The Second Nocturn
On the Second Vigil and the Second Nocturn
The second vigil is taken to be the age of the Law, which is also divided as if into hours, since it consists of three parts, one from Moses to David, a second from David to Babylon, and a third from Babylon to Christ; or to put it another way, priests, judges, and kings, as the text of the psalms declares.
CAP. VII. – De secunda vigilia et secundo nocturno.
Secunda vigilia tempus legis accipitur, quod iterum quasi horis discernitur, dum tribus interstitiis dividitur, scilicet uno a Moyse usque ad David, secundo a David usque ad Babyloniam, tertio a Babylonia usque ad Christum, sive sacerdotibus, iudicibus, regibus, quod declarat psalmorum textus.
On the First Hour
For Conserva me, Domine (Psalm 15) represents priests, for whom the Lord is “their portion and their cup.” They served their night duty at the first hour of this vigil when Aaron and others after him taught the people the Law of the Lord. Exaudi, Domine, iustitiam meam (Psalm 16) signifies the judges, whose judgment “comes forth from the Lord’s countenance.”
CAP. VIII. – De prima hora.
Nam Conserva me, Domine (Psal. XV), sacerdotes exprimit, quorum Dominus pars haereditatis et calicis fuit, qui prima hora huius vigiliae excubias servabant, dum Aaron et alii post eum, legem Domini populum docebant. Exaudi, Domine, iustitiam meam (Psal. XVI), iudices innuit, quorum iudicium de vultu Domini prodiit.
On the Second Hour
The judges chose to take the second hour’s vigil, when Gideon and others judges the people in accordance with the Law of God. Diligam te, Domine (Psalm 17) shows the kings, whom the Lord “made head of the Gentiles,” and who kept watch during the third hour, when David and others ruled the people in justice.
CAP. IX. – De secunda hora.
Hi secundae horae vigilandi curam susceperunt, dum Gedeon et alii populum secundum legem Dei iudicaverunt. Diligam te, Domine (Psal. XVII), reges ostendit, quos Dominus caput gentium constituit, qui tertiae horae vigilias custodiebant, dum David et alii populum ad iustitiam regebant.
On the Gloria Patri and the Third Nocturn
Each of the psalms are sung with the Gloria Patri because it is written that each of the afore-mentioned orders adored the Trinity, and for the same reason three psalms are sung. The three antiphons with which the psalms are sung are the praises given to the Trinity by these just men. The following readings are the preaching of these watchmen. The responsories are their actions, in which God’s “justifications were the subject of their songs” (Psalm 118:54). The readings are done at the kings’ watch because in that time the books of the prophets were written, and they taught the people in the second watch, and sang the song of good works.
CAP. X. – De Gloria Patri et tertio nocturno.
Singuli psalmi cum Gloria Patri psalluntur, quia singuli supradicti ordines Trinitatem adorasse scribuntur, ideo etiam et tres psalmi canuntur. Antiphonae ternae, quibus psalmi modulantur, sunt laudes quae ab illis iustis Trinitati exhibebantur. Sequentes lectiones sunt illorum vigilum praedicationes. Responsoria vero illorum actiones, quibus hic cantabiles erant Dei iustificationes. Ideo autem lectiones post ad vigiliam regum leguntur, quia illo tempore libri prophetarum scribebantur, et ipsi tempore legis, quasi secunda vigilia, populum docuerunt, et cantum bonorum operum personuerunt.
The Third Nocturn and its Watchmen (11 – 14)
On the Third Vigil and the Third Nocturn
The third vigil is the age of grace, which lasts until the end of the world. This age is divided into three hours, the time of apostolic preaching, the time of persecution, and the time of peace.
On the first hour.
During the first hour of this watch, the apostles were on duty, as demonstrated by Psalm 18 Coeli enarrant, since “there are no speeches nor languages where their voices are not heard,” when “their sound hath gone forth into all the earth.”
On the second hour.
The martyrs replaced the apostles at their watch posts, as Psalm 19 Exaudiat te Dominus proclaims, for “the name of the Lord” protected them in their tribulations, and was “mindful of all their sacrifices.”
On the third hour.
Constantine, who established peace with the faithful, took the third hour, as we see in Psalm 20 Domine, in virtute tua laetabitur rex. He is the king who “rejoiced” in Christ’s “strength” when the bull was raised from the dead through Sylvester in the name of Christ, in the midst of an international congress. He “rejoiced exceedingly in God’s salvation,” when he convened a great synod in Nicea, for which the Church “set on his head a crown” of glory and “laid upon him great glory.” To this day the faithful people keep this watch, and their King “hopeth in the Lord.” The last verses of the psalm touch upon the times of the Antichrist. The Lord places him like a fiery oven in which he tests his vessels. But “in the time of his face,” i.e. on the day of judgment, the Lord “shall trouble them in his wrath” along with all the wicked when “fire shall devour them.” But the Lord will raise up the vigilant Church in his strength, and she will “sing thy power” forever.
All these psalms end with the Gloria Patri because all of these men venerated the Trinity. There are three psalms because each of them flourished in faith, hope, and charity. The antiphon melodies are the Church’s thanksgiving, and the songs of the night watch.
CAP. XI. – De tertia vigilia et tertio nocturno.
Tertia vigilia tempus gratiae exstat, quae usque in fine mundi perdurat. Haec quasi in tres horas dividitur, dum tempore apostolicae praedicationis, tempore persecutionis, tempore pacis distinguitur.
De prima hora.
Prima hora huius vigiliae apostoli vigilabant, quos demonstrat psalmus (XVIII), Coeli enarrant, quorum voces omnis loquela et sermo audivit, dum eorum sonus in omnem terram exivit.
De secunda hora.
Secunda hora martyres vigilandi curam subibant, quos psalmus (XIX), Exaudiat te Dominus, denuntiat, quos nomen Dei in tribulationibus protexit, et omnis sacrificii eorum memor fuit.
De tertia hora.
Tertiae horae excubias Constantinus dux pacis cum fidelibus suscepit, quem psalmus (XX), Domine, in virtute tua laetabitur rex, innuit. Ipse enim rex in virtute Christi est laetatus, dum Taurus in conventu totius orbis in nomine Christi est per Silvestrum resuscitatus. Super salutem Dei vehementer exultavit, dum maximam synodum in Nicaeam congregavit, unde Ecclesia coronam super caput eius posuit gloriae, et magnum decorem ei tribuit. Huius vigiliae custodiam adhuc populus fidelium servat, cuius rex in Domino sperat. Ultimi versus psalmi tangunt tempora antichristi. Quem Dominus clibanum ignis ponet, in quo vasa sua examinet. In tempore vero vultus sui, id est in die iudicii, eum cum omnibus iniquis Dominus in ira sua conturbabit, cum eos ignis devorabit. Ecclesiam vero vigilem in virtute sua Dominus tunc exaltabit, quae virtutes eius in aeternum cantabit. Hi psalmi singuli cum Gloria Patri terminantur, quia Trinitas ab his omnibus veneratur. Tres autem ideo sunt, quia in fide, spe, et charitate floruerunt. Antiphonae melodiae sunt gratiarum actiones Ecclesiae, et quaedam vigilum cantilenae.
Paul the Sentinel
Paul sang a sweet melody during the first hour of the watch, when he rejoiced for the election of the Gentiles: Regi saeculorum immortali, invisibili, soli Deo honor et gloria in saecula saeculorum. Amen (1 Timothy 1).
CAP. XII. – Quod Paulus vigil fuerit.
Paulus vigil suavem cantilenam in prima hora cantavit, dum pro Gentium vocatione sic exsultavit: Regi saeculorum immortali, invisibili, soli Deo honor et gloria in saecula saeculorum, amen (I Tim. I).
Laurence the Sentinel
On his watch, Laurence trilled a lovely song at the second hour, when he gave thanks from the grid-iron: Gratias tibi ago, Domine, quia ianuas tuas ingredi merui
CAP. XIII. – Laurentius vigil.
Laurentius vigil dulcem cantilenam in secunda hora est modulatus, dum in craticula sic est gratulatus: Gratias tibi ago Domine, quia ianuas tuas ingredi merui.
Gregory the Sentinel
Gregory the sentinel intoned a delightful melody at the third hour, when he instructed us to to perform the divine office with the musical art. The lessons signify teaching given to the people. The responsories are the examples of those great them by whom others are formed. Hence the name “responsory,” for life corresponds with teaching through song. Song signifies the conversion of penitents, when something is converted from evil to good. The solo voice who sings the verse is in travail, just as the penitent who undergoes his suffering to satisfy for his transgression. The beginning of the chant that follows the verse is a general thanksgiving for the converted. Everyone comes to his aid with prayers, as if to support the soloist, for the angels shall rejoice “upon one sinner that doth penance” (Luke 15). In this way the cantors imitate soldiers on their night rounds, who are sorrowful when one of their comrades wanders into the camp of the enemy. But if he returns and escapes danger, they are happy for him.
The third response always has a Gloria Patri, because everything present, past, and future is subjected to the Trinity. The Gospel is recited at the third vigil because it was only preached in the third age. Further, the Alleluia is often sung in the antiphons of the third nocturn because in that time the praise and joy of eternal life was announced to the world. All of these things are performed on the Lord’s night because all the aforementioned men are saved through faith in Christ’s resurrection. The Te Deum represents “joy and happiness” (Psalm 50:10) for the Church rejoices in her liberation on the day of judgment. Perhaps someone is moved to ask why we have discussed only three vigils, when four night watches is our custom.
CAP. XIV. – Gregorius vigil.
Gregorius vigil delectabilem harmoniam in tertia hora sonuit, dum musica arte divinum officium agi docuit. Per lectiones quae recitantur, doctrinae fidelium designantur. Responsoria quae cantantur, sunt illorum exempla, quibus alii informantur, unde et responsorii vocabulum his, quia vita doctrinae respondet. Per cantum, usus poenitentium conversio intelligitur, cum quis de malo ad bonum convertitur. Sicut enim laborat, qui versum solus cantat, ita poenitens laborem subit, dum pro errato satisfacit. Post versum autem cantus incoeptio, est communis omnium pro converso gratulatio, cui omnes per orationes succurrunt, sicut canenti subveniunt, quia et angeli super uno poenitentiam agente gaudium in coelis ducunt (Luc. XV). Per hoc autem cantores milites in excubiis imitantur, quia si aliquis ex sociis suis inter hostes aberraverit, contristantur; si vero periculum evadens redierit, ei congratulantur. Tertio responsorio semper gloria Patri annectitur, quia Trinitati omne praesens, praeteritum et futurum subiicitur. Ad tertiam vigiliam ideo evangelium recitatur, quia in tertio tempore illud modo praedicabatur. Ideo et in tertio nocturno saepius in antiphonis alleluia cantatur, quia in illo tempore laus et laetitia aeternae vitae praenuntiabatur. Haec universa ideo in Dominica nocte actitantur, quia hi omnes supradicti per fidem resurrectionis Christi salvantur. Porro Te Deum laudamus gaudium et laetitiam nobis repraesentat, quia Ecclesia in die iudicii liberata exsultat. Forsitan aliquem movebit, cur tres tantum vigiliae a nobis ponantur, cum quatuor noctis vigiliae tradantur. Hic sciat cum ad noctem saeculi significatio refertur, tunc tres tantum vigiliae propter tria tempora ponuntur, pro quibus et tres nocturni psalluntur. Cum vero ad noctem temporis refertur, tunc quatuor vigiliae scribuntur, et per quatuor laudes canuntur. Et sciendum cum nocturnus dicitur, cantus intelligitur. Cum autem nocturna, tunc hora accipitur.
 Saint Sylvester became renowned as an expert on Holy Scripture and as a staunch defender of the Christian Faith. During the reign of the emperor Saint Constantine the Great, when the period of persecution had ended for the Church, the Jews arranged a public debate to determine which faith was true. Saint Constantine and his mother, the holy Empress Helen, were present together with a large crowd. Saint Sylvester spoke for the Christians, and the Jews had one hundred and twenty learned rabbis led by Zambres, a magician and sorcerer. Quoting the sacred books of the Old Testament, Saint Sylvester convincingly demonstrated that all the prophets foretold the birth of Jesus Christ from the all-pure Virgin, and also His voluntary suffering and death for the redemption of the fallen race of mankind, and His glorious Resurrection. The saint was declared the victor in the debate. Then Zambres tried to resort to sorcery, but the saint obstructed the evil by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. For Sylvester raised a dead bull from the dead, which Zambres had killed and was unable to raise. Zambres and the other Jews came to believe in Jesus Christ, and they asked to be baptized.”