Deliverance and the Daily Offices

I write in this post of the influence Neil Anderson’s The Bondage Breaker and Freedom in Christ ministries had on me, but there is one thing I would like to add about the effect his teaching had on me.

In addition to its preparing the ground for eventually becoming Catholic, it also prepared me for the discipline of the offices of morning and evening prayer.

All serious evangelical Christians have what is commonly called a daily “quiet time,” of prayer, Bible-reading and reflection. I observed this, but I never had any set pattern for it.  Sometimes there would be a popular Bible-study going around;  other times, I would open the Bible at random or automatically go to my favorite passages or Psalms.

But after doing the series of prayers Anderson called The Steps to Freedom, he recommended saying out loud daily a statement of faith.  So, I began adding that to my repertoire.  It was not quite the Nicene Creed, but close.

And I did, indeed, find it helpful in maintaining my spiritual freedom.

Around this time, because of my search for an Apostolic faith, I came across our little parish that was then in the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada and part of the Traditional Anglican Communion.  Because the amazing Bishop Robert Mercer and Fr. Carl Reid and others encouraged lay people to also pray the daily offices, I began to do them.  It’s then I realized Anderson was re-inventing the wheel, that he was adding back to the free-form “quiet time” of the evangelical world disciplines that were common in the Church but that had been jettisoned in modern times.

How much the Liturgy of the Hours was common among lay people in the Catholic Church, I don’t know, let others enlighten me.  I know many serious Catholics do pray the offices. I hope in the Ordinariates we can make praying the daily offices something all lay people do, alone, as families, in community or by conference call via John Covert’s excellent prayer site.

I remember visiting some relatives who had yard of sand.  At the end of the day, they would rake the sand to get rid of all the footprints, leaves or other debris that had accumulated throughout the day.  Then in the morning, they would wake up to a freshly raked yard.  Ever since I have thought of the Daily Offices as a kind of mind-raking, to bring my thoughts inline with the prayers and doctrine of the Church.  Lex orandi; lex credendi; lex vivendi.

Your thoughts?


24 thoughts on “Deliverance and the Daily Offices

  1. Historically, the prayer of the divine office was not part of the experience of lay Catholics prior to the Second Vatican Council. The divine office really began in the monastic tradition. Efforts to bring diocesan clergy to deeper spirituality in the middle ages brought mandates for all clergy to pray the daily office, and for chapters of canons to pray it in common. However, the preponderance of laity of this period were illiterate during this period and thus were excluded by their inability to read the psalms. Indeed, it was laity desiring to imitate the holiness of monks who first substituted a “Hail Mary” for each psalm, giving rise to the popular devotion known as the rosary — the full rosary consisting of 150 “Hail Mary’s” for each of the 150 psalms (the division of the rosary into decades commenced with the Lord’s Prayer and concluded with the “Gloria patri” and the association of the original fifteen mysteries with the fifteen decades being later evolutions).

    Prior to the Second Vatican Council, the prevailing attitude within the Roman Catholic Church also held that the liturgy was the exclusive province of the clergy and that lay people prayed devotions. This was manifest in several fronts. For example, in monasteries, the monks who were clergy had to pray the divine office in Latin but the lay monks could pray the office in the vernacular, often in a separate “brothers’ chapel” because it was, for them, regarded as a devotion rather than liturgy. In the same way, many pastors encouraged lay parishioners to pray devotions during mass — the ringing of bells during the anaphora was to alert the congregation to the words of institution and the elevations of the host and the chalice so that they would interrupt their devotions for long enough to pay attention to what were considered to be the critical moments of the mass. The Second Vatican Council supplied a very strong correction to this in the sacred constitution Sacrosanctum concillium on divine worship, — the first document promulgated by the council, on 04 December 1963. This document clearly articulated several important points of doctrine pertaining to the liturgy, including the following (citations removed; boldface added).

    7. To accomplish so great a work, Christ is always present in His Church, especially in her liturgical celebrations. He is present in the sacrifice of the Mass, not only in the person of His minister, “the same now offering, through the ministry of priests, who formerly offered himself on the cross”, but especially under the Eucharistic species. By His power He is present in the sacraments, so that when a man baptizes it is really Christ Himself who baptizes. He is present in His word, since it is He Himself who speaks when the holy scriptures are read in the Church. He is present, lastly, when the Church prays and sings, for He promised: “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matt. 18:20).

    Christ indeed always associates the Church with Himself in this great work wherein God is perfectly glorified and men are sanctified. The Church is His beloved Bride who calls to her Lord, and through Him offers worship to the Eternal Father.

    Rightly, then, the liturgy is considered as an exercise of the priestly office of Jesus Christ. In the liturgy the sanctification of the man is signified by signs perceptible to the senses, and is effected in a way which corresponds with each of these signs; in the liturgy the whole public worship is performed by the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, that is, by the Head and His members.

    From this it follows that every liturgical celebration, because it is an action of Christ the priest and of His Body which is the Church, is a sacred action surpassing all others; no other action of the Church can equal its efficacy by the same title and to the same degree.

    8. …

    11. But in order that the liturgy may be able to produce its full effects, it is necessary that the faithful come to it with proper dispositions, that their minds should be attuned to their voices, and that they should cooperate with divine grace lest they receive it in vain. Pastors of souls must therefore realize that, when the liturgy is celebrated, something more is required than the mere observation of the laws governing valid and licit celebration; it is their duty also to ensure that the faithful take part fully aware of what they are doing, actively engaged in the rite, and enriched by its effects.

    These numbered sections clearly teach that the liturgy is the action of the whole church, rather than just the clergy, so that the laity should be taking their proper part in its celebration, and that the liturgy is vastly superior to popular devotions — which, by implication, should not be prayed during the liturgy because they distract from full participation therein. Many of the items in the rest of the document further amplify on these principles and direct reforms of the liturgical rites based upon them.

    Further down, Chapter IV of this document pertains specifically to the divine office and the reform thereof. The following reforms are very significant, and unfortunately rarely implemented to date in diocesan parishes.

    99. Since the divine office is the voice of the Church, that is of the whole mystical body publicly praising God, those clerics who are not obliged to office in choir, especially priests who live together or who assemble for any purpose, are urged to pray at least some part of the divine office in common.

    All who pray the divine office, whether in choir or in common, should fulfill the task entrusted to them as perfectly as possible: this refers not only to the internal devotion of their minds but also to their external manner of celebration.

    It is, moreover, fitting that the office, both in choir and in common, be sung when possible.

    100. Pastors of souls should see to it that the chief hours, especially Vespers, are celebrated in common in church on Sundays and the more solemn feasts. And the laity, too, are encouraged to recite the divine office, either with the priests, or among themselves, or even individually.

    Historically, the inclusion of the divine office in the Book of Common Prayer may have been one of the most significant influences of Protestantism on Anglican Christianity. The widespread participation of the laity in the divine office is a profound element of Anglican patrimony that I applaud. I hope that the ordinariates will not only retain this, but will share this spiritual treasure with the rest of the Roman church!

    A footnote: I few months ago, I had the privilege of introducing my godson to morning prayer at the Cathedral of the Madeleine while visiting him in Salt Lake City, Utah. The office was sung very reverently, led by an organist and a cantor. But, much to my surprise, celebration took place in a small chapel behind the main altar, rather than in the main church, and the clergy of the cathedral simply were not there. It seems to me that the clergy ought to be leading by personal example of their own participation in the public celebration of the office rather than praying it privately.



    • ONE of the most wonderful things that I did while visiting Ireland last year was to make a retreat with the Cistercian monks in their monastery in County Waterford. The monks included me in all their activities, Mass, The Daily Office, communal rosary, etc, etc. I can certainly recommend it to all. BILL H.


    • Norm, first, I join wholeheartedly in your hope that the Ordinariates will help revitalize the Divine Office as liturgy for the whole church. I also join in your lamentation that Vatican II’s documents relating to the importance of the Office have not been implemented on the ground.

      But the assertion, “Historically, the prayer of the divine office was not part of the experience of lay Catholics prior to the Second Vatican Council,” is very inaccurate unless construed in a very narrow way (maybe, “historically in the last 500 years or so, the prayer of the divine office was not part of the experience of most lay Latin-rite Catholics prior to the Second Vatican Council, and sadly still isn’t today.”)

      Going back to before the counter reformation and the time when Jesuits and others started majorly downplaying the importance of singing the Office in choir, the idea of the “illiterate medieval laity” being completely disconnected from the Office in the Western Church is a flat-out myth. We have copious amounts of historical evidence of laity being so involved in many places that they would get up early, go to Church for Sunday Matins, go home, and go back to Church for Mass! There were also many places in Europe (especially France, Hungary, and perhaps some others) where the practice of Sung Vespers with a large congregational presence continued well into the 20th century.

      We also know that wealthy literate laypeople in the Middle Ages commissioned quite expensive Books of Hours that as a rule would include the Little Office of Our Lady, among some other abbreviated offices. But even the much-derided “illiterate peasants” would attend publicly, liturgically celebrated hours of Our Lady’s Little Office, and could easily memorize much of the Little Office given its unchanging nature from day to day. And since this is a “patrimonial” blog, it is well worth pointing out that the Little Office and its public celebration, as well as private recitation by the laity, was particularly popular in pre-schism England.

      (See Laszlo Dobszay’s research, as well as Eamon Duffy’s The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England, 1400-1580, among others).

      Broadening our scope beyond the European middle ages, and going back to include the first millennium of the Church as well as non-Latin rites, Fr. Robert Taft SJ in his magisterial The Liturgy of the Hours in East and West points out among other things that we have more extant evidence from the early Church of canonical obligations for lay (!) attendance at weekday Offices (!!) than at the Sunday Eucharist (!!!).

      The assertion that the Office as such originated in monastic life is also only partly true — as Fr Taft also points out, the two principal types of Office (cathedral and monastic) developed coevally and along rather different (though occasionally intersecting) paths.
      Lastly, let’s not forget the Byzantines have generally preserved the public liturgical character of the Office and its importance quite intact. The small Orthodox church down the street from me has sung Vespers three times a week, as well as Orthros/Matins before their Sunday Liturgy.

      Lastly, I agree completely, Norm, that “the clergy ought to be leading by personal example of their own participation in the public celebration of the office rather than praying it privately.” At a big suburban Novus Ordo parish we once belonged to, some older layfolk would lead spoken Morning Prayer before early morning Mass. I once even witnessed one of the permanent deacons just sitting in with the rest of the congregation instead of taking up his proper diaconal role, putting on an alb and stole and leading the office. It was highly disappointing.

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      • There is no doubt that laity frequently attended the divine office in the middle ages. As I noted in my earlier comment, it was desire to emulate the prayer of the monks that gave rise to the devotion that we now know as the rosary. Those who could not read substituted a “Hail Mary” for each psalm, and voila — a chain of 150 “Hail Mary’s” that constitute a full rosary. The original beads were just that — a rather cumbersome chain of 150 beads, used to keep count. The division into decades and the addition of the original fifteen mysteries (joyful, sorrowful, and glorious) came later. The beads took on what’s now the most common form, with the shortening of the chain to five decades and the addition of a tail of three beads to keep track of the times around the larger chain, some time later. And, most recently, Pope St. John Paul II proclaimed the luminous mysteries as another alternative.

        But getting back to history, monasteries proved to be a very effective vehicle for evangelism in the middle ages. An abbey would start a new foundation in an area where there was no diocese, and the monks of the new foundation would evangelize the people of the area and instruct them in the faith, building up a community. The consequence was that territorial abbacies — particular churches in which the abbot governs it as its proper pastor just like a diocesan bishop” (Canon 370 of the present Codex Juris Canonici) became commonplace in medieval Europe. The records of every ecumenical council of this era record the attendance of a number of bishops and a surprisingly large number of abbots for this very reason. And when the ecclesial structure was subsequently regularized by the erection of a diocese, the practice of singing the divine office in common typically continued in the diocesan cathedral. My guess is that what became known as the “cathedral office” actually began as an evolution of the monastic office by monks of cathedral chapters

        But where the laity did attend the divine office, whether in monastery churches or cathedrals, the proverbial “$64 question” is their actual level of participation. The preponderance of the nobility might have been literate, but peasants typically were not — and the nobility were a small minority. The majority of the laity could only observe and perhaps recite a few elements that they had committed to memory. And, in any case, printing was not yet invented so books were not readily available for the number of laity in question. And hand-copied scrolls were prohibitively costly, so the peasants could not have afforded them.



    • Norm,

      Respectfully, I believe you’re mistaken in saying, “Historically, the prayer of the divine office was not part of the experience of lay Catholics prior to the Second Vatican Council.”

      Apart from cathedral Vespers, in which the laity enthusiastically took part, privately those who could read often prayed with a “Primer,” or Book of Hours, very many of which are still extant. The Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which had it’s origin among 9th century Benedictines, became a devotion of the laity by the 12th century. With the creation of the printing press in the 15th century, it became even more common for the laity to gather in parish churches during the day to recite the major Hours. In England, private recitation of it and ownership of the Little Office breviary was so popular that Cranmer was able to make use of it in publishing the Book of Common Prayer, which privately it served to substitute.

      Here’s a wonderful book on the LOBVM published about 100 years ago. You can find some on the laity’s devotion to it on pp. 44-46.

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      • Growing up as a “cradle Catholic” in the early 1960’s, I never heard of anybody who had their own “Primer” or “Little Office” of which you speak. My mother’s family was Portuguese, and I grew up with very close Italian and Irish neighbors, with whom our Catholic faith was not an uncommon subject of conversation, and I never heard of any of them mentioning such a book, either.

        What was more common in that era was for lay Roman Catholics to bring a “hand missal” containing the official (Latin and Greek) text of the mass and an English translation thereof on facing pages, allowing those who did not know Latin to follow the mass in a language that we could understand.



  2. Thank you, Tom and Jon K. for your comments. I would add that the importance of the Office in the Church of the patristic era is certainly part of what inspired the English Reformers as they looked to the Fathers both for theology and for the liturgico-spiritual practice of that era. I read recently that Cranmer’s copy of St. John Chrysostom on the liturgy indicates it was well read, which means Cranmer wasn’t merely dipping into the Fathers for theological arguments alone but also appreciated the spirituality of the patristic era (nonetheless reading the Fathers through a prism of the continental reform movements). There is documentation that shows lay participation in the Office in the Church of England was impressive, especially when compared with what we generally see of lay participation in the Office today. I don’t know whether comparable documentation exists concerning lay participation by Catholics in the west and whether anyone has compared the data between Anglican practice and Catholic. But Norm’s perceptions reflect what I suspect are widely-held views, i.e., that lay involvement in praying the Office in common has not been standard Catholic practice and has been more favored in the Anglican Communion, generally.

    Regardless of what the practice has been in the past, a reality about praying the Office in common today is that work and school schedules of many do not encourage large turnouts at celebrations of the Office. Also, the perception of many is that liturgy is somehow effective or good in relation to the number of people present. We therefore need, I think, to cultivate a liturgical spirituality that isn’t deflated or downcast if only a few show up at celebrations of the Office. This would involve supporting and fostering well-executed liturgies based on limited resources. Those of us who have been privileged to live in cathedral cities in England, where daily choral Evensong is available, wouldn’t want to sacrifice that expression of the Office as an ideal. But reality demands adaptations and perhaps developing alternatives that are paradoxically as resplendent but with even more Anglican understatement than the usual.

    Br. John-Bede Pauley, O.S.B.

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  3. Norm, I encourage you to read Robert Taft’s book mentioned above by Tom. You might also profit by reading Paul Bradshaw and George Guiver. Your historical perspective does not take the patristic era into account. It is during that time that the distinction between “cathedral” and “monastic” manners of praying the LOH arose, not during the Middle Ages. The patristic era is vitally important to Catholics today for a number of reasons. One is that all monastic reforms of note looked back to the Desert Fathers (and Mothers, for there were influential women monastics as well) of the patristic era. So even if one’s look at Church history begins with the Middle Ages, medieval monastics didn’t see things that way at all. Another reason is that the English Reformers were unique–vis-à-vis both the continental Reformers and the Catholic Church of that period, which favored scholastic theology–in relying heavily on the Church Fathers. The Anglican patrimony, now officially part of the Church, thus helps us reclaim our patristic roots. And an important aspect of those roots is that, contrary to your assertion, the laity regarded the Office as being as much an aspect of their liturgical observance as did monastics. I suspect your comments about this practice becoming significantly more tenuous in the Middle Ages is correct (though I can’t point to any authorities in support of this claim). But I have to disagree that the laity were led to the Office because of monastics. Our patristic forbears in the faith teach us that praying the Office is meant to be the privilege and responsibility of everyone. Monks and nuns are merely supposed to do more of it and in a somewhat different manner or–I might even say–ethos. (And I believe the Prayer Book ended up borrowing from both the “cathedral” and the “monastic” way of praying, as did the Rule of St. Benedict.)
    Br. John-Bede Pauley, O.S.B.

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    • “Another reason is that the English Reformers were unique–vis-à-vis both the continental Reformers and the Catholic Church of that period, which favored scholastic theology–in relying heavily on the Church Fathers.”

      I am afraid that I think such statements about “the English Reformers” is more mythological than historical. For one thoroughgoing “debunking” of this myth, as regards John Jewel, see my friend Gary Jenkins’ masterful study, John Jewel and the English National Church: The Dilemmas of an Erastian Reformer (Aldershot, 2006: Ashgate: ISBN: 0-7546-3585-6); and what is true of Jewel is true of Cranmer, Ridley, and almost all Elizabethan Church of England divines (note the “almost,” to which I shall return).

      In terms of liturgical practices and devotional customs most Lutherans of the 16th and 17th centuries retained far more of the Medieval Catholic inheritance than the Church of England did after 1559; it was not until the late 17th century, and throughout the 18th century that most of the “Catholic inheritance” of Lutheranism, in Germany especially, but also to a degree in Scandinavia, fell out of use – or, rather, was abolished by Lutheran rulers – ground down by the twin millstones of pietism and rationalism (such as, to give two examples, the retention of Catholic liturgical vestments and of individual auricular confession-and-absolution). The Church of England, by contrast, regarded itself as a member of the family of “Reformed” churches in Elizabeth’s reign and afterwards, and it is notorious that almost all of of Elizabeth’s early bishops (including Jewel!) privately had strong objections to various features of the Elizabethan Settlement, especially of the Prayer Book liturgy (vestments, the use of the sign of the cross, etc.),and enforced them, often reluctantly, only because “La Royne le veult.”

      “Almost.” There were some few, very few, cathedrals, but especially Westminster Abbey (under the long deanship of Gabriel Goodman) and the Chapel Royal, that maintained a “higher” standard of worship under Elizabeth, but any interest in the Church Fathers for their own sakes and as a kind of resourcissement for the Church of England against her Puritan critics had to await the arrival of a school of anti-Calvinist “avant garde-conformists” of whom the first and most important was Lancelot Andrewes, whose influence began to manifest itself only at the very end of Elizabeth’s reign and which did not become influential until mid-way through that of James I (but who rapidly came to dominate the Church of England after 1625 under the patronage of Charles I). Richard Hooker, whose thought was in many ways sui generis (although he was a friend of Andrewes) was really not one of them, and in any event, his status as “the exemplary Anglican” was a post-1660 development. These “avant-garde conformists” and their successors really did regard the Church Fathers as “the gold standard” of the Church of England, but they never amounted to more than one “party” among several of the. Established Church.

      I can do no better than to refer interested readers to a book, the details of which (in the form of my 1997 review of it) I shall post here as a separate comment.


      • “‘Another reason is that the English Reformers were unique–vis-à-vis both the continental Reformers and the Catholic Church of that period, which favored scholastic theology–in relying heavily on the Church Fathers.’

        I am afraid that I think such statements about “the English Reformers” is more mythological than historical.”

        The works of the more erudite and learned Anglo-Catholic scholars of the 20th Century, such as (the Anglo-Papalist) Dom Gregory Dix (1901-1952) and Edward Cradock Ratcliff (1896-1967), an academic liturgical scholar who served as, among other prestigious positions, Regius Professor of Divinity at Cambridge University, and who was preparing to leave the Church of England and join the Orthodox church at the time of his sudden death in June 1967, explicitly acknowledge the lack of any unique or “controlling” influence on Cranmer or the other English Reformers of the Church Fathers; cf., for Ratcliff, his articles “The English Usage of Eucharistic Consecration 1548-1662,” originally published in Theology LX:444 (June 1957), pp. 229-236, and LX:445 (July 1957), pp. 273-280; and “The Liturgical Work of Archbishop Cranmer,” Journal of Ecclesiastical History, VIII:2 (October 1956), pp. 189-203,


  4. The Invention of Anglicanism
    New Oxford Review
    November 1998

    By William J. Tighe

    William J. Tighe is Associate Professor of History at Muhlenberg College in Pennsylvania.

    Catholic and Reformed: The Roman and Protestant Churches in English Protestant Thought, 1600-1640. By Anthony Milton. Cambridge University Press. 599 pages. $79.95.

    This is an important scholarly work, part of the series “Cambridge Studies in Early Modern British History.” The Church of England in 1600 could justly be described as regarding itself and being regarded by others (friend and foe alike) as part of the “Calvinist” family of “Reformed Christianity.” But by 1640 it saw the rise to dominance within it (thanks largely to the uncertain patronage of James I and the active support of his son Charles I) of a faction of clerical theologians whose thought is often called Arminianism (after the Dutch Reformed anti-Calvinist Jacob Arminius) and who are sometimes described as “the Laudians” (after William Laud, the Archbishop of Canterbury from 1634 to 1645, who was, however, neither their founder nor their intellectual guide).

    What the book describes is, in a word, the invention of Anglicanism as an “ism,” which, originally conceived of by Richard Hooker, was fostered by a group of anti-Calvinist English Protestant divines including Lancelot Andrewes, John Buckeridge, Richard Neile, John Overall, and (a latecomer) William Laud. Historians have begun to see the rise of English Arminianism as a sort of Counter-Reformation within the Church of England. Given the resentment, fear, and fury they evoked not just in discontented Puritans but also in ordinary “establishment Calvinists” in the English State Church, the Laudians — not their Puritan opponents — may have been the real religious revolutionaries in early 17th-century England.

    The book has two major sections: Part I, “The Church of Rome,” and Part II, “The Reformed Churches.” Part I is essentially a revision of Milton’s Ph.D. thesis, and so it is at times a chore to read. Happily, the prologue, the introduction, the two chapters on the Continental Protestant churches, and the conclusion form a clear and crisp ensemble.

    Readers not particularly interested in the “Roman” question (Part I) can still get a clear picture of how far the leadership of the Church of England traveled between 1620 and 1640 to disavow any substantial religious kinship with most European Protestants as well as to rewrite their own Church’s history by simply reading the 197 pages which remain after passing over the 349 on the Church of Rome.

    Part I contains vital background, however. Take, for example, English Protestant attitudes toward the Council of Trent. That council, by rejecting the principal doctrinal affirmations of Protestantism (sola scriptura, sola fide, etc.) and reforming many practical abuses in the Catholic Church at its intermittent meetings between 1545 and 1563, signaled the beginning of the Counter-Reformation. Down to the mid-1620s, English Protestants agreed that the definitions and decrees of the Council of Trent had completed the apostasy of the Roman Church from biblical Christianity: Prior to Trent, although theological error and idolatrous worship were said to have overwhelmed most of what remained of true Christian belief in the Roman communion, repentance and conversion remained, in theory at least, possible, just as it would have been defensible for a reform-minded Christian to attempt to influence the Roman Church from within. But, with Trent, the possibility of the one and the permissibility of the other had alike ceased. That a strict pressing of this line of thought rendered Henry VIII’s breach with the papacy in 1533 and 1534 (well before Trent) not easily defended was of no consequence to these Protestants.

    But the Laudians’ objections to Trent were more limited in scope, focusing on whether it had been properly summoned; whether the extent of papal authority over, and interference with, its proceedings had deprived the council of its freedom; whether the absence of bishops from the eastern patriarchates had deprived it of ecumenical status; and whether the lack of reception of its definitions and decrees in various parts of the Christian world had reduced its authority to that of (at best) a regional synod.

    As to the doctrinal definitions of Trent, individual Laudians differed. Some strongly opposed a few of them (particularly Trent’s endorsement of the veneration of images and relics, but also its explicit inclusion of the Deuterocanonical works among inspired Holy Scripture, not to mention its endorsement of Transubstantiation to describe the conversion of the elements in the Eucharist); most viewed them as for the most part unobjectionable or capable of an acceptable interpretation (although not universally binding); and a few explicitly preferred many of them to the Protestant ideas which they had been formulated to repudiate.

    All this was so eccentric a “take” on Trent from the perspective of traditional English Protestantism that it made plausible the widespread suspicion that Charles I and his bishops were, at best, dupes of speciously moderate Catholic theologians and diplomats or, at worst, were wittingly preparing the way for a restoration of Roman Catholicism in England. Further fuel for such fears came from their contemptuous repudiation of the almost universal Protestant notion that the papacy itself was the Antichrist foretold in the New Testament.

    In short, this book (whose author describes himself as “this most unrepentant of lapsed Catholics”) illustrates with admirable erudition and detachment how, between 1620 and 1640, Anglicanism (“Catholic and Reformed”) was invented. It also shows how the ground was prepared for the subsequent conflicts over Anglican identity, which have continued to this day and which may have reached their climax with the contemporary Anglican “civil wars” over women’s ordination and homosexuality.


  5. Thank you for your comments, William. I’ve often wondered if the sources on which I’ve relied—such as Andrew McGowan’s “Anglicanism and the Fathers,” in The Oxford Handbook of Anglican Studies—were presenting a picture of the theological state of affairs in 16th-century England that was a bit too neat. I’ve copied the information on the sources you mention and will try to get to them if time permits. Indeed, time and a number of other tasks prevent me from pursuing this fascinating thread.

    But I wonder if, at a minimum, and to point back to the main subject of this thread, it can be said that the Prayer Book’s inclusion of the Daily Office evoked common Christian practice of the patristic era, regardless of how conscious Cranmer and company were of this. Can it also be claimed that this ended up being among the uniquely Anglican contributions of the time. I can’t put my finger on all the sources at the moment, but there is scholarship that claims that the expectation that laity take part in praying the Office *in common* had become, at best, weakened by the 16th century. Another source claims Luther had no time for the Daily Office since he regarded it as a work.

    Br. John-Bede Pauley, O.S.B.


  6. My sentence above should be revised as follows: “I can’t put my finger on all the sources at the moment, but there is scholarship that claims that the expectation among Catholic laity that they take part in praying the Office *in common* had become, at best, weakened by the 16th century. Another source claims Luther had no time for the Daily Office since he regarded it as a work. So the Daily Office, prayed in common, was not an aspect of the ‘Catholic inheritance’ that survived the Reformation movements on the continent.”
    Br. John-Bede Pauley, O.S.B.


    • Hmmm….

      The Liturgy of the Hours is so focused on scripture that one would expect reformers of the sola scriptura mindset to gravitate to it and to promote it among their followers. Thus, the theory that such reformers would have abandoned, or even rejected, the divine office makes little sense.

      Or am I missing something?



      • Another consideration here: if the reformers had rejected the Liturgy of the Hours in any meaningful way, the Council of Trent most assuredly would have condemned that rejection as heresy and to defend the daily office, as the Council of Trent defended everything (else) that the reformers rejected.

        But as it is, the Council of Trent seems to be completely silent with respect to the divine office. The silence is a pretty strong indication that it was not a major issue of the reformation and counter-reformation.



      • Norm, I’m not sure why we are theorizing when we have historical facts at hand. Here’s Fr. Taft from the aforementioned book:

        “Luther, like his Catholic contemporaries, found the overstuffed, heavily sanctoral and votive medieval offices, full of legends, to be suffocating. So he proceeded to reform them. More confident than knowledgeable in matters liturgical, he though that the daily matins and vespers were basically services for proclaiming God’s word. He could not have been more wrong. Morning praise and evensong historically can in no way be considered services of the Word — though of course one is free to think they ought to be. At any rate, Luther proceeded to reform the hours on that basis. He retained the basic Roman skeleton of matins and vespers, but gave more space to Scripture lessons and insisted on preaching. These two hours were envisaged as common daily services, for Luther was opposed to weekday Masses.

        “In Strasbourg, too, the Reformed Church of Bucer and others preserved a vernacular, daily morning and evening prayer that maintained the basic structure of the Roman hours, but dropped the antiphons and inserted after the psalmody a lectio continua of the Bible, from the New Testament in the morning and from the Old Testament in the evening, followed by a sermon.”

        So, no, they did not “reject” the Liturgy of the Hours, so much as they took what they found handed down in the Church and did the usual trim-and-cut, hack-and-slash, rearrange-and-morph to fit their peculiar theological vision, as protestants are wont to do.


  7. Thank you for this passage from Taft, Tom.

    I agree that offering speculations and theories can be a bit problematic. They’re helpful, in my opinion, if they serve explicitly as a means of seeking authoritative responses and solid evidence. But when speculations and theories don’t include requests for authoritative responses, and when authoritative responses aren’t supplied, the speculations sometimes stand as though they are the final word.

    Relying on solid evidence and authoritative sources doesn’t always assure accuracy, since new scholarship and/or evidence can displace the old—as you, William, have helpfully reminded us. But scholars communicating within their areas of expertise are our best bet for a reliably informed and constructive discussion. All of this is to state the obvious. Such is the freewheeling universe of the blogosphere, however, that the obvious can sometimes get left in the dust.

    Along these lines, I retract my own injudicious use of the adverb “heavily” above in the phrase that states the “English Reformers [relied] heavily on the Church Fathers.” Whether that means my statement as revised could better accord with scholarship both old and new, I don’t know. But at least the revised statement seems to fit better with sources on which I’ve relied. So I can point to that line of scholarship and allow it to wend its properly scholarly way through new evidence, new interpretations, revisions, and revisionisms. In my own field, musicology, I’ve seen revisions of revisions of revisions! Sometimes, the end result isn’t so much a string of contradictions as it is a fuller understanding of what Clifford Geertz refers to as thick description.

    In response to your query, Norm, as to whether you are missing something in reaching your conclusion that the reformers would not have abandoned, or even rejected, the divine office, Paul F. Bradshaw’s response would be that what your speculation misses is the fact that “for both Luther and the other Reformers, the requirement to pray the offices was seen as a ‘work’ intended to satisfy God, [which thus] stood in opposition to their central tenet of justification by faith alone.” (_Two Ways of Praying_, Nashville: Abingdon, 1995, 38-39)

    Bradshaw goes on to observe that because of this perspective on the part of the Reformers, “it is not surprising that a clerical obligation to recite daily hours of prayer disappeared from all the churches of the Reformation, except the Church of England.” (Note that nothing is mentioned in this passage about an obligation among the laity to recite the hours.) Bradshaw also writes that the 1549 Prayer Book justified the daily office by looking to “the ancient fathers” and that the Prayer Book sought to get closer to the pure “monastic” form and concept of the office. (Ibid.)

    If I’m correctly interpreting your comments, William, the Catholic Inheritance the continental Reformers maintained more fully than did the English Reformers was indeed Medieval and seems not to have included much that was consciously pre-Medieval, i.e., the Patristic Catholic Inheritance, at least concerning praying the daily office. The English Reformers, on the other hand, regardless of how “heavily” or lightly they relied on the “auncient fathers,” and regardless of how questionable was their understanding of patristic-era liturgy, relied on the Patristic model (as they understood it) at least as far as the daily office is concerned. Or so I conclude by relying on Bradshaw.


    • It’s good to remind readers who are not scholars that all scholarship is indeed speculation, albeit rooted in research, and thus subject to revision if subsequent research reveals a different answer. Indeed, much scholarship views the information through the lens of the prejudices of the research team and the filter of the team’s political agenda, and thus reflects their biases. We have seen the impact of an agenda in the area of global climate change over the past several decades, where organizations that run conferences and publish journals have systematically abused the “peer review” process to filter out papers that supported contrary conclusions and the sponsors of research — including government agencies! — have systematically withdrawn funding from researchers whose analysis showed contrary results.

      As to Luther, there’s clearly an important distinction between the office itself and the canonical obligation for clergy and religious to pray it. We also need to remember that the Protestant Reformation occurred at a time when clergy were poorly educated and formed. Modern seminaries were an invention of the Council of Trent. Prior to that, most diocesan clergy were trained essentially as apprentices of local parish priests who often also were poorly trained. Here, we can recall the extreme case of St. Ambrose, who was elected as the new Bishop of Milan while still a catechumen and thus had never even observed the Liturgy of the Eucharist. As one of my liturgy classmates remarked when the professor mentioned this fact in class, “No wonder we have the Ambrosian Rite!”

      And, in any case, we also need to remember that the Medieval practice was substantially what became entrenched by the Council of Trent, and thus was all that most parishioners and clergy knew at the time of the Second Vatican Council. Indeed, the liturgical reforms directed by the Second Vatican Council and implemented by Pope Paul VI were largely the very same sort of ressourcement that one attributes to the Anglo-Catholic movement. Here, I find the writings of Dom Gregory Dix to be helpful, if only because he wrote in English whereas most of his Catholic contemporaries wrote in Latin (which, to me, might as well be Greek).



      • “the liturgical reforms directed by the Second Vatican Council and implemented by Pope Paul VI were largely the very same sort of ressourcement that one attributes to the Anglo-Catholic movement”

        Could you expand on this? What specific liturgical reforms of either the Council or of Bugnini’s Consilium do you attribute as being part of a patristic ressourcement in particular, and how so?

        For example, we know that one glaring example — the versus populum fad that has now become the general practice of the Novus Ordo — was all the rage among the more radical early- to mid-20th century liturgists, but even so eminent a liturgical progressive as Josef Jungmann SJ was a good and honest enough scholar to end up admitting that the actual scholarship does not support the celebrant’s orientation toward anything other than the Orient (real or liturgical) as being a consideration at any point in Church history. The congregation’s obsession with how the priest is oriented in relation to them and whether he’s “turned his back on them” is a profoundly and singularly modern phenomenon.

        The same point could be made with the myth of “restoring the vernacular” (just type “Christine Mohrmann” into the search box on Fr Hunwicke’s blog for plenty of erudite material on that subject).

        One positive/patristic aspect I do personally see, though, is the opportunity for a healthy re-balancing and “resolving” of false dichotomies that have crept into our sacramental theology especially in the West (e.g. “meal vs. sacrifice”; “real vs. symbolic”), which I think the Fathers were much more adept at holding in creative balance than either Mr. John “It’s a Sacrifice, Not a Meal!” Traditionalist on the one hand, or Ms. Jane “Sacrifice is So Passe, We’re a Resurrection People Now” Modernist on the other. I think we’ll agree that those “vs.” in those relationships need to be properly replaced with “and” in our consciousness. I also think this process of re-equipping our Catholic consciousness with these creative tensions is both compatible with, and needed for, any form or use of the Roman Rite (Ordinary, Extraordinary, or Divine Worship).


      • The liturgical reforms directed by the Second Vatican Council did not happen in a vacuum. Early in the 20th century, monks at many Benedictine monasteries and other scholars began extensive studies of the liturgy of the early church and the writings of the church fathers (and mothers) pertaining thereto, pioneering the way of liturgical reform half a century later. Pope Paul VI spoke of this in the following paragraphs of General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) (internal citations removed; emphasis and boldface in original).

        A Witness to Unbroken Tradition

        6. In setting forth its instructions for the revision of the Order of Mass, the Second Vatican Council, using the same words as did St. Pius V in the Apostolic Constitution Quo primum, by which the Missal of Trent was promulgated in 1570, also ordered, among other things, that some rites be restored “to the original norm of the holy Fathers.” From the fact that the same words are used it can be seen how both Roman Missals, although separated by four centuries, embrace one and the same tradition. Furthermore, if the inner elements of this tradition are reflected upon, it also becomes clear how outstandingly and felicitously the older Roman Missal is brought to fulfillment in the new.

        7. In a difficult period when the Catholic faith on the sacrificial nature of the Mass, the ministerial priesthood, and the real and permanent presence of Christ under the Eucharistic species were placed at risk, St. Pius V was especially concerned with preserving the more recent tradition, then unjustly being assailed, introducing only very slight changes into the sacred rite. In fact, the Missal of 1570 differs very little from the very first printed edition of 1474, which in turn faithfully follows the Missal used at the time of Pope Innocent III. Moreover, even though manuscripts in the Vatican Library provided material for the emendation of some expressions, they by no means made it possible to inquire into “ancient and approved authors” farther back than the liturgical commentaries of the Middle Ages.

        8. Today, on the other hand, countless learned studies have shed light on the “norm of the holy Fathers” which the revisers of the Missal of S<t. Pius V followed. For following the publication first of the Sacramentary known as the Gregorian in 1571, critical editions of other ancient Roman and Ambrosian Sacramentaries were published, often in book form, as were ancient Hispanic and Gallican liturgical books which brought to light numerous prayers of no slight spiritual excellence that had previously been unknown.

        In a similar fashion, traditions dating back to the first centuries, before the formation of the rites of East and West, are better known today because of the discovery of so many liturgical documents.

        Moreover, continuing progress in the study of the holy Fathers has also shed light upon the theology of the mystery of the Eucharist through the teachings of such illustrious Fathers of Christian antiquity as St. Irenaeus, St. Ambrose, St. Cyril of Jerusalem, and St. John Chrysostom.

        9. For this reason, the “norm of the holy Fathers” requires not only the preservation of what our immediate forebears have passed on to us, but also an understanding and a more profound study of the Church’s entire past and of all the ways in which her one and only faith has been set forth in the quite diverse human and social forms prevailing in the Semitic, Greek, and Latin areas. Moreover, this broader view allows us to see how the Holy Spirit endows the People of God with a marvelous fidelity in preserving the unalterable deposit of faith, even amid a very great variety of prayers and rites.

        The first fruit of these studies was the restoration of the celebration of the Paschal Triduum to its present form by Pope Pius XII. The Second Vatican Council directed the continuation and completion of these reforms.

        As to specific reforms, perhaps the most significant is the restoration of the active role of the laity — that is, the congregation — in the liturgical celebration itself. In Tridentine high masses, the proper role of the congregation was usurped by the choir. One also cannot discount the importance of restoring the distibution of communion to the laity during mass, rather than after mass, and of restoring frequent reception of communion by the laity. At the time of the reformation, lay faithful who received communion several times per year were thought to be very devout — the precept to receive communion at least annually during the Easter Season, popularly called the “Easter duty,” came into being because many of the laity were not receiving communion even with that infrequently. The restoration of focus on the Word of God, with the norm of there being a homily at least in masses on Sundays and holy days of obligation, and the restoration of the General Intercessions also were a very significant reforms.

        We also cannot underestimate the importance of prayer texts re-introduced in the current missal. The revised offertory prayers were recovered from an older use, as were two of the anaphoras now available to us.

        >> The anaphora now known as “Eucharistic Prayer II” is adapted from an anaphora in The Apostolic Tradition by St. Hippolytus, written around the middle of the second century. Hippolytus wrote this work in objection to reforms instituted by the pope of his day, so we have absolute certainty that it is a historical snapshot of the practice of his day.

        >> The anaphora now known as “Eucharistic Prayer IV” is adapted from the “Egyptian Anaphora of St. Basil” which, in its present form, is known to go back at least to the eighth century. This prayer is incredibly rich in profound theological expression and imagery and, in my estimation, totally under-utilized.

        By comparision, the present form of the so-called “Roman Canon” now designated as “Eucharistic Prayer I” goes back only to the twelfth century.

        As to the celebrant’s orientation… well, I think that you are missing some very real possibilities to which the current missal opens the door. In reality, most of our parishes have buildings designed for the Tridentine form of the mass, and form follows function — but we’re pouring the proverbial new wine into old wineskins. If one were to design a new church building from scratch for the present liturgical rites, one possibility would be to arrange the seating for the congregation in confocal ellipses. An ellipse has two focal points, which would naturally draw the attention of those present, making it possible to put the altar at one focal point and the ambo at the other. The best place for the presidium (the presidential chair for the principal celebrant and chairs for his assistants) and the choir would be centered on the opposite ends of the minor axis, allowing the principal celebrant to lead the whole assembly in worship and the choir to lead the whole assembly in singing while being visually part of the assembly. A minister would face toward the center, surrounded by the rest of the assembly, when standing at either the altar or the ambo.

        And yes, this arrangement works very well!

        Historically, the celebration of the liturgy in a new language always occurred because the new liturgical language was the vernacular of the time and place. The only contrary custom arises as a result of lags in adopting particular vernacular languages as they evolved — and note that this is “custom” (the practice of a particular time and place) rather than “tradition” (divine revelation handed on orally rather than in scripture). As it pertains to the ordinariates, this was indeed the genesis of the Sarum liturgy, which is one of the sources for the Divine Worship liturgical books.

        Also, the earliest celebration of the eucharist — the “breaking of bread” to which the scriptures refer — took place in the believers’ homes, where they undoubtedly gathered around a dinner table because the scriptures inform us that it was in the context of a meal. The practice of all facing the same direction arose only in the catecombs, where the celebration took place on the tombs of martyrs and sometimes other deceased members of the community, as an adaptation to tombs that happened to be against the wall of the catecomb.

        Having said that, I agree completely with your comments about restoration of the “both-and” in our theology — and when it comes to sacrifice/meal, there is no contradiction. Indeed, a study of the old testament reveals that the Jewish sacrifices were meals, precisely because the spirituality was that of sharing a meal with God! The animal was slaughtered and cooked, then what were then deemed to be the choicest parts (but we now know to be the fattiest, and thus least healthy, parts, but nevertheless the parts that would flame up) were cast into the fire as God’s portion while those offering the sacrifice and the priests would consume the other parts. The whole notion was that of “atonement” — that is, “at-one-ment,” of being so united, so “at one,” with God as to be able to share in table fellowship with Him.

        And what’s most unique about the Passover sacrifice, which is at the heart of the eucharist, is that it did not require the participation of the priests or a journey to the temple. Rather, the people offered, and partook of, it in their homes.



  8. I agree, Norm, that “all scholarship is indeed speculation, albeit rooted in research, and thus subject to revision if subsequent research reveals a different answer.” As has been demonstrated in this thread alone, however, the “albeit rooted in research” clause is important. Indeed, I would be inclined to set it off by itself and establish it as a criterion that distinguishes between informed and un-informed opinions and between substantiated and un-substantiated assertions. True, there’s no assurance a scholar well-read in an area won’t succumb to agenda-driven politics. But by relying on solid sources, scholarship adds an important level of accountability that un-supported statements don’t have.

    What sources, then, would be able to support the claim that Luther clearly saw an important distinction between the office itself and the canonical obligation for clergy and religious to pray it? (Your statement doesn’t claim Luther actually had this distinction in mind. But I think that’s the gist of it?) Is there evidence that daily prayer in a form substantially similar to the Divine Office was a significant aspect of the “Catholic inheritance” maintained by the Reform movements? If so, then I would agree that Luther was simply dispensing with the canonical obligation while retaining the Office. The evidence might be there, but the scholarship of which I’m aware, such as that of Paul Bradshaw, indicates otherwise.

    Such scholarship has led me to conclude that a distinctive element of the Anglican patrimony is this: praying the Daily Office is integral to growth in virtue for every Christian, lay as well as clergy and—when they existed in the Anglican Communion—religious. Moreover, this scholarship indicates that Anglicanism’s high regard for the Daily Office has been supported by pointing to the example of the “auncient fathers.” As far as I’m aware—and I do not claim to be a scholar in this area, so there could be lacunae in my understanding—the same view of the Divine Office was not a characteristic of either the continental Reform movements or of the Counter-Reformation. Solid evidence to the contrary rather than un-substantiated claims would be helpful in furthering this discussion.

    Sources to support the claim that pre-Trent diocesan clergy were mostly trained as apprentices to local parish priests would also be helpful. Again, the evidence might be there, but I’ve not run across it and would appreciate learning of it. The reference to diocesan clergy is no doubt intended to draw a distinction from the training of monastic clergy. But does your claim take into account the role of cathedral schools in medieval education?

    Though I’ve read plenty of sources that support the claim that the education of clergy was in much need of reform at the time of the Protestant Reform movements and the Counter-Reformation, a bit of chronological vertigo occurs when the theological training of St. Anselm in the patristic era is folded into the discussion of the training of pre-Tridentine candidates for the priesthood generally. This doesn’t weaken the point you were making, perhaps. But one of the persistent difficulties in many discussions of Church history is the tendency to conflate a millennium and a half into one monolithic whole. By the time St. Ambrose turned his attention to theology, he was already literate and well-read, and he took, in addition to Scripture, the works of what we now know as the Fathers as his sources. My guess is that little of that situation—being so well-read and relying primarily on the Fathers—would have applied to many a late-medieval or early-Renaissance candidate for the priesthood.

    That the “auncient fathers” merited at least a mention in the 1549 Prayer Book as an authority (no matter how fully endorsed by any or all of the English divines of the period) was notable in the period. It puts me in mind of the somewhat analogous case of Vaughan Williams and others of his contemporary composers re-discovering the folk-song modal idioms and the Tudor Masters, thus giving early-twentieth-century British listeners a musical language that was both ancient and refreshingly new at the same time.


    • In fact, much of what poses for “research” today seems to be a quest to find writings or data that support a particular agenda. Back in the late 1970’s, I overheard a particular discussion between a professor and a graduate student while working on an assignment in a Synoptic Meteorology laboratory. The dialog went something like this.

      Professor: “These results are absolutely useless!”

      Student: “But I did the analysis correctly, and this is what it shows.”

      Professor: “Yes, and your conclusions are completely valid — but we’ll never get another nickel of funding if we show this to the sponsor because this is not the answer that the sponsor wants. Now, let’s go over your results and see what we can salvage that will make the sponsor happy.”

      So it’s pretty apparent that the report to the sponsor and the published papers arising from this research suppressed the majority of the data because it was contrary to the sponsor’s agenda and published only the small portion that supported the sponsor’s agenda. And you may recall the scandal pertaining to e-mail messages published by those who “hacked” into a server at a climate research center in England in which staff similarly discussed how to suppress or disguise analysis that did not fit the “global warming” agenda. What we have, pertaining thereto, is four or five decades of deception fueled by a political agenda rather than true science. And I have no doubt that similar agendas dominate many writings on the reformation and the theological arguments on both sides.

      Backing up a step, I don’t know what was in Luther’s mind any more than anybody else, and my knowledge of the time of the reformation is based on what I have read in various accounts and what I have learned from discussions with theology professors and very well educated monks. However, I did notice that a Wikipedia article on the subject attributes the very establishment of seminaries to train clergy for ministry to the reforms of the Council of Trent. By contrast, medieval monasteries were well known to be centers for scholarship, spiritual formation, and enlightenment in that era. As a result, many of the Tridentine and post-Tridentine reforms in the formation of clergy looked to monasticism as a paradigm for the reform of spiritual and theological formation of the clergy. I have not found a date when the obligation for parish clergy to pray the divine office came into being, but my understanding is that it happened during the post-Tridentine period and that the obligation previously applied only to monks (and perhaps to some other religious) and to cathedral chapters as part of their respective rules. In this context, Luther’s dismissal seems more likely aimed at religious life — the customs more broadly of which he undoubtedly would have regarded as works that did not affect salvation.

      Here, the influence of Benedictine monasticism in the spread of Christianity to England really shines. There’s no doubt that English Christianity has a very strong monastic component, of which both the daily office and the extensive use of chant even in parish liturgy are very profound elements. I have not encountered a similar dimension of Catholic faith at the parish level anywhere on the continent, either in reading or in my travels. Most Anglican parishes seem to have public Morning Prayer and Evensong, at least on Sundays, but Catholic parishes that do so are the exception rather than the rule. If even this were anywhere close to normative in Catholic parishes at the time of the reformation, the Council of Trent most assuredly would have not only defended, but also entrenched, the practice, as it did with so many other practices.



  9. As a cradle Anglican the offices didn’t play much of a role in my spiritual life until I became an adult. When my wife and I associated ourselves with the ACCC, the offices became an essential ingredient to our prayer life. Then one day the Stork dropped off our children on our front door. They were 6,5, and 4 years old and had never been to church; daily short form evening prayer, in our home, was their introduction to the Faith. I think it helped that we used hymns, candles, incense, the reverencing of icons plus an excellent children’s Bible. The beauty of the words, the explained symbols, the singing, the little rituals and those wonderful stories about Jesus and his ancestors enchanted their tender little hearts and minds. I could write so much about these precious times – how the offices of the BCP are accessible to the young, the unchurched, and how they can be an invaluable tool in family life.

    Now we live in Calgary and are blessed to have the Gilbertines at St. John’s who say the offices publicly everyday. On Wednesday evenings there is a biggish crowd that chants Compline. (Very beautiful). I hope that soon chanted Evensong will be added to the schedule.

    I find having a prescribed form of prayer such as our daily offices very freeing. All those set prayers can be a sort of warm up that jogs my heart’s memory. By the time they finish, my contrite heart begins to open with its concerns and thanksgivings.

    I wait eagerly for our new office book to be published.


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