Ascension in the Anglican Breviary (iii)

As we have seen in my previous post the change Fr. Joseph introduced in the third antiphon of the first nocturn is quite significant. In fact the only continuity between the original antiphon of the Roman Breviary lies in the idea of movement. Yet the changes made in the AB version do not come out of the blue so to speak. Again Fr. Joseph has looked at the Psalm the antiphon is connected to.

Consider the following verses from Psalm 19:

5) In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun; which cometh forth as a bridegroom out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a giant to run his course.

6) It goeth forth from the uttermost part of the heaven, and runneth about unto the end of it again; and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof.

It seems clear that Fr. Joseph is interpreting the original Roman antiphon by filtering it through the above verses of Psalm 19. In the Roman original someone is moving from one end of the heavens to another. The use of this antiphon for Ascension should make it clear that the movement across the heavens is to be understood as the movement of Jesus Christ from earth to heaven (down to up). In Fr. Joseph’s rendition the movement is not simply from earth to heaven rather the movement is from “the uttermost part of the heaven (which surely indicates the closest vicinity to God the Father )into the darkness under the earth” (which seems to be a clear reference to the descent into hell) and runneth about unto the end of it again, to the fullness of the glory above (which is certainly a reference to the Ascension itself, the return to the “uttermost part of the heaven” which is the closest vicinity to God the Father).” The movements made should make it abundantly obvious that it is Jesus Christ who is doing the moving.

The Roman original very vaguely hints at this with “his” whereas Father Joseph provides another identifier: “Sun of Righteousness.” This identification is not taken from Psalm 19. The Psalm merely mentions the sun and qualifies sun with the word giant. But that is all. So where did Fr. Joseph’s inspiration come from? From the Prophet Malachi. Consider the following from Malachi chapter 4:

But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall.

It should still be obvious – perhaps even more so – that the one being identified as doing the moving is Jesus Christ and that He is in fact the Sun of Psalm 19. But He is also the Sun of Righteousness of Malachi 4, 2 and He has “healing in His wings.” Here Fr. Joseph has quite brilliantly put together the “rising Sun” (which serves to situate this antiphon in Eastertide (resurrection) and more specifically Ascension (taken up into heaven). The word “rise” serves very well for Eastertide and Ascension. The rising Sun of Righteousness is said to have wings (again an image of movement) which are charged as it were with healing. One way to interpret the wings is by looking at St. Gregory the Great’s sermon for the Octave Day of Ascension (nocturn iii, lesson 9):

From heaven he leapt into the womb of the Virgin; from that womb into the manger; from the manger on to the cross; from the cross into the grave; and from the grave into heaven.

The wings are the means the Sun (our Lord Jesus Christ) uses to “leap” to begin and complete the salvific movement as explicated in the antiphon in Fr. Joseph’s rendition. The “healing” in the wings would seem to be the “economy of salvation” which Fr. Joseph has beautifully woven into the antiphon and thereby has added to how the Psalm (19) is read (prayed). It seems to me that Father Joseph’s rewritten antiphon, though undoubtedly radical, is not at all detrimental to the liturgy of the Divine Office. It seems entirely in “the spirit” of the Office and stems from a mind deeply immersed in liturgy and Scripture.

A different, but not unconnected, question is whether or not Fr. Joseph’s change should be accepted. Here I am going to take my stand in what is often called “organic development” of the Liturgy. Fr. Joseph’s changes, such as we have been considering the past few posts, are not generally radical. Often they are subtle and grounded in the liturgy itself as well as quite scriptural. There can be little (if any) theological objection to what has been done (so far). But liturgy is not simply justified by theology. There is also the essential structure of the essential components of the liturgy. The collection of Antiphons, Collects, the Psalter, are very much the essence of the Divine Office – as they are traditioned to us from our fathers and mothers in the faith of previous ages. These essentials have a sacrosanct core to them and should not be messed with (though Cranmer, Pius X & Paul VI have ignored this to the detriment of the Divine Office and have messed with them anyway).

Does Fr. Joseph mess with the essential elements of the Office? I suppose the question might be answered differently by different people. For me I want to suggest that the Roman Breviary as received by Fr. Joseph in the edition approved by Pius X and the tradition of the Prayer Book(s) as it stood in his time are integrated with dignity, care and respect to both. The integration of Prayer Book and Breviary is a major step forward in the liturgical evolution of Catholic Anglicanism and argument could be made that the “essence” of the Prayer Book is preserved at the cost of the Pius X Breviary (especially in the Collects). As far as the antiphons and Fr. Joseph’s changes to them is concerned I would say that time will tell. If the changes are approved by our highest liturgical authority (that no mere man, be he Abp. of Canterbury or Pope in Rome, can outrank) approves by keeping it alive and used in the life of the Church I would say that the changes are good ones. Even “inspired” ones. If Fr. Joseph’s reforms are forgotten and become extinct – well perhaps they were not worth keeping.

In conclusion

I have not looked at all the changes Fr. Joseph has introduced, I have merely touched upon a few items which are relevant to the season. Many more reforms and twists could be (perhaps should be) mentioned (I am thinking of the Office of the Dead among other things). Perhaps a topic for another series of posts. Another issue could (perhaps should) be the collects. In the AB Fr. Joseph slavishly adopts the BCP collects (unlike Canon Douglas in his edition of the Monastic Office) wherever they differ from their Roman originals. Sometimes to the detriment of the Office (especially of Advent and of some Saints). That is not to say that Cranmer’s gift in writing beautiful collects is denied but that their liturgical appropriateness and orthodoxy are often (at the very least) doubtful. That too is something which deserves looking into.

Be all that as it may, I have found Fr. Joseph’s work on the Office for the Ascension as we have been considering fascinating and illuminating. For my part I would like to see Fr. Joseph’s work prosper. To my mind what we have in the AB is mostly an organic evolution of the liturgy and it seems worth while to see where it will go. Though by nature I tend toward liturgical conservatism – almost to the point of being a liturgical archaeologist – reason and a sense of pragmatism bend me towards considering Fr. Joseph’s work as good, appropriate, and thoughtfully liturgical and most importantly very prayable.

Gregory Wassen +

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Our original desire for God.

The question is based on an ontological confusion, and a naive anthropomorphism. Sorry to sound arch, but you are not thinking of God as God. Because God is not a finite object over against you as a subject, you cannot simply turn away towards “something else.” He is the ground and end of all desire and knowledge as such, the Good in itself. You cannot choose or not choose God the way you would choose or not choose a cup of coffee. You desire anything because of your original desire for God as the transcendental Good and Beautiful; you know anything because of your original intellectual appetite for God as the transcendental Truth as such. Even in desiring to flee God, you are desiring God as the “good end” you seek in godlessness. He is inescapable because all being, goodness, unity, truth, and beauty simply are God in their transcendent truth, and because a rational nature is nothing but an infinite dynamic orientation towards that transcendent end. The natural will, as Maximus says, can will only God. Don’t think of God as a candidate in a political race, whom you could simply reject and be done with; he is the original and final act of your every discrete act of desire. And, in the ages, since God is all and there is literally nothing beyond him, the natural will is always seeking its natural supernatural end. Simply said, God is not an object of desire; he is the end that makes desire.

David B. Hart at

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Ascension in the Anglican Breviary (ii)

The next little change is again in an Antiphon. This time in Matins. The Roman version is as follows:

Thou has set thy glory above the heavens, O God, alleluia.

The Anglican Breviary renders the same Antiphon in a slightly adapted form:

O thou that hast set thy glory above the heavens, how excellent is thy Name in all the world, alleluia.

Again Fr. Joseph adds to the Antiphon by using a phrase which occurs in the Psalm the Antiphon is connected to. In vs. 1 and 9 of Psalm 8 (Anglican Breviary, p. C389) we find the phrase Fr. Joseph added: “how excellent is thy Name in all the world.” The addition is neither disturbing nor necessary. Though perhaps an objection might be made that the addition removes some of the impact of “Thou hast set thy glory above the heavens” as the Roman original has it, simply by having been added. There are now more words to be chanted/said. For the purpose of Ascension the original covers the load just fine.

On the other hand an argument could also be made that the phrase Fr. Joseph added is in fact nothing more but the natural context for the original Antiphon anyway! The eight Psalm begins thus:

O LORD our Governour, how excellent is thy Name in all the world,* thou hast set thy glory above the heavens.

Very clearly the setting of His (the Lord’s) glory above the heavens is connected to the excellence of the Lord’s Name. The Fr. Joseph rendition of this Antiphon simply brings this out. Yet – being by nature a liturgical conservative – I could personally have done without the emphasis Fr. Joseph added. The Antiphon as it is has a clear connection to the Psalm already and the connection of Ascension and the excellence of God’s Name are already present in the original. The “above the heaven” is no doubt the reason this portion of the verse was used for an Ascension Antiphon and the leaving our of the excellence of the divine Name serves to emphasize the specific Ascension angle. We are not here celebrating the excellency of the Name of Jesus but rather His Ascension. Be that as it may the adaptation is mild and of little consequence either good or bad. I can see why some may and others may not want to follow Fr. Joseph’s lead here.

A major adaptation

When we come to the third antiphon of the the first nocturn (on Psalm 19 or 18 in the Roman Breviary since the numbering is different) we find a major adaptation. This is not a slight twist or a tweak but an almost entire re-writing or re-invention of the antiphon. The Roman original is as follows:

His going forth * is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit even to the end thereof, alleluia.

But in the AB it becomes:

The Sun of Righteousness goeth forth, from the utter most part of the heaven into the darkness under the earth,* and runneth about unto the end of it again, to the fullness above, alleluia.

The basic idea of movement is preserved in Father Joseph’s rendition but it is made more explicit where the movement begins and ends and who or what it is that moves. The conservative in me wants to defend the original simplicity, but the worshiper in me really appreciates the clarity and biblical elegance of Fr. Joseph’s rewriting of this antiphon. Liturgy often takes the worshiper on an interpretative prayer-walk through Scripture by connecting images and verses from Holy Writ in unexpected but quite beautiful ways. It seems to me this is what Fr. Joseph set out to do and – to my mind – accomplished! Let’s break down the components of both renditions and see what happens.

To be continued.

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Freedom of the will

The classical Platonic-Aristotelian-Christian understanding of freedom is one in which the rational will of necessity, when set free from ignorance, wills the good end of its own nature; and perfect freedom is the power to achieve that end without hindrance. Thus God is perfectly free precisely because he cannot work evil, which is to say nothing can prevent him from realizing his nature as the infinite Good…Since, after all, all employments of the will are teleological–necessarily intentionally directed towards an end, either clearly or obscurely known by the intellect–and since the Good is the final cause of all movements of the will, no choice of evil can be free in a meaningful sense. For evil is not an end, and so can be chosen under the delusion that it is in some sense a good in respect of the soul (even if, in moral terms, one is aware that one is choosing what is conventionally regarded as “evil”); and no choice made in ignorance can be a free choice.

In simple terms, if a deranged man chooses to slash himself with a knife or set fire to himself, you would not be interfering with his “freedom” by preventing him from doing so. You would be rescuing him from his slavery to madness. This is why the free-will defense of the idea of an eternal hell is essentially gibberish.

~ David B. Hart at:

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Ascension in the Anglican Breviary

Reforming and adapting the Breviary

The Anglican Breviary (AB) is a rendering into Anglo Catholic of the Roman Breviary as reformed under St. Pius X. It is no surprise therefore that the AB shows features of both the Roman Breviary and the Book of Common Prayer. It does, however, surprise (perhaps) that the AB also shows the signs of another presence: that of its Franciscan editor.

Father Joseph – as the editor was known – did a mostly faithful translation of the Roman Breviary into English while adapting it to contain the Book of Common Prayer (BCP). This way he could honestly and without deceit maintain that the Anglican Breviary IS in fact a version of the Book of Common Prayer except more complete. After all in the introduction to the Anglican (Altar) Missal the argument was put forward that the BCP is an apocopated (shortened/abbreviated) liturgy which by its very nature demanded filling out. This filling out ought to be done by traditional means not explicitly forbidden by the Rubrics governing the BCP. Filling out what was lacking was done while keeping in mind that the BCP is not a primary but a secondary authority in things liturgical and that therefore it demanded an interpretation according to Catholic consent and “not vice versa” (Altar Missal, p. a vii). As I read on another blog recently the Anglican Missal is “Cranmer in reverse.” This was also applied to the Prayer Book Office which resulted in the Anglican Breviary.

Yet translating and integrating with the BCP is not all that Fr. Joseph did with the AB. He also added his own twists on things. This will become clear when we examine the Breviary propers below and compare them with the Roman originals. It turns out that Fr. Joseph “enriched” Antiphons and other propers throughout the Breviary. The, usually, small changes Fr. Joseph added are not necessarily bad. Similar changes had been introduced by St. Pius X. Not only did he approve the almost complete overhaul of the distribution of the Psalms he also dropped ancient Psalm Antiphons and adopted newly created ones. This – it cannot be denied – does put some distance between the Divine Office as it existed before the reforms of Pius X with how it exists afterwards. Father Joseph did not re-distribute the Psalter further nor did he invent Antiphons out of nothing. He did add rubrics and other liturgical features from “cognate uses” (Anglican Breviary, p. vii). These additions are not destructive of the Office or the Roman Rite as such but can be – it seems to me – harmlessly incorporated in the Roman Rite (of which the BCP is an extremely mutilated version). Some additions, however, seem to originate not from cognate uses but from Fr. Joseph himself. It is to these additions that I want to take a closer look. I will be taking this closer look by comparing propers from the Roman Breviary and the Anglican Breviary below.

The Ascension Propers

The first small, but noticeable, change occurs in the Antiphon 4 of Lauds (which are also used for I and II Vespers). First the Antiphon as it occurs in the Roman Breviary:

Praise ye the King of kings, yea, sing a hymn to God, alleluia.

Now the same Antiphon as it occurs in the Anglican Breviary:

Praise ye the King of kings, and magnify him forever: yea sing a hymn to God, alleluia.

I have highlighted Father Joseph’s addition in red. There is nothing disturbing or unCatholic about the addition but it does not occur in the Roman original and in that sense distances the AB further from the Breviary from which both the Pius X reformed Breviary and the AB descend. It appears Father Joseph added these words because they occur in the Benedicite omnia opera (The Song of the Three Holy Children) to which this Antiphon is attached at Lauds. The effect is that the connection between the Benedicite omnia opera and its Antiphon is strengthened. It is also in line with the BCP reforms which adds these words to the Benedicite omnia opera to every verse all the way through (though this is not itself adopted in the AB). the words “magnify him forever” fit very well with praising God and singing a hymn to Him. In fact the praising and hymn singing are given some direction as how to praise and sing a hymn by suggesting they involve “magnification.” I can find no deeply felt or principled objection to Fr. Joseph’s little twist here.

To be continued

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Destroying the barriers of hell …

R. Our Shepherd is gone from us, he who is the Fountain of living water: and at his departure the sun was darkened * That evil one who took captive our first parent is also taken into captivity, in that today our our Saviour hath broken the gates of death and burst thereof the bars asunder.

V. He hath destroyed the barriers of hell, and overthrown him that had the power of death. That evil one who took captive our first parent is also taken into captivity, in that today our our Saviour hath broken the gates of death and burst thereof the bars asunder.

~ Response iv, for Tenebrae of Holy Saturday, Anglican Breviary.

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The Tenebrae Offices

Palm Sunday ended we have arrived at Holy Week. The ancient and beautiful offices of Tenebrae are around the corner. Both the modern Roman Rite and the Prayer Book tradition claim to have been reformed on the basis of primitive Christian practice. Sadly, none of that is true. Had the reformers of the 16th and 20-ieth century really reformed the Office on the primitive Church they would have looked a lot like … well … like the Tenebrae Offices. But they don’t.

In the Roman Rite the 1962 version of the Breviary presents us with a severely mutilated version if the traditional Divine Office but still retaining several basic features of what has since (at least) the fourth century characterized the Divine Office. In the Book of Common Prayer and in the (Roman) Liturgy of the Hours even these traces have been carefully erased.

Gregory DiPippo has written a series of articles about the reforms enforced upon the Roman Church during the 1950-ies where reformers were determined to mutilate the Office as much as was Thomas Cranmer in the 16th century. The beauty and profundity of the ancient Office – surely characterized by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit – shines through very clearly in the ancient Office: Tenebrae and the Divine Officce of the Triduum.

Gregory Wassen +

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