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The more solemn watches, which were held on the anniversaries of martyrs or on certain feasts, were also known by this title, especially during the third and fourth centuries.The Vigil in this case was also called pannychis , because the greater part of the night was devoted to it.Generally it designated the nightly meetings, synaxes , of the Christians.
The week-day or ferial office and that of simple feasts are composed of one nocturn only, with twelve psalms and three lessons. 8, sq.; Paul Lejay; Ambrosien (rit.) in "Dictionnaire d'Archeol. In the Benedictine Office, Matins, like the text of the Office, follows the Roman Liturgy quite closely. twelve, is always the same, there being three or two Nocturns according to the degree of solemnity of the particular Office celebrated.
The number of psalms, which at first varied, was subsequently fixed at twelve, with the addition of a lesson from the Old and another from the New Testament . Jerome defended the Vigils against the attacks of Vigilantius, but it is principally concerning the watches at the Tombs of the Martyrs that he speaks in his treatise, "Contra Vigilantium". 79, 122, 139, 186, 208, 246, etc.) Other allusions are to be found in Caesaurius of Arles, Nicetiuis or Nicetae of Treves, and Gregory of Tours (see Baumer-Biron, loc. In all the authors we have quoted, the form of Night Prayers would appear to have varied a great deal.
Of all the descriptions the most complete is that in the "Peregrinatio Ætheriae", the author of which assisted at Matins in the Churches of Jerusalem, where great solemnity was displayed. Nevertheless in these descriptions, and in spite of certain differences, we find the same elements repeated: the psalms generally chanted in the form of responses, that is to say by one or more cantors, the choir repeating one verse, which served as a response, alternately with the verses of psalms which were sung by the cantors ; readings taken from the Old and the New Testament , and later on, from the works of the Fathers and doctors ; litanies or supplications; prayer for the divers members of the Church, clergy, faithful, neophytes, and catechumens ; for emperors; travellers; the sick; and generally for all the necessities of the Church, and even prayer for Jews and for heretics. Missal, in "Studien des Benediktinerordens", II (Raigern, 1886), 287, 289.] It is quite easy to find these essential elements in our modern Matins.
Notwithstanding this, however, the Vigils, in their strictest sense of Divine Office of the Night, were maintained and developed.
Among writers from the fourth to the sixth century we find several descriptions of them.
In the Mozarabic Liturgy, on the contrary, Matins are made up of a system of Antiphons, Collects, and Versicles which make them quite a departure from the Roman system.