In using the Anglican Breviary either individually or in a group (preferred of course! ) resource must be had to the Kalendar. The Anglican Breviary contains two such Kalendars: 1.) the Universal Kalendar which has an enormous number of feast to be celebrated, 2.) the Simple Kalendar which has less feasts and was designed for use by Anglicans.
The Universal Kalendar gives us the example of “living Scripture” by presenting to us the stories of saints whose lives are conformed to the Lord Jesus Christ. The latter is of course the Word of God in the flesh, which renders the saints who have achieved likeness wit Him “words of God in the flesh.” In other words the saints present to us a scriptural pattern of life and therefore provide the key to practice Scripture. In order to practice Scripture it must of course be understood, this too is provided for in references to Scripture in the “legends” themselves or stories of the saints and the Lessons taken from Scripture and patristic sources connected to their feasts from either the Proper or the Common. There is great virtue in the use of the Universal Kalendar as given in the Anglican Breviary.
The Simple Kalendar was designed with the principles of the Book of Common Prayer in mind, which expressed the desire to downsize the Breviaries to what was perceived as a more ancient use:
THERE was never any thing by the wit of man so well devised, or so sure established, which in continuance of time hath not been corrupted: As, among other things, it may plainly appear by the Common Prayers in the Church, commonly called Divine Service. The first original and ground whereof if a man would search out by the ancient Fathers, he shall find, that the same was not ordained but of a good purpose, and for a great advancement of godliness. For they so ordered the matter, that all the whole Bible (or the greatest part thereof) should be read over every year; intending thereby, that the Clergy, and especially such as were Ministers in the congregation, should (by often reading, and meditation in God’s word) be stirred up to godliness themselves and be more able to exhort others by wholesome Doctrine, and to confute them that were adversaries to the Truth; and further, that the people (by daily hearing of holy Scripture read in the Church) might continually profit more and more in the knowledge of God, and be the more inflamed with the love of his true Religion.
But these many years passed, this godly and decent order of the ancient Fathers hath been so altered, broken, and neglected, by planting in uncertain Stories, and Legends, with multitude of Responds, Verses, vain Repetitions, Commemorations, and Synodals; that commonly when any Book of the Bible was begun, after three of four Chapters were read out, all the rest were unread. And in this sort the Book of Isaiahwas begun in Advent, and the Book of Genesis in Septuagesima; but they were only begun, and never read through: after like sort were other Books of holy Scripture used. And moreover, whereas St. Paul would have such language spoken to the people in the Church, as they might understand, and have profit by hearing the same; the service in this Church of England these many years hath been read in Latin to the people, which they understand not; so that they have heard with their ears only, and their heart, spirit and mind, have not been edified thereby. And furthermore, notwithstanding that the ancient Fathers have divided the Psalms into seven portions, whereof every one was called a Nocturn: now of late time a few of them have been daily said, and the rest utterly omitted. Moreover, the number and hardness of the Rules called the Pie, and the manifold changings of the service, was the cause, that to turn the book only was so hard and intricate a matter, that many times there was more business to find out what should be read, than to read it when it was found out.
These inconveniences therefore considered, here is set forth such an order, whereby the same shall be redressed. And for a readiness in this matter, here is drawn out a Calendar for that purpose, which is plain and easy to be understood; wherein (so much as may be) the reading of holy Scripture is so set forth, that all things shall be done in order, without breaking one piece from another. For this cause be cut off Anthems, Responds, Invitatories, and such like things as did break the continual course of the reading of the Scripture.
Concerning the Service of the Church, The Book of Common Prayer (1662)
To mend the situation the Book of Common Prayer conflates several Offices into Morning and Evening Prayer and extends the reading of Scripture significantly in comparison with the Breviaries of its time. The Kalendar in the Book of Common Prayer still provides special readings and psalms for certain feast days, but it has very few of them. The Book of Common Prayer also does not include the “legends” of the saints, nor does it include patristic commentary on the scriptural lessons which have been read. This is a rather extreme measure which has been amended in recent times by extending the Kalendar (such as in the current version of the Church of England) and providing books which contain legends and patristic readings for optional use to accompany the latest Book of Common Prayer.
The Anglican Breviary has already accomplished the same thing that the modern Book of Common Prayer has done – or rather the Book of Common Worship since it is not strictly speaking a Book of Common Prayer but an alternative allowed alongside the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. The Simple Kalendar allows sufficient room for the regular recitation of the entire Psalter and a much wider selection of Scripture reading and has a good selection of feasts with their own special Psalms and readings. In this the Anglican Breviary is a revision of the Roman Breviary on the same principles as that of the Book of Common Prayer but without quite such radical cuts in the Kalendar. The Anglican Breviary is a designed for common prayer and for the reading of Scripture, the understanding of Scripture, and the living of Scripture so that we may become what our Lord Jesus Christ already is.
Scripture, Scripture, Scripture
The Book of Common Prayer – as Fr. Percy Dearmer never tired of reminding us – consists mainly of Scripture and can be used fully with just the addition of a complete Bible. Prayer Book and Bible make up a complete Daily Office for the Anglican Church and this is a great virtue. The heavy emphasis on Scripture could be perceived as typically Protestant. If that is true, than it speaks well of Protestantism. The life of a Christian is governed by Scripture. It is his foremost means of communion with Jesus Christ the Savior. The Divine Office begins with a citation of Scripture, we are given the Psalms as our prayers to God and as His words addressed to us, we have lessons from other Books of the Scriptures both Old and New Testaments. In the Mass or Divine Liturgy the Prayer Book starts with Scripture (Our Father – but even if a Missal is used the “name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost” is also cited from Scripture to wit St. Matthew’s Gospel), it contains readings from Scripture and the very Sacrament of the Eucharist itself is governed by the words of and derived from Scripture. The same is true for other sacramental acts and services of the Church. This is true for the Anglicans as much as it is true for the Eastern Orthodox and the Roman Catholics. The centrality of Scripture is not itself a merely Protestant thing, rather it is a Christian fact. It is true that the over-emphasis on Scripture characterizes Protestantism which is evident even in the Book of Common Prayer itself (because the latter lacks “legends” and patristic commentary). The Book of Common Worship and the Anglican Breviary both address and mend this problem.
As I have said before on this blog, the Anglican Breviary is a Book of Common Prayer if properly understood. We can justly say that the Daily Office of the Book of Common Prayer is a condensed and reformed version of the Roman Breviary (Sarum Use), but reciprocally it is true to say that the Anglican Breviary is a more elaborate and revised Book of Common Prayer! The relation between the Anglican Breviary and the Book of Common Prayer is therefore – as I see it – not one of opposition or antagonism (not to mention competition) but one of kinship. The Anglican Breviary contains within itself the entire Book of Common Prayer and does not replace it when used, but it elaborates on the Book of Common Prayer which should also be evident from the very title of the Anglican Breviary itself: The Anglican Breviary : containing the Divine Office according to the general usage of the Western Church, put into English in accordance with the Book of Common Prayer. The cursive emphasis (mine) explains some of the quirks of the Anglican Breviary not found in the Pius X Breviary to which the Anglican Breviary is very similar. For example the lectionary of the Pius X Breviary and the Anglican Breviary differ slightly – the latter following the Book of Common Prayer. The Kalendar counts Sundays and Weeks after Trinity not Pentecost as is the Roman practice. The Anglican Breviary contains a Simple Kalendar which allows for a more regular reading of the ferial office in its entirety which the Roman does not. The Anglican Breviary favors and fully provides for Anglican Feast Days across the Anglican Communion, the Roman does not. The Anglican Breviary differs slightly in its rubrics in favor of Prayer Book principles where the Roman Breviary does not (simplification of Double Feasts to simples, more emphasis on Sunday, additions from Sarum and other cognate uses, etc.). In short the Anglican Breviary is a Book of Common Prayer as much as the Book of Common Worship is and perhaps ought to be authorized as an alternative to the Book of Common Prayer without abolishing the latter.
Be that as it may, in order to use either the Book of Common Prayer or the Anglican Breviary, resource must be had to the Kalendar. For only by consulting the latter can be determined how the Daily Office is to be read. Armed with the understanding of the Kalendar and its distribution of the Scriptures throughout the Divine Office one can open either Prayer Book and begin to say the Office.
Fr. Gregory Wassen +
~ Ps. A practical how to concerning Kalendar and Scripture is in the works.