Tuesday, September 13, 2016


I have an ongoing interest in Liturgy (it goes with the job) and in Church History.  The changes to the Liturgy made after the Second Vatican Council have been much debated in the last sixty years.  Most of the attention has gone to the changes in the Mass.  Much neglected, though it impacted on the clergy as much as the changes in the Mass, has been the Divine Office and its vehicle, the Breviary.  Before the Council, for all but those with special permission to recite the Office in the vernacular, the Office was prayed in Latin so the most obvious change was in language and therefore accessibility.  One of the advantages of the changes has been the number of laypeople reciting the Divine Office.  But the changes did not stop there.   Many of the old, theologically rich, Roman hymns were chopped or dumped and replaced with hymns largely from the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Century as well as optional poems (I am of course referring to the Breviary I use which is for Britain and Ireland).  The revision of the Liturgical calendar also affected the Divine Office.  The cycle of the saint's feasts was changed beyond recognition.  Most significant though was the shifting of the psalms over to the monthly format.  The psalter, the arrangement of the 150 psalms plus the canticles from the Old Testament, was completely rearranged as the psalms were spread our over four weeks.  Previously anyone reciting the whole Divine Office would cover all the psalms over one week.  So were on an average day anyone reciting the old Office would recite a total of thirty four 'psalms' (many psalms are stretched divided into smaller parts separated by antiphons and canticles are counted as psalms) in the new Office he would recite only thirteen 'psalms.'  Psalm 118, for instance, the longest in the psalter by far was taken from its traditional place on a Sunday and chopped up, spread over the Month.  Some psalms, such 108, are not recited at all and psalm 117 crops up all over the place.

That is all beside the point.  Laslo Dobzay (you can get some of his books here and here) has covered this area in ample detail.  I am writing this because a thought was rolling around my empty head.  In addition to my three volume Divine Office, visible on the left above and below, (which will cost you €483 for the set or €61 each from Veritas here in Ireland) I also have a single volume breviary on the right in each picture.  It's in English but not it is not the edition that priests and religious are obligated to use.  I found it one of our houses along with a three volume Latin and English edition of the pre-Conciliar breviary and three of the four volumes of the Capuchin version of the same (all in Latin of course).  This single volume uses an earlier version of the Grail Psalms that we normally use.  This single volume from 1965 contains the entire pre-Conciliar Divine Office except the Gospel readings and the Martyrology which was usually separate anyway.  It's all in there.

I use it as a sumplementary 'devotional' and praying all the psalms over the week has really helped my prayer and it sanctifies my day.  I've been using it consistently for at least five years.  The reason I am posting abour this is not to blow my own trumpet - I need those psalms to keep me on the right track and I enjoy praying them!  I am posting this to query aloud: 'how can you call a reform successful and yet go from a single volume to three large volumes?  That single volume is lighter and thinner than the thinest of the other three! Vatican II has been accused of verbosity but this takes it to a new level.  There is needless repetition here. Cui bono?

I supply a side by side comparison below so you can compare the size of the text.  It has a very different 'feel' to the post-Conciliar breviary.

Anyway 'just saying...'

1 comment:

Fr Seán Coyle said...

I was in the seminary during the years of the Vatican Council. when the Council - and I think it was the Council itself - gave the go ahead to breviaries in the vernacular, it was stipulated that new breviaries should contain the full Latin text as well as the vernacular one. You could get permission from your bishop or your major religious superior to pray the Breviary in the vernacular. The Benedictines in Collegeville, Minnesota (Liturgical Press), published a three-volume Latin-English Breviary around 1963-64. The one-volume English breviary that you have is, I think, that published by Benziger Brothers, New York, around the same time or a little later. Strictly speaking, that wasn't an 'official breviary' as it didn't contain the Latin text. And I think that the readings in the Office of Readings were abbreviated, though I may be confusing it with a one-volume version of the reformed breviary that came out not long afterwards.

I remember reading a review of the Liturgical Press breviary by a conscientious priest who pointed out that although he used the English text for a whole day he also prayed the full Office that day in Latin!

One of the good thing about the reform of the Breviary is that we were encouraged to pray the hours at their proper times. Very few, I think, had done that before. The important thing was to 'get it in' within 24 hours. That never made sense to me. I have rarely found it impossible to pray any of the hours at their proper time and the Hours give a wonderful 'rhythm' to the day.

And another good thing about the reform was that anyone who chooses to pray the Hours even though not obliged to, eg, lay people, are officially commissioned by the Church in the way that priests, monks and nuns are. Before, it was a pious practice but one wasn't officially taking part in the prayer of the Church.

I remember a dear friend of mine in the USA who died at the age of 29 telling me that when in her parish the people were invited to pray either Morning Prayer or Evening Prayer before weekday Masses her response was, 'Why has the Church kept this from us for so long?' For our Anglican friends, at least on Sundays, some of the hours are celebrated in church.

Nowadays both the Old Breviary and the New Breviary are available online and can be downloaded onto hand devices.

Thank you, from a fellow 'Dub' in the Philippines, for your post.


Related Posts with Thumbnails