Pessimas Lutheri Fraudes: A Carthusian Sequence against Luther

Less than a century after hosting the seventeenth œcumenical council, the city of Basle on the banks of the Rhine had been swallowed in the maws of heresy. By 1520 a number of printed Lutheran tracts had begun to circulate around the city, finding an eager audience in the humanist circle that had formed around the incorrigible Erasmus. Despite that Dutchman’s half-hearted efforts to arrest the spread of error, certain parish priests and religious soon began to spew false doctrine in their sermons, and an evangelical party formed around Johannes Heussgen, who haughtily styled himself Johannes Œcolampadius. 

These wayward clergymen began to eat meat ostentatiously during Lent, spurn the veneration of relics, celebrate the liturgy in German, and legitimize their carnal lusts through wedlock. Thus they deceived the commonfolk, happy for an excuse to stop paying their tithes. The city council, for its part, attempted to chart a middle path—as the bourgeois are wont to do—between the heretics and the defenders of the old faith, all the while seizing the opportunity to declare independence from the long-absentee prince-bishop and to take over Church lands. Things finally turned to violence in 1528, when hordes of iconoclasts began to destroy images in churches throughout the city. After an attack on the cathedral, the craven council gave up any effort to stop the wave of Protestantism, and proceeded to establish a “Reformed” church. 

The last church images were burned in a bonfire on Ash Wednesday 1529, and religious were obligated to abandon their vows. Most, including the cathedral canons, departed rather than forswear themselves. The Carthusians, however, were suffered to remain, so long as they did not accept novices or celebrate public masses. When their prior died in 1536 they were forbidden to elect a new one, and the last monk, Thomas Kreß, passed to his reward in 1564.

The Charterhouse of St. Margaret in Basle, as depicted in Matthäus Merian’s Vogelschauplan der Stadt Basel von Norden (1615).

During the turbulent times that led to the loss of Basle, between 1517 and 1525, that same Thomas Kreß penned a Cancionale, or collection of songs, now preserved in the Basle University library, An II 26. The prolix title explains that Kreß collected pious canticles from the usages of various churches in order to foment devotion and relieve the accedie that afflicts those saddened by worldly temptations. The sequences, hymns, antiphons, and responsories he included had no place in the austere Carthusian liturgy, the title grants, but many of the brethren might have heard them when still living in the world. Lest they grieve at their loss, and for the sake of spiritual recreation, Kreß gathered them into this book.[1] Perhaps the rampant destruction of liturgical life outside the Charterhouse was a further reason Kreß felt compelled to record these devout chants. 

One chant in this Cancionale, however, is clearly non-liturgical, and must have been of Kreß’s own invention, or one of his brethren’s. It was the last piece to be written down, hastily in a page that had been left blank, with no effort at calligraphic elegance. Nor was it provided with any musical notation, although a note explains it is to be sung to the tune of the Easter sequence Victimae paschali laudes. Its subject was that which must have been sorely troubling Kreß and his community: the heretical infestation of their hometown, and specifically the heresiarch who had spawned it, Martin Luther. 

The heresiarch Luther represented as the devil’s instrument. Print by Erhard Schön, c. 1530.

The text cleverly adapts the Easter sequence to portray Luther as a veritable Antichrist. Whereas the resurrected Christ had redeemed the sheep (redemit oves), Luther scatters them (dispergit oves). Christ is the lord of life who had died but now lives and reigns (dux vitae mortuus regnat vivus), but Luther is the lord of death who deceives the living (dux mortis Martinus fallit vivos). He seeks to take away the glory of the Resurrected one, falsely interpreting the angelic witnesses (angelicos testes) who, in the original sequence, had announced the good news to Mary Magdalene. The original sequence, in a verse oddly absent from the Tridentine missal, protested its faith in Mary and its rejection of the Jews’ lies (Credendum est magis soli Mariae veraci quam Judaeorum turbae fallaci): Christ did truly rise again from the dead (Scimus Christum surrexisse a mortuis vere). Likewise, Kreß and his Carthusians firmly protest their certainty that the novelties preached by the avant-garde parsons in the town outside their monastery were lies leading to perdition (Credendum est tuam tam perversam doctrinam tibi et tuis esse ruinam), and aver their conviction that the pope is Christ’s true vicar (Scimus papam esse Christi vicarium vere). 

The Sequence Pessimas Lutheri fraudes in Kreß’s Cancionale, Universitätsbibliothek Basel, AN II 46, fol. 16v.

No other source has survived containing this pastiche, and it is unknown whether it ever trespassed the monastery walls to the agitated streets of Basle. More likely the Carthusians sang it to strengthen their own faith in such tempestuous times. Perhaps Kreß sang it until his last days, when he remained “alone with Christ, desolate else, left by mankind.”

The sequence has been recorded by Dr. Luca Ricossa, professor of Gregorian chant at the Haute école de musique in Geneva, to whom we owe our awareness of this remarkable piece: 

Pessimas Lutheri fraudes
fugiant Christiani.
Luther’s most wicked deceits 
let Christians flee.
Luther dispergit oues
quas xps congregarat.
Lutheriani omnes
peccatores. 
Luther scattereth the sheep 
which Christ had gathered. 
Lutherans are all 
sinners.
Falsos viri libellos
combussere Thomani.
Dux mortis Martinus 
fallit viuos. 
The man’s false books
Thomists did burn.
Martin, lord of death,
deceiveth the living.
Dic nobis Luthere
quid deuastas tam crebre 
ouile xpi viuentis
et gloriam tollis resurgentis?
Tell us, Luther,
wherefore doth thou lay waste time and again
the flock of the living Christ,
and take away the glory of the Resurrected one?
Angelicos testes,
Paulum, ewangelistas,
tu false interpretaris,
seducens multos ex xpi charis.
The angelic witnesses,
Paul, the evangelists,
thou falsely interpretst, 
beguiling many dear to Christ.
Credendum est tuam 
tam peruersam doctrinam
tibi et tuis
esse ruinam.
It is to be believed
that thy doctrine so perverse
shall be the ruin
of thee and thine.
Scimus papam esse xpi
Vicarium vere.
Tu nobis illum
Deus tuere. 

Alleluya.
We know the pope to be Christ’s
vicar in sooth. 
For our sake, 
keep him, O God. 

Alleluia.
Sequencia contra Lutherum et canitur sicut Victime pascali laudes ymolent Christiani.A sequence against Luther, and it is sung like Victimae paschali laudes immolent Christiani.

[1] Liber Cartusiensium Vallis beate Margarethe Basilee minoris scriptus manu confratris nostri Thomas Kreß, collectusque undecumque ex diuersarum ecclesiarum deuotissimis canticis (unde haud merito Cancionale appelatur) in fomentum subministrande deuocionis et tedij releuandi quod nonnumquam hijs qui in tentacione secularum tristicie (que mortem operatur) pulsantur, accidere solet. Tum quia in ordine nostro talismodi canciones id est apocriphe, licet deuote, non habeantur in usu, et forte quispiam illis dum adhuc in seculo viueret delectatus, ne prorsus intra incitamentis talibus se perpetuo cariturum doloret. Ideo eidem fratri placuit eatenus talia corradere, ut ne dum sibi, sed et plerisque fratribus ad hec inclinatis pro spirituale recreamine foret accomoda Maria.

De Canonum Observantia 17: On Saints’ Feasts

Proposition XVII

Various uses venerate God’s saints under different ranks; this is based partly on the Gospel; partly on the City; partly on general custom; partly on the country or place

Gather ye together his saints to him, who set his covenant before sacrifices.[1] God’s saints are gathered together with the God of Abraham, and their names are in the book of life.[2] Knowledge of their names and passions are collected in the Church’s Martyrology, but we are unable to venerate each one of them in the sacrifice of divine praise. Yet out of their number a certain few should be gathered and noted in a public register, that we may duly venerate them when their days occur. We call this public register a CalendarGather therefore for our God his saints in the Church’s calendar, who set Christ’s covenant before the sacrifices of their own praise, and we are by every means obliged to render this praise to him.

But as we gather such saints into this Calendar, those saints of God are to be chosen whom we are obliged to venerate by the Holy Gospel or the Roman office of St. Gregory, as well as those whom the general custom of the Church venerates and worships. These ones are to be written into everyone’s use and we have included them in the calendar placed at the beginning, though among the Romans Saints Bartholomew, Ambrose, Chrysogonus, Pope Martin, Eustachius, Linus, Chrysanthus and Daria, the Seven Sleepers, and several others are assigned to different days than they have among us. On this point the Apostolic See commands “let local custom be observed,” Extra, De observation ieiuniorum, Consilium[3] and De verborum significatione, Quaesivit.[4] Furthermore, every use should include in its proper calendar those saints who are especially venerated in their land or place. And in order to avoid errors in the redaction of a church’s calendar on these and other matters, the custom is to rely on the cathedral church. The statues of Cologne and Liège order as much. And saints whom we do not venerate in the office should not be noted in the calendar. Otherwise the calendars become complex and simple priests are furnished an excuse for omitting the ferial office. Moreover, none should be allowed to institute new saints by writing them in, giving them their own office in contravention of the aforementioned authorities. Having gathered and inscribed, therefore, those of God’s saints whom we are bound to venerate, let us see about their offices.

It is clear that we must not and cannot venerate all the saints equally, nor is it the general custom. Therefore some saints are classed as a simple commemoration, others as three lesson feasts, and others as nine. Those who must have nine lessons are:

First, the saints’ feasts celebrated by the clergy and people based on Roman or diocesan authority, and classed as double feasts must be observed with nine lessons. Further, let those saints’ days which episcopal statutes order be observed with nine lessons be so kept. Feasts of our Lord and his Mother, the Invention of the Holy Cross, the twelve apostles, the Nativity of John the Baptist, of St. Laurence, Michael, and the Dedication of a church are celebrated by the clergy and people based on apostolic authority; likewise general custom celebrates a church’s patron, the Conversation of Paul, the Chair and Chains of Peter, the feasts of Martin and Nicholas, Mary Magdalene and Catherine. In the statues of Cologne, moreover, the clergy and people are enjoined to celebrate Agnes, George, Pantaleon, the Decollation of John, the Exaltation of the Cross, Gereon, the twelve thousand virgins, Severinus, Cunibert, and Cecilia. The statues of Liège enjoin the celebration of Servatius, Lambert, Dionysius, and Hubert. And thus let each add the feasts important to their place. 

Likewise, according to the constitution of Pope Boniface VIII, the Church celebrates, “the principal feasts of the twelve apostles, the four evangelists, and the four doctors as double feasts.”[5] Further, by general custom the Apostle Barnabas, Pope Clement, Benedict, Dionysius, Agatha, Agnes, Cecilia, and the Division of the Apostles are kept as feasts of nine lessons. According to the statues of Cologne, Fabian and Sebastian, Giles, Lambert, Dionysius, Maurice, and Remigius; and according to the statutes of Liège, Dominic, Francis, Leonard, and the eleven thousand virgins have nine lessons in their places and dioceses. And similarly in other dioceses the bishop and his clergy must determine which feasts they should observe with nine lessons. For just as bishops determine the feasts to be celebrated by their people (as stated in De consecratione, distinction 3 chapter PronunciandumExtra, De feriis, chapter Capellanus), so they must also determine the festivities for their clergy.[6]

If a diocese has not determined the feasts, great discretion must be exercised so that the general and reasonable observance of the whole diocese is taken into account, hewing to the principle of moderation, that we should not admit too many feasts of nine lessons. For we find that the statues of the aforementioned dioceses assign nine lessons to only a few of their bishops even though they possess the bodies of many saints and have many local saints—such as the bodies of Saints Maurice and Ewald, and the local saints Eliphius, Heribert, and many others in Cologne; and Theodard, Remacius, Mono, Oda, and several others in Liège, for that church had over thirty canonized bishops. But the same bishops were moderate in instituting nine-lesson feasts. And according to Saint Bernard in his epistle to the canons of Lyons, festivities are not to be multiplied because “such a frequency of joys belongs to our fatherland, not to our exile, and the numerosity of feasts befits citizens, not exiles.”[7]

The Carthusians, Cistercians, Preachers, and others have few particular or special festivities. The special feasts of the Carthusians are Anthony, Vincent, Barnabas, Bernard, Maurice, Dionysius, the eleven thousand virgins, Catherine, Thomas of Canterbury, and—on account of their Order—the two Hughs and the feast of Relics. If it be objected that the use of the Friars Minor keeps everything with nine lessons, we respond that, although the Romans have more festivities than other nations because of the great number of local saints, nevertheless the said Friars abusively go far beyond the ancient Roman use with respect to their nine-lesson feasts, and that their abuse is not to be followed, but rather altogether abominated, as, with God’s grace, I shall further explain in good time when my books arrived from the City, and say below in Proposition 22. 

Let this be, then, the great and foremost principle, which you must follow with decency and according to order, namely that your places receive local festivals of nine lessons only sparingly and on the weightiest authority. For we keep one festival of our Lord Jesus Christ, namely Sunday, followed by six ferias; that the feast days of his servants and private days should be in this proportion of one to six is a mystery we find in the Gospel. For every apostle our Lord put in a higher rank, he put six disciples in a lower, and when he chose the twelve apostles, he picked out six times as many disciples. For six times twelve makes seventy-two, which is the number of Christ’s disciples. “For his actions themselves are precepts: what he does without saying anything shows us what we must do,” according to a homily of St. Gregory.[8] So just as there are few Sundays and many ferias, few apostles and many disciples, so festivals should be few and ferias or saints’ days of three lessons many. And let the ultimate goal be to sing the entire psalter, which is the primary purpose of the Office, as shown above. If you count and order things well, there will not be as many festivals in the year as there are Sundays, since “the servant” should not be “above the master, nor the disciple above his master.” Be assured that it pleases God’s saints more in the end when the psalter, sacred Scripture, the Office of the Dead, the seven Penitential psalms, the fifteen Gradual psalms, and the like are kept in their right order, and there are few. For God’s saints do not seek undue praise, preferring that our “service [to them] be reasonable.”[9] Now that we have seen which saints ought to be venerated with nine readings, let us see which are to be venerated with three readings or a commemoration.  

Note especially that all the saints we have given a Mass for in the prefixed calendar have a proper mass in the Gregorian office and everywhere else, and every use venerates them with three lessons unless they coincide with a major festival, in which case they have a commemoration [in the Office] and should have a separate Mass. These saints especially, therefore, should be venerated with at least three readings on their days. For that reason our calendar lists them with three lessons and a Mass; several of them also have a proper history. 

Apart from these, the various uses differ over which saints they venerate with three readings, such as, among the Carthusians, Polycarp, Blaise, Peter Martyr, Cyriacus and Julitta, Leo, Margaret, Christina, Nazarius and companions, Germanus, Eusebius, Lucy and Euphemia, Thecla, Faith, Crispin and Crispinian, Eustace and companions, Brice, Columban, Linus, Vitalis and Agricola, Silas the Apostle, Saturninus, and Eulalia. Further, they keep Fabian and Sebastian, the Invention of the Holy Cross, the Invention of St. Stephen, Dominic, Remigius, and Francis with three lessons, though others keep them with nine. 

Others they keep with a commemoration, either because they coincide with a major feast or fall within major octaves, as Sylvester, Paul the First Hermit, Hilary, Alexander, and others, and the rest noted as commemorations. On days free of festivals or major octaves they keep any occurring saints of three lessons or the ferial office.  Some, such as the Preachers and their imitators, have saints of a lower class on such days, which they keep with only a commemoration in the temporal office. Such is the third way of commemorating a saint, if he be of lesser importance.  

Behold, I give examples from the use of the Teutonic Knights of Prussia, who beyond the saints who have proper masses noted in the Calendar above, keep the following with three lessons: Anthony, Timothy, Chrysogonus, Blaise, Vitus and Modestus, Paulinus of Nola, Pantaleon and others, Germanus, the Octave of St. Laurence, Bernard, Giles, Lambert, and Remigius; and the following with nine: Maurice and companions, Cosmas and Damian; and with a commemoration in the ferial office: Maurus, Emerentiana, Polycarp, Vedastus and Amandus, Scholastica, Albinus, Perpetua and Felicity, Pudentiana and Petronilla, Nicomedes, Medard, Quiricus and Julitta, Christina, Donatus, Romanus, Eusebius, Rufus, Euphemia, Leodegar, Faith, Martha, Crispin and Crispinian, Narcissus, Quentin, Leonard, Pope Martin, Brice, Agricola and Vitalis, Bishop Saturninus, Eligius, Barbara, Sabbas, the Octave of Andrew, Damasus, and Lazarus. And since their name is Hospitalers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Jerusalem, they keep the following bishops of Jerusalem: Simeon and Alexander with three readings; and Matthias, Zacharias, and Mark with a commemoration. 

Now let us recall the reasons we venerate the saints. Saints are venerated with nine lessons either because they are celebrated by the clergy and people, or because they are classed as duplex feasts, or because they are so designated by episcopal statute or an equivalent authority. They are kept with three lessons either because they have a proper mass office in the Roman office, or because they have been raised to this level of honor in a particular use. They pass with only a commemoration either because they coincide with a greater festival, or fall within major octaves; at least, those are the two general conditions, though the low rank of the saint in a particular use is another cause. Many keep this rule, including the Liègois during Paschaltide for saints who do not have a Mass.   

Consider, my lords and brothers, how reasonably and almost identically the Carthusian brethren stationed in the desert and the Teutonic lords equipped for battle keep this “salutary worship” in their orders, namely, with regard to their saints, observing few of them as festivals or three lesson feasts on account of the temporal office of our High God; both of them, however, say a nocturn on all feasts of three lessons, in accord with Proposition 10. The majority of secular churches abandon the temporal office on ordinary days when a saint occurs. The Cistercians, on the contrary, similarly to other uses, keep but a rare few festivals of twelve lessons. All other saints they keep with a simple commemoration. In this matter, the Carthusians are exemplary.


[1] Psalm 49:5.

[2] Philippians 4:3.

[3] CJC, Decr. Greg. III, 16.2—Frdbrg II, 630

[4] CJC, Decr. Greg. V, 10.14—Frdbg. II, 915. Cf. Prop. 19.

[5] CJC, Sexti Decr. III. 22 – Frdbg. II, 1059.

[6] CJC, Decr. III, 3.1 – Frdbg. I, 1353; Decor. Greg. II, 9.4 — Frdbg. II, 272.

[7] Saint Bernard, Epistula CLXXIV (PL 182:334 ff.)

[8] Gregory, Homilia XVII in Evangelia, Luke 10:1–9 – ML 76:1159.

[9] Cf. Romans 12:1

De Canonum Observantia 20: On the Offices of Our Lady and of the Dead

Proposition XX

The Office of the Dead and the Office of Our Glorious Lady are obligatory and everyone must observe them

It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins (2 Machabees 2:46). And “there is no doubt but that whatever praise is worthily given to God’s Mother applies to God himself,” as Saint Jerome says in the letter that begins Cogitis.[1] This is the reason why not only the apostolic constitutions, but also the general custom of all nations urge us to celebrate the offices of both God and his Mother must be celebrated according to the appropriate seasons. Extra, De celebratione Missarum, chapter Cum cantatur gives instructions on the Office of the Dead.[2] About the Office of Our Lady, on the other hand, we read in the Chronica that Urban II—who added to the nine older prefaces a tenth one of the Blessed Virgin Mary, as shall be said below—celebrated a council in Clermont when he went to France in November of the year of Our Lord 1096. In this council, it was established that the hours “of the Blessed Virgin Mary are to be said daily and her office on Saturdays is to be celebrated solemnly.”[3]

First let us make a few remarks about the Office of the Dead, about which we should note that according to universal custom it has Vespers, Vigils, and Lauds but not the remaining hours, as well as a Mass office. The same antiphons and psalms are used at Vespers everywhere, but in the Magnificat antiphon local custom prevails. Vigils has nine antiphons, nine psalms, and nine lessons. There is some discrepancy of customs with regard to the psalms of the third nocturn. The Romans, Ambrosians, Benedictines, and almost all other uses are in agreement over the lessons, except for some variation of the ninth lesson, and there is also some discrepancy in the responsories. So let each keep his own custom. There is a slight difference in Lauds. The general use of many is that Vespers and Vigils of the Dead are said on the previous day and Lauds on the next day after Matins, each of the three stated hours ending with its own preces, psalms, and orations. But some join Vespers and Vigils together under one conclusion. All three offices have prostrations whenever the principal office has them. Some Germans seem to be the only ones not content with the universal readings and their responsories, and try to keep other readings with contrived responsories. But religious men ought not to follow such singular novelties, since it behooves them to observe what is common and simple. On the days when these three hours are to be said, there should be a conventual Mass of the Dead. The Office of the Dead is omitted when it would be incongruous to say it, as in Easter week and the three days before it; and sometimes on account of the day’s feast, as on all nine-lesson and major feasts; and in some uses during Paschaltide and in major octaves. In this, you may use your discretion. To make this observance easier, some have the custom of singing the psalms and antiphons recto tono on ordinary days, while singing the lesson and responsories. In Lent and Advent one should say the nine lessons and their responsories. Outside these seasons let three lessons and their nocturns be said according to the day of the week. On days of burial and anniversaries of the dead, nine lessons should be said. If any should wish to subtract from the aforesaid, let him do so at his own discretion.

The Office of Our Glorious Lady, on the other hand, has, according to universal custom, seven hours, just like the main Office, and the following is a suitable way to observe it: at Vigils, during the night, let the sweet invitatory Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum and the hymn Quem terra be said. In the Roman use, three nocturns with their nine antiphons are split up according to the day of the week, i.e, on Sunday, Monday, and Thursday the first nocturn is said; on Tuesday and Friday the second; and on Wednesday and Saturday the third. In this  arrangement the nocturns of the Little Office are fittingly said twice while not impeding the Saturday Nocturn. There is much diversity of practice about the three Matins lessons. Some read the passages In omnibus requiem from Ecclesiasticus; others three short lessons from the Sermons of Augustine; others three short ones from an unknown author which begin Sancta Maria, piarum piissima. It seems more appropriate for religious to reject these and follow the Carthusians, reading three lessons from the first chapter of the Gospel of Luke: the first from In mense autem sexto missus est angelus Gabriel until Dixit autem, the second from there until Exsurgens autem Maria, and from there let the third finish with Et exsultavit spiritus meus in Deo, salutari meo, but add Mansit autem Maria cum illa quasi mensibus tribus et reversa est in domum suam at the end. The three responsories are almost universal. There should be no Te Deum, as was demonstrated in Proposition XIII. In the Roman use, Lauds has five antiphons: Assumpta est Maria and the others. For the short chapters, orations, and hymns, let the local use be followed. 

It is a praiseworthy custom to say a certain compensation in this office. In the Ambrosian and Benedictine offices, the litany Kyrie eleison is said at each hour, but we say it daily only at Compline and Prime. And so let them be supplied in this office, such that at the minor hours, following the Benedictine office, after the short chapter the versicle is said, with no responsory, and at each hour before the collect let Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison, Kyrie eleison, Dominus vobiscum or Domine exaudi, and Oremus be said, following the Roman custom. But the suffrages at Lauds and Vespers may be said according to devotion. The Romans say suffrages of their patrons Peter and Paul and of all the saints. Others out of  devotion add three orations of the Blessed Virgin, of the Holy Ghost, and of all the saints to the little hours. Hence at Prime, Terce, Sext, and None it is appropriate to put the verse Veni creator before the hymn.[4]

It is fitting to distribute the fifteen gradual psalms over the five minor hours; this holds especially for those who do not say them before the night Vigils.[5] And the Benedictines, because they say these same psalms at the main hours of certain days, invert the order, saying at Prime, Terce, Sext, and None of the Office of the Blessed Virgin those psalms which we say at those same hours in the main Office.[6]

At Vespers, five antiphons—Dum esset rex and the others—are said with the usual five psalms,[7] as was stated in Proposition X and as the Romans do. And if any commemorations were omitted in the main Office for some reason, they can be supplied in this Office. 

Moreover, in the Roman use, this Office has special antiphons and other proper elements at Lauds, Vespers, and the little hours in Advent and after Christmas, which you can find in the use of the Friars Minor. And in Eastertide the antiphon Regina caeli is said with the three Evangelical [canticles].  

This Office is sometimes omitted when it would be incongruous to say it, as in Easter week and the three days before it; sometimes, when the main service is of the glorious Virgin and on a few major solemnities, lest it seem the Little Office is being said for their sake. In this matter we must have recourse to the use of the Carthusians and of similar religious, and not to the writings of Friars Minor, which depart exceedingly from what I saw written at Rome. 

Likewise, in many uses, each hour of this Office, whether they be said in choir or outside of it in private, is said before the main hour, except Compline, which is said after the main hour. But according to the use of the Friars Minor, so-called “Roman,” Matins and Vespers are said before the main hour and the little hours thereafter. 

In the general use of everyone, on Saturdays, when there is no proper Mass, the Mass of the glorious Virgin is sung, which office is contained in all missals according to the season of the year. About this Mass it is written that neither Gloria in excelsis nor Credo are to be said, as was explained above in Proposition XIII. On the question whether on Saturdays the main service should be of the Blessed Virgin when there is no major feast, however, there is divergence; for the more solemn churches and religious do not do so, lest they repeatedly omit the Saturday Nocturn. They are supported by the reasoning of Pope Alexander III—Extra, De feriis, chapter 2, towards the end—that every day praise be given to the glorious Virgin in a private Office.[8] And these churches and religious say the psalm and antiphon of the three Nocturns in the same private Office, as I said above. But there are others who disregard the omission of the Saturday Nocturn and on said days say the main service of the Virgin with nine antiphons and psalms, and they uniformly say the private Office throughout the year. Even if saying it as the main service is fitting out of devotion, nevertheless it does not seem that the Saturday Nocturn should be omitted according to what was said above in Proposition X. And then this service can be done without prostrations, the seven [penitential] psalms, and the rest, as is done during Eastertide and within major octaves. 

Although on vacant weeks the Mass of the patron can be said, do not let these praises be extended to the main hours, lest the ferial office suffer too much detriment. We have no writing or example that this can be done licitly. 


[1] Pseudo-Jerome, Epistula IX ad Paulam et Eustochium (ML 30:126). This letter, a veritable sermon on the Assumption of Our Lady, was actually written in the 9th century by Paschasius Radbertus for the abbess of Soissons, Theodrada, and her daughter.

[2] This canon makes no reference to the Office of the Dead.

[3] Cf. Minorite of Erfurt, Chronica Minor (MGH, SS. Bd. 24, p. 191) and the Flores temporum (MGH, SS. Bd. 24, p. 246).

[4] In many uses, at all the minor hours, the hymn Memento salutis auctor was prefaced by the first stanza of the Veni Creator. The custom was continued in places into at least the 18th century.

[5] It was customary to say the 15 gradual psalms as a sort of extra “office” before Mattins, usually on Wednesdays (cf. proposition 21). They were said in sets of five with preces and a collect in between the sets. Radulph means that those who do not say this “office” of the gradual psalms should at least say those 15 psalms as part of the Office of Our Lady. The other option would be not to say them except as part of the normal cursus of the main office (at Tuesday and Wednesday Vespers).

[6] This is no longer the case in the Monastic Breviary of 1612, in which the Little Office of Our Lady is identical to that of the Roman Breviary of 1568.

[7] The usual Vespers psalms of feasts of Our Lady, i.e. 109, 112, 121, 126, and 147.

[8] The quotation is incorrect. This canon says nothing about the Office of Our Lady.

Rupert of Deutz on the Entrance to the Altar

As the priest makes his way up to the holy altar, he himself and the entire Church present must expand their souls and cherish in the ample bosom of faith the memory of Our Lord Jesus Christ’s incarnation, nativity, passion, resurrection, and ascension, as well as the memory of all the holy men who from the beginning of the world awaited these things in hope, prefigured them with deeds, and prophesied them with words or writings. As they contemplate, let them break out into speech, singing the antiphon called the “introit.” 

For just as the priest’s entrance manifests the Son of God’s entry into this world, so the antiphon called “introit” manifests the voices and expectation of the patriarchs and prophets. As the priest enters, therefore, the aforesaid antiphon is sung at least once with a pomp that is most suitable to the reality signified. Forth first go the flaming candles as a symbol of the joy that irradiated all the earth at the Savior’s birth, of which the angel told the shepherds: I bring you good tidings of great joy.[1] Two ministers go before the priest, not together or side by side, but the subdeacon first, then the deacon. For these two signify the Old and New Testaments, the Law and the Gospel: the Law prior in time, but the Gospel greater in dignity. And the Savior brought with him these two salvific dispensations, for he brought the Gospel, and came not to destroy the Law, but to fulfill it.[2] These two are the feet of the angel who came down from heaven, clothed with a cloud, and set his right foot upon the sea, and his left foot upon the earth.[3] For when John the Baptist and our Lord were teaching, the people listened calmly to the Law’s moral teaching, but against the worshipful Gospel and the plain doctrine of the faith, their tempestuous and salty hearts swelled with rage as the wonderful surges of the sea,[4] as when, for example, he said, “I and the Father are one,”[5] and “Before Abraham was made, I am.”[6]

The subdeacon carries the Gospel book precisely because the law bears witness to Christ, as he said to the Jews: If you did believe Moses, you would believe me also, for he wrote of me.[7] He carries it closed because before the slain Lamb had opened the seven seals, the mystery of his Passion was hidden in the book of the Law.


De antiphona ad introitum

Sacerdote tandem ad sanctum altare ingressuro debet tam ipse sacerdos quam et tota praesens Ecclesia dilatare animam suam et amplo fidei sinu tenere memoriam incarnationis, nativitatis, passionis, resurrectionis et ascensionis Iesu Christi Domini nostri et memoriam omnium sanctorum, qui eum ab initio mundi votis exspectaverunt, gestis praefiguraverunt, dictisque aut scriptis prophetaverunt, et in eorum contemplatione in voces erumpere, praecinendo antiphonam, quae dicitur ad introitum. 

Nam sicut introitus sacerdotis ingressum Filii Dei in hunc mundum, sic antiphona, quae dicitur ad introitum, voces et exspectationem praefert patriarcharum et prophetarum. Ingreditur ergo antiphona praedicta non minus quam semel decantata cum eiusmodi pompa quae significatae rei aptissime congruit. Praecedunt flammantes cereoli, videlicet in signum gaudii, quod in ortu Salvatoris omni mundo effulsit, de quo angelus ad pastores: Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum etc. Praeveniunt sacerdotem ministri duo, non pariter, neque a latere incedentes sed ante subdiaconus, post diaconus. Signant enim hi duo Vetus et Novum Testamentum, id est legem et Evangelium, quorum lex tempore prior, Evangelium vero dignitate maius est. Haec namque duo salutis ministeria Salvator invexit, qui Evangelium quidem attulit, legem vero non solvere, sed adimplere venit

Isti sunt duo pedes angeli, qui, ut supra dictum est: Descendit de caelo amictus nube, et posuit pedem dextrum suum supra mare, sinistrum super terram. Legalis enim moralitas, Ioanne baptista vel ipso Domino docente, tranquillitus audita est. Contra evangelicam vero dignitatem, id est manifestam fidei doctrinam, verbi gratia cum diceret: Ego et Pater unum sumus, et: Antequam Abraham fieret ego sum, veluti mirabiles elationes maris fluxa et salsa corda tumuerunt. 

Subdiaconus quoque praefert textum Evangelii, quia profecto lex testimonia continet Christi, sicut ipse dicit Iudaeis: Si crederetis Moysi, crederetis forsitan et mihi; de me enim ille scripsit. Portat vero clausum quia videlicet antequam Agnus occisus aperuisset signacula septem, clausum erat in libro legis sacramentum eius passionis.


[1] Luke 2:10

[2] Cf. Matthew 5:17

[3] Apocalypse 10:1–2

[4] Psalm 92:4

[5] John 10:30

[6] John 8:58

[7] John 5:46

Rupert of Deutz on the Beginning of the Mass (De divinis officiis 1.17)

In this passage, Rupert of Deutz shows how David instituted Jewish worship to signify the perfect worship that would be offered by his descendant Jesus Christ.

In the proposed order of the daily cursus, we are obliged to draw nigh unto the treasury of the highest sacrament, that is unto the sacristy[1] of the Mass. And if the treasurer of salvation and orderer of charity[2] leads the way, and the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, opens the door, then my soul will rejoice and sing because the king has brought her into the cellar of wine.[3]

For it is the sanctuary of propitiation, that propitiatory upon which two cherubim with facing faces, that is, the two Testaments, gaze upon one another.[4] For what in the Old Testament was promised, prefigured, and hailed from afar, but in the New is given, revealed, and made public, is present here and now, not in shadow but in truth, not in figure but in reality. 

Here is accomplished that in which our David seemed mad to King Achis[5] when he struck the timbrel[6] by hanging on the Cross and stumbled against the doors of the gates of the city, which is to say against the closed hearts of those who did not believe in him; when he was borne in his own hands[7] while holding bread and wine and saying: “This is my body; this is my blood, the new testament”;[8] when his spittle ran down upon his beard, that is, when he seemed utter childish things, saying, “Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you.”[9] He fled therefore, from that people of his,[10] which he now calls “Achis,” which means “How can it be?” because they had said, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?[11] But formerly he called them “Abimelech,” which means “my Father’s kingdom,” and having taken up rule over the true Judæa and the true Israel, now the glorious precentor, clothed in a robe of fine linen and clad with an ephod of linen according to the mystical sense of Paralipomenon,[12] leads the choirs as he sacrifices and leaps[13] before the Lord’s ark of the covenant.[14]  

David feigns madness before King Achis, from the Golden Psalter of St. Gall, 9th century

O King, O Prince of the sacred rites! What does it portend, this mighty leaping of the famous chief as he heads to the tent of God’s ark, offers a holocaust in the ephod, and blesses the people in God’s name, even though, being of the tribe of Judah, he had no share of the priesthood? Yet the Lord put away the tabernacle of Silochose the tribe of Judah, chose his servant David.[15]Behold, the king from the tribe of Judah lusts to take part boldly in the rites he knew were due to his son, his Lord, about whom he said: The Lord hath sworn, and he will not repent: Thou art a priest for ever according to the order of Melchisedech.[16] So behold how he bids the priests, orders the levites to sanctify themselves,[17] establishes the cantors, picks out some to sing the sacred mysteries, to sing for the octave, others to blare trumpets, to sound horns, to strum lyres, cymbals, psalteries, and organs.[18] In all this celebration, he had his Son in mind: Ascending on high, he led captivity captive; he gave gifts to men.[19]

The Lord’s ark, which has sometimes been taken to represent any ecclesiastical ruler, much more appropriately designates the humanity of Christ our Savior, which has a window on its side, that is the wound made by the lance, whence flowed water and blood. Within, it contains manna, that is God’s Word united to itself, and the tables of the testament, for in him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge,[20] and the rod of priestly and royal power. David, therefore, brought the ark of our God into Jerusalem after the destruction of death’s empire,[21] that is, of Saul’s kingdom, and placed it upon the tabernacle of heaven, which he himself pitched.[22]  Beholding the ark, the Church’s choir rouses itself in the days following Easter to follow the example of the older people and sing to her David, singing this responsory:[23] The people sang in Israel, alleluia.[24]

So the whole multitude of Jacob sings as the law prescribes and in the Lord’s house David himself strikes the zither with the cantors. For Israel has learned whatever she sings from this teacher, from this precentor, who struck the zithers of their hearts with God’s fingers. Thus prompted, the heart’s joy erupts exultantly into bodily words and the choirs into a harmony, now grave, now higher and piercing, and since she resounds with one faith, David hears the sweet song of that great body of the Church, spread throughout all peoples, equally, everywhere and all at once, and manifold from all sides, and one.


Iam nunc ad thesaurum summi sacramenti, scilicet ad missae secretarium, accedere quotidiani cursus ordo propositus exposcit. Quod si mihi pervium fecerit thesaurarius salutis atque ordinator caritatis, si aperuerit clavis David, qui aperit et nemo claudit, claudit et nemo aperit, gratulari et cantare licebit animae meae, quod eam rex in cellam vinariam introduxerit.

Hoc enim sacrarium propitiationis est, hoc illud propitiatorium, in quod versis vultibus duo cherubim, id est duo Testamenta, mutuo se aspiciunt. Nam quod in Veteri Testamento promissum, praesignatum et a longe salutatum, in Novo autem datum, revelatum et palam factum est, hic praesentialiter exhibetur, non in umbra sed in veritate, non in figura sed in re. 

Hic illud agitur, in quo noster David insanire videbatur regi Achis, quando tympanizabat pendens in cruce et impingebat ad ostia civitatis, id est ad conclusa corda non credentium sibi, quando ferebatur in manibus suis tenens panem et vinum, et dicens: “Hoc est corpus meum, hic est sanguis meus novum testamentum,” quando defluebant salivae in barbam, id est videbatur loqui infantilia, dicens: “Nisi manducaveritis carnem meam et biberitis meum sanguinem, non habebitis vitam in vobis.” Fugit quippe ab illo populo suo, quem nunc vocat Achis, id est “Quomodo est,” eo quod dixerit: “Quomodo potest hic nobis carnem suam dare ad manducandum?” Vocabat autem eum prius Abimelech, id est “Patris mei regnum,” et accepto regno super verum Iudam verumque Israel, nunc iuxta mysticum sensum Paralipomenon indutus stola byssina, vestitus Ephod lineo praecentor inclytus choros ducit sacrificans et subsilit coram arca foederis Domini.

O regem, o sacrorum principem! Quid sibi vult tantum tam clari capitis tripudium, dum tendit arcae Dei tabernaculum et indutus Ephod offert holocaustum et in nomine Domini benedicit populum, ad quem, cum esset de tribu Iuda, non pertinebat sacerdotium? Sed repulit Dominus tabernaculum Silo et occisis sacerdotibus Silo elegit tribum Iuda, elegit David servum suum. Ecce praegestit rex de tribu Iuda confidenter agere in his, quae deberi sciebat filio suo, Domino suo, in quem haec dicebat: Iuravit Dominus et non paenitebit eum, tu es sacerdos in aeternum secundum ordinem Melchisedech. Ecce imperat sacerdotibus, mandat levitis, ut sanctificentur, cantores constituit, eligit qui cantent arcana, qui canant pro octava, qui clangant tubis, qui personent buccinis, qui concrepent lyris, cymbalis, nablis, organis. In his omnibus ad Filium respicit: Ascendens enim in altum captivam duxit captivitatem, dedit dona hominibus.

Sciendum namque arcam Domini, quae interdum pro quovis rectore ecclesiae accipi consuevit, multo magis convenienter designare humanitatem salvatoris Christi, quae in latere fenestram habet, id est vulnus lanceae, quo fluxerunt aqua et sanguis, intus continens manna, id est unitum sibi Verbum Dei, et tabulas testamenti, quia in ipso sunt omnes thesauri sapientiae et scientiae absconditi, et virgam sacerdotalis et regiae potestatis. Arcam ergo Dei noster David mortis imperio quasi regno Saul destructo deducit in Ierusalem et collocat in tabernaculo caeli, quod ipse tetendit. Quod respiciens ecclesiae chorus diebus proximis sanctae resurrectionis exemplo prioris populi sese excitat ad concinendum suo David, dum hoc responsorium cantat: Decantabat populus in Israel alleluia.

Canit ergo universa multitudo Iacob legitime et ipse David cum cantoribus citharam percutit in domo Domini. Quidquid enim Israel canit, hoc magistro, hoc praecentore, citharas cordium digitis Dei percutiente didicit. Ad hoc concitatus iubilus cordis in voces corporeas chorique concentum nunc graviter, nunc acute aut excellenter erumpit et magni corporis ecclesiae per omnes gentes diffusae, quia una fide resonat, cantus pariter et in simul ubique et undique multiplex et unus ab ipso suaviter auditur. 


[1] The secretarium was a place set aside for magistrates in the Roman basilica. Christians used it as another word to designate the sacristy (sacrarium). Whether sacred or secret, the sacristy was seen as a symbol of Christ’s hidden origin in the Blessed Trinity, from which, like the priest, he came forth into the world.

[2] Cf. Canticle of Canticles 2:4.

[3] Cf. Canticle of Canticles 2:4.

[4] Propitiatorium was another name for the tabernacle. 

[5] 1 Kings 21:13. Rupert follows the version of this passage used by Augustine in Enarrationes in Psalmos 33.2, which differs considerably from the version found in the Vulgate. 

[6] According to Augustine, Enarr. in ps. 149.3 – CC 40, 149.8.8-10 (pg. 2183), the stretched skin of a timbrel signifies crucifixion of the flesh.

[7] Old Latin version

[8]  Mark 14; Matthew 26, Luke 22

[9] John 6:54

[10] David first departs from Abimelech the priest (thus in Psalm 33:1, but in 1 Kings the priest is named Achimelech) and, while fleeing from Saul meets Achis (1 Kings 21:10). He feigns insanity so that Achis will not receive him, and then he flees to the cave of Odollam (1 Kings 22:1).

[11] John 6:53. Jesus is forced to flee from the Jews after this episode. 

[12] 1 Paralipomenon 15:27. Since they performed the Scriptural readings and offices, they clergy were seen to represent Old Testament figures. Here the precentor is styled as David. The precentor was a very important officer in the choir. He was responsible for overseeing the scriptorium, training singers and assigning their parts, writing out and selecting liturgical material, and ruling the choir on certain days.  In the cathedral of Sens, the precentor was actually required to dance each year.

[13] 2 Kings 6:16

[14] Rupert’s claim relates to Augustine’s attempt to explain the titulus of Psalm 33 (“For David, when he changed his countenance before Abimelech [sic, Vulgate Achimelech], who dismissed him, and he went his way.”) In the Book of Kings, it is Achis who dismisses David, but the psalm title changes the name to Abimalech. For Augustine, that is because David’s playing the madman, like his slaying of Goliath, was an allegory for Christ’s crucifixion. The psalm title represents the allegory by calling Achis Abimelech, meaning, according to Augustine, “kingdom of my father,” because the Jews, who were the Father’s kingdom, rejected Christ and his sacraments. (CC 38, 33, pg. 272 – 281).

[15] Psalm 77:60, 68, 70.

[16] Ps 109:4.

[17] 1 Paralipomenon 15:12: Vos, qui estis principes familiarum Leviticarum, sanctificamini cum fratribus vestris.

[18] 1 Paralipomenon 15:28: Universusque Israel deducebant arcam foederis Domini in jubilo, et sonitu buccinae, et tubis, et cymbalis, et nablis, et citharis concrepantes.

[19] Ps 67:19; Eph 4:8

[20] Cf. Heb. 9:4, Col. 2:3.

[21] Cf. 1 Corinthians 15:26

[22] Cf. 2 Kings 6.

[23] 1 Chronicles 15:16

[24] Cantus Index 006400, sung at Matins in the weeks following Easter.