In learning to use the Anglican Breviary it is good to know why one should use a Breviary and an Anglican one at that. The editors of the Anglican Breviary provide an answer tho this question which is easy to understand and will not detain us long.
“The Anglican Breviary, as its name is meant to imply, contains the Divine Office of the Western Church, rendered from Latin into English in conformity with Propers and liturgical language of the Book of Common Prayer.”
~ Preface, p. vii
More specifically the basis for the Anglican Breviary was the 1911 Reformed Breviary of St. Pius X. The reason for this, as the editors inform us, is that this Breviary has undergone a long process of development, has near universality in the Western Church, and most importantly it is rooted in the reforms of Cardinal Quignonez. That is, according to the editors of the Anglican Breviary, the Office of St. Pius X and the Book of Common Prayer share a common root in Quignonez’s Breviary. The conforming of this reformed Roman Breviary to the Book of Common Prayer is to their minds quite natural. The editors happily confirm that the Anglican Breviary is faithful to the “spirit, meaning, and purpose, of its Latin original.”
Though the Anglican Breviary uses the Pian Breviary as its basis it is not identical with the Breviary of Pope St. Pius X. There are some differences in rubrical details to make it easier to use and understand. But most importantly the Anglican Breviary expresses the ancient Catholic Faith in the language of post-Reformation Anglicanism. This means that the lessons from Scripture are taken from the King James translation of the Bible, that the Psalms are taken from the Coverdale edition as we find it in the Book of Common Prayer, and that the Collects are those of the Book of Common Prayer where they differ from their Latin originals. The Anglican Breviary then is not simply a mere translation of the Roman Breviary of St. Pius X. The Anglican Breviary is rather an adaptation of the Roman Breviary of St. Pius X made to conform to the Book of Common Prayer.
The Book of Common Prayer is interpreted as a reform of the Sarum Breviary (itself a version of the Roman Breviary) rather than the abolishing and the replacement of the Breviary. There reasons are not hard to guess. The Book of Common Prayer contains quotes from Quignonez’s introduction to his Breviary and follows some of his reforms (other influences on the Book of Common Prayer are Luther and and possibly Calvinist in origin). The idea of focussing the Divine Office on Morning and Evening Prayer is not necessarily un-catholic. The Prayer Book Offices consist of Psalms, Scripture Readings, Collects and some extra biblical elements (creeds, but also hymns which are often added from the hymnal). The Breviary too consists of such elements. The difference is in how these elements are distributed. In this sense the Prayer Book can be seen as a re-distributing of the Divine Office to so that more Scripture is read, as the Psalms continue to be recited as the backbone of the Office, and while the Collects are often simply translated from Latin into English.
Though it must immediately be admitted that not a few Collects are translated with an emphasis on reformed doctrine, and that the creation of new Collects was done to conform the Office to Protestant doctrinal thought. This is why, for example, the Prayer Book does not contain Collects addressing Saints – not even St. Mary – nor does it make much of the intercessory role of the Saints. The advantage of the Anglican Breviary – as the editors see it – seems to be that it does not simply throw out the Reformer’s efforts and insights but rather incorporates them in a more explicitly Catholic context. Whereas the Prayer Book could be used to teach most of reformed Protestant doctrine, the same is not possible with the Anglican Breviary. In a sense the Anglican Breviary has tamed the Reformed protest and has domesticated it in a truly reformed and catholic form. The Book of Common Prayer is not rejected but taken as the yeast that will bring the Breviary of St. Pius X to rise as Anglican Catholic bread to live by.
The Anglican Breviary is the Book of Common Prayer in a more elaborate form, and it is more outspoken in its Catholic intent. No Anglican Catholic and no Roman Catholic would necessarily meet any serious obstacles in using the Anglican Breviary. To put it somewhat colloquially: the Anglican Breviary simply is the Book of Common Prayer on (Catholic) steroids. The Anglican Breviary therefore does not replace the Book of Common Prayer. Just as the Book of Common Prayer can be seen as a contracted or “apocopated” (Anglican Missal, Altar edition, p. i) liturgy, so the Anglican Breviary can be seen as the “filling out” of the Divine Office as contained in the Book of Common Prayer. In stacking our pews with hand missals and, hopefully, hand breviaries we are not abandoning the Prayer Book but we are bringing it to full, Catholic, fruition. This, of course, does not mean the form of the Office as we have it in the Book of Common Prayer should be abolished. There seems to be no reason why both these forms of the Anglican Liturgy could not coexist as do the Ordinary and Extraordinary Form in the present day Roman Church.
So we, Anglican Catholics, should use the Anglican Breviary because the Breviary is a more complete form of the Divine Office in specifically Anglican form.
Fr. Gregory Wassen