July 21st is the memorial of St. Lawrence of Brindisi; a Capuchin Franciscan priest, scholar, teacher and gifted with languages. He could read and speak fluently in Italian, Latin, Hebrew, Greek, German, Bohemian, Spanish, French and some sources even suggest Syriac. More than just a tool to communicate, this gift also allowed him to read the Sacred Scriptures in their original languages as well as later translations. Further, it is claimed that he also knew the entire Bible in the original languages by memory, which along with his grasp of languages is why this was considered a supernatural gifting.
Lawrence was born in Brindisi, Italy, July 22, 1559 under the name Giulio Cesare (Julius Ceasar). Taught by Franciscan Friars he would enter the Capuchins in 1575 taking the name Lawrence. He is the first Franciscan to be classed as a doctor of the church. Known for brilliant sermons, and teaching on the Sacred Scripture, he is one of many proofs that the Catholic Church in medieval europe was not lost on scripture as Protestantism would claim. As a matter of fact, St. Lawrence was instrumental in winning many Protestants back to the faith.
Lawrence believed that the incarnation was necessary regardless of sin:
“God is love, and all his operations proceed from love. Once he wills to
manifest that goodness by sharing his love outside himself, then the Incarnation
becomes the supreme manifestation of his goodness and love and glory. So, Christ was intended before all other creatures and for
his own sake. For him all things were created and to him all things must
be subject, and God loves all creatures in and because of Christ. Christ is the
first-born of every creature, and the whole of humanity as well as the created
world finds its foundation and meaning in him. Moreover, this would have
been the case even if Adam had not sinned.“
I find this an extremely fascinating subject; one that has been hinted by C.S. Lewis, Tolkien and several other authors in my own library. More to the point it puts to rest that sad criticism of God setting up mankind to fall. If Christ was intended whether or not man fell, then there was no need for man to fall as a requirement for the incarnation. No longer a necessity of predestination, mans fall is truly an act of free will, and here I see the importance of catholic teaching as the paradox of freewill and predestination are at a balance. Not teetering to either extreme of predestination or freewill; beliefs that make man a puppet or god impotent; it demonstrates how both predestination and freewill can operate together.
Vespers, Compline, Matins, Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext and Nones. These are periods of prayers which are said through the day in the Divine Office and follow the Hours which are found in Breviaries or a Book of Hours, which is really just a type of Breviary for laymen. The tradition of the hours finds its roots in the Jewish tradition which prayed at the third, sixth and ninth hours of the day. Terce (9a.m.), Sext(noon), and Nones(3 p.m.) are Latin for three, six and nine, or the third, sixth and ninth hours of the day. The addition of the others comes from the Rule of St. Benedict, and are said at sundown (Vespers), evening (Compline), midnight (Matins), sunrise (Lauds) and the first hour (Prime).
In religious communities it was the responsibility of the monks to keep track of the hours so that prayers were said at the correct time. Using stars and constellations at night, and position of the sun in the day helped to keep the time. Devices like sundials in the day or an astrolabe at night were useful in keeping time in good weather, but bad weather rendered these useless. Candles which marked the hours or water clocks (clepsydra) would also have been helpful in determining the hours. However such devices were not always available in monasteries and so the use of liturgical prayers and psalms was employed to keep time. This responsibility was given to one of the monks who was called the Significator Horarum.
The Significator Horarum would Sing psalms or recite the Pater Noster (Lord’s Prayer) to keep time when weather prevented the use of star charts or sundials. This would have been like counting “one Mississippi, two Mississippi” in children’s games. When enough prayers were said to equal the right amount of time, the Significator Horarum would then notify another monk to wake or gather the community for prayers.
The Latin translation for Significator Horarum means a caller of the hours or indicator or time. In a way he is like a human clock, or rather a grandfather clock signaling the passage of time. In time new inventions would come along like mechanical clocks which took care of the problem of keeping time and maintaining the liturgy of the hours. When you stop to think about it, the divine office is really a continual prayer which has been going on for almost 1500 years, a great portion of which was maintained by the vigilant Significator Horarum.