Office of the Dead

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One of the oldest special Offices in the divine office. It goes back at least to the 7th century and may even antedate gregory the great (d. 604), for this Office is purely Roman in the arrangement of its Psalms and bears no trace of monastic and Gallican elements, such as introductory prayers and hymns. Its schema is similar to the Office of the last three days of holy week and these are known to be very primitive. Its original form had only matins, lauds, and vespers. Pius X (d. 1914) added the little hours. During the Middle Ages this Office was frequently recited in addition to the Divine Office. Although Pius V (d. 1572) did away with all obligation in the matter, he did leave a twofold Office for the Feast of all souls. Pius X removed this duplication by making the Office of the Dead the sole Office for November 2. The 1960 Code of Rubrics deleted the Vespers of the Dead formerly added to All Saints' Vespers. In addition to its use on All Souls, the Office of the Dead is prayed in whole or in part in connection with the funeral services of clerics and religious. From the 1970s onward, the practice of praying a portion of the Office at wakes for lay people has grown.

In the revised liturgy of the hours (1971), the Office of the Dead comprises: the Office of Readings, Morning Prayer, Daytime Prayer, Midmorning Prayer, Midday Prayer, anda new departure from tradition Night Prayer. The psalmody, antiphons included, for the Office of Readings, Morning Prayer, 1st and 2d Evening Prayer, is proper. The psalmody for Midmorning, Midday, and Midafternoon Prayer is taken from the Complementary Psalmody used during the year, but the antiphons are proper. The Night Prayer is taken from the office of Sunday. The revised Order of Christian Funerals includes an abbreviated Office of the Dead.

The liturgical reforms of Vatican II introduced notable changes in the themes and tone of the Office of the Dead. Throughout there is a greater emphasis on the victory and joy of the resurrection, rather than on the fears and sorrows of death and judgment. The spirit of Christian joy is manifested especially in the hymns, with their reference to Christ as the Lord of the Resurrection. The exultant alleluia rings through many of the hymns, and the doxology, "Glory be to the Father, etc.," concludes each psalm rather than the austere and penitential "Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord."

Bibliography: l. eisenhofer and j. lechner, The Liturgy of the Roman Rite, tr. a. j. and e. f. peeler from the 6th German ed., ed. h. e. winstone (New York 1961) 474475. j. h. miller, Fundamentals of the Liturgy (Notre Dame, Ind. 1960) 344. m. righetti, Manuale di storia liturgica, 4 v. (Milan): v.2 (2d ed. 1955) 2:218219. h. leclercq, Dictionnaire d'archéologie chrétienne et de liturgie, ed. f. cabrol, h. leclercq, and h. i. marrou, 15 v. (Paris 190753) 12.2:200609. c. callewaert, Sacris erudiri (Steenbrugge 1940) 169177. The Liturgy of the Hours (New York 1976).

[g. e. schidel/

p. f. mulhern/eds.]