Preces meae non sunt dignae

While, on the whole, we prefer the Breviary of 1960, we think that some aspects of the Liturgia Horarum are clear improvements upon the preceding schemes for the Divine Office. One such aspect is the use (optional, unfortunately, like almost everything else) of the Dies Irae during the thirty-fourth week of Tempus Per Annum—the last week of the Church’s year, which is followed (of course) by the first Sunday of Advent. The wonderful old hymn, attributed to the Franciscan Thomas of Celano, is divided into three parts and sung at the office of readings, lauds, and vespers. This, of course, serves very neatly to emphasize the eschatological aspects both of the end of the Church’s year and of Advent.

Imagine stepping out of the holiday bustle into a church for lauds of Saturday in the thirty-fourth week of Tempus Per Annum, where you hear, after the usual beginning of the hour, the Dies Irae chanted in an austere plainchant. Puts rather a different spin on things, no? Bit of a shock to the system, even. But it is certainly something you’d remember when the deacon chants the Gospel for the first Sunday of Advent in Year C. (Especially if, after a day of shopping, you went back to the same church for the vigil Mass that same Saturday.) One might even get a whole new appreciation for Advent, wholly separate from Advent calendars, wrapping paper, and hot chocolate.

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