The Office of the Dead & the Anglican Breviary


The Office of the Dead – unlike the Little Office of Our Lady – is included in the Anglican Breviary. In the General Rubrics the Anglican Breviary contains the following instructions concerning this Office:

As regards the Office of the Dead: in places where there is Obligation of Choir, it is considered obligatory that the Office be said in Choir each month on the first unimpeded Feria outside of November, Advent, Lent and Eastertide.

The Anglican Breviary, p. xlii.Bethune 1 - Folio 87l - Recitation of the Office of the Dead

If this rule is followed tot he letter in combination with the Universal Kalendar the Office of the Dead will rarely (if ever) be said (other than for All Souls). The editors of the Anglican Breviary note that:

If the Universal Kalendar be followed in its entirety, there will almost never be an unimpeded Feria on which the common Office of the Dead can be said …

Indeed.

But there may yet be a way to interpret the “unimpeded Feria” a bit more widely. The General Rubrics in the Anglican Breviary contain a section where Matins can be said according to Rule 1 or 2. Using this rule allows a Double Feast of ix Lessons to be reduced to three Lessons. This is essentially a “simplification” of the Feast. A Simple Feast is still not  Feria, but we do have a reduction of a ix Lessons Feast to a Feast of iii Lessons. This is significant when we look at the rubrical note preceding the Office of the Dead as contained in the Roman Breviary translated by Bute:

This Office is said upon the first day of the month upon which Nine Lessons are not read, and in Advent, upon the first week-day of every Week not so occupied.

Even though the “simplification” of a Double Feast from ix to iii Lessons does not make the Feast a mere commemoration on a Feria, it seems reasonable to me to interpret “the first unimpeded Feria” to be a day whereon a Feast of ix Lessons is not read. Doing so, and following the Anglican Breviary’s suggestions to use Rule 1 and 2 where we can, the Office of the Dead could once again become a regular feature of the Divine Office. Though perhaps not all Medieval devotions ought to be brought back the devotion to the “poor souls” or our beloved departed seems to be one of those traditions that should never have been reformed out of existence. Even if such devotions do not benefit us, I am sure the souls for whom it is offered are most grateful.

Fr. Gregory Wassen +

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About Father Gregory

I am an Anglican Catholic Priest, currently residing in Orvelte, the Netherlands.
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