Thursday, January 25, 2018

Learn the Office 2.6 - The psalms Pt 2 - Psalms and canticles with antiphons.

File:O sapientia.jpg

Antiphons are said at each of the hours, following their institution by Holy Ambrose; this as done because…Blessed Ignatius, the third bishop of Antioch after Blessed Peter, was on a certain mountain and heard choirs of angels singing antiphons.

William Durand, Rationale V

In the last post we looked at psalms said without antiphons; in this one psalms with antiphons; in the next post I will look at singing the psalms and antiphons.


Antiphons are short chants used with psalms and canticles.

Under the 1962 rubrics they are always sung in full both before and after a psalm, canticle, or group of psalms.

The ‘default’ antiphons can be found in the psalter section of the Diurnal and Antiphonale, but these can be displaced by those for special seasons or feasts. 

What is an antiphon?

Most of the psalms and canticles in the Office are said with an antiphon, a short set of words that is said or sung before and after a psalm or group of psalms.

Antiphons often serve to focus on a key theme or meaning of either the psalm about to be said, or tell us something important about the season, feast or saint being celebrated.

Antiphons are provided in the psalter section of the Diurnal for each day of the week for use in the period 'throughout the year' (the 'default option').  

The psalter section also provides some - but not all - of the seasonal antiphons.  Antiphons to mark the seasons, feasts and special days though the year can be found in the proper of seasons and proper of saints sections (and sometimes the Common of Saints)..

How antiphons are used

At some hours - basically Prime to None - and during some seasons, such as Eastertide, only one antiphon is used.  In this case it is said before the start of the psalms, and then again after the psalms, that is:


At Vespers for most of the year, however, there is normally one antiphon for each psalm.  In this case the antiphon for the psalm is repeated in full before and after each psalm:

Antiphon 1 +Psalm+Doxology+Antiphon 1
Antiphon 2 +Psalm+Doxology+Antiphon 2
Antiphon 3 +Psalm+Doxology+Antiphon 3
Antiphon 4 +Psalm+Doxology+Antiphon 4

Note: In older versions of the Office, the antiphon was not always said in full before the psalm, so the Antiphonale Monasticum, for example, doesn't always write it out.  In the 1962 rubrics however the antiphon is always said in full before the psalm(s), so you may need to look for it at the end of the psalm.

Lauds uses a mix of both antiphons for a group of psalms, antiphons for individual psalms (and the Old Testament canticle, which is treated exactly like a psalm). 

On normal Sundays, for example, the first three psalms are said under one antiphon, the canticle has its own antiphon, and the three Laudate psalms (Ps 148-150) are said under one antiphon (and with only one doxology, at the end).  On weekdays for most of the year and feasts, however, the first three psalms each have their own antiphon, making five in total.

Psalm 50 or 92+ Gloria
Antiphon +Psalm 92 +antiphon
Antiphon+ Ps 50 + antiphon
Psalm 117 or 99+Gloria
Antiphon+ Psalm 99+ antiphon
Antiphon+ Psalm of the day + antiphon
Psalm 62+Gloria
Antiphon+ Psalm 62 + antiphon
Antiphon+ Psalm of the day + antiphon
                                     Antiphon for the canticle
Benedicite Domino (no Gloria)
Festal canticle of the day of the week with Gloria, or Benedicite
Ferial or festal canticle of the day of the week  with Gloria
                                 Antiphon for the canticle                          
 Antiphon + Ps 148+149+150+Gloria +antiphon

In addition, at Lauds and Vespers, the New Testament canticle also has its own antiphon.

Where to find the antiphons

The antiphons used on most days of the week throughout the year can be found in the psalter section of the Diurnal and Antiphonale.

If you look at Tuesday Prime, for example, the antiphon normally said throughout the year is 'Deus iudex iustus'.

Accordingly, the middle section of Tuesday Prime (ie after the hymn) goes:

Antiphon: Deus iudex iustus, fortis et longanimis: numquid irascetur per singulos dies?
Psalm: Domine Deus meus...Gloria patri
Psalm: Domine, Dominus noster...Gloria Patri...
Psalm: Confitebor tibi, Domine...Gloria Patri
Antiphon: Deus iudex iustus, fortis et longanimis: numquid irascetur per singulos dies?

Antiphons can change according to seasons, feasts and special days, though, and the easiest way to find the correct set for the season or day is to use an Ordo.

On feasts, there can be as many as three sets of antiphons for the day hours.  The most normal pattern, though is to provide one set of antiphons for Lauds, which are also used at the other hours.  In this case the antiphons are used as follows:

Antiphon 1 of Lauds= Prime, Antiphon 1 of Vespers
Antiphon 2 of Lauds= Terce, Antiphon 2 of Vespers
Antiphon 3 of Lauds= Sext, Antiphon 3 of Vespers
Antiphon 4 of Lauds
Antiphon 5 of Lauds= None, Antiphon 4 of Vespers

And you can find the next part of this series, on singing the psalms, here.

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