Wednesday, June 08, 2005

The Anglican Breviary

Hilary posted here a lovely and well-merited little encomium for The Anglican Breviary.

I'm very fond of it myself and I don't think it's too much to say that Fr Gavin produced a work of art in that volume. But it really is too much to say, as I see repeated so often, that it is merely the old Roman Breviary in English. TAB certainly follows the format of the old Roman Breviary and keeps to the 1955 rubrics with only a few simplifications. But there are significant differences.

The collects for Sunday and the prayer book feast days are those of the Book of Common Prayer not those of the Roman Breviary. Particularly in the beginning of the ecclesiastical year these are quite different. It was Archbishop Cranmer's original intent to provide all new collects for his new liturgy. Eventually, the exigencies of providing quickly the new English liturgy resulted more and more often in translations of the old collects with adaptations to fit the new theology. Here are the two collects for the 2d Sunday of Advent. The old concept has been completely replaced:


The Prayer Book: Blessed Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning; Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace, and ever hold fast, the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

The Roman Rite: Stir up our hearts, O Lord, to prepare the way of Thine only-begotten Son: that through His coming we may attain to serve Thee with purified minds, Who liveth and reigneth, with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

There's no heresy in the Prayer Book collect; it's a beautiful sentiment. But it's not the Roman Rite.

The patristic and other writers used for the Matins lessons often comment on the scripture readings at Mass. But when the Prayer Book scripture readings are different from what is found in the Roman Rite the commentaries are changed so as to apply to the readings for that day. Again, neither heretical, immoral, nor fattening. In fact, a useful thing to do considering the intended users. But not the Roman Rite either.

The second nocturns read at Matins on saints days are usually a short biography of the saint. In the Roman Rite these can be startlingly unhistorical medieval tales. Fr Gavin has changed these stories considerably. I don't recall an instance when it hasn't been an immense improvement. But it's not what someone praying the old Roman Breviary circa 1955 would have found.

And there are other odds and ends which differ. On the feast of the Immaculate Conception, for instance, the declaration of the dogma by Pope Pius XII is replaced with something of St Jerome's. The office still proclaims the reality of the Immaculate Conception. But it avoids the papal infallibility issue, which the Roman Breviary does not.

Some of the differences have to do with the fact that the Prayer Book itself is not an adaptation of the Roman Rite but of the Sarum Rite. So The Anglican Breviary, like the Book of Common Prayer and the old Sarum Rite, counts the Sundays after Trinity instead of the Sundays after Pentecost. (Other Latin Rite liturgies also count the Sundays after Trinity; the one I know of is the old Carmelite Rite of the Holy Sepulchre.)

In sum, I don't think any Catholic should have a problem praying the hours with the Anglican Breviary. It's a magnificent and very Catholic work. And it's certainly in the spirit of the Roman Breviary. But there's more to it than just "the Roman Breviary in English".