The Preface to the Book of Common Prayer presumes that the Scripture Lessons from the Breviary were originally intended to be used in such a way that:
.. all the whole Bible (or the greatest part thereof) should be read over once every year …
Book of Common Prayer (1662), Concerning the Service of the Church, p. viii.
Having read Battifol’s history of the Breviary I have no doubt that the BCP’s preface is correct. Over time less Scripture was read as other readings were added to the Divine Office. Another development was the shortening – abbreviating – the Divine Office and making it possible to carry the entire Divine Office in one volume (totum) or Breviary. The Office is generally thought to have suffered under these developments and the Preface to the Book of Common Prayer certainly makes complaint against some of these developments.
The Anglican Breviary (AB) itself however has a different theory as to its treatment of Scripture:
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.
The Anglican Breviary, Explanations and Acknowledgments, p. ix.
The purpose of the Scripture and other readings in the AB are not study of the Bible or the Fathers. The purpose of these “selections” of Scripture and other readings is to encourage, support and sustain “points for reflective prayer” – the knowledge the AB is after is not accumulation of facts (from Scripture or elsewhere) but meditative. It is about knowledge of God rather than knowledge about God. The composers of the Book of Common Prayer (BCP) Lectionary (from 1549 until – not necessarily including – recent times) aim at gaining more facts from Scripture about God. The long BCP lections are anything but conducive of reflection and meditation.
This is not a shortcoming of the BCP, however. The BCP has a different aim and is very well adapted to attaining its own goals. The AB is terribly inadequate as an instrument to achieve knowledge about God via continuous reading of Scripture. This is not a shortcoming of the AB. The AB does not aim at imparting that kind of knowledge but rather presumes its presence. If users of the AB do not wish to be deprived of the benefits of the BCP, they will need to turn elsewhere for a continuous reading of the Bible.
The internet has several schemes or plans for reading the Bible in one, two, or three years. Most of these plans are Protestant and therefore leave out a large part of the Bible. A Catholic reading plan would work much better for us Anglicans. I myself have begun to use Carmen Rojas’ Bible reading plan for Roman Catholics. This little volume contains a one, two, and three year Bible reading plan and will guide you through the entire Bible.
In using such plans you may find it convenient to add it before the Daily Offices, or perhaps after breakfast/dinner, or whatever is most convenient to you. In order to read Scripture continuously such a plan is warmly recommended by me. It is not impossible to use the AB without such a plan of course, but the deeper your roots in Scripture are the more spiritual gain you will find in using the AB itself. It may be the case that you simply lack the time to add 7 minutes a day (or less) to the reading of Scripture and performing the entire Divine Office. If that is your situation I would suggest that you drop the Little Hours from the AB and read your Bible instead. Unless you are a clergyman you are not bound to say the Divine Office entire. Of course if you are a religious you ought to consult your superior/abbot first.
The sidebar of this blog has a widget for Twitter and there I will post – if I can daily – the readings I am personally reading from Carmen Rojas’ 2 year cycle.