This page describes the rubrics and ceremonial for the Office of Matins.

Matins, like Lauds and Vespers, may be solemnized (i.e. Celebrant vested in Cope, candles lit, incense and servers) on Sundays and major feast days. Likewise, there is a particular ceremonial for the Sacred Triduum which is known as Tenebrae and must be treated in its own separate page. On any day, Matins may be prayed simply either in full chant or in recitation. When Matins are solemnized or prayed in Choir, it is never permitted to conclude Matins without following into Lauds except on Christmas when the Midnight Mass is celebrated between the two. The two Offices may be separated if Matins are simple and praying in common not in Choir.


A nocturn refers to the grouping of antiphons and psalms, a versicle, and a set of three lessons and two or three responsories in the Office of Matins.  A nocturn may have either 9 antiphons and psalms or three of each; there are always three lessons per nocturn regardless of the number of psalms.

Without exception, Matins either have one or three nocturns on any given day. Following Bl. Pope John XXIII’s rubrical changes which became effective 1 January, 1961, most days have Matins of one nocturn. Previously, three nocturns were more frequent.

A one nocturn Matins usually consists of 9 antiphons and psalms prayed straight through without interruption before the versicle, the versicle and three lessons and responsories; during the Easter and Pentecost Octaves, there is one nocturn but with three antiphons and psalms. One nocturn Matins is prescribed on the following days:

  • All Sundays (unless a First or Second Class Feast supersede the Sunday Office)
  • All Feasts of the Third Class
  • All Ferial Days except for the last three days of Holy Week
  • All days within the Octaves of Easter and Pentecost
  • All days within the Octave of Christmas when the Office is of the Octave
  • All Vigils

A three nocturn Matins consists of three sets of 3 antiphons and psalms, a versicle, and 3 lessons and responsories. Essentially, the difference between one nocturn and three is that three nocturn Matins have 9 lessons in total whereas one nocturn has only 3 lessons. Three nocturn Matins is prescribed on the following days:

  • All Feasts (not to be confused with Ferials, Vigils and days within Octaves – all of which are not Feasts) of the First and Second Class except Easter and Pentecost
  • The three days of the Sacred Triduum
  • All Souls’ Day

Te Deum

The Ambrosian Hymn, the Te Deum, is chanted or recited after the last lesson of Matins on all days except the following:

  • Sundays and Ferial Days in Advent, Septuagesima and Lent
  • Ferial Days per annum
  • Ember Days except those in the Octave of Pentecost
  • Vigils outside the Easter season

On the above days, a third or ninth responsory is added after the last lesson to conclude Matins.

Simple Matins

Two candles may be lit and a lectern is placed in the center of the Choir. At minimum there should be an Officiant and a Cantor/Lector; the latter may be divided and accorded to two individuals (i.e. a Cantor and a Lector) or the two may interchangeably function as both. The Officiant, furthermore, may also function in any of these roles.

The Officiant leads the Office and his functions are:

  • Begin Matins with the Domine, labia mea and Deus in adjutorium
  • Intoning the Invitatory Antiphon
  • Intoning the hymn
  • Intoning the first antiphon
  • Giving the absolution before the lessons commence for each nocturn
  • Giving the blessing to the Lector before the Lector recites each lesson
  • If there be a Gospel passage at the beginning of a lesson and the Officiant is the only priest or deacon priest, he recites that lesson as far as the passage excerpt
  • Intoning the Te Deum
  • Praying the Collect (if Matins be separated from Lauds)
  • Concluding Matins with the Fidelium animae (if Matins be separated from Lauds)

The Cantor’s (or Cantors’ ) functions are:

  • Intoning the verses of Ps. 94 at the Invitatory
  • Intoning the first verse of each psalm
  • Intoning the subsequent antiphons within the nocturn(s)
  • Reciting the versicle at the end of the psalms of each nocturn
  • Intoning and reciting the responsories following each lesson
  • Reciting Benedicamus Domino at the end (if Matins be separated from Lauds)

The Lector’s (s’) functions are:

  • Ask for the blessing before each lesson saying Jube, Domne (or Domine if no deacon or priest be present), benedicere
  • Recite the lessons
  • If there be a deacon or priest functioning as a lector, he recites any Gospel passage excerpts found in the lessons; if there be no deacon or priest present (including the Officiant), the lector recites this; if the lector be not  a deacon or priest but the Officiant is, the Officiant recites this. In these cases, the lector continues the lesson from the homily portion forward.
  • Conclude each lesson with Tu autem, Domine, miserere nobis

Solemn Matins

The functionaries are the same as above for Simple Matins except that the Officiant is called the Celebrant and must be a priest. At the lesson which contains the Gospel passage (i.e. Lesson 3 on most Sundays or Lesson 7 in all 3-Nocturn Matins), the Deacon (or Celebrant) incenses the Breviary/Lectionary and Acolytes hold candles on either side of the lectern while he chants the Gospel excerpt. The homily portion of the same lesson is continued by the lector without the accompaniment of incense and acolytes.

The rubrics for posture and gestures (same in both the Simple and Solemn forms)

All enter the Sanctuary making the applicable reverences to the Blessed Sacrament; the Cantors and Lectors, furthermore, make the appropriate reverences (i.e. bow) to each other as those in Choir.

When all have taken their places, all stand and make the Sign of the Cross on their lips at the Domine, labia mea aperies. Then, all make the regular Sign of the Cross at the Deus, in adjutorium.

Observe normal bows for the Gloria Patri; if standing, bow towards the altar; if sitting, bow in place.

Continue standing for the Invitatory and Hymn. At the third verse of Ps. 94 in the Invitatory, all kneel at the words venite, adoremus et procidamus ante Dominum. Bow towards the altar for any Doxology in the last verse of the Hymn.

Sit after the first verse of the first psalm is intoned. Cantors rise to intone antiphons and psalms, but everyone else remains sitting during the entirety of each nocturn.

Stand at the versicle concluding each nocturn. Remain standing for the Pater noster and Absolution which follow.

When the lector proceeds to the lectern after the Absolution, the Officiant (or Celebrant) sits again and all likewise sit for the lessons. The lector bows to the Officiant (Celebrant) appropriately when going to and from the lectern. All, except the cantors and lectors, remain seated during the entirety of the lessons and responsories. Only the lector genuflects when saying the Tu autem at the end of each lesson.

All stand at the Te Deum and then kneel for the verse Te ergo quaesumus. If the Te Deum be omitted, all rise after the last responsory is recited/chanted and remain standing to begin Lauds or for the Collect if Lauds do not follow. On penitential days (listed below), all except the Officiant (Celebrant) kneel at the Collect:

  • Ferial Days of Advent and Lent (this includes Ash Wednesday)
  • Vigils of the 2nd. and 3rd. class outside the Easter Season
  • Ember Days except for those within the Pentecost Octave
  • All Souls’ Day

If Lauds do not follow, Matins are concluded and all depart in the usual way. If Lauds follow, remain standing and begin immediately with the Deus in adjutorium.