Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy and sacramental theology and director of the Sacerdos Institute at the Regina Apostolorum university.
Q: On the obligatory memorial of Saints Basil and Gregory Nazianzen, Thursday, January 2, the Ordo says for the Liturgy of the Hours: ‘Pss I, Sanctoral and Seasonal proper of the day (2 Jan.-Epiph).’ My question is, How are those two propers put together, what parts of each are said and what parts of each are not said? — T.H., Dearborn Heights, Michigan
A: It must be admitted that Advent and Christmas seasons are among the most complex seasons for those who pray the Divine Office, and the use of several bookmarks is often required.
During January 2-7 there are special offices for the day whose use is determined by whether the Epiphany is celebrated on the traditional date of January 6 or on the Sunday during January 2-8. Once the Epiphany has been celebrated, there is an alternative office that reflects this fact.
Therefore, January 2 would be always before the Epiphany or the day of the Epiphany itself. In the latter case, or should the Second Sunday of Christmas fall on January 2, it is obvious that the obligatory memorials would not be celebrated that year.
The psalms canticles and antiphons used in this week are from Week 2 of the psalter. The hymn for the office of readings may be taken from the psalter or the appendix containing alternative texts. The seasonal office for January 2 for the office of readings consists in two readings with their responsories, morning prayer of a seasonal hymn, and proper scripture readings, responsory, Benedictus antiphon, and intercessions. Prayer during the day has a single antiphon corresponding to the time of day and proper readings and versicles. Evening prayer follows the same scheme as lauds. In all the offices the closing prayer corresponds to that of morning prayer.
Therefore, how does this combine with the obligatory memorial of Saints Basil and Gregory Nazianzen?
There is a general principle involved with respect to all memorials in that the strictly obligatory elements are those found in the sanctoral on the corresponding day. These elements can vary from saint to saint, and there is no perfect uniformity.
Therefore, even though the rubrics for the day will indicate to go to the corresponding common, in this case, the common of pastors or doctors of the Church, this is always optional, and those who pray the hours have the liberty to follow the corresponding daily or seasonal liturgy.
One reason behind this possibility is to avoid monotony as the common offices tend to repeat the same psalms, readings, and intercessions.
In the case of Saints Basil and Gregory Nazianzen what is strictly obligatory is the second reading of the Office of Readings, the Benedictus and Magnificat antiphons, and the closing prayer of the office of readings, morning prayer and evening prayer. Everything else is taken from the above-mentioned liturgy of January 2.
However, if for reasons of personal devotion a person wishes to celebrate the full office of these saints by going to the corresponding commons of pastors or doctors of the Church, he or she may freely do so.
* * *
Readers may send questions to email@example.com. Please put the word “Liturgy” in the subject field. The text should include your initials, your city, and your state, province or country. Father McNamara can only answer a small selection of the great number of questions that arrive.