On the Lord’s Vineyard
The night office is also an imitation of the laborers in the vineyard (Matthew 20). When we serve God by singing at night, it is like we are gathering in the vineyard to work. For the present life may be compared to night, sunk in the darkness of ignorance. When we begin God’s praise through Domine, labia mea aperies, we begin to work. Soon we invoke the divine aid through Deus, in adiutorium meum intende, so that we may finish the work we have begun. Through Venite we encourage our fellow laborers in the Lord’s service. Then we sing a hymn to God, because we have overcome the deceits of the night, and in this we imitate laborers who sing while they work. Then when we sing alternately, we lay into our work with a competitive spirit. When we read the readings, we intruct ourselves how to work. When we sing the responsories, we give thanks after completing the work. For reading is mental recreation; when we read, we rest our souls made weary by the divine work, as workers in the vineyard. When we sing the responsories, we give thanks after our recreation. When we begin the psalms again, we rise refreshed to go back to work. The various nocturns are the various hours when the workmen entered the Lord’s vineyard. So that the difficulty of our labor may be made lighter, the psalms and readings show us the example of these men bearing the first heat and labor of the day in the vineyard.
On the Priest
Now the priest who begins the office stands for the paterfamilias who hires the laborers to work in the vineyard (Matthew 20). The cantor who sings Venite, exultemus stands for the foreman who invites them to the vineyard. The hymn represents the song they sing heartily after the work is finished. The psalms signify the works of the saints who labored in this life. The first four morning psalms manifest the saints from Adam to Noah. The second four indicate the third hour, from Noah to Abraham. The third set of four proclaims the sixth hour, from Abraham up to Moses.
Abel in the Morning
Now Abel was the first to begin his work in the vineyard in the morning, as the first psalm Beatus vir expresses, teaching us to “meditate on the Law of the Lord day and night,” i.e. to work in the vineyard, since as the Protomartyr he was the first to offer up the “fruitful tree” (Psalm 148:9), i.e. the fruit of martyrdom. After him, Enos worked this vineyard, as told in Psalm 2 Quare fremuerunt, which exhorts us to “serve the Lord in fear” in this vineyard, when the peoples of Sham “raged” in their wickedness and “devised vain things against the Lord.” Next Enoch came to tend the vineyard, as presente in Psalm III Domine, quid multiplicati sunt, which teaches us to “rise up” from our sleep and “cry to the Lord with our voice.” When a multitude of evil peoples surrounded him, the Lord “lifted him up.” Lamech too entered into service, as we learn in Psalm 6 Domine, ne in furore, which teaches us “every night to wash our bed with tears,” lest we perish along with those whom “the Lord rebukes in his indignation.”
Noah at the Third Hour
Psalm 7 Domine Deus meus, in te speravi tells us of Noah, who tended this vineyard at about the third hour and was the first to teach us to plant vines. Because “he put his trust in the Lord,” he was saved from the flood. Psalm 8 Domine, Dominus noster proclaims Shem, who in this vineyard, after the flood, “how admirable” the Lord’s name was in all the earth”; who will “crown with glory and honor” all those who praise him; who “hast perfected praise out of the mouths of infants and of sucklings.” Psalm 9 Confitebor tibi, Domine shows us Heber’s work in this vineyard. He teaches us to “sing to the Lord who dwells in Zion.” Psalm 10 In Domino confido deals with Terah, who “put his trust in the Lord” when he tended this vineyard, and taught us to serve the Lord “in his holy temple.”
Abraham at the Sixth Hour
Psalm 11 Salvum me fac tells of how Abraham entered the vineyard at the sixth hour, in the time when the world worshipped idols. Psalm 12, Usquequo, Domine, oblivisceris tells of Isaac’s work in the vineyard. The Lord did not “forget” him when he gave a ram to be sacrificed in his place. This psalm instructs us to “sing to the Lord” and “sing to his name,” because “he hath given us good things. Dixit insipiens (Psalm 13) is about Jacob, who bore the heat of the day when he stayed with that “fool” Laban and taught us to “call upon the Lord.” Domine, quis habitat (Psalm 14) shows us Joseph, who labored “without blemish” in the vineyard and taught us to glorify the Lord.
On the Verse
The verse that interrupts the psalmody here shows us the laborers who break off their work for refreshments. The readings are the various dishes that refresh them. The blessings that precede signify the blessings of religious men, by whom the food is blessed. The responsories sung after the readings are the thanksgiving offered after the food has been consumed.
Moses at the Ninth Hour
The second nocturn is the ninth hour, when Moses and Aaron and the other priests of the Law worked the Lord’s vineyard. These men called the Lord their father and their “cup” in Psalm 15 Conserva me, Domine, and taught us to “bless the Lord who hath given us understanding.” For in this hour the judges too labored, as noted in Psalm 16 Exaudi, Domine, iustitiam meam, and they pleaded for their “judgment to come from the Lord’s countenance,” and warned us “to cry to the Lord” in the night. The kings also toiled in this hour, proclaiming themselves to have been “made the head of the Gentiles” in Psalm 17, Diligam te, Domine. They showed us how to “call upon the Lord” in praise. The verse is the laborers’ ceasing from work. The readings are their breaks. The responsories are their praises.
The Apostles at the Eleventh Hour
The third nocturn portrays the eleventh hour. In this hour the apostles took the work upon their shoulders, as Psalm 18 Coeli ennarant sings. They taught us “the justices of the Lord.” The martyrs bore a great weight, as of the day’s heat, and Psalm 19 Exaudiat te Dominus speaks of them who taught us to call upon the Lord “in the day of tribulation.” In the same nocturn the confessors take their shift. They are expressed in Psalm 20 Domine, in virtute, from whom the Lord “hast not withholden the will of their lips,” and who convinced us to “rejoice in God’s strength.” Through the verse and Gospel that follow, we understand the conversion of the Gentiles, who a responsory because they were hired for the Lord’s vineyard through the Gospel, after they had stood all day idle in the marketplace of unbelief. The Te Deum laudamus signifies the joy of those who, when the work is done late in the day, receive a denarius, i.e., eternal life at the consummation of the world. We imitate them in the night office so that with them we may earn the denarius of life, who is Christ. Because we hope for all these things through Christ’s resurrection, so we sing all this on the night of the Lord’s resurrection.
On the Verses
The ancient fathers called upon God in every work, and the pagans too believed that God should be invoked in even the smallest things. Thus, we begin all the hours with the verse Deus in adiutorium, so that in every action the divine assistance may be invoked. The verse Memor fui in nocte refers to the time before the Law, when the patriarchs were mindful of the Lord’s name through the night of ignorance. It portrays the Lord who prayed for us on the cross, that the Church would be mindful of his name during the night. The verse Media nocte surgebam denotes the time of the law, when the prophets rose from the night of ignorance to the light of knowledge. But it also represents the Lord who rose from the dead at midnight so that the Church would “rise at midnight to give praise” to his name. The verse Exaltare, Domine, refers to the time of grace, because the Lord will be exalted in his power, i.e. at the right hand of the Father. And if the Church sings his power in the night, he will also exalt her with joy. Exaudi, Domine, preces servorum tuorum, taken from the Book of Chronicles (2 Chronicles 6), pertains to the patriarchs, who were portrayed in the first nocturn. Ostende nobis, Domine or some other verse pro tempore taken from the psalter refers to the prophets, signified in the second nocturn. Precibus et meritis beatae Mariae omniumque sanctorum pertains to Mary and the Apostles, whom we sing about in the third nocturn. Iube, Domine, benedicere refers to the Lord, followed by Tu autem which is taken from the psalm Beatus qui intelligit. The priest, who is the Lord’s representative, gives the blessing.
CAP. XVIII. – De vinea Domini.
Nocturnale officium quoque est imitatio in vinea laborantium (Matth. XX). Cum in Ecclesia ad servitium Dei noctu canimus, quasi in vinea ad operandum convenimus. Praesens enim vita nocti comparatur, quae tenebris ignorantiae obscuratur. Cum laudem Dei per Domine, labia mea aperies incipimus, quasi opus vineae inchoamus. Moxque divinum auxilium per Deus, in adiutorium meum intende invocamus, quatenus incoeptum opus perficiamus, per Venite vero alterutrum ad servitium Dei, quasi operantes instigamus. Deinde hymnum Deo canimus, quod nocturnas illusiones superavimus, et illos per hoc imitamur, qui cantant, dum operantur. Deinde dum alternatim psallimus, quasi certatim operi insistimus, dum lectiones legimus, quasi nos ad opus instruimus, dum responsoria canimus, quasi post peractum opus gratias agimus. Est enim lectio mentis refectio; dum ergo lectiones legimus, quasi animas in divino opere lassas velut vineae operarios reficimus; dum responsoria canimus, quasi post refectionem laudes solvimus. Unde cum iterum psallimus, quasi refecti ad laborandum surgimus. Diversae nocturnae variae horae sunt, quibus operarii vineam Domini introierunt. Ut autem labor huius vineae nobis levigetur, priorum primum in hac vinea pondus diei et aestus portantium exemplum per psalmos et lectiones praebetur.
CAP. XIX. – De sacerdote.
Sacerdos itaque qui incipit, figuram patrisfamilias gerit, qui operarios ad vineae culturam conducit (Matth. XX). Cantor, qui Venite, exsultemus cantat, praefert procuratorem, qui ad vineae culturam invitat. Porro hymnus illum cantum repraesentat, quem post peractum opus alacriter inchoant. Psalmi diversorum sanctorum opera nobis insinuant, qui in hac vita laborabant. Primi namque quaterni psalmi mane, scilicet ab Adam usque ad Noe demonstrant. Secundi quaterni horam tertiam, scilicet a Noe usque ad Abraham indicant. Tertii quaterni sextam horam, scilicet ab Abraham usque ad Moysen denuntiant.
CAP. XX. – Mane Abel.
Mane itaque primus Abel huius vineae laborem subiit, quem primus psalmus, Beatus vir, exprimit, qui nos in lege Domini die ac nocte meditari quasi in vinea operari docuit, dum ipse protomartyr tanquam lignum fructiferum fructum martyrii primus obtulit. Post hunc Enos hanc vineam excoluit, quem psalmus, Quare fremuerunt, innuit, qui nos in hac vinea Domino in timore servire constituit, quando gentes ex Cham in malitia fremuerunt et adversus Dominum inania meditati sunt. Deinde Enoch huius vineae cultor exstitit, quem, Domine, quid multiplicati sunt (Psal. III), depromit, qui nos a somno exsurgere et voce nostra ad Dominum clamare monuit. Quem quia multitudo populi maligni circumdedit, Dominus eum suscepit. Lamech quoque ad laborem introivit, quem Domine, ne in furore (Psal. VI) innotescit, qui nos per singulas noctes lectum nostrum cum lacrymis lavare instruit, ne cum his pereamus quos Dominus in furore suo arguit.
CAP. XXI. – Tertia hora Noe.
Domine Deus meus, in te speravi (Psal. VII), Noe ostendit, qui quasi tertia hora hanc vineam excoluit, et primus vites plantare nos docuit; qui quia in Domino speravit, eum in undis liberavit. Domine, Dominus noster (Psal. VIII), Sem denuntiat, qui post diluvium in hac vinea nomen Domini mirabile in universa terra nuntiabat, qui omnes se laudantes gloria et honore coronabit, qui ex ore infantium et lactentium laudem perfecit. Confitebor tibi, Domine (Psal. IX), Heber cultorem huius vineae insinuat, qui nos admonet psallere Domino, qui in Sion habitat. In Domino confido (Psal. X), Thare indicat, qui cultor huius vineae in Domino confidebat, et Domino in templo sancto suo nos servire monebat.
CAP. XXII. – Sexta hora Abraham.
Sexta hora Abraham hanc vineam intrabat, quem pars Salvum me fac (Psal. XI), declarat, quando mundus idola coluit. Usquequo, Domine, oblivisceris (Psal. XII), Isaac in hac vinea laborantem exprimit, cuius Dominus oblitus non fuit, dum arietem mactandum pro eo posuit; qui nos cantare Domino et psallere nomini eius monuit, qui omnia bona nobis tribuit. Dixit insipiens (Psal. XIII), Iacob innuit, qui apud insipientem Laban pondus diei et aestus portavit, et nos Dominum invocare docuit. Domine, quis habitabit (Psal. XIV), Ioseph depromit, qui in hac vinea sine macula desudavit, et nos Dominum glorificare monuit.
CAP. XXIII. – De versu.
Quod intermissa psalmodia versus dicitur, designat quod ex intermisso opere multitudo ad refectionem expeditur. Lectiones quae leguntur, sunt diversa fercula quibus operarii ad invicem reficiuntur. Benedictiones quae praecedunt, religiosorum benedictiones praeferunt, quibus cibus benedicitur. Responsoria, quae post lectionem canuntur, sunt laudes quae sumpto cibo solvuntur.CAP. XXIV. – Nona hora Moyses.
Secunda nocturna est hora nona: hac Moyses et Aaron aliique legis sacerdotes vineam Domini excolebant, qui in psalmo (XV), Conserva me, Domine, Dominum Patrem suum et calicem dicebant, et nos Dominum, qui tribuit intellectum, benedicere docebant. In hac enim iudices laborabant, quos Psalmus (XVI), Exaudi, Domine, iustitiam meam, denotat, qui iudicium suum de vultu Domini prodire rogabant, et nos in nocte ad Dominum clamare monebant. In hac reges quoque desudabant, qui se in psalmo (XVII), Diligam te, Domine, in caput gentium constitutos proclamant, qui nos laudando Dominum invocare instruebant. Versus modulatio, est ab opere separatio, lectiones sunt operariorum refectiones. Responsoria sunt illorum laudationes.
CAP. XXV. – Undecima hora apostoli.
In tertia nocturna repraesentatur hora undecima. Hac apostoli humeros oneri supponebant, quos canit psalmus Coeli enarrant (Psal. XVIII), qui nos iustitias Domini edocebant; in hac martyres, ut in magno aestu grave pondus portabant, quos loquitur psalmus Exaudiat te Dominus (Psal. XIX), qui nos Dominum in die tribulationis invocare monebant. In hac confessores operarii sunt, qui in psalmo Domine, in virtute (Psal. XX) expressi sunt, qui voluntate labiorum suorum fraudati non sunt, et nos cantare et psallere virtutes Domini persuaserunt; per versum qui sequitur et Evangelium quod legitur, conversio gentilium intelligitur; qui quasi responsorium canunt, quod per Evangelium in Domini vineam conducti sunt, qui tota die in foro infidelitatis otiosi steterunt; per Te Deum laudamus illorum gaudium accipitur quibus peracto opere denarius in sero, id est in vita aeterna in consummatione saeculi, traditur. Hos ideo in nocturnali officio imitamur, ut cum eis denarium vitae Christum mereamur. Et quia haec cuncta per Christi resurrectionem sperantur, ideo in nocte Dominicae resurrectionis tali modo cantatur.
CAP. XXVI. – De versibus.
Antiqui patres in omni opere Deum invocabant, sed et gentiles Deum in minimis etiam rebus invocandum censebant. Ideo nos omnes horas per versum Deus in adiutorium incipimus, ut in omni actione divinum auxilium invocemus. Versus Memor fui in nocte tempus ante legem designat, quo patriarchae in nocte ignorantiae nominis Domini memores erant. Sed et Dominum exprimit, qui pro nobis in cruce oravit, ut Ecclesia nominis eius in nocte memor sit. Versus Media nocte surgebam tempus legis denotat, quo prophetae de nocte ignorantiae ad lucem scientiae surgebant. Sed et Dominum demonstrat, qui media nocte de mortuis surgebat, ut et Ecclesia media nocte ad confitendum nomini eius surgat. Per versum Exaltare, Domine, tempus gratiae designatur, quia Dominus in virtute sua scilicet in dextra Patris exaltatur. Et si Ecclesia virtutes eius in nocte cantabit, eam quoque in gaudio exaltabit. Exaudi, Domine, preces servorum tuorum ex libro Paralipomenon assumptum (II Paral. VI) patriarchis convenit, quos primus nocturnus exprimit. Ostende nobis, Domine, vel quodcunque aliud pro tempore de psalterio vel alia prophetia sumptum prophetis congruit, quos secundus nocturnus innuit. Precibus et meritis beatae Mariae omniumque sanctorum sanctae Mariae et apostolis convenit, quos tertius nocturnus concinit. Iube, Domine, benedicere ad Dominum dicitur, ad quod Tu autem continuatur, quod de psalmo Beatus qui intelligit assumitur. Sacerdos autem, qui tenet vicem Domini, dat benedictionem.