The Breviary is the name commonly given to the compendium of Psalms, Selections of Scripture, Hymns, Antiphons, Legends and Prayers that in former times were spread across different books. To pray an (Divine) Office recourse would have to be made to several books just to put the service together correctly. In later times an abbreviation was made of these books and they were conflated into fewer volumes. The Breviary – or abridgment – was born.
The Anglican Breviary is unique in Breviary history. Most Breviaries consist of four volumes: Winter, Spring, Autumn, and Summer. The Anglican Breviary is one volume and it contains all the material needed from the different liturgical books to construct the Divine Office for all four seasons. It is also unique in that it is especially adapted to fit the English Catholic tradition – that is to say Anglicanism.
Rubrics (ruber = red) are directions, usually given in red print in liturgical books, by which one is enabled to construct and perform the Office correctly. These directions, as we find them scattered throughout the Anglican Breviary, are for the most part specific applications of the General Rubrics. The latter are given in the Anglican Breviary beginning on page xxv. In other Breviaries the General Rubrics are given at the beginning of the Winter volume (Pars Hiemalis). Getting a grip on the General Rubrics and the Rubrics given in the Common Forms, Ordinary and Psalter of the Anglican Breviary are the primary task and feat of all beginners.
By the rite of an Office is meant the rank it occupies in the liturgical hierarchy, according to its relative importance. The different rites as found in the Anglican Breviary are:
Doubles/ Major Feasts
Double of the First Class (d1) ~ which may have an Octave
Double of the Second Class (d2) ~ which may have an Octave
Greater Double (gd)
Double (d) ~ often styled lesser Double
FEASTS AND FERIALS
Offices can be festal or ferial. With the former it is usually a matter of feasts (saint or mystery) celebrated on certain dates: for example St. Joseph of Arimeathea on February 2nd (AB p. S17-18). In the latter case it is generally a matter of Offices belonging to a certain day of the year: for example the Wednesday in the fourth week of Lent (AB p. C258-C260). It is common knowledge that the same date does not always fall on the same day: this is one of the important features distinguishing festal from ferial Offices. Feria’s are so named because the word for day in Latin is feria. Wednesday is therefore “feria quarta” or the “fourth day” – of the week. Sundays and Saturdays have different names. Sunday is Dominica (dies), and Saturday is Sabbato so named after the biblical Sabbath. This solves the riddle of what happened to the Sabbath. It did not transfer to Sunday, but has remained where it always (biblically) had been: on Saturday. The reason Sabbath is no longer the central focus of the week is because of the New Creation blossoming forth out of the grave on Sunday. That is Our Lord rose from the dead on Sunday and therefore the New Covenant keeps a different day as the central focus of the week. The Sabbath is the last day of the week and implies the end of the world contaminated by sin, the Sunday implies the overcoming of the fallen world by a complete and radical re-ordering of it by Jesus Christ. The Sabbath expects and prepares for Sunday after the manner that the Old Testament prepares for the New Testament, the Old Law (given by the mediation of Angels) for the New established by the WORD of God Himself.
It could be said that, generally, festal Offices are personal and that ferial Offices are impersonal in nature. Festal Offices can rank from Simple all the way to I class Double. Ferial Offices are usually of even though some feria’s exclude any festal office to said on them (for example the feria’s of Holy Week). The days in an Octave are usually of semi-double rite, and major/greater double is the ordinary rank of Octave Days (the 8th and last day of an Octave). In many Ordo’s (Directory’s) ferial and vigil Offices (a Vigil Office is ferial) are indicated by the words de ea (de ea feria or de ea vigilia). The Saturdays or Sabbaths are indicated by de eo (de eo Sabbato). Sunday Offices are indicated by the words de ea Dominica but are usually of semi-double and privileged rank rather than simple. Sundays, therefore, do not generally give way to Offices below major/greater double. The editors of the Anglican Breviary, however, restrict the Offices that could override the Sunday office even further:
The editors of this Breviary recommend that the Benedictine usage be followed in this respect, whereby the Sunday Office is preferred to every Feast whatsoever except I and II Class Doubles; and the following Rubrics therefore do not agree with the modern Roman usage in this respect.
This recommendation sets the Sunday apart from other ferial days, which gives it a dignity fitting for the day upon which Christians celebrate the Passion-Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.