Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

The liturgy and Rite of the Church of Milan, which derives its name from St. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan (374-397).

I. HISTORY

There is no direct evidence that the Rite was in any way the composition of St. Ambrose, but his name has been associated with it since the eighth century at least, and it is not improbable that in his day it took not indeed a final form, for it has been subject to various revisions from time to time, but a form which included the principal characteristics which distinguish it from other rites. It is to be remembered that St. Ambrose succeeded the Arian Auxentius, during whose long episcopate, 355 to 374, it would seem probable that Arian modifications may have been introduced, though on that point we have no information, into a rite the period of whose original composition is unknown. If, as would necessarily happen, St. Ambrose expunged these hypothetical unorthodoxies and issued corrected service books, this alone would suffice to attach his name to it. We know from St. Augustine (Confess., IX, vii) and Paulinus the Deacon (Vita S. Ambros., § 13) that St. Ambrose introduced innovations, not indeed into the Mass, but into what would seem to be the Divine Office, at the time of his contest with the Empress Justina for the Portian Basilica (on the site of San Vittore al Corpo), which she claimed for the Arians. St. Ambrose filled the church with Catholics and kept them there night and day until the peril was past. And he arranged Psalms and hymns for them to sing, as St. Augustine says, "secundum morem orientalium partium ne populus mæroris tædio contabesceret" (after the manner of the Orientals, lest the people should languish in cheerless monotony); and of this Paulinus the Deacon says: "Hoc in tempore primum antiphonæ, hymni. et vigiliæ in ecclesiâ Mediolanensi celebrari cœperunt, Cujus celebritatis devotio usque in hodiernum diem non solum in eadem ecclesia verum per omnes pæne Occidentis provincias manet" (Now for the first time antiphons, hymns, and vigils began to be part of the observance of the Church in Milan, which devout observance lasts to our day not only in that church but in nearly every province of the West). From the time of St. Ambrose, whose hymns are well-known and whose liturgical allusions may certainly be explained as referring to a rite which possessed the characteristics of that which is called by his name, until the period of Charlemagne, there is something of a gap in the history of the Milanese Rite, though it is said (Cantù, Milano e il suo territorio, I, 116) that St. Simplician, the successor of St. Ambrose , added much to the Rite and that St. Lazarus (438-451) introduced the three days of the Litanies. The Church of Milan underwent various vicissitudes and for a period of some eighty years (570-649), during the Lombard conquests, the see was actually removed to Genoa. Mgr. Duchesne and M. Lejay suggest that it was during that time that the greatest Roman influence was felt, and they would trace to it the adoption of the Roman Canon of the Mass. In the eighth-century manuscript evidence begins. In a short treatise on the various cursus or forms of the Divine Office used in the Church, entitled "Ratio de Cursus qui fuerunt ex auctores" ( sic in Cott. Manuscripts, Nero A. II, in the British Museum), written about the middle of the eighth century, probably by an Irish monk in France, is found what is perhaps the earliest attribution of the Milan use to St. Ambrose, though it quotes the authority of St. Augustine, probably alluding to the passage already mentioned: "Est et alius cursus quem refert beatus augustinus episcopus quod beatus ambrosius propter hereticorum ordinem dissimilem composuit quem in italia antea de cantabatur" (There is yet another Cursus which the blessed Bishop Augustine says that the blessed Ambrose composed because of the existence of a different use of the heretics, which previously used to be sung in Italy ). The passage is quite ungrammatical but so is the whole treatise, though its meaning is not obscure. According to a not very convincing narrative of Landulphus Senior, the eleventh-century chronicler of Milan, Charlemagne attempted to abolish the Ambrosian Rite, as he or his father, Pepin the Short, had abolished the Gallican Rite in France, in favour of a Gallicanized Roman Rite. He sent to Milan and caused to be destroyed or sent beyond the mountain, quasi in exilium (as if into exile), all the Ambrosian books which could be found. Eugenius the Bishop, transmontanus episcopus (transmontane bishop ), as Landulf calls him, begged him to reconsider his decision. After the manner of the time, an ordeal, which reminds one of the celebrated trials by fire and by battle in the case of Alfonso VI and the Mozarabic Rite , was determined on. Two books, Ambrosian and Roman, were laid closed upon the altar of St. Peter's Church in Rome and left for three days, and the one which was found open was to win. They were both found open, and it was resolved that as God had shown that one was as acceptable as the other, the Ambrosian Rite should continue. But the destruction had been so far effective that no Ambrosian books could be found, save one missal which a faithful priest had hidden for six weeks in a cave in the mountains. Therefore the Manuale was written out from memory by certain priests and clerks (Landulph, Chron., 10-13). Walafridus Strabo, who died Abbot of Reichenau in 849, and must therefore have been nearly, if not quite, contemporary with this incident, says nothing about it, but (De Rebus Ecclesiasticis, xxii), speaking of various forms of the Mass, says: "Ambrosius quoque Mediolanensis episcopus tam missæ quam cæterorum dispositionem officiorum suæ ecclesiæ et aliis Liguribus ordinavit, quæ et usque hodie in Mediolanensi tenentur ecclesia" (Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, also arranged a ceremonial for the Mass and other offices for his own church and for other parts of Liguria, which is still observed in the Milanese Church ).

In the eleventh century Pope Nicholas II , who in 1060 had tried to abolish the Mozarabic Rite, wished also to attack the Ambrosian, and was aided by St. Peter Damian, but he was unsuccessful, and Alexander II, his successor, himself a Milanese, reversed his policy in this respect. St. Gregory VII made another attempt, and Le Brun (Explication de la Messe, III, art. I, § 8) conjectures that Landulf's miraculous narrative was written with a purpose about that time.

Having weathered these storms, the Ambrosian Rite had peace for some three centuries and a half. In the first half of the fifteenth century Cardinal Branda da Castiglione, who died in 1448, was legate in Milan. As part of his plan for reconciling Philip Mary Visconti, Duke of Milan, and the Holy See, he endeavoured to substitute the Roman Rite for the Ambrosian. The result was a serious riot, and the Cardinal's legateship came to an abrupt end.

After that the Ambrosian Rite was safe until the Council of Trent. The Rule of that Council, that local uses which could show a prescription of two centuries might be retained, saved Milan, not without a struggle, from the toss of its Rite, and St. Charles Borromeo, though he made some alterations in a Roman direction, was most careful not to destroy its characteristics. A small attempt made against it by a Governor of Milan who had obtained a permission from the Pope to have the Roman Mass said in any church which he might happen to attend, was defeated by St. Charles, and his own revisions were intended to do little more than was inevitable in a living rite.

Since his time the temper of the Milan Church has been most conservative, and the only alterations in subsequent editions seem to have been slight improvements in the wording of rubrics and in the arrangement of the books. The district in which the Ambrosian Rite is used is nominally the old archiepiscopal province of Milan before the changes of 1515 and 1819, but in actual fact it is not exclusively used even in the city of Milan itself. In parts of the Swiss Canton of Ticino it is used; in other parts the Roman Rite is so much preferred that it is said that when Cardinal Gaisruck tried to force the Ambrosian upon them the inhabitants declared that they would be either Roman or Lutheran.

There are traces also of the use of the Ambrosian Rite beyond the limits of the Province of Milan. In 1132-34, two Augustinian canons of Ratisbon, Paul, said by Bäumer to be Paul of Bernried, and Gebehard, held a correspondence (printed by Mabillon in his "Musæum Italicum" from the originals in the Cathedral Library at Milan) with Anselm, Archbishop of Milan, and Martin, treasurer of St. Ambrose, with a view of obtaining copies of the books of the Ambrosian Rite, so that they might introduce it into their church. In the fourteenth century the Emperor Charles IV introduced the Rite into the Church of St. Ambrose at Prague. Traces of it, mixed with the Roman, are said by Hoeyinck (Geschichte der kirchl. Liturgie des Bisthums Augsburg) to have remained in the diocese of Augsburg down to its last breviary of 1584, and according to Catena (Cantù, Milano e il suo territorio, 118) the use of Capua in the time of St. Charles Borromeo had some resemblance to that of Milan.

II. ORIGIN

The origin of the Ambrosian Rite is still under discussion, and at least two conflicting theories are held by Leading liturgiologists. The decision is not made any the easier by the absence of any direct evidence as to the nature of the Rite before about the ninth century. There are, it is true, allusions to various services of the Milanese Church in the writings of St. Augustine and St. Ambrose , and in the anonymous treatise "De Sacramentis", which used to be attributed to the latter, but is now definitely decided not to be his; but these allusions are naturally enough insufficient for more than vague conjecture, and have been used with perhaps equal justification in support of either side of the controversy. Even if the rather improbable story of Landulf is not to be believed, the existing manuscripts, which only take us back at the earliest to the period of Charlemagne, leave the question of his influence open. This much we may confidently affirm, that though both the Missal and the Breviary have been subjected from time to time to various modifications, often, as might be expected, in a Roman direction, the changes are singularly few and unimportant, and the Ambrosian Rite of today is substantially the same as that represented in the early Manuscripts. Indeed, since some of these documents come from places in the Alpine valleys, such as Biasca, Lodrino, Venegono. and elsewhere, while the modern rite is that of the metropolitan cathedral and the churches of the city of Milan, some proportion of the differences may well turn out to be local rather than chronological developments. The arguments of the two principal theories are necessarily derived in a great measure from the internal evidence of the books themselves, and at present the end of the controversy is not in sight. The question resolves itself into this: Is the Ambrosian Rite archaic Roman? Or is it a much Romanized form of the Gallican Rite ? And this question is mixed with that of the provenance of the Gallican Rite itself. Some liturgiologists of a past generation, notably Dr. J. M. Neale and others of the Anglican School, referred the Hispano-Gallican and Celtic family of liturgies to an original imported into Provence from Ephesus by St. Irenæus, who had received it through St. Polycarp from St. John the Divine. The name Ephesine was applied to this liturgy, and it was sometimes called the Liturgy of St. John. The idea was not modern. Colman, at the Synod of Whitby in 664, attributed the Celtic rule of Easter to St. John, and in the curious little eighth-century treatise already mentioned (in Cott. Manuscript Nero A. II) one finds: "Johannes Evangelista primum cursus gallorum decantavit. Inde postea beatus policarpus discipulus sci iohannis. Inde postea hiereneus qui fuit eps Lugdunensis Gallei. Tertius ipse ipsum cursum decantauerunt [ sic ] in galleis." The author is not speaking of the Liturgy, but of the Divine Office, but that does not affect the question, and the theory, which had its obvious controversial value, was at one time very popular with Anglicans. Neale considered that the Ambrosian Rite was a Romanized form of this Hispano-Gallican, or Ephesine, Rite, He never brought much evidence for this view, being generally contented with stating it and giving a certain number of not very convincing comparisons with the Mozarabic Rite (Essays on Liturgiology, ed. 1867, 171-197). But Neale greatly exaggerated the Romanizing effected by St. Charles Borromeo, and his essay on the Ambrosian Liturgy is now somewhat out of date, though much of it is of great value as an analysis of the existing Rite. W. C. Bishop, in his article on the Ambrosian Breviary (Church Q., Oct., 1886), takes up the same line as Neale in claiming a Gallican origin for the Ambrosian Divine Office. But Duchesne in his "Origines du culte chrétien" has put forward a theory of origin which works out very clearly, though at present it is almost all founded on conjecture and a priori reasoning. He rejects entirely the Ephesine supposition, and considers that the Orientalisms which he recognizes in the Hispano-Gallican Rite are of much later origin than the period of St. Irenæus, and that it was from Milan as a centre that a rite, imported or modified from the East, perhaps by the Cappadocian Arian Bishop Auxentius (355-374), the predecessor of St. Ambrose, gradually spread to Gaul, Spain, and Britain. He lays great stress on the important position of Milan as a northern metropolis, and on the intercourse with the East by way of Aquileia and Illyria, as well as on the eastern nationality of many of the Bishops of Milan. In his analysis of the Gallican Mass, Duchesne assumes that the seventh-century Bobbia Sacramentary (Bibl. Nat., 13,246), though not actually Milanese, is to be counted as a guide to early Ambrosian usages, and makes use of it in the reconstruction of the primitive Rite before, according to his theory, it was so extensively Romanized as it appears in the earliest undeniably Ambrosian documents. He also appears to assume that the usages mentioned in the Letter of St. Innocent I to Decentius of Eugubium as differing from those of Rome were necessarily common to Milan and Gubbio. Paul Lejay has adopted this theory in his article in the "Revue d'histoire et littérature religeuses" (II, 173) and in Dom Cabrol's Dictionnaire d'archéologie chrétienne et de liturgie" [s. v. Ambrosien (Rit)].

The other theory, of which Ceriani and Magistretti are the most distinguished exponents, maintains that the Ambrosian Rite has preserved the pre-Gelasian and pre-Gregorian form of the Roman Rite. I)r. Ceriani (Notitia Liturgiæ Ambrosianæ) supports his contention by many references to early writers and by comparisons of early forms of the Roman Ordinary with the Ambrosian. Both sides admit, of course, the self-evident fact that the Canon in the present Ambrosian Mass is a variety of the Roman Canon. Neither has explained satisfactorily how and when it got there. The borrowings from the Greek service books have been ably discussed by Cagin (Paléographie musicale, V), but there are Greek loans in the Roman books also, though, if Duchesne's theory of origin is correct, some of them may have travelled by way of the Milanese-Gallican Rite at the time of the Charlemagne revision. There are evident Gallicanisms in the Ambrosian Rite, but so there are in the present Roman, and the main outlines of the process by which they arrived in the latter are sufficiently certain, though the dates are not. The presence of a very definite Post-Sanctus of undoubted Hispano-Gallican form in the Ambrosian Mass of Easter Eve requires more explanation than it has received, and the whole question of provenance is further complicated by a theory, into which Ceriani does not enter, of a Roman origin of all the Latin liturgies, Gallican, Celtic, Mozarabic, and Ambrosian alike. There are indications in his liturgical note to the "Book of Cerne" and in "The Genius of the Roman Rite " that Mr. Edmund Bishop, who, as far as he has spoken at all, prefers the conclusions, though not so much the arguments, of Ceriani to either the arguments or conclusions of Duchesne, may eventually have something to say which will put the subject on a more solid basis.

III. EARLY MANUSCRIPTS

The early Manuscripts of the Ambrosian Rite are generally found in the following forms:

  • (1) The "Sacramentary" contains the Orationes super Populum , Prophecies, Epistles, Gospels, Orationes super Sindonem , and super Oblata , the Prefaces and Post-Communions throughout the year, with the variable forms of the Communicantes and Hanc igitur , when they occur, and the solitary Post Sanctus of Easter Eve, besides the ceremonies of Holy Week, etc., and the Ordinary and Canon of the Mass. There are often also occasional offices usually found in a modern ritual, such as Baptism, the Visitation and Unction of the Sick, the Burial of the Dead, and various benedictions. It is essentially a priest's book, like the Euchologion of the Greeks.
  • (2) The "Psalter" contains the Psalms and Canticles. It is sometimes included with the "Manual".
  • (3) The "Manual" is nearly the complement of the "Sacramentary" and the "Psalter" as regards both the Mass and the Divine Office. It contains: For the Divine Office ; the Lucernaria , Antiphons, Responsoria, Psallenda, Completoria, Capitula, Hymns, and other changeable parts, except the Lessons, which are found separately. For the Mass: the Ingressœ, Psalmellœ, Versus, Cantus, Antiphonœ ante and post Evangelium, Offertoria, Confractoria, and Transitoria . The "Manual" often also contains occasional services such as are now usually found in a Ritual.
  • (4) The "Antiphoner" is a Manual noted.
  • (5) The "Ritual" and
  • (6) "Pontifical" have contents similar to those of Roman books of the same name, though of course the early Manuscripts are less ample.

The following are some of the most noted Manuscripts of the rite.

  • (1) Sacramentaries and Missals :
    • (a) The "Biasca Sacramentary"; Bibl. Ambros., A. 24, bis inf., late ninth or early tenth century. Described by Delisle, "Anc. Sacr.", LXXI, edited by Ceriani in his "Monumenta Sacra et Profana", VIII, the Ordinary is analyzed and the Canon given in full in Ceriani's "Notitia Lit. Ambr".
    • (b) The "Lodrino Sacramentary"; Bibl. Ambr., A. 24, inf., eleventh century. Delisle, "Anc. Sacr.", LXXII.
    • (c) The "Sacramentary of San Satiro", Milan ; treasury of Milan Cathedral ; eleventh century. Delisle, "Anc. Sacr.", LXXIII.
    • (d) Sacramentary; treasury of Milan Cathedral ; eleventh century. Delisle, "Anc. Sacr.", LXXIV.
    • (e) The "Sacramentary of Armio", near the Lago Maggiore; treasury of Milan Cathedral ; eleventh century. Delisle, 'Anc. Sacr.", LXXV.
    • (f) Sacramentary belonging to the Marchese Trotti; eleventh century. Delisle, "Anc. Sacr.", LXXVI.
    • (g) Sacramentary; Bibl. Ambros., CXX, sup., eleventh century. Delisle, "Anc. Sacr.", LXXVII.
    • (h) The "Bergamo Sacramentary"; library of Sant' Alessandro in Colonna, Bergamo ; tenth or eleventh century. Published by the Benedictines of Solesmes, "Auctarium Solesmense" (to Migne's Patrologia), "Series Liturgica", I.
    • (i) Sacramentary; treasury of Monza Cathedral ; tenth century. Delisle, "Anc. Sacr.", LXV.
    • (j) "Sacramentary of San Michele di Venegono inferiore" (near Varese); treasury of Monza Cathedral ; eleventh century. Delisle, "Anc. Sacr.", LXVIII. These two of Monza Cathedral are more fully described in Frisi's "Memorie storiche di Monza", III,75-77, 82-84.
    • (k) "Missale Ambrosianum", of Bedero (near Luino); Bibl. Ambr., D., 87 inf.; twelfth century. Noted by Magistretti in "Della nuova edizione tipica del messale Ambrosiano".
  • (2) Antiphoner: "Antiphonarium Ambrosianum"; British Museum, Add. Manuscripts, 34,209; twelfth century; published by the Benedictines of Solesmes, with a complete facsimile and 200 pages of introduction by Dom Paul Cagin, in "Paléographie musicale", V,VI.
  • (3) Manuals:
    • (a) "Manual of Lodrino;" Bibl. Ambr., SH. IV, 44; tenth or eleventh century. Imperfect. Described by Magistretti, "Mon. Vet. Lit. Amb.", II, 18.
    • (b) "Manuale Ambrosianum" belonging to the Marchese Trotti; tenth or eleventh century. Imperfect. Magistretti, "Mon. Vet. Lit. Amb.", II, 19.
    • (c) "Manuale Ambrosianum"; Bibl. Ambr., CIII, sup.; tenth or eleventh century. Imperfect. Magistretti, "Mon. Vet. Lit. Amb.", II, 20.
    • (d) "Manuale Ambrosianum"; from the Church of Cernusco (between Monza and Lecco); Bibl. Ambr., I, 55, sup.; eleventh century. Magistretti, "Mon. Vet. Lit. Amb.", II, 28.
    • (e) "Manuale Ambrosianum"; from the Church of San Vittore al Teatro, Milan ; Bibl. Ambr., A, 1, inf.; twelfth century. Magistretti, "Mon. Vet. Lit. Amb.", II, 22.
    • (f) "Manuale Ambrosianum"; from the Church of Brivio (near the Lecco end of the Lake of Como ); Bibl. Ambr., I, 27, sup.; twelfth century. Magistretti, "Mon. Vet. Lit. Amb.", II, 30.
  • (4) Rituals:
    • (a) "Liber Monachorum S. Ambrosii"; Bibl. Ambr., XCVI, sup.; eleventh century. Magistretti, "Mon. Vet. Lit. Amb.", II, 33, 79-93.
    • (b) "Rituale Ambrosianum", from the Church of S. Laurentiolus in Porta Vercellina, Milan ; Sacrar. Metrop., H. 62; thirteenth century. Magistretti, "Mon. Vet. Lit. Amb.", II, 37, 143-171.
    • (c) Beroldus Novus"; Chapter Library, Milan ; thirteenth century. Magistretti, "Mon. Vet. Lit. Amb.", 17, 94-142.
    • (d) "Asti Ritual "; Bibl, Mazarine, 525; tenth century. Described by Gastoué in "Rassegna Gregoriana", 1903. This, though from the old province of Milan, is not Ambrosian, but has bearings on the subject.
  • (5) Ceremonial : "Calendarium et Ordines Ecclesiæ Ambrosianæ"; Beroldus; Bibl, Ambr., I, 158, inf. twelfth century. Published by Magistretti, 1894.
  • (6) Pontificals:
    • (a) "Pontificale Mediolanensis Ecclesiæ"; Chapter Library, Milan ; ninth century. Printed by Magistretti, "Mon. Vet. Lit. Amb.", I
    • (b) "Pontificale Mediolanensis Ecclesiæ"; Chapter Library, Milan ; eleventh century. Magistretti, "Mon. Vet. Lit. Amb.", 1, 27.
    • (c) "Ordo Ambrosianus ad Consecrandam Ecclesiam et Altare;" Chapter Library, Lucca ; eleventh century. Printed by Mercati, "Studi e testi" (of the Vatican Library ), 7.

Some editions of the printed Ambrosian service-books: Missals: (Pre-Borromean) 1475, 1482, 1486, 1488, 1494, 1499, 1505, 1515, 1522, 1548, 1560; ( St. Charles Borromeo ) 1594; ( F. Borromeo ) 1609-18; (Monti) 1640; (Litta) 1669; (Fed. Visconti) 1692; (Archinti) 1712; (Pozzobonelli) 1751, 1768; (Fil. Visconti) 1795; ( Gaisruck) 1831; (Ferrari) 1902. Breviaries: (Pre-Borromean) 1475, 1487, 1490, 1492, 1507, 1513, 1522, and many others; ( St. Charles Borromeo ), 1582, 1588; (Pozzobonelli) 1760; ( Galsruck) 1841; (Romilli) 1857; (Ferrari) 1896, 1902. Rituals : n. d. circ., 1475 (a copy in Bodlwian), 1645, 1736, 1885. Psalters: 1486, 1555. Ceremonials: 1619, 1831. Lectionary: 1660? Litanies: 1494, 1546, 1667. The editions of the Missals, 1475, 1751, and 1902; of the Breviaries, 1582 and 1902; of the Ritual, 1645; both the Psalters, both the Ceremonials, the Lectionary, and Litanies are in the British Museum.

IV. THE LITURGICAL YEAR

The Liturgical Year of the Ambrosian Rite begins, as elsewhere in the West, with the First Sunday of Advent, but that Sunday, as in the Mozarabic Rite, is a fortnight earlier than in the Roman, so that there are six Sundays in Advent, and the key-day of the beginning of Advent is not St. Andrew's (30 November) but St. Martin's Day (11 November), which begins the Sanctorale . The rule of this key also differs. The Roman is: "Adventus Domini celebratur semper die Dominico, qui propinquior est festo S. Andreæ Apostoli", which gives a range from 27 November to 3 December. The Ambrosian is: "Adventus Domini inchoatur Dominica proxima post Festum S. Martini", that is to say, from 12 November to 18 November. If, as in 1906, St. Martin's Day falls on a Sunday, the Octave is the first Sunday of Advent ; whereas in the Roman Rite if St. Andrew's Day falls on a Sunday, that day itself is Advent Sunday. The Feriœ of Advent continue until the Feriœ de Exceptato begin. These days, which some say must have been originally de Expectato , a quite unnecessary supposition, and on which the ordinary sequence of the Psalter is interrupted and certain proper psalms and antiphons are said, occur according to the following rule: "Officium in Adventu proprium quod de Exceptato dicitur semper celebratur in hac hebd. VI Adv. nisi dies Nativitatis Domini inciderit in fer. III, vel IV; tunc de Exceptato fit in hebd. V Adv. "So that there must be two and there may be seven of these days. Christmas Eve is not exactly counted as one of them, though, if it falls on a weekday, it has the proper psalms and antiphons of that Feria de Exceptato . If it falls on a Sunday, as in 1905, that is not one of the six Sundays of Advent, the last of which is the Sunday before, but the antiphons of the sixth Sunday are used. On the sixth Sunday of Advent the Annunciation ( de Incarnatione D. N. J. C. ) is celebrated, for, since no fixed festivals are kept during Lent or Easter Week, it cannot be properly celebrated on 25 March, though it is found there in the Calendar and has an Office in the Breviary. On this Sunday there are two Masses, una de Adventu et altera de Incarnatione . This day may be compared with the Mozarabic feast of the Annunciation on 18 December, which is the Roman Expectatio Partus B. M. V. Christmas Day has three Masses, in Nocte Sanctâ, in Aurorâ, and in Die , as in the Roman Rite, and the festivals which follow Christmas are included in the De Tempore , though there is a slight discrepancy between the Missal and Breviary, the former putting the lesser feasts of January which come before the Epiphany in the Sanctorale , and the latter including all days up to the Octave of the Epiphany in the Temporale , except 9 January (The Forty Martyrs ). The day after the Epiphany is the Christophoria , the Return from Egypt. The Sundays after the Epiphany vary, of course, in number, six being, as in the Roman Rite, the maximum. The second is the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus . Then follow Septuagesima, Sexagesima, and Quinquagesima Sundays, on which, though Gloria in Excelsis and Hallelujah are used, the vestments are violet. There is no Ash Wednesday, and Lent begins liturgically on the first Sunday, the fast beginning on the Monday. Until the time of St. Charles Borromeo the liturgical Lent, with its use of litanies on Sundays instead of Gloria in Excelsis and the disuse of Hallelujah , began on the Monday. The title of the Sunday, both then and now, was and is Dominica in capite Quadragesimœ . The other Sundays of Lent are styled De Samaritanâ, De Abraham, De Cœco, De Lazaro, and of course, in Ramis Palmarum (or Dominica Olivarum ). The names of the second to the fifth Sundays are in allusion to the subject of the Gospel of the day, not, as in the Roman Rite, to the Introit. (Cf. nomenclature of Greek Rite.) Passiontide does not begin until Holy Week. The day before Palm Sunday is Sabbatum in Traditione Symboli . This, the Blessing of the Font, the extra Masses pro Baptizatis in Ecclesiâ Hyemali on Easter Eve and every day of Easter Week, and the name of the first Sunday after Easter in albis depositis show even more of a lingering memory of the old Easter Baptisms than the similar survivals in the Roman Rite. Holy Week is Hebdomada Anthentica . Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Eve, and Easter Day are named as in the Roman Rite. The five Sundays after Easter, Ascension, Pentecost, Trinity Sunday, and Corpus Christi follow, as in the Roman Rite, but the Triduum Litaniarum (Rogations) comes on the Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday after, instead of before, Ascension Day. The Sundays after Pentecost continue eo nomine until the Decollation of St. John (29 August). There may be as many as fifteen of them. Then follow either four or five Sundays post Decollationem S. Joannis Baptistœ , then three Sundays of October, the third of which is Dedicatio Ecclesiœ Majoris . The rest of the Sundays until Advent are post Dedicationem .

The Calendar of the Saints calls for little notice. There are many local saints, and several feasts which are given in the Roman Calendar in late February, March, and early April are given on other days, because of the rule against feasts in Lent. Only St. Joseph and the Annunciation come in the Lenten part of the Calendar, but the Masses of these are given on 12 December and the sixth Sunday of Advent respectively. The days are classified as follows:

(1) Solemnitates Domini

First Class: the Annunciation, Christmas Day, Epiphany, Easter Day with its Monday and Tuesday, Ascension Day, Pentecost, with its Monday and Tuesday, Corpus Domini, the Dedication of the Cathedral or of the local church, Solemnitas Domini titularis propriœ Ecclesiœ . First class, secondary: the Feast of the Sacred Heart. Second class: the Visitation, Circumcision, Purification, Transfiguration, Invention of the Cross, Trinity Sunday. Second class, secondary: the Name of Jesus, the Holy Family, the Exaltation of the Cross. The Octaves of Christmas, Epiphany, Easter Day, Pentecost and Corpus Domini also count as Solemnitates Domini .

(2) Sundays (3) Solemnia B. M. V. et Sanctorum

First class: the Immaculate Conception, Assumption, Nativity of St. John Baptist, St. Joseph, Sts. Peter and Paul, All Saints, the Ordination of St. Ambrose, and the Patron of the local church. Second class: other feasts of Our Lady , St. Michael and the Archangels, and the Guardian Angels , Decollation of St. John, Feasts of Apostles and Evangelists, St. Anne, St. Charles Borromeo , the Holy Innocents , St. Joachim , St. Laurence, St. Martin, Sts. Nazarius and Celsus, Sts. Protasius and Gervasius, St. Stephen, St. Thomas of Canterbury. Second class, secondary: the two Chairs of St. Peter, the Conversion of St. Paul.

(4) Solemnia Majora:

St. Agatha, St. Agnes, St. Anthony , St. Apollinaris, St. Benedict, St. Dominic, the Translations of Sts. Ambrose, Protasius, and Gervasius, St. Francis, St. Mary Magdalene, Sts. Nabor and Felix, St. Sebastian, St. Victor, St. Vincent.

(5) Alia Solemnia

Alia Solemnia are days noted as such in the Calendar, and the days of saints whose bodies or important relics are preserved in any particular church become Solemnia for that church.

(6) Non-Solemnia Privilegiata (7) Non-Solemnia Simplicia

Feasts are also grouped into four classes: First class of Solemnitates Domini and Solemnia; second class of the same; greater and ordinary Solemnia; non-Solemnia , divided into privilegiata and simplicia . Solemnia have two vespers, non-Solemnia only one, the first. The privilegiata have certain propria and the simplicia only the communia . The general principle of occurrences is that common to the whole Western Church . If two festivals fall on the same day, the lesser is either transferred, merely commemorated, or omitted. But the Ambrosian Rite differs materially from the Roman in the rank given to Sunday, which is only superseded by a Solemnitas Domini , and not always then, for if the Name of Jesus or the Purification falls on Septuagesima, Sexagesima, or Quinquagesima Sunday, it is transferred, though the distribution and procession of candles takes place on the Sunday on which the Purification actually falls. If a Solemne Sanctorum or a privileged non-Solemne falls on a Sunday, a Solemnitas Domini , the Friday or Saturday of the fourth or fifth week of Advent, a Feria de Exceptato , within an Octave of a great Feast, a Feria Litaniarum , or a Feria of Lent, the whole office is of the Sunday, Solemnitas Domini , etc., and the Solemne or non-Solemne privilegiatum is transferred, in most cases to the next clear day, but in the case of Solemnia of the first or second class to the next Feria, quocumque festo etiam solemni impedita . A simple non-Solemne is never transferred, but it is omitted altogether if a Solemne of the first class falls on the same day, and in other cases of occurrences it is commemorated, though of course it supersedes an ordinary Feria . The concurrences of the first Vespers of one feast with the second of another are arranged on much the same principle, the chief peculiarity being that if a Solemne Sanctorum falls on a Monday its first Vespers is kept not on the Sunday, but on the preceding Saturday, except in Advent, when this rule applies only to Solemnia of the first and second class, and other Solemnia are only commemorated at Sunday Vespers. The liturgical colours of the Ambrosian Rite are very similar to those of the Roman, the most important differences being that (except when some greater day occurs) red is used on the Sundays and Feriœ after Pentecost and the Decollation of St. John until the Eve of the Dedication (third Sunday in October), on Corpus Christi and its Octave, and during Holy Week, except on Good Friday, as well as on the days on which it is used in the Roman Rite, and that (with similar exceptions) green is only used from the Octave of the Epiphany to the eve of Septuagesima, from Low Sunday to the Friday before Pentecost, after the Dedication to Advent, and on feasts of abbots.

V. THE DIVINE OFFICE

(1) The Distribution of the Psalter

The Ambrosian distribution of the Psalter is partly fortnightly and partly weekly. Psalms i to cviii are divided into ten decuriœ , one of which, in its numerical order, divided into three Nocturns, is recited at Matins on the Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays of each fortnight, each Nocturn being said under one antiphon. At the Matins of Sunday and Solemnitates Domini and on Feriœ in Easter and Whitsun weeks and the octave of Corpus Christi , there are no psalms, but three Old Testament canticles, Isaias xxvi, De nocte vigilatâ ; the Canticle of Anna ( 1 Samuel 2 ), Confirmatum est; and the Canticle of Jonas (ii), Clamavi ad Dominum , or of Habacuc (iii), Domine audivi . And on Saturdays the Canticle of Moses (Exod. xv), Cantemus Domino , and half of Psalm cxviii take the place of Decuriœ at the three Nocturns. At Vespers, Psalms cix to cxlvii, except cxvii, cxviii, and cxxxiii, which are used elsewhere, and cxlii, which is only used in the Office of the Dead and as Psalmus Directus at Lauds on Fridays, aro divided between the whole seven days of each week in their numerical sequence, and in the same manner as in the Roman Rite . Psalm cxviii, besides being used on Saturdays, is distributed among the four lesser Hours exactly as in the Roman Rite ; Psalm l is said at Lauds every day except Sunday, when the Benedicite , and Saturday, when Psalm cxvii, takes its place, and with the Preces (when these are used) at Prime and Terce throughout the year and at None during Lent, while at the Preces of Sext Psalm liii is said, and at those of None Psalm lxxxv, except during Lent. Psalm liii precedes Beati immaculati at Prime, and Psalms iv, xxx, 1-6, xc and cxxxiii are said daily, as in the Roman Rite , at Compline. At Lauds a single Psalm, known as Psalmus Directus , differing with the day of the week, is also said.

TABLE OF DECURIÆ   Nocturn I Nocturn II Nocturn III   Decuriœ   1 Psalms i-viii ix-xii xiii-xvi 1st week, Monday Decuriœ   2 Psalms xvii-xx xxi-xxv xxvi-xxx 1st week, Tuesday Decuriœ   3 Psalms xxxi-xxxiii xxxiv-xxxvi xxxvii-xl 1st week, Wednesday Decuriœ   4 Psalms xli-xliii xliv-xlvi xlvii-l 1st week, Thursday Decuriœ   5 Psalms li-liv lv-lvii lviii-lx 1st week, Friday Decuriœ   6 Psalms lxi-lxiv lxv-lxvii lxviii-lxx 2nd week, Monday Decuriœ   7 Psalms lxxi-lxxv lxxvi-lxxvii lxxviii-lxxx 2nd week, Tuesday Decuriœ   8 Psalms lxxxi-lxxxiv lxxxv-lxxxvii lxxxviii-xc 2nd week, Wednesday Decuriœ   9 Psalms xci-xciii xciv-xcvi xcvii-c 2nd week, Thursday Decuriœ 10 Psalms ci-ciii civ-cv cvi-cviii 2nd week, Friday TABLE OF VESPER PSALMS, PSALMI DIRECTI,
AND PSALMI IV VERSUS   Vesper
Psalms Psalm
Directi Lauds Psalm IV
Versus Lauds Psalm IV
Versus Vespers Sunday cix-cxiii cxii     Monday cxiv-cvii,
cxix, cxx liii 1st week, v
2nd week. lxxxiii   viii Tuesday cxxi-cxxv lxvi lxxxvii xiv Wednesday cxxvi-cxxx,
cxxxi, cxxxii lxix lxvi xxx Thursday cxxxiv, cxxxvi   cxiii lxii xxxvi Friday cxxxvii-cxli cxlii cvii lxxvi Saturday cxliii-cxlvii lxxxix lxxxviii xci

During Lent Psalm 90 is said as Psalmus Directus at Vespers, except on Sundays, Fridays, and Saturdays, and the "Four Verses of a Psalm" at Lauds on Saturdays are alternately from the twelfth and first parts of Psalm 98 , and on the six Sundays the "Four Verses" are from 69 , 62 , 101 , 62 , 62 , 58 . During Lent also the Vesper "Four Verses" are different for every day, except that there are none on Friday, and those on the first four Saturdays are from Psalm 91 . In Holy Week the Psalms at the Nocturns and at Vespers are all proper, and there are also proper Psalms during the period from the first Feria de Exceptato until the Circumcision; and on the Annunciation (sixth Sunday of Advent ), Epiphany, Christophoria, Name of Jesus, Ascension, Corpus Christi, the Dedication and many Solemnia Sanctorum , and on many other saints' days the Decuriœ are superseded by Psalms of the Common of Saints.

(2) Other Details of the Divine Office

Antiphonœ , similar in construction to those in the Roman Rite are: in Psalmis et canticis , used as in the Roman Rite ; in Choro , said after the Lucernarium on Sundays, at the second Vespers of Solemnia , or on other saints' days, at first Vespers, but not on Feriœ , except Saturdays in


More Encyclopedia

The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed in fifteen hardcopy volumes.

Catholic Encyclopedia

Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.

No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny.

Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912

Catholic Online Catholic Encyclopedia Digital version Compiled and Copyright © Catholic Online

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Ephesians 2:12-22
12 do not forget, I say, that you were at that time ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 85:9-10, 11-12, 13-14
9 His saving help is near for those who fear him, his ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 12:35-38
35 'See that you have your belts done up and your ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for October 21st, 2014 Image

St. Hilarion
October 21: Abbot and disciple of St. Anthony the Great, companion of St. ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter