Book Change

Do you say the office, from either devotion and/or obligation?

Change your volume and get your ribbons set up.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. J. Basil Damukaitis says:

    And if you’re obliged…be sure to buy “ribbon insurance”! In case of death, we will gladly set your ribbons to the current feast, week, and day! We’ll even dog ear some pages for ya and crack the binding!! Call Now! 888-555-1289!

  2. Dan says:


    I alternate betwixt the Benedictine Monastic Diurnale, and Angelus Press Officium Divinum.
    Lent is contained in the one Diurnale [obviously no Matins] I have not the physical or moral toughness to rise at 3am for Matins.

  3. cuaguy says:

    Devotion, and I just finished. After looking through Volume 2, it seems that I need to start getting music/antiphons/responsary for the Octave of Easter ready since my NP group only has “bare-bones” books.

  4. Neil Bakker says:

    Yes, I recite…
    Volume changed….
    Ribbons set…

    Here we go…

  5. RichR says:

    This topic is very timely for me.

    Fr. Z, why do you celebrate the TLM, yet you frequently make mention of the Liturgia Horarum in your podcasts? [I pleases me to do so. Also, most people who pray the office, pray the newer form… I think even among those priests who say the older Mass.] Two different calendars. [So? The newer calendar wasn’t abolished.] I am not being critical, I am just curious what you find appealing about the LH. So much of what I have heard or read about the changes of Vatican II are negative, so I have this knee-jerk reaction against anything after the Council. I wish I didn’t. But when I read the LotH, all I see is Grail Psalter wishy-washiness. [So, you are making your assessment based on the translation rather than the Latin.] I can’t help it. Also, with your “slavishly-accurate” translations, I have a natural suspicion of any ICEL product. [Good.] I just feel like it is tepid by nature. However, not being fluent in Latin, I can’t get the Liturgia Horarum from Paxbook and get much out of it. I am in a Divine Office limbo. I can’t go to the original Latin, but I am disappointed with the ICEL LotH. [I won’t use it.]


    Ugh! What to do!?

  6. AnAnonymousSeminarian says:

    Hmm… Devotion or Obligation… I\’m kind of in between…

    At my (minor) seminary, we are expected to pray Morning and Evening Prayer. However, I have taken great joy recently in praying several of the other hours on a regular basis. Sadly, my Latin comprehension is not yet sufficient to justify purchasing the Hours in Latin (OF or EF)… maybe in time.

    Thank you for the heads-up Fr. Z!

  7. Wm. Christopher Hoag says:

    I use the FSSPX 1962 Diurnale Romanum.

    I am waiting for the Baronius Press 3-volume, bilingual Office though!

  8. LCB says:

    The standard 4 volume, not even sure who prints it.

    Though some days I fall into laziness and just use my iPhone.

    On several particularly cold mornings, I have been guilty of praying Lauds in bed using the iPhone!

  9. Fr. BJ says:

    To make things interesting, I have the ICEL breviary, the British breviary, the Latin Liturgia Horarum, and the Spanish breviary. (I made sure to ask permission to use all of them, just in case, since not all are “approved” for this country, and it is not clear to me whether approval is required or not to use vernacular editions from other countries, and since I am bound to say the Office daily, I wanted to be sure I was doing the right thing.) I tend to swtich between them; since I very rarely get to pray the Office in common with other priests or laymen, it is easy enough to do this.

    In this way I get an occasional break from the banal familiarity of the ICEL version (by using the British), I practice my Spanish which is a present pastoral necessity, and I also schlep through the Latin, which I have forgotten so much of for disuse, but which I am trying to re-acquire.

    Some day I hope to acquire and figure out the extraordinary form breviary.

  10. Michael Garner says:


    I use the 1964 Benziger Roman Breviary in English. Dan, one doesn’t have to say Matins early in the morning. Matins for the next day can be anticipated after 2pm on the current day. The other hours as well as Matins may be satisfied at any time on the actual day (from Midnight to Midnight)in the extraordinary form.

  11. Already done :-) I am very much looking forward to this Lent!

  12. paolomac says:

    I have to echo the puzzlement that you prefer the Bugnini Liturgy of the Hours to the 1961 Breviarium. [I do? How can you possibly know which office I use from day to day? Incredible.] The severing of the Liturgy by removing the seamlessness of the day’s Office and Mass was a travesty. The splitting of the Psalter over a 4-weekly cycle is a breathtaking departure from liturgical tradition.

  13. Fr. BJ says:


    From my perspective, much as I agree with you, I have to say that one reason why I persist in using the Novus Ordo LOH instead of acquiring and learning to use the older form at this point — besides the fact that I cannot afford to buy the older breviary — is that I am simply too busy and saying the entire Office each day is enough of a cross as it is. I hope that doesn’t scandalize anyone, but the more reasonable will not be surprised to hear that reciting the breviary isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, no matter how much they love the Church.

    I loved Fulton Sheen’s argumentation in favor of the breviary in his The Priest Is Not His Own (I am basing this on memory…). After presenting the matter from several different angles, he basically ends up saying — I paraphrase — “Deal with it, and accept it as a cross!”. That was with reference to the older breviary, in a world that was not as busy as today, with a lot more priests around to share the work. I am grateful for the new breviary in the light of the sheer amount of work and responsibilities that I have each day. And it continues to be approved by the Church, so regardless of whatever arguments might be brought against it, I do not have even one ounce of guilt for using it. Moreover, as an approved liturgical rite of the Church, it is a sure source of grace and holiness for those who use it.

  14. deProfundis says:

    >>>”Change your volume and get your ribbons set up.”

    I must admit that even after praying the LoTH (ICEL 4 volume)for over a year out of devotion – I have yet to read anything explaining how to arrange the ribbons. Mine came with red, green, blue, purple and white ribbons. I would appreciate hearing how the rest of you set these up so that I might do it correctly.

    Ad majorem Dei gloriam!

  15. Fr. BJ says:

    deProfundis: there is no official way to use the ribbons. The colors are even different from volume to volume, in some cases. You use them in the way that works for you. With the ICEL version of the breviary, I think it would be better if it had six ribbons instead of five.

    I have the first ribbon marking the appropriate page in the Proper of Seasons (the first part that has the daily lessons for the Office of Readings); the second ribbon on the current page of the Four-Week Psalter; the third ribbon on the current page of Night Prayer; the fourth ribbon on the current page of the Proper of Saints; and the fifth ribbon keeps the appropriate place in the Common that corresponds to the saint of the day.

    Since I lost the insert card that had the gospel canticles, invitatory psalm, and Te Deum printed on it for easy reference, I have the three gospel canticles and the invitatory (Psalm 95) memorized, and I have a holy card marking the page where the Te Deum is found in the Ordinary.

  16. Vincent says:


    I use the Anglican Breviary, which is all contained in one enormous volume. It is not the easiest to pray with because of the volume’s considerable weight, but the language is so beautiful. There is also the added benefit that it has the expanded Matins readings that were curtailed in the Bugnini reforms.

  17. Geoffrey says:

    Oh! It’s that time of the year again!

    I pray the Liturgy of the Hours daily (ordinary in Latin), and so I have pulled out volume two and I am about to make the ribbon change! I love praying the Divine Office. And, yes I will say it, I much prefer the newer version. I find it much more “user-friendly”. However this Lent I will once again pray Compline in the extraordinary form (though I will miss the hymns and readings).

    I use the USA (ICEL) version, though I do have one volume of the UK version. I like the UK version better, however I prefer the format of the USA version.

  18. MK says:

    Devotion – I was using eBreviary for a while but took the plunge and ordered the four-volume set. They just got here today…I finally worked out a system for my ribbons, but now I see that I’ll be changing volumes for tomorrow! I’m excited for my first Lent with the LotH though.

  19. terra says:

    Monastic breviary – it is a somewhat longer Office than even the 1962 Roman breviary thanks to those 14 psalms at Matins and lots of psalm repetitions in the day hours(although many just use the monastic dirunal a good solution for lay people) – but somehow it sucks one in…comes in two volumes but the book change doesn’t come until Trinity Sunday!

  20. Sharon says:

    I use the one volume Daily Prayer From the Divine Office for Australia and New Zealand. I have changed my ribbons – six of them which works pretty well.

  21. paolomac says:

    I apologize, Father. In paraphrasing your interpolated comments in an earlier comment (“it gives me pleasure to do so” and “most say the newer form … even among those priests who offer the older Mass”), I suggested you preferred the new.

    Nevertheless, I remain surprised that that should be the case.

    I am not a cleric, so I don’t have the obligation to pray the Office. But, having read Bugnini’s memoir on what he did to the Breviary, and seeing the strength of the link between the Mass and Office in the EF, and the millennial tradition of reciting all the psalms every week, I can’t feel anything but great sadness and disappintment when I look at the LotH. The Church has lost so much of her treasure, and so little seems to be being done to restore the traditional Office and point out the deficiencies of the new.

  22. Andrew, UK and sometimes Canada says:

    I will begin the Office…as soon as the near-mythical Baronius Press edition is available. It’s slowly inching it’s way towards completion.

  23. Jon says:

    I use the one volume “Breviary in English,” Benziger Press, 1964. It was edited by Dom Bebe Babo, with prayer translations by Dr. Christine Mohrmann. It was the first translation of the Office into the vernacular by the American bishops. The language, though modern, is sonorous, reverent, dignified, and accurate. I wish ICEL would’ve used it as a model.

    Now, too bad I can’t access the “Ask Father Question Box” archives. In 2003, Father, I wrote you about the same matter RichR brings up. Your reply to me that time (because I was praying the RB and attending the Novus Ordo – I didn’t have my FSSP parish yet)was, if I remember correctly, that one’s “liturgical prayer life should be integrated,” and if one mainly attends the TLM, then one should pray mainly the Roman Breviary, and if one attends the Novus Ordo, then one should pray mainly the LotH.

    I’m not being snarky, I’m genuinely curious, why the change? With the exception of Matins vs the Office of Readings, I find the older form of the Office takes maybe an extra two or three minutes. Not much.

  24. DAJL says:

    Lauds and Vespers by “anticipated obedience.” Compline when I can, by devotion. Mostly I use the Mundelein Psalter. I find it elegantly simple in its chant tones and constantly inviting. I would recommend it to anyone interested in singing the OF Office rather than reciting. Fr. Z. had a post a few months ago about a new, complete, Latin-French EF Psalter. I was tempted…

  25. Pawel Pojawa says:


    I use the Latin Liturgia Horarum, switching to Polish for celebrations local to Poland or my diocese, and when my daughters are listening :-)

    By the way, breviaries seem to be rather cheap in Poland. You can usually get them for less than $25 per volume (either pre- or post-V2) in online auctions.

  26. Fr. BJ said: \”I hope that doesn’t scandalize anyone, but the more reasonable will not be surprised to hear that reciting the breviary isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, no matter how much they love the Church.\”

    Dear Fr. BJ, your “confession” of finding the reciting of the Breviary your “cross” was appreciated by many of us. Your honesty in allowing us ordinary Catholics to see a human being behind the collar was refreshing. Thank you.

  27. Ohio Annie says:

    I am a convert “four volumer.”

    On ribbons, I use them from left to right to keep them from getting worn at the top, no color coding.

    I pray morning, evening and night prayer when possible and I do the Office of Readings at lunchtime when I am more with-it mentally because I am most interested in the writings of the Church Fathers, which are all new to me, being a convert.

    I hope to make my volumes dog-eared and underlined so I can give them to my niece in my will and she will think I was holy (oh, so NOT NOT NOT).

    Happy Volume Change Day!!!

  28. Christa says:

    Could someone point me to a place where I can learn how to use the Breviary? I have a one volume edition I purchased used. It was published in 1976.

    I get very confused and have NO idea where to mark things with the ribbons. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

  29. LCB says:

    At St. John Cantius in Chicago the Divine Office is said daily (at the appropriate hours) and is open to the public.

    It is offered for all clergy who have neglected their duty to recite the office daily. That’s deep.

  30. Unknown Thomist says:

    ARRRGH! I wish I had seen this last night!
    I pray the modern LOTH for devotion, and typically do the Office of Readings and Morning Prayer on the train on the way to work. And this morning I opened my briefcase to discover thatat I had forgotten to switch volumes. Grumble.
    It has been a week of forgetting. Monday I forgot my wallet. Tuesday my blackberry. I left the house today thinking I was SURE that I hadn’t fotgotten anything this time!
    Unknown Thomist

  31. Sid says:

    Four suggestions (and only suggestions, based on my experience) if you want to pray the Office:

    1. EITHER the whole Office should be prayed, OR at least Lauds (and prayed in the morning) and Vespers (and prayed in the evening). If I remember the documents correctly these two Offices are the door hinges upon which the Office turns.

    2. The EF Breviary is just too long for most people in the modern world (and the Office is for EVERYONE — and in the modern world with high literacy rates, most everyone can pray it). If folks do have the time to pray the old Office, fine. (Most folk don’t.) I fear that those who insist on the EF Office exclusively are condemning the Office to its sad status as a neglected stepchild of Catholic practice, or even to the status of an orphan. Sometimes the friends of something are its worst enemies. Put differently, for most moderns, it’s either the OF Office or no Office.

    3. EITHER learn Latin and buy the 4 vol. OF Latin edition, OR buy the 3. vol British edition (cheaper, better translated, though those in Holy Orders need their Bishop’s permission).

    4. The British translation still uses the Grail Psalms. If you can’t abide these, EITHER have beside you the 2nd ed. of the RSV Bible (Ignatius Press), OR even better get a hold of Robert Alter’s translation of the Psalms — the most literal, accurate, and up-to-date translation.

  32. Sid says:

    a few concluding observations, then a pipe dream:

    The Office cannot be praised enough. It is Scriptural, it is prayer, and it is the best schol of prayer, for the Psalms and Canticles, being Scripture, are how The Almighty wishes to be prayed to. They need to be prayed both as the Prayer of Christ (the Prayer within the Trinity of The Son to The Father) and the Prayer of the new Israel, The Church. Thus the Office needs to be part of every Catholic’s life. Accordingly the particular Form of the Office that most accommodates modern man is the Form to be preferred. And that Form is the Ordinary Form for most people.

    The Circle Bugnini may have been wrong on the Mass, may have been wrong about the calendar, yet by and large was correct about the Office. (I’d still like to see the Tenebrae Offices re-established).

    And now a pipe dream. I wish there was a lay order of “Lay Canons of the Divine Office” who would gather every morning and evening, in their local parish church or an oratory, and pray the Office together. I wish Solemn Vespers on Sundays were regular in most parishes.

  33. Ohio Annie says:

    Christa, the St. Joseph Guide to Christian Prayer is helpful if that is the volume you are using. It is published yearly as a little booklet and tells you what page to go to at each hour and day.

  34. Unknown Thomist says:

    Sid, I have that same pipe dream!
    – Unknown Thomist

  35. Sid says:


    check out

    It’s the Office on-line. They’ll set you straight as to the correct day. They also don’t use the ICEL translations, maybe because of copyright. They still don’t have the daytime Office, but they will do for Mattins, Lauds, Vespers, and Mass readings.

  36. Derik says:

    I pray using the Liturgia Horarum. Changing from one volume to another reminds me of how fast time goes by. In particular vespers will be prayed using the vesperale iuxta usum Ordo Praedicatorum that Fr. Thompson O.P. just made available.

  37. Henry Edwards says:

    For some time I prayed parts of the traditional Divine Office, mostly in Latin, using combinations of the Benedictine Monastic Diurnale, and Angelus Press Officium Divinum, the Anglican Breviary and some Matins downloaded from web sites.

    But a while back I switched to the 4-volume Liturgia Horarum in Latin, initially to coordinate better with OF daily Mass preceded in my parish by morning prayer in English. Latin Lauds early each morning is a wonderful advance antidote for the Grail Psalms later in English.

    Seriously, I find the office as private devotion and as public liturgy to be different, complementary and both valuable. When I was familiar with the Grail Psalms and the ICEL prayers only for private recitation, I developed for them a well-honed repertoire of descriptive comments modeled on some of the deprecatory (or “curse”) psalm verses that have been carefully excised from the new office.

    However, I think (parish) liturgical recitation of the office is an important step — this may actually be a good contribution of Vatican II — if only to help inculcate the concept of liturgy; somehow Read Red, Say Black is more obvious to some with the Office than with the Mass — and only in the vernacular does the new office makes sense in the ordinary parish.

    And the current version seems (to me) much more acceptable when formally recited or chanted than when prayed privately (where it seems woefully inadequate, simply intolerable). So in English I would (and sometimes did) use the old breviary for private recitation. However, in Latin, I actually prefer the new Liturgia Horarum to the old Breviarum Romanum.

    But the overriding factor is coordination of Mass and Office. If I am ever so fortunate as to have access to daily Mass in the older form, I will undoubtedly switch to the older breviary also. (By which time the virtually mythical Baronius Press 1962 breviary may actually have appeared.)

  38. RBrown says:

    The Circle Bugnini may have been wrong on the Mass, may have been wrong about the calendar, yet by and large was correct about the Office. (I’d still like to see the Tenebrae Offices re-established).
    Comment by Sid

    How was it correct about the Office?

  39. Henry Edwards says:

    I fear that those who insist on the EF Office exclusively are condemning the Office to its sad status as a neglected stepchild of Catholic practice, or even to the status of an orphan. Sometimes the friends of something are its worst enemies. Put differently, for most moderns, it’s either the OF Office or no Office.</i?

    A downright incisive remark, Sid. I’m a notorious proponent (at least locally) of the parish Mass in Latin, but the idea of parish Office in Latin is just plain absurd.

    OR even better get a hold of Robert Alter’s translation of the Psalms—the most literal, accurate, and up-to-date translation.

    It’s good to see someone else who’s using Robert Alter’s translation. I regularly compare it, the D-R and RSV 2e translations, and the Vulgate Latin. Only when I’ve factored in Alter do I feel pretty sure (with difficult verses) I know what the psalm actually says. (I wonder whether Jewish scholarship, which Alter represents, hasn’t simply outstripped Christian scholarship so far as the psalms are concerned.)

  40. Nathan says:

    Wow–there are a lot of you who pray the Office out of devotion! I’ve come to a compromise between devotion and rest–I pray the old Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary from the St Bonaventure Books reprint of Little Office out of the Fr. Lasance “Prayer Book for Religious” published in 1904.

    It is a lot like “Traditional Office Lite” since I can pray the entire office between my two Metro trips to and from work, but the psalmody (pre-early 20th century changes to the Psalter) and Marian antiphony are beautiful. I think it adds a useful counterpart to the Church’s calendar, simply because it’s organized around the Incarnation–Advent, Post Adventum (Christmas to Presentation), and Extra Adventum (rest of the year). It’s not meant to take the place of the full Office, however.

    Unfortunately, I think there are quite a few typos in this edition, up to leaving out the “Gloria Patri” after the canticle “Nunc Dimittis” for Compline. I hear the newer Baronius Press version is very good, if one is inclined to pray this office.

  41. Geoffrey says:

    It’s interesting that Vatican II’s document on the liturgy was pretty direct in how to reform the Divine Office (suppression of Prime, more than just a one-week cycle of psalms, etc.), whereas with the Mass it would appear Vatican II wasn’t even consulted!

  42. Dan says:

    Does anyone know where I can get a Latin/English pre-Council, office of Matins?
    Thank you

  43. Fr Mark says:

    My four volume Monastic Breviary doesn’t change volume until Sunday. this is because, with the exceptions of the day’s readings at Matins and the daily collects, proper texts for Lent don’t start until the Sunday – a relic of the far-off days when the First Sunday of Lent was that season’s start (Ash Wednesday through the following Saturday were later additions to make up the number of fast days to forty, since the six Sundays were not fast days). It was my impression that most four vlume editions of the Roman Breviary also made the change on Sunday – then again it is a long time since I used the Roman Breviary (and longer still since I used the Liturgia Horarum). I have my bishop’s position to use the Monastic Breviary. I wanted to because it is the only truly traditional breviary in living use. The 1962 breviary, with its truncated readings at Matins, is useless. Pius X’s reform was a very radical one – and in what sense can a breviary which was used for only sixty years be considered traditional? I have been tempted to use the RB edited under Leo XIII,but it’s Matins are even longer than the MB, and figuring out the Calendar is a nightmare…

  44. Flambeaux says:

    Fr Mark,

    Do you know of a current source of the traditional Monastic Breviary?

  45. Dan says:


    I am not Father, but the Benedictine Abbey at Farnbourough England have a beautiful Traditional Monastic Breviary. You can find it here:

  46. Fr Mark says:

    Alas, as far as I know the full Breviarium Monasticum is not in print. The very nicely produced book from farborough is only the day hours, so no Matins. Fortunately it is usually possible to find second hand sets fairly easily – try or e-bay.

  47. Sid says:

    “How was it correct about the Office?”
    Comment by RBrown

    See my remarks and those of Henry Edwards above.

  48. Henry Edwards says:

    RBrown: How was it correct about the Office?

    First, in defense of the possibility, my impression from some history I’ve read is that the Office revision was carried out by different people than the Bugnini crowd who worked on — and worked over — the Mass. Now, apart from the butchered calendar, some of the things I think they got right:

    1. The 4-week psalter makes it possible for real people to cover regularly all 150 psalms. Practically no layman could pray them every week, and I doubt that many priests actually recited them all in a really prayerful way.

    2. The inclusion of only 3 psalms per Hour — instead of 5 at the major Hours in the old breviary — may shorten a single Hour only by a matter of minutes, but for practical feasibility in praying the whole Divine Office daily, it seems to make “all the difference”.

    3. The 4-week distribution of psalms also makes possible inclusion of a much greater number of beautiful canticles, OT for lauds and NT for vespers, and similarly of short readings.

    4. Ditto with a much wider inclusion of beautiful old Latin hymns (which of course are missed entirely in the abominable ICEL hymnology).

    5. In Latin at least, the preces (intercessions) are a welcome addition, often a high point of an Hour (as opposed to their inclusion in the OF Mass, a notorious low point as they are implemented free form in the vernacular).

    6. The 22 strophes of Psalm 118 (119)– the “rosary of the psalms” — which in the old breviary are jammed together in bunches in successive hours, are now spread out palatably, and in particular one begins each daytime hour — a very wholesome improvement, I think.

    7. The you-takes-your-choice simplification of the three daytime hours (Terce, Sext, None) — so each day they share the same psalmody but with different short readings and responsories, so a single daytime hour suffices each day — makes a daytime hour without missing anything possible for people whose schedules cannot accommodate 3 separate daytime hours.

    The simplification of Matins into the Office of Readings would require its own list of separate points, but again, I think in brief that it makes possible the whole prescribed Divine Office for a much broader class of Catholics (including laymen) than previously prayed it.

    And this is the bottom line to the whole endeavor, the one area in which the recommendations of Sacrosanctum Consilium were followed and have borne good fruit. Think of the vastly increased number of lay people praying parts of the liturgy of the hours, not only privately but in groups and in scheduled parish hours. For instance, I know of an ordinary parish in my area that has scheduled daily 3 chanted hours — morning, mid day, and evening prayer — and before Vatican II I’d never heard of such a thing.

  49. Dan says:

    Sid and Henry and any other layman who has an intensely hectic schedule, here is a link to a wonderful abreviated Divine Office that uses the beautiful traditional language.

    It is in Latin/English and includes Lauds Prime Sext Vespers Compline for Sunday
    and for the other six days of the week only Prime Sext Compline

    It also includes Tones for “Te Lucis” Paschaltide Tones for Compline Easterweek, All Souls Day etc.

    Wonderful for the layman, and not horrifically time consuming.

  50. For Henry Edwards et al,

    For those who think the Extraordinary Form is too much for the layman consider this story. The Servant of God Frank Duff (founder of the Legion of Mary) went to his spiritual director in 1917 and inquired about learning the breviary. As latin was compulsory in Ireland in those times he had a good working knowledge of it. His spiritual director patiently taught him the all the details and nuances of praying the 4-volume breviary in Latin. Frank resolved to begin his breviary during Lent promising not to give up on it no matter the difficulties. His first attempt took several hours but he stuck with it day-after-day and eventually mastered it. From 1917 until his death in 1980 he never missed a day praying his breviary. There were times when he could not begin it until midnight but would say the entire breviary until 1am or 1:30am! At the end of his life, Frank attributed any good he had done to the daily praying of his breviary.

  51. Lola in Spain says:

    I pray it out of devotion, and have been doing so for more than eight years — I’m an adult convert, and the Office was a big part of that.

    Until quite recently, I used the one-volume French version “Livre des heures: Prière du temps présent” (Cerf-Desclée). Now that I’ve started studying Latin, I often use the one-volume bilingual version from St. Michael’s Abbey Press.

  52. dominic1962 says:

    I’ve recently picked up the 61 BR, and I find it superior to the LotH. However, along with the 62 MR, I really think that someday down the road the hatchet job done to the missal and breviary after Vatican II needs to be addressed and even the 61 BR and 62MR need to be examined. The 1 week psalter seems to have been the traditional way to do it and this idea was even maintained through all sorts of breviary “reforms” like the one by Cardinal Quignonez and the neo-Gallican breviaries. That said, I think the basic idea in the LotH makes a pretty good layman’s breviary.

    As to time, well it certainly depends on a number of factors and schedules, but it seems that the 8 hrs. of the BR are not that hard to get into a day. As to laymen, they can basically do anything they want when it comes to the office so its not a big deal.

  53. Sid says:

    Thank you, Henry Edwards. QED.

    If Robert Alter is any indication, Jewish scholarship seems pretty good on the Psalms. If you look in the back of Alter’s Psalms, you’ll find his “For Further Reading”. Gunkel and Mowinckel are important breakthroughs but now dated. Kraus is, as Alter states (with his caveat), the best commentary. I always like Mitchell Dahood’s commentary from 1966, not mentioned by Alter, but mine is a minority view. Dahood I believe taught at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome.

    Alter appears to be doing an entire Hebrew OT translation, and what he’s done so far is the best translation into English. A good translator has devoted his life to ancient Hebrew and other Semitic languages AND has a good knowledge of the English language, its literary history, and its poetic conventions. Alter has these qualifications. One can fuss with some of his choices, “Master” for Lord and “Sanctum” for sanctuary. (yet “sanctuary” in modern English has other connotations than does the Holy of Holies)

    Frankly it’s a scandal that we don’t have a NT translation as good as Alter’s OT translations. Heck, we don’t have a NT translation as good as what we have in English for Homer, Virgil, and Dante.

  54. dominic1962 says:


    That’s a good story and I think a good illustration of a realistic spirituality of the breviary. As a seminarian, I’ve been exposed to all sorts of uses of the breviary-by clerics and laymen, with the LotH, BR, and the Monastic Breviary, communal (from super solemn to one or two other guys) as well as private and it seems that too many people (just to be clear, I’m not aiming this at anyone here) have a very romantic and unrealistic idea of the breviary. Some seem to think that if you are not slowly mediating through each psalm and prayer at the exact canonical hour then you’re really not praying the breviary.

    Now that sort of technique can certainly be part of the breviary, but so is the all in one shot in the middle of the night technique when necessary. So is the reading through the breviary when you really would rather do anything else simply because you are obliged to do so. Real devotion consists of doing your duty, in good times and bad with ideal methods and less than ideal when you have to.

  55. Henry Edwards says:

    Dan: I agree about the Angelus Press abbreviated Divine Office, which was the first breviary I had and used, and just recently recommended it someone as an ideal way to start.

    It is beautifully put together and provides the essentials for a layman — a morning hour (Prime), a daytime hour (Sext), and an evening hour (Compline). But in addition these three hours are complementary to the Morning Prayer (Lauds) and Evening Prayer (Vespers), so as a next step these 5 hours provide a very feasible old-new breviary combination.

    It might be mentioned that the inclusion in the Angelus Press book of Lauds and Vespers only for Sundays covers more ground than may be obvious, because the same psalms for these main Sunday hours are used also on every (class 1) solemnity and (class 2) feast.

    Incidentally, Prime was my favorite hour in the Angelus short breviary, and I regret its suppression at the specific recommendation of Sacrosanctum Concilium, though I sort of understand it (for laymen).

  56. Nathan says:

    Henry Edwards: “Incidentally, Prime was my favorite hour in the Angelus short breviary, and I regret its suppression at the specific recommendation of Sacrosanctum Concilium, though I sort of understand it (for laymen).”

    Henry, that’s really interesting! Can you explain why Prime was supressed in Sacrosanctum Concilium? The only speculation I’ve heard is from the more Remnant-ish position (sorry, Michael Matt, it’s the only adjective I could come up with), which is that “the bad guys wanted to quash the Athanatian Creed.”

    In Christ,

  57. Ave Maria says:

    Obligatory for Third Order but I would pray it out of devotion otherwise. I inherited a 4 volume set from a holy priest, now deceased. There are little snippets from him in there; he loved Our Lady very much and was a very devout priest. He died on the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows in 1998. And I pray morning and evening prayer with his Office every day.

  58. Henry Edwards says:

    Greg: Thanks for that story of Frank Duff. Very salutory indeed. I do think the Divine Office can change lives much more than seems to be generally realized.

  59. Henry,

    Do you ever use the Anglican Breviary?

  60. jennifer evancho says:

    and the St Joseph guide is edition specific! I have one that doesn’t work with my version. But I think I have figured it out by now.


  61. Henry Edwards says:

    Greg: Yes, I’ve used the Anglican Breviary, and think very highly of it. It’s the only pre-1962 breviary I have.

    Nathan: I’ve never seen an authoritative account of the suppression of Prime, and so my “sort of” understanding consists only of guesses based on my own experience with the LOH.

    I take it that a prime concern in the revision of the Office was to make the major hours of Lauds (roughly sun-up) and Vespers (roughly sun-down) the “hinges” of the whole Office — which has worked out well, it seems to me, and helped to sell the LOH with the idea that you can start with just these 2 hinge hours, and add others later if you want to.

    Earlier, Lauds had often immediately followed Matins, and hence was essentially a night or very earlier morning prayer. Now with Lauds the first (“prime”) daylight Hour, that seemed to leave Prime nowhere to go. Until after Mass, when it tended to impinge upon the first daytime Hour (Terce).

    Keeping Prime would then tend to ruin the symmetry of the 3 equivalent and alternative minor daytime hours (Terce, Sext, None) separating the hinge hours of Lauds and Vespers.

    At this point, the Psalms historically associated with Prime — which very early had consisted primarily with strophs of Psalm 118 (119)– had already been absorbed into the daytime hours in the expanded 4-week cycle. So now Prime — which had always stood apart from the other minor Hours with a somewhat different structure — not only had nowhere to go but also nothing to do.

    Maybe this is part of the reasoning, maybe not. Perhaps someone who actually knows can tell us.

    In regard to the minor Hours, perhaps I should omit detailed account of what happened when a man answered the phone and an elderly woman asked to speak with his wife, but only if it would not interrupt anything, whereupon he replied “No, it’s almost noon, and we’re just getting ready for Sext, but it’s not urgent.”

  62. paolomac says:

    The other major point to make about Prime is that it is to Lauds what Compline is to Vespers.

    Lauds is an hour that praises the dawn, praises God in His creation. The Canticle of the Three Young Men figures heavily in the traditional Lauds (every Sunday and major feast) – “Benedicite omnia opera Domini, Domino * laudate et superexaltate eum in saecula”.

    Similarly, Vespers is an hour of Divine praise as night falls.

    Prime and Compline were complimentary hours of the morning and evening, focused more on the day itself. Prime includes collects focused on blessing the day’s work. Compline asks for God’s protection while we sleep.

    Lauds and Vespers vary greatly with the season and the feast. Prime and Compline are largely invariable, except for the Psalter.

    And, of course, Prime was the hour in which the Martyrology was recited.

    Prime has a much more monastic feel to it than the other hours, with sections that can be entirely omitted if not being prayed in community and a structure quite different from the other hours.

    I don’t seem to have converted anyone to the idea of the superiority of the older Breviary – with the time it takes to pray being the major issue, and the absence of a good English version the other (one can be fixed easily – but I don’t think the Baronius edition has picked a particularly good English translation).

    One further point: the newer form does not pray the full cycle of 150 Psalms, even over the 4-week cycle. Bugnini suppressed about 12 Psalms from the Liturgy (the imprecatory Psalms) because he didn’t think people would understand them in their correct light. And it certainly was Bugnini who guided the revision of the Breviary (although, as has been pointed out, he was given more guidance on this from the Council than with respect to the rest of the liturgy).

  63. TKS says:

    MD from devotion. Universalis on my iPod when on the road.

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