An interesting discussion has developed over at Fr. Z’s site about the various Latin translations of the Psalms that have been used by the Catholic Church. In particular, the discussion focused on the translation of Pope Pius XII which was promulgated in the late 1940s and that the Vulgate, which was used before. The following are my own personal observations:
First of all, I would like to preface all of my comments by saying that my knowledge of Latin is good enough for me to get the gist of things. I had roughly two and a half years of Latin in high school and college. It was enough for me to be getting on with at the time. Since praying the Divine Office, however, I have realized how awfully deficient my Latin is. Therefore, I will try and use my time to learn enough so that I can read it. I am using Fr. Clarus Graves’s Latin course books. Anyone remember those.
One of the things that I have always loved about the Vulgate is its poetry. The Pope Pius XII Psalter may be closer in terms of meaning because it was translated from Greek and Hebrew sources, but I consider the Vulgate to be much better because of the beauty of the language. Of course, this is not the Vulgate that St. Jerome used. According to Fr. Z., the Vulgate underwent several changes. The one that is to be found in most breviaries prior to Vatican II is called the Sixto-Clementine after the Popes under whose reign the translations and revisions took place.
Interestingly enough, different Orders have used different breviaries for centuries. Among the oldest is the Benedictine Rite with its beautiful Matins and Lauds service. It lasts about an hour and a half if recited in solitude. It is a time for meditation and thanksgiving to God for being safely delivered from evil during the night and to ask God’s blessing for the coming day.
The Dominicans have had their own breviary as well. I would quite go so far as to say that it is as distinctive as the Benedictines, but it is also extremely beautiful. The Salve Regina is sung during Compline and there are numerous feast days and devotions that are special to the Dominicans.
Interestingly enough, the Discalced Carmelites of St. Teresa of Avila (OCD) never had their own distinctive breviary like the Benedictines. They simply used the texts of the Breviarium Romanum that had been approved in Rome with additional feast days added. However, the Order of Carmelites (OC) who were not reformed did and still do use their own breviaries. These are vastly different from the Breviarium Romanum and different copies do appear at auction on ebay from time to time.
Another interesting thing about the Roman Breviary is that it can be shortened for priests, monks, and nuns who do not pray Matins. This is the reason for the proliferation of breviaries called “Horae Diurnae” (Day Hours). These book of the Divine Office included everything except Matins, which is the longest service in the liturgical day.
I would like to also say that I have been interested in breviaries for quite sometime. My own collection is not large or extensive, but it does include the following:
Breviarium Monasticum (2 vols., 1930; Benedictine)
Horae Diurnae Breviarii Monastici (1 vol., 1924; Benedictine)
Horae Diurnae Breviarii Romani (1 vol., 1948)
A Short Breviary (1 vol., 1955)
Anyway, I hope this is of interest to some of you!
Our Lady of the Angels, pray for us!
St. Jerome, pray for us!