Ascension in the Anglican Breviary

Reforming and adapting the Breviary

The Anglican Breviary (AB) is a rendering into Anglo Catholic of the Roman Breviary as reformed under St. Pius X. It is no surprise therefore that the AB shows features of both the Roman Breviary and the Book of Common Prayer. It does, however, surprise (perhaps) that the AB also shows the signs of another presence: that of its Franciscan editor.

Father Joseph – as the editor was known – did a mostly faithful translation of the Roman Breviary into English while adapting it to contain the Book of Common Prayer (BCP). This way he could honestly and without deceit maintain that the Anglican Breviary IS in fact a version of the Book of Common Prayer except more complete. After all in the introduction to the Anglican (Altar) Missal the argument was put forward that the BCP is an apocopated (shortened/abbreviated) liturgy which by its very nature demanded filling out. This filling out ought to be done by traditional means not explicitly forbidden by the Rubrics governing the BCP. Filling out what was lacking was done while keeping in mind that the BCP is not a primary but a secondary authority in things liturgical and that therefore it demanded an interpretation according to Catholic consent and “not vice versa” (Altar Missal, p. a vii). As I read on another blog recently the Anglican Missal is “Cranmer in reverse.” This was also applied to the Prayer Book Office which resulted in the Anglican Breviary.

Yet translating and integrating with the BCP is not all that Fr. Joseph did with the AB. He also added his own twists on things. This will become clear when we examine the Breviary propers below and compare them with the Roman originals. It turns out that Fr. Joseph “enriched” Antiphons and other propers throughout the Breviary. The, usually, small changes Fr. Joseph added are not necessarily bad. Similar changes had been introduced by St. Pius X. Not only did he approve the almost complete overhaul of the distribution of the Psalms he also dropped ancient Psalm Antiphons and adopted newly created ones. This – it cannot be denied – does put some distance between the Divine Office as it existed before the reforms of Pius X with how it exists afterwards. Father Joseph did not re-distribute the Psalter further nor did he invent Antiphons out of nothing. He did add rubrics and other liturgical features from “cognate uses” (Anglican Breviary, p. vii). These additions are not destructive of the Office or the Roman Rite as such but can be – it seems to me – harmlessly incorporated in the Roman Rite (of which the BCP is an extremely mutilated version). Some additions, however, seem to originate not from cognate uses but from Fr. Joseph himself. It is to these additions that I want to take a closer look. I will be taking this closer look by comparing propers from the Roman Breviary and the Anglican Breviary below.

The Ascension Propers

The first small, but noticeable, change occurs in the Antiphon 4 of Lauds (which are also used for I and II Vespers). First the Antiphon as it occurs in the Roman Breviary:

Praise ye the King of kings, yea, sing a hymn to God, alleluia.

Now the same Antiphon as it occurs in the Anglican Breviary:

Praise ye the King of kings, and magnify him forever: yea sing a hymn to God, alleluia.

I have highlighted Father Joseph’s addition in red. There is nothing disturbing or unCatholic about the addition but it does not occur in the Roman original and in that sense distances the AB further from the Breviary from which both the Pius X reformed Breviary and the AB descend. It appears Father Joseph added these words because they occur in the Benedicite omnia opera (The Song of the Three Holy Children) to which this Antiphon is attached at Lauds. The effect is that the connection between the Benedicite omnia opera and its Antiphon is strengthened. It is also in line with the BCP reforms which adds these words to the Benedicite omnia opera to every verse all the way through (though this is not itself adopted in the AB). the words “magnify him forever” fit very well with praising God and singing a hymn to Him. In fact the praising and hymn singing are given some direction as how to praise and sing a hymn by suggesting they involve “magnification.” I can find no deeply felt or principled objection to Fr. Joseph’s little twist here.

To be continued


About Father Gregory

I am an Anglican Catholic Priest, currently residing in Orvelte, the Netherlands.
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2 Responses to Ascension in the Anglican Breviary

  1. Thank you for this enlightenng post–keep them coming, please. Ron+

    • Father Gregory says:

      Thank you Father!

      I intend to continue this for at least one or two more posts. The “twists” are quite numerous and I think worth while to write about. Not just for Ascension. There is more. Stay tuned 🙂

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