Practical Guide to the Anglican Breviary (i)

The Anglican Breviary is the Divine Office according to the general usage of the Western Church, put into English in accordance with the Book of Common Prayer.
The Divine Office is the regular recitation of the Psalms at specific moments of a (liturgical) day over a particular period of time (commonly a week or month).
According to the general usage of the Western Church indicates the sevenfold () form of the above mentioned Divine Office as it took shape in ancient Rome. Each day is divided into seven offices consisting of a number Psalms specific to one of those seven offices. Over the centuries several elements were added to the Psalms such as antiphons, readings, hymns, versicles, etc. This liturgical evolution is subject to the guidance and preservation of the Holy Spirit (in a similar way that the¨canon¨ of Scripture has evolved and is preserved) and is therefore not subject to changes inspired by a hermeneutic of rupture.
Put into English the Anglican Breviary is a deliberate opening up of the traditional Divine Office to all those who have some proficiency in English. Latin is the language in which the entire Divine Office in all of its wealth is, anciently, to be found. However, Latin is no longer a commonly understood language. English is widely understood and opens the doors to the benefits and blessings of the Divine Office to a very wide range of people indeed.
In accordance with the Book of Common Prayer. In translating the Divine Office from Latin into English the Book of Common Prayer serves as a touchstone and filter. The Anglican Breviary is not simply a translation of the 1911 reformed Roman Breviary. The Anglican Breviary adapts the reformed Roman Breviary of 1911 to fit comfortably within the parameters of the Book of Common Prayer (so: Coverdale Psalter, KJV Bible readings, BCP Collects, Sundays after Trinity rather than post-Pentecost, some changes in ranking of feasts and the Kalendar, etc).

Rubrics from ruber which means red. These are directions, commonly printed in red, enabling the reader to perform the Divine Office correctly. To be distinguished are: the general rubrics which are ¨generally¨ in force and the specific rubrics scattered throughout the pages of the Breviary that apply the general rubrics as specific circumstances demand. This means that specific rubrics always take precedence over more general rubrics. Due to the ongoing evolution of the liturgy the rubrics can be challenging for those new to the Office and a slow, deliberate, entry into regular recitation is strongly recommended. A pdf lesson plan is available elsewhere on this blog and on Daniel Lula´s website concerning the Anglican Breviary.

Rite indicates which rank an office occupies in the liturgical hierarchy of offices. To be distinguished are:
Ranks of Major Rites:
– Doubles of the First Class
– Doubles of the Second Class
– Greater Doubles
– (Lesser) Doubles

Ranks of Minor Rites:
– Semi Doubles
– Simples

Feasts and Ferias are the two forms in which an office may occur. Offices can be said to be either festal or ferial but not both at the same time. The festal Office usually concerns a specific date of the calendar year (Sanctoral Cycle). January 25 ¨The Conversion of Saint Paul¨ or November 1 ¨All Saints.¨ The ferial Office usually concerns a specific day of the liturgical year (Temporal Cycle) expressed in Latin by the words ¨de ea¨ (about itself). For example: ¨the Monday in the second week of October (p. C620 in the Breviary). Sundays are unique in that they are de ea ( meaning ¨about itself¨) like ferias and vigils and they are festal (usually of Semi Double rank). Sundays are also unique in that they do not yield their office to any rank lower than Second Class Double.

Next post:
The divisions of the Anglican Breviary

Fr. Gregory Wassen

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