The Preface to the Anglican Breviary:

Learning the Breviary (click here)

The Anglican Breviary, as its name is meant to imply, contains the Divine Office of the Western Church, rendered from Latin into English in conformity with Propers and liturgical language of the Book of Common Prayer.

Several different liturgies are indigenous to Western Christendom, such as the Ambrosian, the Mozarabic, and the Roman, each with its own form of the Divine Office; but the last named has for centuries been so much more widely disseminated than any other western liturgy that it is not unjustly known as The Western Rite. A far-spread liturgy, such as this consists of a family of variants or cognate Uses. The Roman Secular Breviary, the Dominican and Sarum (which are largely similar), and the various French Breviaries (all now fallen into disuse), are no more than variant Uses of the same liturgy, and it was within this liturgical family that our Prayer-Book Use was born.

The basis chosen for the Anglican Breviary was the 1911 Reform of the Latin Secular Breviary; but when certain problems arose, resulting from the necessity of conforming our Breviary to the Prayer-Book peculiarities, the precedents of cognate Uses were followed in solving them. (One example of this is the Office herein provided for days between Trinity and Corpus Christi.)

Further, since a Breviary should be practical, we have followed cognate Uses in format and methods of rubrification when these were simpler or more concise than those of the Secular Breviary, which is much given to untranslatable and inconveniently placed Rubrics. Or again, we have followed Sarum and Dominican precedent in offering a method of simplifying an Office of nine Lessons into three.

Nevertheless, the Anglican Breviary is in substance identical with its Latin original except where obvious changes were necessary in order to conform it to Prayer-Book usages; that is to say, the substance of the Latin Breviary (or its devotional content) is expressed in the accidents of Latin Liturgy (Latin Scripture, Hymns, and the like), and in the Anglican Breviary this substance is in the accidents of Anglican liturgy (English versions of Scripture, Hymns and so forth). Thus, while the Anglican Breviary is not a mere translation from the Latin, it has been kept faithful to the spirit, meaning, and purpose of the Latin original.

Attention should be called to the many reasons why the Secular Breviary has a special value for Anglicans: it has more claim to universality than other Breviary; by the same token, it has undergone greater development than any other Breviary in an effort to eliminate the unworthy and to keep it pertinent to current needs; and therefore one of its prime principles is that special formularies should be provide for provincial or diocesan use, and hence modifications in the Kalendar with consequent additions of propers, or revision of current ones if necessary, are to be expected; but especially it should be recalled that the daily two-fold Prayer-book Office is based on the principles of Quignonez, and in 1911 the Secular Breviary returned to these same principles in the daily use of Psalms and Scripture, so that the Prayer-Book Office and the Secular Breviary are now in accord in this fundamental usage.

The Divine Office grew out of the altar liturgy, and the Breviary constantly quotes verbatim from the Missal. Such quotations in the Anglican Breviary are from the Anglican Missal, which was conceived and executed on the same principles as was this Breviary. The text of the Psalms is that of the Book of Common Prayer of the English Church, since that is the version in most general use among Anglicans, but the orthography of the American Prayer-Book Psalter has been followed because it is admittedly the best which has so far appeared.

However, some of the Old Testament Canticles of Lauds are herein given in a new version. These were done in consultation with competent scholars, in an effort to make them both more understandable and more rhythmic, and to this end the Septuagint or Vulgate was drawn upon as well as the Hebrew. The same thing was also done in the Holy Week Lessons from Lamentations. The student of litrgy will recognize the many liturgical precedents for such a procedure. This seemed advisable becaus the Authorized Version of the Bible was not translated to provide Canticles for singing in the Divine Office. Rhythmic and poetic treatment is necessary to the liturgical use of Canticles.

Paraphrases have also been made of some Antiphons from the Song of Songs. Modern misunderstanding of mystical interpretation is due to a forgetfulness of what these formularies conveyed to the Church in former days; and it is therefore desirable to make such Antiphons intelligible by farcing them with interpretative phrases from the Fathers.

Your editors set themselves the task of verifying every quotation of Scripture in the Latin original, a stupendous task of research through the various versions of the Septuagint and Vulgate, with some reference to the Vetus, so as to give each quotation in the words of our English versions of Scripture, wherever this was pertinent, for quotations should be recognizable.

It often seemed more to the point to quote the English Scriptures with some accuracy than to translate literally from the original where Latin variation from our English norm of Scripture is merely an archaism. (For example, the charm which we may find in our Prayer Book’s archaic form of the Comfortable Words is lost when these are translated literally from English into another language, for which reason a translator might in such a case prefer to quote directly from whatever version of the Bible is already familiar to those who are to use his translation.)

In the Latin Antiphons and Matin Responsories, however, there is often a deliberate variation from the text of Scripture for the sake of euphony, interpretation, or emphasis, and of course this principle needs to be taken into account in translation. But sometimes the variation in the Latin is a mere archaism of no value in English, such as a substitution of Deus Dominus, or vice versa. To provide a more useful English variation in like cases, a new translation of the Hebrew original has sometimes been used, modeled on the usage of Jewish translations of Hebrew Scriptures. The noblest known term for God is the Name revealed to Moses, sometimes rendered into English as I AM, sometimes as JEHOVAH, sometimes as LORD, etc. Its meaning is inexhaustible, for it signifies one who lives by virtue of his own inherent and uncreated eternal life, and is the source and lord of life, always revealing himself though his covenanted relationship with man. On the other hand Adonai is usually rendered Lord, or Governour, for it signifies one who has dominion, the lordly master of man’s destiny. The Divine Office is meant to provide reverence for the Name and character of God, and the aforesaid significations of the commonly used Hebrew Names for God seem to offer a more intelligent form of variation than the mere switching of the word God to Lord, and the like. (Reference to the Office of the Dead in this Breviary will demonstrate what is meant by this method of variation).

The Collects of the Church of England have been used, but where an American Prayer-Book Collect differs considerably from its English parent, the difference has usually been indicated. Lack of space, however, has prevented complete presentations of all minor variations.

The Matins Scriptural Lessons have been taken from the Authorized Version with emendations from the official Bible of the American Church (the so-called Marginal Readings Version), and occasional revisions from other standard versions, so as to make the Scriptural reading more intelligible to those who have little opportunity for critical study.

The ascriptions of authorship given in the Latin Breviary to Lessons from the Fathers have been retained, as have those of the books of the Bible, because they represent common usage, and not because the editors are unaware of the fact that modern scholarship in some cases denies the accuracy of these ascriptions.

The Matins Lessons, whether Scriptural or not are meant to provide points for reflective prayer. With this end in view, the Lessons from the Fathers have been freely translated. Hence such Lessons, like their titles, are not to be used as an academic exercise in the study of patristics. Students thereof should refer to original sources when they are seeking technical accuracies.

But in some other matters the editors have attempted emendations; for the necessity of putting the Latin into English seemed to offer an opportunity of mitigating a few longstanding irritations, such as the paucity of Hymns for certain occasions, the unhistoricity of many of the so-called historic Lessons, the overuse of some Commons, and the lack of appropriate Commons for Evangelists, Matrons, and so forth. In supplying these things from cognate Uses, the additions have been bracketed, so as to enable the Roman-minded to avoid them if they feel they must. Only in the case of the Hymns for St. Mary Magdalene and the Assumption have the current Roman alternatives not been indicated, for the reason that the former are based on a tradition concerning the Magdalene now much in doubt, and the recent Roman recension of the latter Office appeared to late for us to make full use of it.

Some portions of Genesis, Exodus, Jeremiah, and Tobit long since omitted from the Breviary have been restored in the form of Matin Responsories during the weeks when those books are in reading so as to continue the Scriptural narrative by this means. Matins Responds have also been supplied for some Vigils, after the precedent of French Uses, to obviate the labour of looking up seasonal Responds.

In some other cases material has been specially compiled, but in each such case the reason should be obvious. The historic Lessons have been revised on the basis of the findings of the Bollandists. Instead of the papal Bull on the Immaculate Conception, assigned to the Feast of the Conception, a discursus on the development of this Feast has been substituted. Because the Roman Octavarium is not to be had in English, a Common of Octaves has been compiled, for the benefit of those who lack better material for keeping patronal Octaves.

In the General Rubrics herein appearing mention is made of the common, the constituent, and the accidental parts of the Office. It is chiefly in the accidental parts of the Office that these departures from the actual Latin text of the Breviary have seemed advisable, but all such changes have been on the basis of good precedent. In particular it should be noted that the non-Scriptural formularies of the Breviary – Hymns, historic Lessons and the like – have never been held so sacrosanct as the parts which stem more directly from divinely inspired authorship.

From the foregoing it should be evident that reverent care has marked the labours of your editors. The Anglican Breviary was first projected in 1916 by suggestions from the Reverend Frank Gavin. Since then many other scholars have contributed valuable advice, and many have also worked over this part or that. During the past twenty years it has been slowly put together, some of it beinf rewritten many times. All have given their services freely, for the furtherance of the prayer life of the faithful, that God might be given the greater glory. And to this end also many have contributed money generously, to defray the initial publishing costs which have been large. Chief among these was Josephine Cole who gave a large sum to establish the Frank Gavin Liturgical Foundation, charged with task of publishing this Breviary and other liturgical books. As publishing costs are earned by the sale of books they are to be returned to the Revolving Fund of the Foundation, so as to secure re-publication unto perpetuity. On another page yor prayers are asked for those whose memorials have made it possible for you to profit by this Breviary.

Acknowledgement is therefore to be made for the debt to the generosity in money, time, wit and labour of all who have contributed to this project. When so many have helped, they cannot all be mentioned by name. Needless to say, the editors have studied every available English translation of the Divine Office or bits of it beginning with The Myroure of our Ladye dow to the present day, and have learned or used something from each of them.

The ideal of the editors of this Breviary has been to include herein the best available English versions of the Office Hymns; but in their judgment intelligibility, devotional fitness, and singableness, seemed more important than a mere literal rendition of the original. As in most collections of Hymns which are prepared for actual use in worship, much collation and comparison, and sometimes even revision, has seemed necessary after the example of the sacred editors of the Book of Psalms, to fit the Hymns to the present purpose. It is therefore impossible to assess the vast debt owed to those of the past and present who have laboured in the field of sacred song.

In most cases the pre-Urbanite Latin version of the Hymns has been used as the basis of translation, for which reason the Latin title herein given to a Hymn often differs from the first line of the Hymn as it now appears in the Latin Secular Breviary, even though in origin they are the same.

References to rising in the middle of the night, which occur in the weekday Hymns of Matins and Lauds, have been amended slightly, so as not to provoke a sense of unreality when these Offices are said by anticipation or after dawn.

Some Hymns have been added from other western Uses when the present Roman usage fails to do full justice to the Church’s vast treasury of hymnody.

There are many translations which have such widespread currency as to have become the common property of English-speaking Christendom, and are to be found in various collections. In the case of some of these, it is hard to find any source from which to seek a desired permission. As far as they knew how to do so, the editors sought permission from proper sources for all translations herein used, and when a desired permission was refused, or was given on conditions which the editors could not accept, the translations in question were not used. For the most part, permissions were freely given, because those interested in Hymns are also interested in increasing the praises of God.

On behalf of all who may use this Breviary the editors wish to express gratitude for permissions, graciously and courteously given, and especially –

To the Society of SS. Peter and Paul for permission to make extracts from the liturgical text of the Anglican Missal.

To Miss Vilma G. Little for permission to make use of the labours of her uncle, the late Rev. C. H. Palmer, Mus. Doc., who was largely responsible for the collections of Hymns published by the Plainsong and Medieval Music Society. The copyright to some Hymns in these collections was held by Dr. Palmer.

To the late Rev. Edward C. Trenhome, S.S, J. E., for permission to make use of his liturgical labours and versions of Hymns embodied inThe Hours of Prayer, the Office-book of the Society of St. John the Evangelist.

To the Mother Superior of Sisters of St. Margaret for permission to use Hymns appearing in the East Grinstead books, many of which are from the pen of John Mason Neale, of blessed memory.

To the Lady Abbess of the Abbey of our Lady of Consolation, Stanbrook, Worcestershire, for permission to make use of the labours of her nuns in giving us their English version of The Roman Breviary and its Hymns.

To the authorities of Hymns Ancient and Modern for the use of information and translations in their Historical Edition of Hymns Ancient and Modern and in A Plainsong Hymn Book.

To the proprietors of The English Hymnal for the use of the vast labours which have gone into their translations and compilations.

Attention is called to more specific acknowledgements of permissions and authorship in the English Index of Hymns at the end of this book.

An italicized vowel in the text of Hymns represents an elision of a vowel necessary to preserve rhythm, or a mute vowel which poorly trained choirs sometimes attempt to pronounce.

The chief concern of your editors has been to provide a medium of prayer which would gather up the devotion of past Catholic ages, as a guide for our prayer in the present day. There is no place for eclecticism or individual notions in liturgy. Editors should follow good liturgical precedent in every matter, and this we have endeavoured to do, so that holy Church herself may thereby continue to form her  mind and spirit in us. Liturgy is prayer canonized, that is, teh prayer of the Church herself as established by Canon Law, and Catholic and provincial custom.

Of the slow and careful building of God’s temple in ancient times it is written, The work was great, for the palace was not for man, but for God. In this spirit many laboured, for over thirty years, to enrich the Church by the provision of this Breviary for the stimulation of liturgical prayer and worship amongst us. They gave their services, for they had nothing else to give. When it came time to publish they waited on God in faith, that the wherewithal might be provided. He put it into the hearts of the faithful to offer financial assistance, so that each section of the Breviary, as it was set up and paged, was paid for in advance. Thus only the printing, binding and handling costs need to be assumed as a debt by the Liturgical Foundation. The prayers of all who use this book are asked for those in whose memory these large gifts were given, and to whom the various parts of the Breviary are dedicated, as set forth after the Title page in the list of Dedications in the forefront of this book.


About Father Gregory

I am an Anglican Catholic Priest, currently residing in Orvelte, the Netherlands.
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