The Divine Office in the Latin Middle Ages: Methodology and Source Studies, Regional Developments, Hagiography

The Divine Office in the Latin Middle Ages: Methodology and Source Studies, Regional Developments, Hagiography

The Divine Office in the Latin Middle Ages: Methodology and Source Studies, Regional Developments, Hagiography

The Divine Office in the Latin Middle Ages: Methodology and Source Studies, Regional Developments, Hagiography

Synopsis

The Divine Office--or, the cycle of daily worship services other than the Mass--constitutes the most important body of liturgical texts and music for medieval studies. It is a collection of spiritual works that is central to the culture of the Middle Ages. This volume addresses the Office from a variety of points of view, allowing the reader to grasp the current state of research and to make connections.

Excerpt

Having catalogued the several hours of the Divine Office, supplying scriptural justifications for each of them, Basil the Great spoke of the importance of rendering daily praise at set times throughout the day:

Not one of these times is to be overlooked by those who have earnestly dedicated their lives to the glory of God and Christ himself. Moreover I think it useful to have diversity and variety in the prayer and psalmody at these appointed times, because somehow the soul is frequently bored and distracted by routine, which by change and variety of the psalmody and prayer at each hour its desire is renewed and its concentration restored. (MECL, 68)

The quotation begins with the warning that "not one of these times is to be overlooked," and they were not: for over one thousand years every monk, nun, canon, or friar in the Christian West sang some form of the hours of daily prayer; through books of hours and other devotional materials, the Office was brought to the laity in later centuries as well. To be "a religious" meant, first and foremost, to be a person who joined in formal and set communal prayer, the opus dei, which was at the heart of the monastic vocation and incumbent upon clerics as well. The fear of boredom Basil mentions was an ever-present problem for those who prayed the Office: medievals not only were attentive to the psalmody that is basic communal Christian prayer, they embroidered it with thousands upon thousands of new texts and chants, not only in the Carolingian period, but long after. All these readings, prayers, chants, and chant texts were preserved in codices from the tenth century onward, making the production of Office books a major activity of scriptoria throughout the Middle Ages, and often calling upon the creativity of illuminators and calligraphers as well, for the books ranged from the rude to the deluxe. The Office was not only central to medieval modes of religious life, it was also a subject of perpetual and powerful influence upon exegetes and theologians, who were familiar with the Bible through the ways of organizing and presenting Scripture and . . .

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