The Breviary !

The Breviary! How many persons have the words constantly in their mouths without attaching a tangible idea to the phrase! How many have a misty notion that it contains a monstrous jumble of incredible legends, invocations of saints, medieval legends, fictions, and deceits of all sorts! How many, even a degree further  in ignorance, mix it up with the mass, and expend a vocabulary of Protestant indignation on both in one! How few realize to themselves that it is, to the rest of the Western Church, their Office of Morning and Evening Prayer, their Collects, their daily and Sunday Lessons, and Psalter! Nay, that it is the source from which our own Prayers and Collects have been transcribed. An English Breviary, indeed, would be a very convenient book, and we recommend it to some of our publishers.

~ Rev. John Mason Neale, The Breviary Roman and Gallican, p. 1.

The saintly John Mason Neale’s wish did find fulfillment. The Roman Breviary (pre-Pius X) was translated into English by the Marquis de Bute, and the Pius X Breviary was translated and conformed to the Prayer Book for Anglican use and is our very own Anglican Breviary. Also the Benedictine Monastic Office has appeared in an English translation and it too is adapted to conform to the Prayer Book aiming at use by Anglicans.

In a previous post I wrote – taking my lead from J.H. Blunt and the Preface to the Book of Common Prayer – about “corruptions” in the Roman Breviary which were corrected in the Anglican Breviary. It was the Rev. Blunt himself who hinted that the BCP complaint about the complexity of the Rubrics seemed somewhat “fabricated” and it was questionable how much the rubrical difficulties prevented or interfered with an Office being prayed. I agree with him. Certainly those who are adapt to the Rubrics will develop a “feeling” for the Office and how it is to be built up for the day, and it does not significantly hinder prayer at all. It does force some preparation, but preparation ought to serve to remind us we are about to embark on a holy spiritual journey – one in which we will come face to face with God. For that is what prayer is conversation with God. The Breviary is a means by which we cultivate ourselves so that we may achieve such conversation.

There may be corruptions of several sorts to the Breviary, but these are easily fixed and it is not clear to me that all the charges brought against the Breviary by the Preface to the Book of Common Prayer can stand the test of critical review. As a consequence some of the “fixes” introduced by the BCP were not fixes to real problems but are innovations to conform the Office (and of course the Mass) to the New Learning of Protestantism. The first two Prayer Books were introduced whilst the official teaching of the Church of England was still that contained in The King’s Book rather than the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion (which were introduced in 1562  without The King’s Book being abolished). The Prayer Books of 1549 and 1552, in spite of the undoubtedly Zwinglian convictions of Abp. Cranmer, were accepted and used in and by the Church of England in conformity to that standard of doctrine which it officially held. The heretical opinions of Abp. Cranmer are not what the Church of England desired to be expressed in these liturgies. The Prayer Books are sufficiently Catholic to be capable of conveying and celebrating a Catholic faith.

But that is not the entire story about these Prayer Books. The BCP Offices of Morning and Evening Prayer are indeed simple, and they also pivot around the Psalter and the Bible. But the shedding of the Antiphons (Anthems), Versicles, Responds, Legends, Patristic Homilies did not just simplify the Office. It also undid the decidedly Catholic nature of the Offices. It cannot be denied that the Psalter and the Scripture form the core of the ancient Morning and Evening Prayers of the early Church. In so far as Abp. Cranmer reshaped the Offices to restore to the Psalter and Scripture a more prominent role he was entirely on Catholic grounds. But removing the “dressing” of the Offices also removed their Catholic specificity. of course the Offices are still capable of Catholic use and interpretation but it no longer necessitates such Catholic use and interpretation. One may use the biblical nature of the Prayer Book Offices in an almost entirely Calvinist framework. Though the Thirty-Nine Articles – if taken into account – will dull the sharp edges of Calvinism by moderating some of its extreme tenets. In fact this is what Evangelicals are doing today! An argument could be made that this is an abuse of the Prayer Book, but the fact of this possibility is before us today.

On the other hand there are no Evangelicals using the Anglican or English Missal today. The Missals, though they have incorporated tenets from the Prayer Book Mass, cannot be turned into a Protestant or Evangelical vehicle. They are of their very nature Catholic. The same is true for the Anglican Breviary. It simply will not countenance Protestant Evangelical interpretation and use. It is Catholic by its very nature! The AB does, of course, contain all the biblical features of the Prayer Book, but it contextualizes these features in such a way that they cannot be interpreted or used in any other way but a Catholic way. Yet our official usage in Churches for Common Prayer is exclusively the Prayer Book. This makes me wonder whether or not there is room in the different Jurisdictions of Catholic Anglicanism for an optional use of the Anglican Breviary such as already exists for the Anglican and English (American) Missals?

Gregory +


About Father Gregory

I am an Anglican Catholic Priest, currently residing in Orvelte, the Netherlands.
This entry was posted in Anglican Breviary, Psalmody, Roman Breviary. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to The Breviary !

  1. Dale says:

    Excellent article! It is indeed strange that in England our Anglo-Catholic brethren have also rejected the Missal as well as the Breviary for the potage of the novus ordo; hence, unfortunately, it is not only the evangelicals who are not using these two foundations of the Catholic faith, but fellow so-called Anglo-Catholics!

    • Father Gregory says:

      The “Bugninification” of the Roman Rite “buggered” the Mass and Divine Office in a terrible way. In precisely the same manner as it had happened to the Church of England during the Reformation “the rule of faith” (and not the ancient but the latest rule on the block) was used to “create new liturgies” or at least restructure the old ones so as to conform to the new standard of doctrine. The Ordinary Form (Novus Ordo) is no less a departure from the ancient liturgies as was the Book of Common Prayer – except that in some ways the Book of Common Prayer aimed at conciliating the Old Learning while yet introducing a form which conformed to the New Learning. Even Bishop Stephen Gardiner – the defender of the Faith in the face of Abp. Cranmer’s heresies – was able to recognize that the form of the 1549 Book of Common Prayer was capable of being forced into conformity with the ancient Catholic faith and even that of the more recent interpretation of “transubstantiation” (annihilation of the elements of Bread and Wine upon consecration).

      The creators of the Novus Ordo did not – it seems to me – even bother to try to conciliate the ancient understanding of the Office and the Mass. It is wholly conformed to the fancies of Bugnini and his ilk of liturgical scholars. At least the Book of Common Prayer did not – because it could not – overturn the entirety of the ancient ways and understanding. The thoroughgoing Protestant interpretation and use of the Prayer Book did not set in until after the Puritans and Evangelicals were able to gain the majority and give the impression that the Prayer Book was Protestant and only Protestant. The complete neglect of the Ornaments Rubric did much to reinforce the impression that there is nothing Catholic about the Prayer Book. Yet the Prayer Book, if used in conformity with the Manuale Clericorum or Directorium Anglicanum is difficult to interpret in an entirely Protestant fashion … It is the emptiness of neglect which has corrupted the interpretation and use of the Prayer Book – which following the Prayer Book’s Preface logic – necessitates Reform. And a Reform away from the late Medieval misunderstandings of the New Learning based on Reneisance Humanism in an ancient Christian direction. And in my conviction we thus arrive at the Anglican Breviary / English Office Book. For the latter, I believe, reforms the Prayer Book while maintaining its condensed structure.

      The Anglican Breviary – to my knowledge – is not authorized as a form of public worship in any Anglican or Anglo Catholic Jurisdiction. This is very surprising to me since the compatibility of the (Anglican) Missals and the (Anglican) Breviary is so obvious it should not require explanation. The mismatch between the (Anglican) Missals and the Prayer Book Offices is also pretty obvious (invocation of Saints to name the most obvious difference). The (Anglican) Missals and Breviary have retained all that is true and good of the Medieval liturgies, while also incorporating all that is true and necessary from the principles of reform upon which the Prayer Book is based. The former the Prayer Book has failed in doing which can be seen by the ease with which Protestant use is widely made of the Prayer Books today. In a sense the Anglican Catholics have mostly focused on reforming the weaknesses of the Prayer Book Mass but have neglected to do the same for the Divine Office.

      That is not to say that I wish to see the Prayer Book vanish from use in our Churches, but I do think that it is time that the Prayer Books we are using would undergo yet another revision. The Prayer Books were devised upon the idea that the New Learning required new liturgies, it is that principle which needs to be reversed. In the English Office Book we see this done for the Office based on the 1662 BCP, and a similar effort has been undertaken for the 1928 American BCP in the Orthodox Book of Common Prayer. It seems to me that allowing such variations in our Jurisdictions would merely produce matching Missals and Offices, and such an action seems (to me at least) implied by allowing the Missals in the first place.

      Caveat: It is for our Hierarchs to decide what is to be authorized for public use – and for priests like myself to follow the directions given. It is proper I believe to make a case for the Breviary, and petition our Hierarchs to grant permission but it is not proper to take matters into our own hands.

      Gregory +

      • Dale says:

        Excellent points. I do know that the American Missal did receive official support through the “Foreign Rites” canon and was officially used in several Italian and Hungarian Roman [Old] Catholic groups which affiliated with the Episcopal Church in the 30’s. I think that most of us are from the tradition of Missal Mass on the altar preceded by a BCP, with or without interpolations from the “The Prayer Book Office” or the “English Office.” Pastorally, this seems to work quite well. Have you seen the new Lancelot Andrewes Press BCP? It is very interesting and feels very much like the old “Manual of Catholic Devotion for Church of England People.” Containing both the missal mass and propers with the offices from the BCP.

      • Father Gregory says:

        The Orthodox BCP I referred to is the very same Lancelot Andrewes Press BCP 😉 I like it well enough. Especially the re-introduction of the OT Canticles as an optional addition when the Te Deum is not said. Also the suggestions there given for an optional 3d lesson opens up the possibility of restoring Legends/Homilies to the Prayer Boom Office. What I like about the English Office Book is that it’s Antiphons are specifically aimed at Prayer Book use and even the Readings (Revised 1922 Lectionary) are to be found in the Antiphons on the NT Canticles. Both the Orthodox BCP and the English Office go a long way of undoing Cranmer’s damage.

        Pastorally speaking revolution is almost always bad. A Parish used to Prayer Book Matins before the Missal Mass cannot be turned to Breviary or even English Office/Orthodox BCP suddenly. Common Prayer is first of all precisely that Common Prayer. This edifies the community and builds community in preparation for the central act of Christian worship: the Sacrifice of the Mass. Only when the people themselves are ready to have the Office and Mass once again correspond rather than conflict can changes be implemented. Most people are unaware – it seems to me – that the Office and the Mass are in conflict. At least in so far as the Office of the Prayer Book still carries the shape of Cranmer’s Protestant thought and the Missal has undone Cranmer’s thoughts while integrating the catholic elements of the reforms Cranmer forced upon the people. Only when it is seen and understood how the Office of the Anglican Breviary, English Office, Orthodox BCP etc. do for the Office what the Missal has done for the Holy Communion will there be a fertile soil for a Catholic reform of the reform of the BCP Office. For the Anglican Breviary is not the Old (Tridentine or pre-Tridentine) Breviary. It is very much a work of reform based on the catholic principles expressed in the Preface of the BCP. The Anglican Breviary is – I believe – Catholic and reformed but not Protestant. It uses the Coverdale Psalter, the KJV Bible, the Prayer Book Collects, the Prayer Book Saints (and more), the Prayer Book system of numbering Sundays, the Prayer Book sequence of Mass readings, and an Anglican emphasis in Legends and Homilies (particularly those of the Conception of the BVM), etc. I really believe that the AB expresses the doctrine of the Church completely and without reserve. It keeps all the ties with ancient tradition, while it also recognizes the need for reform and its Office expresses its catholic roots and it also expresses the reforms which took the Office out of the hands of the clergy and returned to the whole people of God (clergy not excluded).

        Gregory +

        Ps just some thoughts as I am about to doze off into a much needed nights rest …

  2. Jim Hicks says:

    I wonder if Bishop Robert Duncan of the new Anglican Church of North America would see fit to include the Anglican Breviary as acceptable for daily office use? He was very Catholic oriented while rector of St. Thomas Parish in Newark, Delaware. I have not seen yet what Prayer Book they have decided upon, although I suspect it is the 1979 version.

    Jim Hicks

    • Father Gregory says:

      I don’t know if he would, I have very little knowledge of Abp. Duncan. I understand he is in favor of ordaining women priests, which is not very Catholic. But perhaps his tolerance of one thing may cause him to be tolerant in another. And perhaps allowing the Breviary would bring about a more firm rooting in tradition and a return to a male priesthood for the ACNA? That would be good!

      Gregory +

      • Dale says:

        Yes, he is very, very much a liberal of 1970’s vintage. His diocese uses that novus ordo of an abomination of the 1979 BCP with the altar turned around to become a clerical power desk. It is all very sad; and any true Anglo-Catholic to be associated with such a crowd really begs the question.

  3. Dale Crakes says:

    Fr Gregory could you please expand on this need? “Only when it is seen and understood how the Office of the Anglican Breviary, English Office, Orthodox BCP etc. do for the Office what the Missal has done for the Holy Communion will there be a fertile soil for a Catholic reform of the reform of the BCP Office.” You mentioned additional optional canticles and I’m wondering what other materials you would include in a de-Cranmerizing of MP & EP or as I prefer Matins & Vespers. The appropriate Breviary Office Hymns or antiphons on the Benedictus and Magnificat coming to mind but are there other things you have in mind ?

    • Father Gregory says:

      Dale Crakes:

      Excellent question! Thank you for making me revisit this!

      I think the “Ritual Notes” (9-th edition) goes a very long way of undoing the damage Cranmer has done to the Offices. Richard Hurrell Froude famously said:

      “the Reformation was a limb badly set ; it must be broken again, in order to be righted”

      The same is true for the “Reformed Offices” they must be broken again to be righted. The Anglican Breviary has done that, the Orthodox BCP goes a long way as does the English Office. But the complete restoration would be to use Sarum (in all its imprecision and variety) a rough basis and perhaps adopt some features of the BCP Office into that.

      However since most parishes are so accustomed to the BCP structure it would not be desirable to return to Medieval ways “cold turkey.” I would suggest that adding Antiphons to the Psalms, and adding the OT Canticle to the portion of Psalms (removing the “Benedicte, omnia opera” from its present BCP position), re-distributing the Psalms so that 1-108 and 109-150 are appropriately distributed over Matins, Diurnum (at noon in place of “Sext” ) Vespers and Compline (or Evensong & Morning Prayer if Diurnum & Compline would be pushing it too far), the re-distribution should take its lead from the Sarum distribution or perhaps that of St. Benedict rather than the Anglican Breviary or the modern Roman rites. The Hymns ought to be the traditional ones for the appropriate Offices (most of them are put to music in the traditional Hymnals, or better yet the Saint Dunstan Plainsong Psalter and such publications. The Lessons would be introduced as in the BCP or as in the Breviary (either with or without the Pater & Absolution) and they would be terminated with an appropriate V & R or the Te Deum in case of festal Offices. Also the Daily Office would be said in correspondence with the Daily Mass not with the Mass of the previous Sunday (the Office and Mass of the day are a unity and should never be separated). The Lessons ought to be expanded to three for feasts so that Sundays have a Gospel reading and Homily (as in the Breviary) on Sundays or a Legend for Feasts (with appropriate Hymns and V & R).

      It’s quite a project. And much good work has already been done, and many ideas can be found in the authors of the Ritualist Movement of the 19-th Century. Of course this is just a series of ideas I would like to see discussed and improved upon. I am by no means a “liturgist” or any reputation! Nothing set in stone, but much to be considered, rejected/accepted and improved upon. But the poisin of Cranmer’s theology must be once and for all replaced with Catholic and Orthodox (not Eastern) theology.


  4. Dale Crakes says:

    I’m a different Dale. Grew up 40s & 50s, pre-Vatican II spike.

  5. Kevin says:

    I’m a Calvinist (an ex-Roman) who uses the Anglican Breviary. I have no problem leaving out certain parts (e.g., praying for the dead). I also ignore the vast majority of the kalendar and use only the references to the apostles and evangelists. I find the discipline of daily prayer to be a necessity for me. It’s what Christ uses to keep me close to Him.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s