Sunday, December 29, 2013

Canticles at Matins

One of the unique features of the traditional Benedictine Office is the use of three canticles - psalms from Scriptures outside the book of psalms - as the third Nocturn at Matins.

The number of nocturns and canticles on Sunday is not an accident, but rather a use of the numerological symbolism of which the Fathers were so fond.

Sundays are, above all, a celebration of the Resurrection, which occurred 'on the third day' after Christ's death on the Cross.  The inclusion of a the third nocturn 'resurrection vigil' to reinforce this idea may have been something taken over by St Benedict from the early Eastern cathedral tradition.

In the modern form of the Office, there are sets of canticles for use on particular feasts, as well as for the Commons of saints.


The most often used canticles though, are for the liturgical season, and are as follows:


Isaiah 40:10-17
Isaiah 42:10-16
Isaiah 49:7-13

Nativitytide (and Epiphanytide)

Introduction to Isaiah 9:2-7
Introduction to Isaiah 26:1-12
Introduction to Isaiah 66:10-16

Time throughout the year

Introduction to Isaiah 33:2-10
Introduction to Isaiah 33:13-18
Introduction to Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) 36:14-19

Lent and Passiontide

Jeremiah 14:17-21
Lamentations 5:1-7, 15-17, 19-21
Ezekiel 36:24-28


Isaiah 63:1-5
Hosea 6:1-6
Zephaniah (Sophronias) 3:8-13


In addition to the canticles for the liturgical seasons, particular sets of canticles are also used on Class I&II feasts.

Common of the BVM

Sirach 39:17-21
Isaiah 61:10-11, 62:1-3
Isaiah 62:4-7.

Common of Apostles/Evangelists

Isaiah 61:6-9
Wisdom 3:7-9
Wisdom 10: 17-21

Common of Popes/one martyr/confessor bishop/confessor

Ecclesiasticus 14:22, 15:3-4, 6
Jeremiah 17:7-8
Ecclesiasticus 31:8-11

Common of several martyrs

Wisdom 3:1-6
Wisdom 3:7-9
Wisdom 10: 17-21

Common of Virgins/Holy women

Ecclesiasticus 39:17-21
Isaiah 61:10-11, 62: 1-3
Isaiah 61:4-7

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