Tom B. over at his blog Tom’s Digest has begun a series critiquing the proposed draft of the Divine Offices for the Personal Ordinariates to replace the Book of Common Prayer.
Rome should take its time, and the three ordinaries, the Congregation for Divine Worship, as well as anyone else involved in the official drafting process, should seriously consider ironing out some real problems that make the draft as it currently stands, in my opinion, unfit for prime time.
One of the weakest points of the Ordinariate’s draft is that it (understandably) wants to have the best of all worlds — the Anglican Prayer Books, and both classical and modern forms of the Roman Rite — but goes about it in such a clumsy way that it ends up potentially falling short of them all.
The most evident symptom of this in the divine office drafts is the abundance of one powerful little word, “may,” in the rubrics.
Archbishop Cranmer understood that in order for his Prayer Book offices to achieve their goal of being the largely unchanging platter on which substantial daily portions of the Psalms and Scriptures could be served up in a systematic fashion, options at the celebrant’s discretion had to be kept to a minimum.
Divine Worship by contrast has lost the strongest feature and driving purpose behind Cranmer’s project and the whole classical Prayer Book tradition: a mandatory and relatively uniform simplicity.
Here is why: from beginning to end, the draft offices are full of, “The celebrant may” do this, omit that, add the third thing, choose between the following options…
Part of the reason why the proposed offices have so many options is they combined practices from former Anglican jurisdictions using different versions of the Book of Common Prayer. I hope, though, once the offices are approved, that each Ordinariate can publish its own Catholic Book of Common Prayer with its regional variations, such as the collects praying for the Queen in Canada and the U.K. but leaving out all the options never used in that area, or, as Tom’s Digest suggests, putting the options into an appendix.
Several months ago, I interviewed John Covert, creator of the Prayer.Covert.org.
This site offers the Morning and Evening Prayer (plus Midday Prayers and Compline) with the opportunity to choose the Psalms from the lectionary or from the daily BCP cycle of daily readings; plus the readings and collects for the day. Covert said he tried to make it as close as possible to what he was able to piece together about the draft office books.
But he, too, seemed to hope whatever Prayer Book gets published is simple and easy to use. He told me it must “pass the Grandma test,” so Grandma can use it on her own without a lot of explanation.
While many are eager to see the Office Books published, we continue to use the 1962 Canadian Book of Common Prayer for our Mattins and Evensong and our offices are very close to what Covert has on his site. We add the Angelus and for Evensong, the Phos Hilarion, and the Marian Anthem.
On the Forum, Christopher Mahon offered some opinions that I thought were worth passing on here. Included is some of the discussion:
Christopher Mahon The author is correct to say the Holy See should take its time with the office. The important thing is for ordinariate communities to simply pray mattins and evensong as we have always done.
It’s not like the apostles went out after the Ascension and got all worked up about praying daily until Peter had gotten around to reviewing, editing, and promulgating formal books. They just prayed as they were accustomed. The books followed.
In other words, the books are meant to reflect the received tradition. In the case of evensong and mattins, that tradition is already given to us.
Christopher Mahon Exactly. Here’s an interesting thought experiment. People sometimes worry that if the Holy See issues a book that modified a prayer or custom, we might have to give up the customary way of doing it. But what if the Holy See instead issues a book that adds options to what we usually do? That’s not a bad thing if it’s trying to capture and reflect received patrimonial tradition, but it could easily cause confusion and entice some local folks to changing their custom.
Bottom line is we should keep calm and carry on patrimonially.
Claudia Brown It’s very important to work at it until a version “for the ages” is produced. Amongst us Romans, the Post-Vatican II work of the ICEL (International Commission on the English Liturgy) was an ongoing food-fight for years, producing “interim” versions of texts which would be deemed official for some number of years (like three) until something “definitive” could be agreed upon. This was a mess for all the obvious reasons, but its most singular achievement was the absolute destruction of what had been the UNIVERSAL use by the Congregation of a personal Missal.
Except for such pockets as the FSSP, this former custom has never really recovered. So much for the vaunted “Age of the Laity”!! The loss of the Missal, in my view, was a strategic act of hyper-clericalism. Get it right the FIRST time, no matter how long it takes.