The Breviarium Romanum, Roman Breviary, or Divine Office is the sacerdotal prayerbook of the Tridentine era in the Roman Catholic Church. Since superseded by Liturgia Horarum, the Liturgy of the Hours, the Brevarium is nevertheless important for its contribution to Catholic spiritual life between the end of the 16th century to the 1960s.

All official editions of the Brevarium are in Latin only. Vernacular translations were produced, but under the assumption that a priest would reference his official edition while saying a translation. By "saying" I mean the requirement that all priests at least mouth the words of the Breviary while praying, a remnant of monastic chant. Before the reforms of Vatican II, priests were obliged to say their entire day's portion of the Breviarium in Latin under the pain of sin. Since Vatican II both the chanting requirement and the moral imputability of not saying one's whole allotment has been lifted.

The main hours of the Breviary are Matins, Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers, and Compline. Matins and Lauds start the day, Prime through None are small prayers said in midday, and Vespers and Compline are said in the evening. By including these divisions in the Breviarium parish priests are able to follow more closely the actions of a monastery in prayer.

The 1962 final edition of the Brevarium is divided into two parts, Tomus Prior and Tomus Alter, perhaps best literally translated as "initial volume" and "subsequent volume" respectively. Each volume is approximately 1000 pages in length, divided at the feast of Pentecost. Most editions previous to the 1962 spread the work among four volumes named after the seasons. John XXIII wished to condense the Breviarium into two volumes. He edited out many of the Matins readings, in many cases reduced from nine to three segments. Fine tuning of certain prayers deemed lengthy achieved the desired effect of a slimmer Breviary.

The main divisions of the Breviarium are as follows:

excerpta ex Ordinario -- "Excerpts from the Ordinary". Often repeated prayers abbreviated in the main text are listed in full in this section.

rubicae generales, rubricae generales Breviarii, tabellae dierum liturgicorum -- "General Rubrics", "Breviary General Rubrics", and "Tables of Liturgical Days" respectively. The Rubrics are the "operating manual" for the Breviary, while the Calendar allows for the reckoning of position within the Breviarium through a very arcane system of letters and numbers.

The propers of the year -- This section contains the specific prayers for each day of the year excluding saint's days. Usually modifications were only included for Matins and Vespers.

Ordinarium divini Officii -- "Ordinary of the Divine Office". This section outlines the format of each hour of prayer, indicating at which spots the priest should pause and go to a proper or changeable part of the Breviarium.

The Psalter -- particular Psalms keyed to the different hours of the day. The entire Book of Psalms is said in one week.

The propers of the saints -- Specific hourly prayers for a saint's day or holy day. Depending on the day, certain holy days may take priority over regular proper readings.

Commons of Saints -- Depending on the nature of a saint's day, a different hourly format may be said instead of the more common form found in the Ordinary. This includes different formats reserved for the Blessed Virgin Mary and for martyrs, confessors, virgins, bishops, Popes, etc and in myriad combinations thereof.

It's all very confusing, and not a topic to be taken lightly. Reading a breviary takes practice. It was and is taught as part of a seminary education, so that the act of praying the Breviarium hopefully becomes entwined within the daily worship of a priest.

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