Thursday 19 April 2012

...and more reasons to love the Monastic Diurnal

As is obvious from reading S. Benedict's Holy Rule, the Monastic office was designed for use by very busy people who were committed to physical work and receiving guests in addition to regular prayer: ora et labora are the two tenets of Benedictine life. The more ancient form of the daily office, which one can see in the pared-down offices of the Triduum, without extra hymns, lections and versicles, consisted mostly of the Psalms and Canticles assigned to the day and hour.

For this reason, the Monastic Breviary is perfect for people who do not have the time to pray the entire Divine Office every day. While Prime and Compline would be perfectly manageable, each taking less than ten minutes to recite (assuming the secular user won't be saying the Capitular Office attached to Prime), if one were to commit to daily Lauds and Vespers, s/he would be saying a good portion and variety from the Psalter each week.

While Psalms 66 and 50 (in the Greek numbering - the Diurnal uses the Hebrew numbering, so 50=51) are said daily at Lauds outside of Paschaltide, the two daily variable Psalms come from all over the Psalter. These four Psalms are followed by the same scheme of Old Testament Canticles as can be found in the Roman Breviary, and finally the Lauds Psalms 148-150 (so called because of they all begin with Laudate) are said daily under one Antiphon. Twentieth century editions of the Roman Breviary omit the three Lauds Psalms from the Daily Office, despite the fact that these Psalms, along with 145-6, are said daily in the scheme for Jewish morning prayer and were likely recited daily by Our Lord himself. Lauds generally takes around 25 minutes to recite, depending on the rank of the day and number of commemorations.

Monastic Vespers is one Psalm shorter than Roman Breviary Vespers, going through most, but not all, of Psalms 109-146 in one week. It takes 15-20 minutes to recite.

Adding Prime to the daily commitment brings in all of Psalms 1-19 in one week, except 3, 4 and 5, which are said at other hours.

The Kalender has been, in effect, pared-down very slightly, with the removal of some Commemorations from the Benedictine kalender in order to make room for some Anglican observances and "non-Benedictine" festivals. The rank of some saints' days has been lowered, again, in accordance with "Anglican tradition", in order to privilege the common order of the Psalter described above.

Some collects that express dogma "not universally accepted by the Church" have been replaced with older Collects. For the Feast of Assumption, the Collect Omnipotens, composed after the proclamation of the latest Marian dogma by Pius XII, has been replaced with the older Famulorum tuorum, even through two revisions of the text (the Lancelot Andrewes Press edition is a reprint of the Oxford 1963 printing). This will please those who, quite reasonably, object to both the dogmatisation of the Assumption, and the new propers composed for the Feast.

Unfortunately, the Monastic Breviary underwent reforms in 1915, in the wake of Pius X's 1911 reform of the Roman Breviary. Although the Psalter was not re-distributed in the same drastic way as in the Roman Breviary, users of the Monastic Breviary are, bizarrely, instructed to recite Psalm 50 under the Antiphon "Alleluia" at Lauds in Paschaltide. This is despite the fact that the Miserere is a prominent addition to the sombre offices of the Triduum.

Still, over all, the Monastic Office is good for busy people who want to pray parts of the Divine Office, and the wonderful edition reprinted by the Lancelot Andrewes Press is to be commended.

Tuesday 17 April 2012

S. Magnus Day

A picture from yesterday's Celebration of our heavenly patron, S. Magnus the Martyr, Earl of Orkney.

More photos here.

Sunday 15 April 2012

I love my Monastic Diurnal!

No book has ever been with me so constantly. Admittedly there are times when I leave it at home, and there are times when I carry it with me but don't open it. Still, I feel naked without it. In the 6 months that I've owned my copy of the Monastic Diurnal, a Lancelot Andrewes Press reprint of the Oxford original, the book has become so much part of my life that I feel compelled to extol its virtues in the blogosphere, and encourage others to get hold of a copy of this wonderful book - you won't regret it.

When I needed to follow a service of Tenebrae at S. Dunstan's, I picked up my Monastic Diurnal, whenever I wish to pray the Office of the Dead as a votive, whenever I need the Litany (printed with the 7 penitential Psalms), whenever I set out on a journey I have the Itinerarium to hand, whenever I need the traditional order for Confession, for the classic prayers of Preparation for, and Thanksgiving after, the Holy Eucharist, should I ever find myself at the bedside of a dying man or women and in need of the prayer for the Commendation of a Soul - all of these needs are met in the Appendix of this little book. The majority of the pages, however, are taken up by the Psalter, arranged according to the ancient prescriptions of S. Benedict in his Holy Rule, composed in the 6th Century AD. As such, this Psalter represents a more authentic distribution of Psalms than can be found in many Office books (especially after Pope Pius X picked up his shears) and to follow this order places you in the same line as countless Benedictine saints throughout the ages, for whom the Psalms formed the backbone of their daily prayer.

The Diurnal contains all the hours of the Monastic daily office except Matins (a companion volume for Matins is available from the same press), and as such is a perfectly portable volume on which to base a modest daily prayer rule. For users, there is a website with tutorials, crib sheets and general advice. The original edition of the Diurnal was the office book of choice for a number of Anglican religious orders in the Benedictine tradition in the first half of the 20th Century, who preferred to say all 7 daily "hours" of prayer rather than the two mandated by the Book of Common Prayer. This Diurnal uses the classicand memorable Coverdale Translation of the Psalms, placing it firmly within the Anglican tradition. At the same time, this reprint has been issued largely for the benefit of Antiochian Orthodox Christians of the Western Rite, for whom it has been blessed by Orthodox Bishops for use in Western Rite parishes and monasteries.

For a small book, it's not dirt cheap ($55), but the binding has survived 6 months of abuse. It is printed on very fine "bible" paper, so you'll probably want to keep it in some sort of protective covering. If you don't pray the office (and I only do now with shocking irregularity), or if you are looking for a more Traditional form, I can't recommend the Monastic Diurnal enough. For me, the only stumbling block was that the Marian Antiphons are arranged to fit the plainchant melodies, so instead of "Joy to thee, O Queen of Heaven" you have "O Queen of heaven, be joyful" to fit "Regina coeli, laetare". Still, I suppose the only thing to do is to join the saints of ages past and start singing, instead of simply reading, the Divine Office. The LAP also publish a noted edition of the Monastic Diurnal, which I'm dying to get my hands on.

Perhaps best of all, use of the Monastic Diurnal is almost guaranteed to upset Protestant agitators. One day on the tube to Heathrow I decided to whip out my Diurnal and say some of the Hours. When I'd finished, the lady next to me asked which translation of the Bible I was reading because it looked odd. I told her I was using the Monastic Diurnal and showed her some of the pages. When she asked me whether the Suffrage of the Saints and Commemoration of the Cross at Vespers were "suggested prayers", and I replied that they were in fact obligatory, she admonished me most severely about my obligation to read the scriptures daily, and wouldn't be convinced that a daily diet of Psalmody and Short Chapters from the Divine Office was sufficient to keep me in true faith. I didn't want to boast too louldy or proudly about the fact that I have a well-thumbed Gideon's Bible on my nightstand, so I withdrew. Frankly, if it was good enough for S. Benedict.....

Friday 13 April 2012

Great and Holy Friday

I haven't seen a video from Moscow of today's Good Friday services, so I thought I'd go ahead and post this one from last year.

In the Byzantine rite, Matins of Good Friday usually happens on Thursday night, and this is when the Twelve Passion Gospels are read. Just before the sixth Gospel, which recounts the Crucifixion, a large cross is carried out of the Altar (cf pre-55 vs reformed rites which convey the Cross to the altar) which is later venerated by the faithful.

On Friday Afternoon, the Epitaphios (Plashchanitsa in Russian) is placed on the Holy Table before Great Vespers of the apokathelosis, or 'taking-down from the tree'. After the Gospel reading describing the Depostition, the epitathios is carried (in this video, over the Patriarch's head) to a low table in the nave which is usually highly decorated. A chalice veil (cf the old Roman Rite rubric of depositing the Blessed Sacrament within liturgical vessels wrapped in a chalice veil on Holy Thursday) and Gospel book are placed on the epitaphios, which is then venerated with a triple prostration (cf old Roman Rite veneration of the Cross), which you can see in this video.

It would be wrong to push the similarities too far, but they are striking. One thing that I find interesting is the dual symbolism of the Altar as both Golgotha and Tomb. In the rites of Good Friday, the Cross and Epitaphios are both brought from and then returned to the Altar. The rites of the Triduum are redolent with the same symbolism - from the "burial" and exposition of the Tenebrae candle to the dressing of the altar and movement of the Cross during the Good Friday Liturgy.

Wednesday 11 April 2012

Palm Sunday in Moscow

The second video follows on from the first, in which clergy are elevated in rank by the Patriarch. Palm Sunday in the Orthodox church is linked with the Celebration of Lazarus Saturday, at which the Liturgical colour is White in the Greek Tradition and Green in the Russian, affirming the day's festal, and indeed, resurrectional, character. At the Liturgy on this day the Baptismal verse from Galatians is sung instead of the Trisagion. The principle Troparion is the same on Palm Sunday ("The Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem") as on Lazarus Saturday. Palms are blessed at Matins of the All Night Vigil on Saturday evening and are carried throughout the feast. The readings of Matins are the Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah, and the Gospel is the account of the Entry into Jerusalem. I understand that some European rites, such as the Ambrosian and Bragan rites, also share this festal character of the day to some extent - at Braga the Deacon and Subdeacon wearing Dalmatic and Tunicle for the Procession before changing into folded chasubles for the Mass.

Good Friday to Easter Sunday

The People venerate the relic of the True Cross

The Procession returns from the Altar of Repose before the Liturgy of the Pre-Sanctified

The Sacred Ministers in the Sanctuary after the Liturgy, after which Vespers were chanted. More photos of Good Friday are available here.

The Ministers after High Mass on Sunday Morning. More photos of Easter Sunday can be found here.

Monday 9 April 2012

Easter Monday

One of my favourite places on earth is the chapel of S. Joseph in the shrine Church at Walsingham. It's slightly cramped, the light there never lets you take a good photo, and I believe the shrine hoover is stored behind a curtain at the back of the Chapel. The reason I like it so much, I think, is because on first entering it I experienced an extraordinary sense of deja vu. A few years before, when I was perhaps a month or two old in the faith and still not a confirmed or commincant in the Church of England, I spend three days at the monasteries of Wadi Natrun, the ancient Scetis of Egypt. Staying at the Paramos monastery, I woke up with the bell at 3.40am and practically crawled from the guest house, through the narrow gate into the old monastery complex to the old church. The monks had started Matins and were chanting away in Coptic (monks who can't cope with the Coptic language and visitors with the same weakness are encouraged to attend celebrations in a church opposite the guesthouse). I hung around at the back of the church without a clue what was going on, unable to see much action behind the pillars and screens that separated the monastics from the non-monastics from the laity from the unbaptised from the Anglicans. In a mood to explore, I followed a short passageway into a space that as far as I can remember was pretty much the same size at the S. Joseph chapel in Walsingham, except instead of an altar there was a large icon and reliquary of S. George, and behind the curtain was an altar rather than a hoover. I must have stood there rooted to the spot for over an hour, because by the time I came out the monks were lighting incense for the morning offering and Liturgy and the sun was coming up slowly. I stood looking at the icon pouring out all the prayers of a lifetime of no one to tell them to. I didn't cry, or feel anything dramatic, but my heart was open in prayer and I felt wholly within God's presence. It wasn't until afterwards that I came to realise what had happened, that in some way I had heard God's voice confirming me in my Christian vocation and that where I was and where I was going, He had led me there. I can't imagine what the disciples on the road to Emmaus felt like when they realised what had happened, but it must have been quite similar. Maybe in the midst of their relief and joy at seeing Jesus they felt a sense of frustration, that they'd wasted those moments talking to Him because they didn't know who he was. That intimate presence couldn't just be conjured up again at will, they couldn't just call him back and he'd appear like some sort of friendly ghost, but nonetheless, it was a gift of God, a sign, an encouragement that they would carry with them forever. Most of the collects in Anglican books today include a reference to being fed or given some remedy by God, which made me think back to those moments in the monastery chapel and in Walsingham. There's no switch I can flick to access that sense of peace and tranquility, that sense of the intimate, personal presence of Christ. Still, I can always immerse myself totally in the Liturgical Life of the Church, so full of joy and renewal this Paschaltide, so that I, like the disciples, might know Him daily in the breaking of the Bread.