Saying the Office


Over the past few years I have switched back and forth between the Office of Saint Benedict (Lancelot Andrewes Press version) and the Anglican Breviary (AB).  I have decided to make the AB more Benedictine; so that at all the Hours (including Lauds and Vespers) I always take the Our Father sequence:

Lord have mercy upon us. Christ have mercy upon us. Lord have mercy upon us.

Our Father …

Regardless of the Feast. It seems that the Our Father is a most appropriate way of closing the hour with. Such is also the way St. Benedict suggested it be done (Holy Rule 13). I have also taken to heart that the Office is the place where Scripture is supposed to be read much  more extensively as is the case in the AB now:

The books to be read at the Night Office
shall be those of divine authorship,
of both the Old and the New Testament,
and also the explanations of them which have been made
by well known and orthodox Catholic Fathers.

St. Benedict, Holy Rule 9

So that I am experimenting with reading Scripture continuously at all the places in the Office where the “chapter” is read or where the Scripture is read in Matins. I always have 3 Lessons – 2 from Scripture and 1 from an orthodox Catholic Father. I am trying to match the readings of Scripture to reading a Patristic commentary and it seems to be working so far.

I admit that this is “tinkering” with the tradition, but it fits within Benedictine standards.

Why not simply use the Office of Benedict? Well in the editions known to me barely any Scripture is read at all, plus the distribution of the Psalter makes it next to impossible on a working day for a family-man and priest. After all St. Benedict says:

We strongly recommend, however,
that if this distribution of the Psalms is displeasing to anyone,
she should arrange them otherwise,
in whatever way she considers better,
but taking care in any case
that the Psalter with its full number of 150 Psalms
be chanted every week
and begun again every Sunday at the Night Office.

St. Benedict, Holy Rule 18

Fr. Gregory Wassen +

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About Father Gregory

I am an Anglican Catholic Priest, currently residing in Orvelte, the Netherlands.
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4 Responses to Saying the Office

  1. Eric says:

    Indeed, Fr. Gregory, I once tried the Benedictine Office (with the diurnal and matins volumes from Andrewes Press) and it is less balanced than the AB (Matins+Lauds is quite hefty) in my opinion. The Benedictine hours really do fit in a monastery (a short stay with some Anglican Benedictines showed me this), but as you say, are hardly practical for a working person.

    The AB, on the other hand, even though it requires diligence, is doable for someone in “the world.” As part of my transition back into Lutheranism I have been reading the office found in the Brotherhood Prayer Book (which I will be describing in detail on my blog in the next week or so) which allows one to read all the hours as in the AB or the abbreviated hours of the Reformation. This book of hours is quickly becoming my favorite, though it has one set back: the lack of readings from any sort of commentary whether it be the Fathers (early Church or orthodox Lutheran) or otherwise – something in which the AB has no superior as far as I can tell.

    I am wondering if you (when you have time of course) would be willing to compare the AB with the Orthodox horologion? I am sure that I am not alone among Western Christians who would not only be edified by such a comparison, but are utterly incapable of figuring it out without an Orthodox guide.

    • fathergregory says:

      Dear Eric,

      Absolutely! The AB has a better balance in readings than the LAP Benedictine Office. But both – it seems to me – are “abbreviations” (Breviary) and the abbreviation has usually taken the form of shortening/eliminating Scripture and Patristic readings (a similar mechanism is at work in the Byzantine/Russian Office).

      For that reason I have chosen to experiment with reading more Scripture and more orthodox Catholic Father(s) in Matins (instead of the Breviary readings) as indicated by St. Benedict. It may seem rather arbitrary, yet I follow the pattern of Scripture readings as known in Rome from about the 7th and 8th centuries. More arbitrariness is lurking in choosing Patristic commentaries/readings. But from what I’ve read there was a range of possible (approved) readings (until the abbreviation process got underway) and I am trying to work out a way to match Scripture reading in the Office with Patristic exegesis. I am not sure yet where this going to go, but I hope something usable will result from it.

      I am eagerly anticipating your posts on the Divine Office! I have only seen the Brotherhood’s Office Book advertised online but have never laid eyes on one. I have found the Liturgical resources page they have very useful. After having visited Ostanback Monastery (Lutheran Benedictines) I am much impressed with them, and feel spiritually enriched for having been able to stay with them for a few days.

      Fr. Gregory +

  2. Wesley Smith says:

    Fr. Gregory, I have been using the AB off and on for a little over a year in combination of some sort with the BCP, 1928 or 1662. As for scriptural readings, it’s been something that I’ve been a bit torn over. I can’t always go through all of the office in a given day and so if I stick to the AB exclusively then my readings are all chopped up and disjointed. So here is what I’ve done. I use the BCP for my primary guide for Morning and Evening Prayer. I supplement this with the collects and saints legends from the AB, that is so that I retain as much of the AB material as possible. I use the AB for Compline as well as Terce, Sext and None where possible; particularly Compline. As for scripture, I use the lectionary from the Fellowship of St. James which insures that the entire bible is covered and not just snippets. Since this doesn’t include the apocryphal or deuterocanonical books or church fathers, I include 1 chapter from the deuterocanonicals and a reading from the apostolic fathers with Compline. My lectionary readings are supplemented with commentary from the Ancient Christian Commentary series which is commentary from a variety of orthodox church fathers. Pretty complex but, it works.

  3. Pingback: Saying the Office (ii) « The Anglican Breviary

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