Praying the Office (part two)

Posted on December 10, 2011 by

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As I noted earlier in part one of this series, praying the Office is a daily requirement for Anglican clergy, and a valuable and recommended practice for laity as well.  For some Anglicans, it’s a simple matter of just picking up their BCP and Bible. Alas, for most of us, it’s trickier than that.

American Office Book 1990For those Anglicans who are remaining in the continuum of Anglican ecclesial bodies, there are easier ways. In the US, back in 1990 the Anglican Catholic Church published the American Office Book (pictured to the right) which contains the Daily Office from the US 1928 Book of Common Prayer with additions from the Canadian 1962 Book of Common Prayer and the full text of all the scripture readings for the year from the Revised Standard Version.  (If you don’t already own one of these, they’re out of print so you’re out of luck, but one seems to be available on Amazon, used, for $200—a bit pricy, right?)  This was a great book, and I still return to it from time to time, but it had three major drawbacks in addition to poor proofreading yielding a ton of errata.  The first drawback is that it follows the straight BCP Office for Morning and Evening Prayer, so it will get, well, stale in time.  (As a liturgics professor once said, “if you don’t find the prayerbook office to get boring, it’s because you’re not doing it right.”) The second drawback is that it uses the Psalter of the 1928 (US) BCP. To some that is a plus, not a minus, but many find that psalter to be stilted and awkward, as well as inaccurate in many places. The third drawback is simply size: the book is just plain big. It’s not easy to carry about with you.  Still, if you know a priest who was in the Anglican Catholic Church in 1990-91, he probably has one of these in his sacristy or study and might just part with it, if you’re interested. If you find one, I have an errata page you might find handy; just leave a comment.

A second alternative is of course the magnificent Anglican Breviary, first published in 1955 by the Frank Gavin Liturgical Foundation, publisher of the Anglican Missal, and reprinted privately in 1998. The book is a handsome volume, a sensuous delight to see and hold if you’re a bibliophile like me, and it offers the Office following the Roman Catholic breviary the way it was prayed in Latin in 1955, but translated into the traditional English of the BCP. The AB was aimed at the Anglo-Catholics who felt the moral force of praying the Office together with the wider Church, and in order to do that now one would need to use this book together with the changes made in the 1962 Roman Breviary. If you’re interested in applying those changes to the AB, I have a copy of the directions for that; again, leave a comment.  The two biggest drawbacks to this book are the incredibly steep learning curve, and the traditional Coverdale psalter, known for its awkwardness and inaccuracy. There is a users’ group that will help with the learning curve, and step-by-step instructions that will help the neophyte AB user.

A third option is the Monastic Diurnal, originally published in 1963 by the Oxford University Press, and reprinted by the wonderful people at the Lancelot Andrewes Press. It was edited by Canon Winfred Douglas, the man largely responsible for the American Missal and The Hymnal 1940 in the old Episcopal Church. The MD at 4” x 6” is the smallest of the books mentioned in this article and will fit easily in a jacket pocket or a purse.  There is a users’ group for this book, also, to help folks learn how to use it.  The down sides: again, the awkward and inaccurate Coverdale psalter, and the fact that this is a “diurnal,” in other words, day hours only; no Compline, no Matins, which is available in a separate volume.

Finally, we come to the Franciscan Office Book, edited by me. It takes the Office from the 1928 (US) Book of Common Prayer and supplements it with enrichments from the 1962 (Canadian) BCP and the wider Catholic Church, as Anglo-Catholics have done for generations. This book is largely an update of the Prayer Book Office of 1963, long out of print, with additions and simplified rubrics. The two down sides here are that a Bible is needed in addition to this book, and that even I used the Coverdale psalter. There are prayers in each office that are part of the Franciscan, especially the Anglican Franciscan tradition. Users who are not Franciscans will find it easy to skip those prayers.

There is also the Franciscan Office Book, Text Edition (Vol. 1), which includes the Office as described above, plus the texts of the scriptural readings as well. The text edition comes in two volumes, one for each half of the year: the first volume from Advent through Pentecost (available now), and the second volume for Trinitytide will be available in Spring 2012.

For those who have a Kindle, (I do, and I love mine!) I have released my Franciscan Office Book, Text Edition (Volume One) for the Kindle at only $2.99, the price I believe should be the maximum for an ebook as a philosophical point. Those who are Amazon Prime members may borrow the book for free between now and 12/31.

God bless, and happy praying!

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Posted in: Liturgy