On Sunday night we celebrated our liberation and being made equal to the angels. On weeknights we commemorate our servitude in exile. For if a man is ruled by another, he is called his slave. The devil defeated the human race in our first parent, and subjected it to a bitter slavery. So that we might be freed from this slavery, let us work tirelessly in the divine service through the night hours, so that we may leave the night of this life and reach the eternal light. Now as we must deplore a slavery that has lasted through six ages of the world, so we celebrate this office on six nights of the week.
CAP. XLVI. – De privatis noctibus.
In Dominica nocte celebravimus nostram liberationem, et angelorum coaequalitatem; in privatis noctibus commemoramus nostri exsilii servitutem. A quo enim quis superatur, illius et servus vocatur. Diabolus autem humanum genus in primo parente devicit, et durae servituti subiecit. Ut ergo ab hac servitute liberi fiamus, divino servitio nocturnis horis insudemus, ut a nocte huius vitae ad aeternam lucem perveniamus. Verumtamen quia nostram servitutem per sex aetates mundi extendi deploramus, ideo sex noctibus hebdomadae hoc officium celebramus.
On the Twelve Hours
Now because we ascribe twelve hours to the night, so we sing twelve psalms, so that we who are held in servitude through the twelve months of the year may be granted liberty through the teaching of the twelve apostles.
CAP. XLVII. – De duodecim horis.
Et quia nocti duodecim horas ascribimus, ideo duodecim psalmos canimus, quatenus qui duodecim mensibus anni servitute detinemur, per doctrinam duodecim apostolorum libertati donemur.
On the Six Antiphons in the Nocturn
We sing six antiphons so that through the six works of the Gospel we may pass from the night of death to the light who is Christ. These six works are to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, cloth the naked, give shelter to travelers, visit the sick, and redeem the imprisoned.
CAP. XLVIII. – De sex antiphonis super nocturnum.
Ideo autem sex antiphonas cantamus, ut per sex opera Evangelii de nocte mortis ad lucem Christum transeamus. Quae sex opera sunt, esurientem cibare, sitientem potare, nudum vestire, hospitem colligere, infirmum visitare et carceratum redimere.
The sun traverses the whole world, the upper part and the lower, within the space of a day and night, i.e. twenty-four hours. During the day, the sun obscures the stars around it with its light, but at night illumines those that are far away. The sun prefigures Christ, the sun of justice, who shone in the daytime of this upper world, illuminating it through his teachings and miracles while he was present. His light also pierced the night of the lower world when after his death he visited those sitting in the darkness and shadow of death. He veils the stars during the day when he shields the saints from the darkness of the world by the glory of his presence. He ignites the stars of the night when he illumines the just in the night of this life.
CAP. XLIX. – Viginti quatuor horae.
Sol quoque totum mundum superius et inferius inter diem et noctem, hoc est XXIV horis perlustrat, et praesentes quidem stellas sibi in die lumine suo obscurat, absentes vero in nocte illuminat. Qui solem iustitiae Christum praefigurat, qui hunc mundum superius quasi in die illustrabat, dum praesentia sua doctrinis et miraculis illum illuminabat. Inferius vero quasi in nocte eum irradiavit, dum morte sua, sedentes in tenebris et umbra mortis visitavit. Qui stellas praesentes velat in die, dum sanctos in gloria suae praesentiae a mundi tenebris celat. Stellas ergo in nocte absens illuminat, quia iustos in nocte huius vitae illustrat.
On the Twelve Psalms
In the night we sing twelve psalms, and as many again in the day, as many hours as we said the stars are lit by the sun, so that as Christians who have become stars through baptism we may be illuminated by the eternal sun at every hour, if we worship the Lord and bless him at all times. Because we stand vanquished by sin and beholden to our servitude, and must eat bread by the sweat of our brow (Genesis 3), so we must labor for our needs during the daytime. But at night, when no one can work, we keep watch in vigils, so that when he returns from the wedding feast we may regain with him the rights of our liberty. We read three readings because the Lord established three vigils: “If he shall come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants” (Luke 12:38). These three vigils signify the three ages of man: boyhood, youth, and old age, through all of which time we are commanded to wait expectantly for the Lord in good works. Therefore, we read three readings when in these three ages we teach one another the divine work in Trinitarian faith. We sing three responsories when we glorify the Trinity in faith, hope, and charity. The psalms of the first vigil, the readings of the second, the responsories for the third, and morning lauds for the fourth vigil are offered up as payment for our debt. St. Benedict instituted the twelve psalms and three readings for weeknights with the same signification, with this exception, that he interspersed the readings amongst the psalms, since he wanted all these things done in the middle of the night.
CAP. L. – De duodecim psalmis.
In nocte ergo duodecim psalmos, et in die totidem psallimus, quot horis stellas a sole undique versum illuminari diximus, quatenus nos Christiani in baptismate stellae facti ab aeterno sole in omni hora illuminemur, si Dominum in omni tempore benedicentes veneremur. Et quia peccato devicti servituti sumus addicti, et in sudore vultus nostri oportet pane vesci (Gen. III), ideo solemus in die necessaria operari. In nocte vero, quando nullus potest operari, in vigiliis excubamus, ut eo revertente a nuptiis cum eo ad libertatis iura redeamus. Ideo etiam tres lectiones legimus, quia tres vigilias posuit Dominus: Si, inquit, in prima, si in secunda, si in tertia vigilia venerit, et ita invenerit, beati sunt servi illi (Luc. XII), quae tres vigiliae tres aetates hominis pueritiam, iuventutem, senectutem significant, in quibus cuncti Dominum in bonis operibus pervigiles praestolari iubemur. Tres ergo lectiones legimus, cum in fide Trinitatis in tribus aetatibus alterutrum divinum opus instruimus. Tria responsoria cantamus, cum Trinitatem fide, spe, charitate glorificamus. Psalmi quoque pro prima vigilia, lectiones pro secunda, Responsoria pro tertia, matutinae Laudes pro quarta vigilia noctis, quasi pro debito solvuntur. Sanctus etiam Benedictus in eadem significatione duodecim psalmos et tres lectiones in privatis noctibus instituit; hoc tantum mutato quod lectiones psalmis interposuit, quia haec videlicet media nocte agi voluit.