Benedictine Daily Prayer (Revised): A Short Breviary – reviewed

Another popular post from my previous blog:

This second, revised edition has been long awaited by aficionados of Office books. The revisions are significant so it is worth buying if you have the first edition.

They are:

  • additional psalmody at Vigils
  • reorganisation of sections so there is less page turning
  • removal of wordy collects and greater use of Proclaiming All His Wonders (French Cistercian collects translated into English at Glenstal, I believe)
  • removal of ICEL 1997 translations of the Gospel canticles and use of NRSV text
  • additional non-Scriptural commentaries on the Sunday Gospels

The positives:

  • the psalm text is the best version of the Grail psalms, inclusive language (1986) and not the hotch-potch translation approved by the Vatican and included, for example, in the Kenyan Liturgy of the Hours
  • the intercessions are excellent and in inclusive language
  • the collects (see above) are excellent and I applaud their greater dissemination
  • it is cheaper than buying The Divine Office or The Liturgy of the Hours
  • one volume breviary (not three or four volumes)
  • hymns in the Ambrosian tradition
  • good non-Scriptural readings for monastic saints and saints canonised since The Divine Office was published
  • good ecumenical indications and some alternative feasts given e.g. the Confession of Peter
  • a three year cycle of Patristic commentaries on the Sunday gospels (derived from the Scottish Episcopal Church’s Fr Stephen Holmes)

The negatives:

  • this is not the official prayer of any church or community, in what sense then is it ‘the prayer of the church’?
  • the introduction talks about the importance of Vigils in monastic theology but I think this should be in addition to Lauds and Vespers as the ‘hinges’ of the day, not above them, and in any case those of us who have day jobs struggle (as much as we might like it) with a long pre-dawn Office and even a Vigil on the Eve
  • the two daily Scripture readings (so no non-scriptural reading on a daily basis) are an odd selection, sometimes conforming to The Divine Office, mostly not; the printed passages are heavily abridged, but the reference given is for a longer version without annotation about what is missing
  • the whole psalter is not included but there are no tables to indicate what is missing

Scott Knitter has kindly shared a link to Psalm tables he has compiled and shows that just these psalms are omitted: 12, 13, 49, 53, 58, 59, 60, 74, 83, 105, 106, 109

  • the use of psalms 148-150 at the end of the psalmody of Lauds is very traditional but also means many excellent praise psalms are omitted
  • I miss the NT canticles at Vespers
  • the traditional Benedictine arrangement of psalmody is maintained for Terce, Sext and None, but praying three little hours a day is a big ask (it is Psalter Scheme A “abridged”)
  • I applaud the Ambrosian style, traditional Office hymns but J.M. Neale’s translations are more poetic
  • the intercessions/litanies are often in a style that would suit a bigger community (they are from St John’s Abbey) but praying alone feel a little too litany-like
  • the intercessions in the morning include reference to the dead and are not as neatly differentiated from the evening intercessions as in the General Instruction for the Liturgy of the Hours, they are intercession not praise
  • the monastic calendar used is American so some, like St Aelred, don’t get included

In summary: a very good volume for Benedictine oblates or Benedictine minded folk; a good supplement, I shall keep a copy to enhance intercessions and non-Scriptural readings. But The Divine Office / The Liturgy of the Hours is better because it has only one daytime hour, the Office of Readings is shorter, it highlights the importance of Lauds and Vespers and yet these are not too long. In the British edition of The Divine Office there is also a magnificent collection of poetry and the hymnody is not bad and very ecumenical.

See Fr Bosco Peter’s Liturgy website for another review here.

See also the links for errata and a psalm table, many thanks to Scott Knitter.

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