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.

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