Category Archives: Daily Office

First feasts of December

Kalendar Calculations

I’m thinking back to yesterday and the conjunction of two different feasts, Corpus Christi and the Feast of the Visitation. It’s worth commenting on why two different sites—like the St. Bede’s Breviary and Daily Prayer—would choose one over the other. How do we think through these decisions theologically and what are the practical logics involved in these kind of kalendar calculations?

Occurrence–It’s a Thing

First off, this kind of thing happens not infrequently. That is, two days of significance to the church will overlap with one another because we have two different ways of reckoning dates for liturgical occasions. One is a Temporal cycle that shifts with the seasons, goes by weeks, and is calculated by means of Sundays which do not maintain a consistent date on the calendar every year. (Hence the tables on pp. 880-885 of your ’79 BCP.) The other is the cycle of fixed Holy Days. These are a combination of days celebrating apostolic saints (like Peter, Paul, Mary Magdalene, etc.) and feasts of Our Lord either directly (like Feast of the Holy Name) or indirectly through events surrounding the Incarnation (like The Visitation, the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist, etc.). These are, clearly, fixed on certain calendar dates.

Thus, there always exists the possibility for Temporal occasions to land on the same day as fixed Holy Days. That’s what happened yesterday: Corpus Christi, a traditional feast of the Temporal cycle celebrated on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday, fell on the same day as the Visitation, the feast fixed on May 31. The technical church geek name for this is “occurrence.” (The other related issue is “concurrence” which is what happens when Evening Prayer of two feasts tangle with one another—that’s a much longer and more technical discussion on why and how and what you do, so I’ll shelve that for now…)

There are a few different approaches to deal with occurrence. The first is to let one event supplant the other entirely. This is the simplest route. The second is transference. This is where one feast stays on its original day and the other gets bumped to the next open day. The third is commemoration. This is where both feasts stay on the day, one gets the spotlight and the other gets an honorable mention. The prayer book’s preferred option is the second, transference, and the mechanics of this process is discussed on pages 15-17 of your ’79 BCP.

Personally, I much prefer the third, commemoration. The reason is theological. This whole clashing of days is messy. How are we supposed to deal with the mess? Do we sanitize it, simplify it, or embrace it? This mess happens because these cycles are fundamentally incarnational—embracing the mess is embracing the inherent messiness of embodied life where things don’t always go the way you plan. And, in fact, amazing things can proceed out of the mess that you never would have expected. If you remember, just a couple of years ago in 2016, Good Friday fell on March 25th. Following the prayer book rules, all of us good Episcopalians dutifully transferred the Feast of the Annunciation to the Monday after the Second Sunday of Easter as directed on page 17. But—how much more powerful was that Holy Week considering the juxtaposition of the events: the death of Christ on the cross with his mother at its foot and the announcement of Christ’s conception to his mother by the angel Gabriel? Luckily, we even got a poem out of John Donne on it when this conjunction occurred in 1608.  Commemoration enables messy conjunctions like this to occur, allows us to wonder and revel in them rather trying to tidily confine God’s action to discrete days. (Which is why the image for yesterday’s post was Mary holding the Host—the best intersection of the two feasts I could think of!)

But—choosing one of the three options only determines your course of action, it doesn’t solve the problem of precedence: which feast stays and which goes (or gets the spotlight).

Determining Dignity

Old rules about which feast to celebrate when will sometimes make appeals to the “nobler” or the feast “of greater dignity” and such. This implies the existence of a theologically determined set of criteria to be used to

figure these things out—and these exist in spades! Here’s the problem with the traditional systems. Most of them begin with facts on the medieval ground and proceed by attempting to figure out logical rules that can be universally applied. Thus you have something like a calendar from a Book of Hours written around 1485 in Bruges following the Roman Use (Walters W.. September has three days written in red: September 1st for the Abbot Egidius, the Nativity of the BVM on the 8th, and the Exaltation of the Cross on the 14th. (And note the feast of Philip and James in black on the 13th!) What happens if a Sunday falls on one of these days? There’s no clear sense in this manuscript of how one would work it out or exactly what “red” means.

Now—to be perfectly fair, that’s from a Book of Hours. The function of a kalendar in Books of Hours was more general familiarity with where we are in the year and which saints are being celebrated than anything else. While you might use a certain collect or set of devotions based on the saint of the day, the prayer offices did not change. As a result if we really want to know what an actual medieval system for reckoning the Office looked like in the flesh we need to look at something like this kalendar from a breviary written around 1420 according to the Use of Liege (Walters W.83). If you look carefully here there are directions in red regarding what to do and how these various feasts ought to impact the Offices. Hence, in this use, the feast of Abbot Egidius is a feast of nine lessons (.ix.l.) meaning longer than normal. The feast of the holy virgin Magdalbert on the 7th is a “double” of a certain sort (dux) and is the primary feast of the day—the feast of Bishop Evortius is only commemorated with a collect (co[ll]). On the next day, the Nativity of the BVM is a double with all of the antiphons doubled (tot) with a collect commemorating the martyr Adrian (coll). The point I’m making is that books like these recorded what communities did and largely they had their own ideas about how things ought to be done. Systems grew up that attempted to systematize and regularize around these practices and that can lead to a confusing welter of gradations formalized at the Council of Trent and beyond that divides feasts in Greater Doubles of the First or Second Class as opposed to “normal” Greater Doubles or Lesser Doubles (leaving aside semidoubles and such entirely…).

These were the kinds of complexities that the Reformers pushed back against. Classically, Cranmer complained about these in the preface to the first Book of Common Prayer: “Moreover, the number and hardness of the Rules called the Pie, and the manifold changings of the service, was the cause, that to turn the Book only, was so hard and intricate a matter, that many times, there was more business to find out what should be read, than to read it when it was found out” (BCP, p. 866). Honestly, the Sarum Pie isn’t that hard to follow, but you get his general gist.

My Ranking System

In the run up to Vatican II, the Roman Catholic Church simplified their kalendar systems quite a bit. When we decided to adopt an expanded kalendar in the ’79 BCP we more or less modeled ours based on the Roman Catholic concepts produced in 1963 and 1964 that yielded a papal motu proprio on the kalendar in 1969. And, as I’ve said before, when trying to understand many aspects of the ’79 BCP we should look first to the liturgical reforms of Vatican II first (Point 4 at this link).  What the Calendar section of the BCP tries to do is to express something very much like the list from section 59 of Paul VI’s motu proprio Mysterii paschalis. What I don’t get is why they didn’t just put in the list (or a list)!

Because the St. Bede’s Breviary is based on a computer algorithm, I did compile a list. This list is rank by order of precedent so that you can see which feasts land where in relation to other feasts. I started with something like the Mysterii paschalis list and then re-ordered it as necessary to make sense of the directives in the Calendar section of the BCP:

I.

1. Easter Triduum [Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, Easter Sunday]
2. Christmas, Ascension, Holy Trinity, All Saints’ Day, Epiphany and Pentecost
3. Sundays of Advent, Lent, and Easter
4. Ash Wednesday
5. Weekdays of Holy Week from Monday from Thursday inclusive
6. Days within the Octave of Easter
7. Local Feast of Dedication of a church, Local Feast of Title, Local Feast of Patron
8. Special Feasts, locally having a first class rank*
9. Proper Feasts, locally having a first class rank*

II.

10. Holy Days: Feasts of Our Lord
11. Sundays of the Christmas Season and Ordinary Time
12. Holy Days: Major Feasts
13. Special Feasts, locally having a second class rank*
14. Days of Optional Observance, locally having a second class rank*

III.

15. Special Feasts, locally having a third class rank*
16. Days of Optional Observance, locally having a third class rank*
17. Weekdays of Lent
18. Weekdays of Advent from December 16th through December 24th inclusive
19. Days of Optional Observance
20. Weekdays of Advent up to December 15th inclusive
21. Weekdays of the Easter season
22. [Saturday Office of the BVM]†
23. Weekdays of the Christmas season
24. Weekdays of Ordinary Time

* The starred categories reflect the freedoms given in the Days of Optional Observance section. Practically speaking, the Prayer Book allows the appointment of propers to any day that does not contravene the pre-existing rules. This allows feasts already in the Calendar to receive additional celebration or the addition of other feasts so long as the other rules are obeyed.

The Pay-Off

So—now we get down to brass tacks… The Visitation is listed on page 16 of the BCP as a Holy Day and a Feast of Our Lord. That gives it a pretty high ranking, a 10 on my scale. Corpus Christi doesn’t actually appear in the BCP. For some folks, that’s the end of the discussion right there. The Visitation is in the book, Corpus Christi isn’t, Visitation wins. But, Corpus Christi is of long-standing importance in certain communities in the church. For those communities, this remains a live issue. Looking back at older rules (that many of these communities base their reckonings on), Corpus Christi was considered a Primary Double of the First Class; the Visitation was a Primary Double of the Second Class. Under those rules, Corpus Christi wins.

But what about our current rules? The way I reckoned it for the St. Bede’s Breviary was to view Corpus Christi as a Feast of Our Lord (10). The Visitation is also a 10—so which 10 is more 10 than the other? This is where we apply the rule of dignity of persons. Which more directly displays to us who Jesus is and is for us in our experience? Based on my answer to this question, I argue that Corpus is more directly a Feast of Our Lord than the Visitation. That’s not to say the Visitation isn’t important at all. It’s just to say that in this particular match-up, the revelation of Christ in the Eucharist ranks ahead of the Visitation.

It’s a judgement call. And, again, I don’t disagree with those who point out that Corpus Christi isn’t in our BCP. But, if nothing else, this gives us an opportunity to think about the directives and principles by which we give spiritual expression to the incarnate collisions of our faith.

Brief Daily Office Programming Note

The St. Bede’s Breviary is celebrating today as Corpus Christi as a local Feast of Our Lord with a commemoration of the Visitation.

Forward Movement’s Daily Prayer is celebrating today as the Visitation.

This is one of the possible conjunctions that had never occurred to me but which the liturgical cycles throw together on occasion. The beauty of having two similar resources like this is that they split the difference and offer both options!

New Liturgical Look Forward

This is the “Look, ma, no head!” version…

The technical tweak to this video is that I have not included any talking head shots. It occurred to me that it didn’t make sense to do a lot of editing work to overlay pictures of a presentation over top of talking head pictures—why not just record the presentation itself? So, that’s what I tried this week. Too, my digital strategist said that the video was “less cringey” this way.

Thus, without further ado, The Liturgical Look Forward for Proper 2:

New Experiment

After a bit of thought and a couple of false starts, I’m trying out a new experiment: YouTube videos.

One of the things that I’ve noticed is that, even though I’m a biblical scholar, I sometimes lose the thread of exactly what we’re doing and where we are in the various Scripture lessons of the Daily Office. I figure that if I have this problem and I’ve got a Ph.D. in the field, it may well be happening to other people too…

So, to address this gap, I’ve started a series of videos entitled a Liturgical Look Forward. The goal is to look at the three Office readings for the upcoming week and locate them within the books that we’re reading through.  In the event of a Holy Day (like the Feast of St. Mark that falls on Wednesday), I mention what we’re missing—but also what we’re getting in the feast itself.

It is, of course, An Experiment. It may not last. Also, as it’s experimental, I have no real idea what I’m doing… The video below is the first video I’ve ever shot and edited for public consumption. The intriguing aspect of this whole realm is that I’m constantly calling in my teen-aged daughter to help me navigate the YouTubes; I’ve never had to rely on younger help to navigate anything digital and it’s quite the humbling experience!

In any case, here it is—let me know what you think.

(And click “subscribe”!)

Evensong Handout, Rite I for Lent

Over on the Rubric Facebook page there was a question about whether any churches do Evensong from the prayer book any more. The answer is, yes, they do…

Just to distinguish, there are three main kinds of evening prayer services:

  • Evening Prayer where the service is prayer from the Book of Common Prayer,
  • (Congregational) Evensong where the officiant and the people sing the service together (the appointed psalms may either be read or sung—I’ve seen it both ways), or
  • Choral Evensong where the service is sung between the officiant and the choir. The congregation may chime in on the canticles or hymns—or not. Usually everything is sung and it uses either the 1928 or the 1662 format.

M’s church has been doing a congregational evensong during Lent and Advent. Attendance varies, sometimes it’s as high as 15, sometimes it’s just been 3 or 4. Usually it’s in the 10 or 11 range, but numbers aren’t the driving goal—offering Evensong is.

For several of the participants over the last couple of seasons, it was the first time they’d ever been to an Evensong. Too, sometimes M invited others to lead—once a priest from another congregation, and once our younger daughter H wanted to give it a try.  It worked because we used a format that was pretty easy. My preference is always to use the book, but I don’t find that practical in this instance because you have to know when and what to sing and when to move from hymnal to prayer book. Instead, we worked up a 1-page front-and-back sheet that contained the main body of the Office without hymns, psalms, or canticles. This allowed us to make one run of sheets that we could laminate and use over and over throughout the season.

Also, when you get into hymns and such you start running afoul of copyright regulations. Virtually all of the hymns and much of the composed service music is under copyright.  Both the text and tunes found in the hymnal for the specific service texts for Evening Prayer are in the public domain because, in the case of the prayer book, the texts are explicitly in the public domain. In the case of the tunes, they are traditional and have been used for hundreds of years. What *is* copyrighted is the typesetting of them in the hymnal. That’s why you can’t copy-and-paste from the hymnal without a license: the image of the contents are copyrighted even if the contents are not.

While M’s church does have one of the big rubber-stamp music licenses because they livestream and YouTube their service (which you can watch here), I opted to dispense with the issue altogether by setting the music myself with a basic music notation font and judicious use of the Paint utility.

So—what you’ll find here is a Rite I Evensong for Lenten congregational use that fits on a one-pager. [Now, with all the notes in the Dismissal!] Officiants will need their prayer books as some of their texts are partial or missing to save space and, of course, no propers are included.

The Confession is included and there’s a reason for that… When M first started this, she was doing it with a clergy colleague. We handed out the sheets, and he began with the Confession—which wasn’t on the sheets. This caused unintentional chaos, so I added it and it’s been on since. (As a basic rule, if you’ve given a handout for an unfamiliar service, you’d be advised to go with what’s on the handout even if it’s not the way you’d normally do it. Finish the service, then address the handout; don’t deviate in the middle [or beginning] and confuse everybody…)

Year B Gospel Canticle Antiphons for the Daily Office

I had a post in the works that got into discussions of the Anglican Missal and Breviary* and such that got long and windy and such so I’ll just keep this brief and cut to the chase…

Of course, I like the Anglican Missal and Breviary but there’s one obvious problem with using them as direct supplements to the ’79 BCP: our current use is grounded in a three-year Eucharistic lectionary. These venerable resources are grounded in a one-year lectionary.

One of the key elements of continuity between the Mass and Office in Western liturgy was the use of bits and pieces of the Gospel and Epistle for the nearby feasts in successive days of the Office and chief among these is the Gospel Canticle Antiphon which was typically taken from the Gospel lection. I have two different cycles of Gospel Canticle Antiphons in the St. Bede’s Breviary, but this is a post to alert you to another…

Friend-of-the-blog Charlie Heeley has put up a set for use with Year B of the Revised Common lectionary that also includes some appropriate Chapter passages for use with Noon Prayer as well. It’s a compact, six-page (printed front & back) booklet that puts these texts right at your fingers. It’s in a Google Doc that can be found here.

Let me know what you think!

Office of the Holy Spirit

A Little Background

One of the reasons I have been so quiet recently is because I have been teaching a Masters level course at The Ecumenical Institute (EI) of St. Mary’s Seminary and University here in Baltimore. It was the first course in the history sequence which started from the time of the New Testament and went up to the Reformation—a span of some 1500 years and 12 million square miles in just a couple of months… While it’s wrapping up now, it was a fun class with a wonderful set of engaged students from a variety of backgrounds split between Roman Catholics, a few mainliners, and several nondenominational folks. In addition to teaching the main historical content of the course, I also offered a 1-credit spirituality component (as EI courses sometimes do).

Rather than trying to follow course content too closely, I decided to have this small group of students take some time with three spiritual practices fundamental to the age that we were studying. First, we spent several weeks doing Evagrian/Desert Father-style breath prayers taken from the Scriptures, especially the psalms. Then we spent several weeks exploring lectio divina. Naturally, I encouraged them to start with the psalms rather than have them tackle a larger book–and because of the prominence of the Psalms in-period. For our third section, I knew I wanted to do something relating to the Books of Hours.

There are all sorts of compelling reasons to focus on the Books of Hours. We had been working with psalms in the earlier parts of the semester—why not experience the psalms in their liturgical context? While not the only devotion used in the period, the Books of Hours were the central devotional locus for the literate laity. Also, Baltimore is the site of the splendid Walters Art Museum, home to one of the greatest collections of Books of Hours in the entire world. Furthermore, I could select something from the scope of the tradition that non-Roman Catholic students could embrace without theological reservations—and this was a live issue as none of the students in the spirituality portion were Roman Catholic. I finally settled on a relatively obscure choice, the Office of the Holy Spirit.

Hours and Offices: A Distinction

As you may know, late medieval books of hours have a fairly standard set of main contents. I’ve talked about these before. There are two chief sets Offices, the Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Office of the Dead, that generally follow the outlines of full-on monastic Offices but are shorter and much less variable. These Offices include psalms.

Then, there are several briefer Hours that may or may not appear: Hours of the Passion, Hours of the Holy Trinity, Hours of the Holy Spirit, and a variety of hours for specific saints (John the Baptist, Catherine, etc.). Largely speaking, these tend to consist of a Gospel canticle antiphon, a hymn or hymn portion, a versicle & response, and a collect. Note: no psalms. That’s because these were usually prayed as tack-ons to the end of the main offices. Since you’d already prayed some psalms, more were not necessary.

Thus, if a set of thematic prayers contains one or more psalms we refer to it as an “Office;” if it didn’t, we refer to it as an “Hour.” (And let me note that—like many conventions—this is a modern scholarly convention that you may or may not find in manuscripts of the period.)

The Office of the Holy Spirit

While Hours of the Holy Spirit are not terribly uncommon in the surviving corpus of Books of Hours, the Office of the Holy Spirit is not common at all. Indeed, as far as I know (so take that with a big grain of salt!), the Office of the Holy Spirit did not make the jump into the age of printing. So, I had kind of an issue. The Office of the BVM was out on content-grounds; didn’t want to make my Protestants do Marian devotions without their consent. The Office of the Dead could be interpreted as being on the line too given Reformation concerns, but it also isn’t a full office—it only contains Matins, Lauds, and Vespers. The Hours and attendant Office of the Passion tend to be quite anti-Semitic, and I didn’t have time or opportunity to edit those to make them suitable for modern prayer. However—everybody can get behind the Holy Spirit!

Fortunately, there is a well-written copy of the Office of the Holy Spirit in one of the manuscripts here in the Walters. Walters Ms. W.86 was written in Arras, France, sometime between 1275 and 1300. It’s not a terribly pretty book especially as far as these books go, but it is legible. Much of the material is either biblical or is drawn from standard liturgical materials for Pentecost, so I adapted standard English materials as needed and translated what I didn’t find. I put it all into contemporary English so, at the current time, these Offices are only present in a “Rite II” format.

I wanted my students to have the full experience of a Book of Hours, though, so I brought in some pretty pictures from another Walters manuscript: Walters Ms. W.196.  This is a book with some fantastic images painted in Bruges, Belgium around 1470. Unfortunately, some of the images were cut out of the manuscript, including those for Lauds and Prime of the Holy Spirit and also the Matins of the Blessed Virgin (which would have depicted the Holy Spirit descending on Mary at the Annunciation). As a result, I borrowed a picture from before the Penitential Psalms of David praying for Lauds, and recycled the image from Nones for Prime.

The Site

The site offers the traditional eight-hour sequence of the Office of the Holy Spirit. It is an alternative cycle to the usual Daily Office. Or, of course, the internal hours can be used to supplement a prayer book office if that is your desire. The site structure is very basic: there is a home page which links to the hours and an About page; each of the hours is on its own page and has a link at the bottom back to the home.

I’ll be interested to hear about your experience of this site. I’m trying out some new graphical elements (as you’ll see). The primary purpose was to, again, give the students a feel of what the Books of Hours were like and the kinds of visual cues they used. Books of Hours generally tended to be small-format books so I intentionally designed it to give that kind of feel for tablet/phablet/phone sized screens. A secondary ulterior motive was to explore some new ways of doing image layout and font.

Ok—that’s enough talking; here is the site itself:

The Office of the Holy Spirit home page

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: http://breviary.stbedeproductions.com/test/Morning_79_BCP.html

I’m happy to announce that Evening Prayer can now be found here: http://breviary.stbedeproductions.com/test/Evening_79_BCP.html

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…