, called by these names among the Romans, that is, prima towards 6 a.m.; tertia, towards 9 a.m.; sexta, towards noon; nona towards 3 p.m. At first Prime was termed matitutina (hora), morning hour; later, in order to distinguish it from the nocturnal hours of Matins and Lauds, and to include it among hours of the day, it was called prima. The name is first met with in the Rule of St. Benedict. In the Bangor Antiphonary it is called secunda.


This short office is one of those whose origin is best known. Cassian, speaking of Prime, says expressly "sciendum . . . hanc matitutinam canonicam functionem [i.e. Prime] nostro tempore in nostro quoque monasterio primitus institutam" (Instit., III, IV).

As the chronology of Cassian's works has recently been established fairly accurately, the institution ofPrime must be placed towards 382 (see Pargoire, op. cit. below, 288). Apropos of this monastery, of which Cassian speaks as the cradle of Prime, it has now been proved that it was not St. Jerome'smonastery at Bethlehem, but another, perhaps one established beyond the Tower of Ader (or of theFlock) beyond the village of the Shepherds, and consequently beyond the modern Beth-saour; it has been identified either with Deïr-er-Raouat (convent of the shepherds) or with Seiar-er-Ganhem (enclosure of the sheep).

We learn further from Cassian the reason that led to the institution of this office. The office of the night, comprising Matins and Lauds, ended then at sunrise, so that Lauds corresponded to the dawn. After the night offices at Bethlehem, as in the other Palestinian monasteries, the monks might retire to rest. As no other office called them together before Terce, those who were lazy seized the opportunity of prolonging their sleep till nine in the morning, instead of applying themselves to manual work or spiritual reading. To end this abuse, it was decided, in the above monastery, to continue thecustom of reposing after the night office, but, to prevent an undue prolongation of sleep, the monkswere recalled to choir at the hour of Prime, and after the recital of a few psalms they were to work until Terce (Cassian, "Instit.", III, iv). All this is established by authentic texts. The only difficulty is that some contemporaries of Cassian or even his predecessors, as Eusebius of CæsareaSt. Jerome,St. BasilSt. John Chrysostom, speak of an office recited at sunrise, and which therefore would seem to be identical with Prime. But it must be noted that they are speaking of Lauds, which in some communities was recited later, and so was identified with the hour but not with the subject matter ofPrime.


The matter composing the new hour was drawn from the office of Lauds; or rather Prime, as an office, was a repetition of part of Lauds, and added nothing to the ensemble of the psalmody, only Psalms i, lxii, and lxxxix, which were formerly part of Lauds, were recited at this hour. Such at least was the original composition of Prime; but the monasteries which gradually adopted it in the East and in theWest changed its constitution as they liked. It is impossible to describe here all the variations this office underwent in the different liturgies. We need only remark that one of the most characteristic features of Prime is the recitation of the famous symbol "Quicumque vult salvus esse", called theAthanasian Creed, which has recently been the subject of much controversy in the Anglican Church. St. Benedict orders to be recited at Prime on Sundays four groups of eight verses of Psalm 118; on week-days, three psalms, beginning with the first and continuing to Psalm 19, taking three psalms each day (Psalms 9 and 17 being divided into two). In that way Prime is symmetrical, like the other short hours of the day. It resembles these also in composition, the psalmody being accompanied by a hymn, anantiphon, capitulum, versicle, and prayer. In the Roman Liturgy the office of Prime is not composed so symmetrically. Usually it consists of Psalm 53 and 107, the first four groups of eight verses of Psalm 117, and during the week Psalms 5323252422 and 21. The capitulum and other elements are after the model of the short hours (cf. NONE).

The office of the chapter

So far we have spoken only of the office of Prime properly so called, which ends like the other short hours. It is followed by some prayers which are called the office of the chapter, and are composed in the Roman Liturgy of the reading of the martyrology, of a prayer, "Sancta Maria et omnes sancti", a prayer concerning work, "Respice in servos tuos . . . Dirigere et sanctificare", and a blessing. This addition to Prime is a legacy bequeathed by the monks to the secular clergy. As has been said above, originally after Prime the monks had to betake themselves to manual work or reading. The office therefore ended with a prayer for their work ". . . et opera manuum nostrarum dirige super nos et opus manuum nostrarum dirige", and the prayer "Dirigere". Later the reading of the martyrology, thenecrology, the rule, and a prayer for the dead were added (see Baümer-Biron, loc. cit., I, 361-62).

In view of its origin and constitution, Prime is to be considered as the prayer of the beginning of the day, whereas Lauds is devoted to recalling with the dawn the memory of Christ's Resurrection, Prime is the morning hour which consecrates all the work of the day. Its institution has made the liturgical day more regular and symmetrical. Prime, until then without an office, received its psalmody like Terce, Sext, None, Vespers. With Complin and Lauds, the liturgical day reached the sacred septenary, "septies in die laudem dixi tibi". While for the night office there was the text: "media nocte surgebam ad confitendum tibi".

Here's a peek-in to the SSM Breviary entry for Prime:

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