Question on Office of the Dead
  • priorstf
    Posts: 460
    Our schola has been asked to assist at Monday night Vespers (Office of the Dead) for a diocesan priest who died this week. (Sadly, the only priest in the diocese who said Mass in Latin.) Is it appropriate to sing a Marian hymn at the end f the Vespers? We sing Regina Coeli at First Friday Vespers, but I don't find any quick reference for this case.

  • I also would appreciate any information about Vespers... I have been asked to look into music for Vespers on the evening of May 18th (Trinity Sunday). Not being very experienced in this, I was wondering if the 2nd Vespers chants in the Liber Usualis for that day would be the appropriate selections...
  • David AndrewDavid Andrew
    Posts: 1,204

    I don't claim to be an expert in these matters, but a quick check of both my copies of the Divine Office (3-vols, 1963 version) and the revised LOTH currently in use, the singing of a Marian antiphon at the conclusion of Vespers would appear to be a modification of the liturgy. In both cases the Marian antiphon (Regina Coeli or Salve Regina; in the older rite several other antiphons also listed) was sung at the conclusion of Compline, not Vespers. ISTM that it became common practice to sing the antiphon at the end of Vespers in parish churches and some Abbey churches as a matter of custom because Compline wouldn't ordinarily be sung in a parish church and many Abbey churches discontinued singing Compline in choir and began reciting it in private in cells. The revised rite for the Office of the Dead prescribes that Night Prayer be taken from the order for Sunday. The older rite makes no reference to the reciting of Compline in connection with the Office of the Dead.

    If Vespers from the OoD is going to be sung according to the revised rite, ISTM that singing a Marian antiphon at the conclusion would be in keeping with local custom.
  • priorstf
    Posts: 460
    Thanks very much, David. At the moment, ours is the only schola in the diocese, so "local custom" sort of amounts to what we've done for one morning prayer and two First Friday vesper services! Given that the priest who died was a deep believer in Mary's intercession, I'm pleased to be able to suggest the Marian hymn.

    btw - for those who get frustrated when things don't happen over night, the story of this priest might correct that. He was sent 20 years ago to a floundering parish in a dangerous and deteriorating neighborhood with instructions to close it down. Despite being 60 years old already, he decided instead to see if the parish couldn't be revitalized. His unending work led to the first 24-hour devotion chapel in the diocese, rosaries said three times a day, and the only Latin Mass in the diocese. They did indeed bulldoze the old church, but only to make way for a new one in its place. Two months to the day before his death, this 79-year-old pastor saw his new church building dedicated. One man, with a little help from one God, can make a difference.
  • G
    Posts: 1,397
    God bless him!
    What a story!
    God send us many more such men.

    (Save the Liturgy, Save the World)
  • Skitalets
    Posts: 25
    david andrew --

    Prior to the 60s, the appropriate Marian antiphon was sung after Lauds, Vespers, and Compline -- basically any Office sung in choir. Books from 1963 are not reliable indicators of what the tradition was because so much of the Office was radically simplified in 1960.

    The singing of the Salve did indeed originate with Compline, among the Dominicans, but by the 20th century it had spread to other offices. (I'm not sure when and how.)

    To answer the original question, you can probably do either. In the pre-1960s Office, the Office of the Dead was quite stripped down, as were the Holy Week offices, representing that various innovations that made their way into the Roman breviary were kept out of these two parts of the Office.

    However, the Liturgy of the Hours represents an attempt to homogenize the entire Office, which is why Holy Week is practically the same in structure as the rest of the year and the traditional rites were abandoned. This is also why the Hymn was moved from the end of Lauds and Vespers to the beginning, to match the other offices.

    So you could sing the antiphon, following the intent of the reformers of the new Office, or you could leave it out, respecting the tradition that the Office of the Dead should be spare and resist innovations and additions. I believe the Liturgy of the Hours always gives the option of singing the Marian antiphon or not, so either choice is legal.
  • priorstf
    Posts: 460
    We did sing the Regina Coeli at the close of Vespers. Fr. Swenson's body lay in state and the church choir and our schola sang a variety of hymns and songs. As to "local custom" there was no question at all about it - turns out that as you walk into the new church building there is a strikingly beautiful stained glass window of the Blessed Virgin Mary directly over the altar! Thanks for the guidance here.