Thursday, March 15, 2012

What Is (Are?) Vigils?

Belive it or not, there's a part of the Liturgy of the Hours that I've never written about. Becuase I don't really use it. And until I started using on my Kindle a year ago, I was hardly even aware of it.
It's called the Office of Vigils. This is not a daily liturgical hour, but rather a once-a-week Sunday office  that is prayed in combination with the Office of Readings on Saturday night. As a key to understanding what Vigils is all about, think about Easter Vigil mass. There's lots of extra readings, right?  The office of Vigils is a set of extra biblical antiphons, canticles, and a gospel reading, which, combined with the Office of Readings, prepares us for the "little Easter" that we experiecne every Sunday of the year.

If you have a four-volume breviary, Vigils appears near the end of the breviary in Appendix One.
The idea is to first do the Office of Readings up to the end of the second reading. Then do Vigils-several canticles with antiphons and a gospel reading--and then conclude with the Te Deum and concluding prayer.

If you use on your mobile device or computer, then Vigils will automatically follow the Office of Readings on Saturday night. I believe this solves my puzzlement over why switches to the next day's prayers after 6pm each day. This is necessary if they want to give us the Office of readings, and Vigils, as, well, the vigil of the following calendar day.

Since it's been my custom to say the Office of Readings before Morning Prayer each day, this Vigils business hasn't worked out for me. But maybe I'll try to work it in for the next few Sundays of lent and see how that goes.

One more bit of trivia: primitive observance orders, such as the Carthusians, pray vigils late at night. If you have the dvd of Into the Great Silence, you can enjoy watching and listening to the monks praying Vigils on the extra features disk. (In Latin chant, with English subtitles.)


  1. Thanks for following up on Vigils. What you said about moving ahead after 6pm makes sense. I think I'll try reading the OOR after the Evening Prayer because I don't really have a lot of time in the morning.
    -Mike Demers

  2. When you read Pius Parsch in "The Breviary Explained," he explains the background. It is to be found in the office of Matins, which had three nocturns, said at different times throughout the night. When you watch the Carthusians, they are following the same customs they followed with the old Office of Matins. The background in the Office of Matins explains why the Office of Vigils is tied in the LOTH to the Office of Readings. The Office of Vespers is also tied into this and this is why in the Roman Breviary and LOTH you have on Saturday night First Vespers of Sunday, with the collect being that of the Sunday, in effect, being a vigil of sorts.

    1. That's a good point about the "Sunday I" of EF and NP. I don't have the Parsch book, but will have to start looking for it.

  3. Daria,

    Parsch is very pleasant to read, and his love of the Breviary comes through even in translation. Another good work of his that shows the interrelationship between the missal and the breviary (EF, of course) is "The Church's Year of Grace," Liturgical Press 1953-1964. It is also beautifully illustrated with Beuronese art for the volumes on Lent and Easter. This is an incredible book, and I have never found anything that ties the missal and breviary so well together.