Monday, October 24, 2011

One Reason to LOVE Vatican II



The Office has been drawn up and arranged in such a way that not only clergy but also religious and indeed laity may participate in it, since it is the prayer of the whole people of God. 


I quoted this from Pope Paul VI's Apostolic Constitution on the Liturgy of the Hours in a 10/10 post about the instructions on the Vatican II revision of the breviary. But it wasn't until last week that I really appreciated what the Second Vatican council did for us lay folk in giving us a short, vernacular breviary.

The reason for this is that I recently downloaded a book on Kindle (it was a freebie, originally from Gutenberg or Googlebooks), titled The Divine Office by a Father Edward Quigley, copyright 1920.  It's basically a guide to the pre-Vatican II breviary, written for priests. It's packed with historical information for the liturgy geek.

There's also a rather scary section on all the ways a priest could sin (either mortally or venially) by not saying the full office correctly  every single day. And in those days you prayed all 150 psalms every week, rather than every month. So the hours of the liturgy were roughly four times as long as they are now.

And they were all in Latin. And apparently reading a vernacular translation did not "count" as praying the official prayer of the Church. Any lay person who did this was engaging in a devotion, not participating in the  liturgy.

So, although I'm a fairly traditional Catholic and enjoy hearing mass in Latin and singing Gregorian chant, I am really, really happy about the Vatican II breviary. As things stand now, it is fairly doable to read the liturgy in the 10 minute chunks (give or take) it now comes in. (And fifteen to twenty  most days for Office of  Readings). A quick look at an online Breviarum Romanum shows five psalms each for lauds and vespers. That could easily put me over the edge into thinking:  this is just too much, had the Divine Office of today remained what it was before the Council. That, and the fact that my Latin is too little to pray well in that language.

In addition, the complete office back then had 8 mandatory liturgical hours, whereas today it's 5. (Not that laity are ever obliged to do the whole thing, but if doing the complete office is one's goal, then it's a whole lot easier with only 5 liturgical hours.)

Reading between the lines in Fr. Quigley's text, one gets the definite impression that  length of the old Divine Office was a burden to many a parish priest. There were all kinds of moral theology regulations for what bare minimum a priest could get away with to fulfill his breviary obligation. It appears that   a priest might often have to just say a whole day's office in one block of time, murmuring it as quickly as possible with little reflection on the psalms, just to get it done. Quigley even refers to the "difficult work" of trying to pray office fervently.

Admittedly I haven't made a lengthy study of the old breviary, and I am NOT trying to criticize it or be a "chronological snob" who thinks that everything post-Vatican II is better just because it is newer. On the contrary, having passed my childhood (1960s and 70s) arguing with modernist religion teachers who continually contradicted the Baltimore catechism my parents had me study at home, I know first hand of the sorry misapplication of Vatican II directives.

But if it weren't for Vatican II, I and many thousands more would  have missed out on the beauty and consolation of praying the psalms in rhythm with the liturgical year and in harmony with the Church universal.







10 comments:

  1. Thank you for the concise comparison of the Breviary and Liturgy of the Hours. I came back to the Catholic Church a couple of years ago from the Anglican Church in America, but I still use the Anglican Prayer Book for daily prayer. I was thinking of switching to the Breviary until I saw how much time it would take. Even the Liturgy of the Hours looks as if it is going to take longer then The Morning, Noonday, Evening Prayer and Compline in the Book of Common Prayer

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    1. Sorry I didn't see your comment earlier, but Easter activities, followed by my daughter's wedding, have kept me away from this blog until today. I keep meaning to look at an Anglican to compare it to the LOTH. One of these days. On the other hand, there are Anglicans and Episcopalians who have switched to the Catholic LOTH precisely because it does give them more than does the Prayerbook, especially the Office of Readings. You could always try using the ibreviary app if ever you want to attempt the LOTH without making the investment in the complete set of books. God bless you.

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    2. I think the Anglican office cycle takes about the same amount of time as the LotH. Maybe a bit longer, but it's adjustable. Anglican offices have the lesson-canticle-lesson-canticle bit, which can take a while if the lessons are long (and they can be long at both Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer). I actually like this about the Anglican office: the coverage of the whole psalter and the vast majority of the Bible. Lack of antiphons and responsories makes the Office fit in one volume; my NRSV/BCP combo is a complete breviary (and missal).

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  2. I have every form of the Office imaginable: English LOTH, Latin Liturgia Horarum, 1962 Breviarium Romanum, Baronius Press 1962 Breviary (Latin/English), 1962 Diurnale Romanum, 1963 Monastic Diurnal, and both pre- & post-conciliar versions of the Little Office of the BVM. While I find the Collects, Hymns, and Night Prayer to be meatier in the traditional forms, there is never a day I can pray all the hours in the old breviaries without resorting to chunks. I think an ideal option is to pray the newer office throughout the day and pray Compline in the traditional form. It's the best of both worlds.

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    1. I think that's a great idea, Rich. And that Compline book you linnked to is reasonably priced. Do you know that you can buy traditional breviary hymns in English translation (and chant notation)? The author/editor is Fr. Samuel Weber. Its available form Lulu.com I use these most of the time.

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    2. And here's a link for the breviary hymnbook: http://www.lulu.com/shop/rev-samuel-f-weber-osb/hymnal-for-the-hours/paperback/product-21799513.html

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  3. I forgot to add a link to a booklet that is just Compline:

    http://www.fraternitypublications.com/compline.html

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  5. Daria,

    There's a website that has a lot of the hymn translations sans chant notation here:

    http://www.preces-latinae.org/thesaurus/Hymni.html

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  6. And my men's Gregorian chant group is planning to record the chant in the Baronius Press Little Office of the BVM. Baronius gave us the green light, so it looks like 2016 will be the year.

    Many good things happening.

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