Monthly Archives: April 2016

On Writing for the King

While packing lunches this morning I had a thought hit me that I need to look into further…

The life of Cassiodorus falls into two major sections: The Politician and The Theologian. Cassiodorus begins his political career as quaestor around 507, serves as consul in 514, becomes the magister officiorum in 523, and becomes praetorian prefect in 533. His political career ends somewhere within the period of the Gothic War—when the Roman Empire in the East decides to reassert its western claims and attacks the Gothic kingdom that had been controlling Italy and the West (ostensibly under direction of the East, but not really). Cassiodorus goes to Constantinople sometime around 540 with the remnants of the Gothic court and members of the senatorial class fleeing the violence.

At this point—during his time in Ravenna as the Gothic kingdom is collapsing and in his move to Constantinople—he begins some fairly major literary activity, notably, the collecting and editing of his Variae: books of letters that he wrote while serving the Gothic kings.  As he says in the preface, “All of the letters, therefore, which I have been able to find in various public archives that have been dictated by me as Quaestor, as Magister Officiorum, or as Prefect, are here collected and arranged in twelve books.” The vast majority of these letters were written in the names of the kings. Indeed, the books are arranged according to the people for whom Cassiodorus was writing. Hence, Book 1 is “Containing 46 Letters written by Cassiodorus in the Name of Theodoric.”

Around this time, Cassiodorus makes the decision to leave public life and become an ascetic. He writes his treatise “On the Soul” which he sometimes refers to as the thirteenth book of the Variae. After this, he embarks directly on the writing of his commentary on the Psalms.

What hit me this morning is the relationship between the Variae and the Psalm commentary…

The Variae is a great collection of letters written by Cassiodorus in the names of others.  The dominant perspective on the Psalter that he inherits from Augustine and the rest of the patristic tradition is that David wrote the psalms on behalf of Christ through the dictation of the Holy Spirit. When you look at it from this perspective, there seems to be a strong thematic continuity: both the Variae and the Psalms are collections of brief occasional writings written by one writer on behalf of the sovereign…

I don’t want to push this concept too far—i.e., I don’t think it is a controlling concept in the commentary— or overemphasize the continuity between the two works here, but I am feeling the need to re-read some big sections of both in light of this new thought.

Update on New Breviary Offices

Since my previous post, I’ve been able to log some significant time getting bugs fixed and features added to the new code base.

Morning Prayer in the new format is here:

I’m happy to announce that Evening Prayer can now be found here:

But…you might be saying…what if I don’t want to have to go to two different places to get my offices? Never fear, this is a temporary intermediate state while I get things functioning correctly. I’ve already thought of a number of possible end-states where you can go to one place and get the offices you’re after. As usual, I’ll play with a couple, and we’ll figure out what you like best…

Some items to note:

  • The Prayer for Mission is now a choice; all of the options are available, but one is made active.
  • If you’re overwhelmed by options, you can get rid of most of them with the “Simplify Options” button.
  • A number of things will appear now as they ought too—hymns, commemorations, etc.
  • The right creeds are with the right rites.
  • Kalendar selections exist now. There are only three options at the moment: Lesser Feasts & Fasts 2006 (the official Calendar of the church—more on this anon), Great Cloud of Witnesses (made available at General Convention but not yet published in tangible form), and my own idiosyncratic House Kalendar. I’ll add back more as time allows and as I receive requests.

There are some known issues that I am working on:

  • If you begin on a day with ferial psalm antiphons, select a kalendar that is observing a saint, then decide that you really want to go back and not celebrate the saint, the code has trouble recall the initial ferial antiphons.
  • I’m sure there are more waiting to be found…

There are some things I haven’t gotten to.

  • Chief among them is a way to capture/save/apply preferences. I think we’re really close on this one; I’m just trying to determine if there are some more elegant ways to make it happen rather than a basic brute force approach.
  • Non-current BCP adds. Some folks have recommended some additional changes not yet included. I am both sympathetic and supportive of these—but not right now. The mission on the SBS is to provide an office with full options that is licit within the rubrics and rules of the ’79 BCP.  I may well consider incorporating some of your earlier or ore far-reaching options once I can get the core material nailed down—but the core material does now and will always take precendence.

Things I’m mulling over…

  • Yes, both canticles deserve antiphons. And, I have a nice model for Evening Prayer in the Palmer Evening Office antiphon book where there are appointed Magnificat antiphons coupled with broadly seasonal Nunc Dimittis antiphons. However, that raises questions. What if the first canticle at EP is something else and the second is the Mag? Where does the Mag antiphon go? With the Second (Gospel) canticle? What about a good source for MP First Canticles?

Let me know what you think, and we’ll keep moving forward here…

Experimental Code for Morning Prayer

As promised earlier, here is a link for Morning Prayer in the new experimental version of the St. Bede’s Breviary code base:

As you’ll see, most of the usual breviary options are present. The two main areas that I intend to get to but have not yet fully addressed are the Calendar/commemorations and a mechanism to save individual options. However, on the latter I think you see that selecting options is no longer the hassle it could be with the earlier editions.

There are probably still some bugs lurking in it, some I’ve discovered, a few I probably haven’t. I am working on the ones I know about in addition to getting Evening Prayer up on line too. Let me know what you think of the new interface and if you run into any problems…