Category Archives: Tech

Enriching Our Worship Available in PDF

When I was appointed to the Standing Commission on Liturgy & Music (SCLM) and became chair of the Digital Publication committee, I discovered in the course of my research that we had never actually acted upon General Convention resolution 2009-A102. This is the resolution that re-authorized provisional use of the “Enriching Our Worship” series under the authorization of a diocesan bishop or equal ecclesiastical authority. The second Resolve resolves “That these liturgical texts be freely available in electronic format on the internet.”

I can now report that we have accomplished this with the partnership of Church Publishing.

Enriching Our Worship 1: Morning and Evening Prayer, the Great Litany, and the Holy Eucharist

Enriching Our Worship 2: Ministry with the Sick or Dying; Burial of a Child 

Enriching Our Worship 3: Burial Rites for Adults, together with a Rite for the Burial of a Child 

Enriching Our Worship 4: The Renewal of Ministry and the Welcoming of a New Rector or Other Pastor 

Enriching Our Worship 5:Liturgies and Prayers Related to Childbearing, Childbirth, and Loss 

There is no news as of yet on the accompanying “Enriching Our Music” service music that goes with it.

Now, as some readers know, I am not EOW’s biggest fan. Indeed, I’ve only read through some of these liturgies, and have only experienced a few of the Eucharistic rites one or two times many years ago. On the whole, I was not overwhelmed.

There are some assumptions that EOW reflects what “the next prayer book” will look like. They are just that—assumptions. Per a discussion at the last meeting of the SCLM, these rites have no official status. There are certainly those who want to see them as the next step, and as heading in a prayer book revision direction, but that is not the mind of the SCLM now, and I am not eager to see any work of prayer book revision anytime in the near future.

What this move does do is signal a move towards a more digitally-friendly publication process. It’s a first step in a better direction. These liturgies are still under copyright and they remain in a PDF format. We still have a ways to go in order to get the kind of commitment to digital mission and evangelism necessary in the coming years. But we are getting there…

Electronic Anglican Breviary?

An odd confluence of events has come together over the last few weeks which has led me to seriously consider an idea that I’ve had on the back-burner for a long time.

Is there interest in an electronic edition of the Anglican Breviary?

In functionality it would be like the St. Bede’s Breviary (but with fewer preference issues!), and would offer a completely free and open-source use experience. If the situation warranted it, a mobile app for a modest price might accompany it. In addition, material from the Anglican Breviary—in particular, a wealth of seasonal and sanctoral antiphons, hymns, and patristic readings—would also become available to supplement the St. Bede’s Breviary.

In order to do it free, however, within a reasonable amount of time, and to keep my family fed at the same time, I would need to do it as a Kickstarter project. So, on an initial informal trial basis, I’m attempting to gauge whether it would be worth the time to put such a proposal together. If you are interested, click below:

iOS Users: Breviary Update 2.0

Page proofs for the Saint Augustine’s Prayer Book are finally done and off to the publisher. SCLM work is taking up some time as well, but I stole the morning to work on the breviary preference problem and I *believe* I have it solved. So—users of iOS devices (and other devices), give this a try:

Once you save your preferences (and a pop-up should show you a long string of numbers), a “Pray with your new preferences” link will show up under the button and should take you to a functional breviary experience. So far, it works in my desktop Chrome browser, on the Kindle Fire, but my Android phone’s browser doesn’t like it and inserts a string of “undefined”s where they shouldn’t be. (That’ll be the next hurdle.)

Give it a shot—let me know what happens in the comments!

Breviary Update 1.5

Thanks to those of you who tried your iOS devices (and Windows 8 devices) against my attempted solution. Needless to say, it failed the test… Interestingly, while the solution worked on my Kindle Fire, I likewise failed to get a satisfactory result on my Android phone.

I’m looking into some of the newer browser capabilities/technologies that came along with the HTML5 standard and, after reading and playing a little with the cache capability, I’ve discovered that what I’m looking for is actually the local storage function. Again, it’s a fairly new technology and I don’t know how widely it’s implemented. However, I think there’s a good chance that most mobile devices should be able to handle it.

I was trying to figure out how to make it work with my code and came to the realization that I’m using a lot of server-side code to create client-side implementations. Not the best way to go… As a result, I need to retool several functions and transform them from (server-side) PHP into (client-side) JavaScript. Luckily, the syntax between the two is similar enough that this shouldn’t be too difficult.

So—I’ll have another test for you modern mobile users in a little bit, that (hopefully) will be more successful than the last!

[Update: Actually, before I recode everything, let’s see if this will do what I hope it will… iOS/mobile users, please try the “Save your Preferences” button at the bottom of this page:

There should be a pop-up mentioning local storage and perhaps a string with gibberish in it. I’ll fix the gibberish if this is actually going to work… Thanks again!]

Open Source Liturgy & Music

I just ran across a fascinating post which has actually been out there for a while, now. It’s a discussion by Adam Wood, part of the Chant Renaissance in the Roman Catholic online world, about what it would mean to truly offer sacred music on an Open Source model.

It gives me quite a lot of things to think about, but the bottom line squares quite well with the proposal that I put before our Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music: our music and liturgy need to be freely available without cost in ways that developers can leverage in order to produce ways of accessing and using them either freely or at a cost.


SCLM Meeting Update

I think that the meeting went quite well yesterday.

The main topic of conversation, of course, was how to get the work done with the amount of budget that we have. We did get a fair amount of funding—enough for two face-to-face meetings—but we’re a product-oriented group rather than just being policy-oriented. That is, we produce things (our liturgical stuff) rather than just making decisions that others will then implement. A lot of what we hoped to do with meetings and consultants will either have to be done by and in the Commission or not at all. Web meetings and conference calls will be our main methods of communicating together.

That all sounds fine to me—I’m used to working that way.

There was some vigorous discussion around my proposal for HWHM. Overall, most of the people who expressed an opinion about it were positive. There were some questions about its scope and whether it was doable. I expected that and feel that concern as well—it’s a lot of work, but I think is necessary work. The chief reservations around the idea focused on concern about a two-tiered system. That is, are we setting up the Calendar as an “upper” tier and the Almanac as a “lower” tier? This seems to be the main hurdle to overcome. Sandye and I have been directed to put together a structure for the work to present at our June meeting to give people a hands-on feel of what this would really look like.

On the Electronic Publication front, it appears that Church Publishing already maintains a database of liturgical material that it uses to produce the material that it prints. That database would not provide exactly what we’re talking about for a device/platform independent means of communicating the material. However, they already have a system of tagging in place that could be adopted in an XML format. I found that quite interesting on the technical level.

As you can imagine, the main debate here was around copyright and cost. The first discussion was around what exactly the General Convention resolutions were asking: does “freely available” mean that they should be” easily accessible” (for purchase) or does it mean that they should be provided electronically “without cost”? Several people who had been on the liturgical/prayer book committee at GC indicated that they had intended it to mean “without cost.” My sense is that this is the will of the Commission—to figure out a way to provide these materials for free on the internet. But what would that do to Church Publishing and the Church Pension Group? I noted that, particularly with prayer/spiritual materials, a digital and a physical copy are not mutually exclusive; people will often buy and use in hardback what they already have electronically. We shouldn’t paint it as a zero-sum game. Nancy from Church Publishing agreed and said that they did have some material showing that to be the case as well. The main deliverable here for our next meeting, then, is for the Church Publishing folks to take a look at what it would do to their costs and how feasible free electronic dissemination is based on their current business model.

So—I’d say that some progress is being made. However, nothing has been made official at this point; no final decisions have been made. It’s progress, but still tentative progress that may yet be overturned.

SCLM Meeting Today

The Episcopal Church’s Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music (SCLM) is meeting this afternoon. This is our first meeting since the budget numbers have come back and, with those in hand, we’ll be able to set our plan of work for the various sub-committees of the SCLM for this present triennium.

In figuring out what that scope of work will look like, I’ve submitted two documents for the two committees that I’m involved with. Here are the highlights on those two…

Further Thoughts Towards an Episcopal Almanac

At the last meeting, I raised again the possibility of an almanac that would supplement the sanctoral calendar. My sense is that some of the commemorations currently being placed on the Church’s calendar don’t represent true sanctoral occasions but that there are those in the Church who still see them as worthy of note. An almanac could be a proper repository for these or for people that the Church would like to remember but for whom the title of “saint” either doesn’t quite fit or where we’re still exploring their sanctity. The sense was that they wanted to hear more in terms of details.

This piece presents some a proposal containing details.

First, I identify six “centers of energy” that I see in the Church around HWHM (with the caveat that my labels are admittedly broad and imprecise and that they are not meant to represent everyone who may identify with a certain label):

  • A Liberal Protestant energy: This movement sees inclusivity as a core commitment of TEC. The definition of “saint” is a broad one. It tends be more vocal about a reluctance to judge the holiness of another. This energy would likely see a reduction of HWHM—particularly if it adversely impacted the diversity represented in the Calendar—as an attempt to “roll back the clock” to a calendar of old white male bishops. [I see this at the Episcopal Café and Facebook]

  • A Broad Church middle energy: This movement seems concerned with the number of commemorations, a loss of ferial days, and is not sure about the sanctity of some of the additions. On the other hand, there is also a reluctance to judge the holiness of others. In general, this group expresses puzzlement around TEC’s theology of sanctity. [I see this at the Episcopal Café, Facebook, on my blog, and specifically on Crusty Old Dean’s (Tom Ferguson of Bexley Hall) post on Lent Madness]

  • An Anglo-Catholic energy: This movement may or may not have an issue with the number of commemorations, but has a narrower definition of saint: inclusion in the Calendar is seen as the church’s official declaration on the eschatological status of the commemorated. There are concerns whether all of the commemorations in HWHM meet this standard. Too, there is a concern that the collects do not appropriately express a robust theology of sanctity. [I see this at on my blog, on Facebook, and summarizes most of the feedback I have received personally]

  • A conservative protestant energy: This movement sees HWHM as a yet another example of the political liberalism of TEC leadership and regards most of the new commemorations as politically motivated. [As seen particularly in the comments section on Lent Madness regarding Frances Perkins]

  • An agency energy: This movement comes from the fact that we explicitly asked specific agencies and groups within the church to put forward candidates. Having done so, there seems to be an obligation to accept them. Furthermore, the work has been done to create the biographies and the propers; to not use them now would be a waste of that time and effort.

  • A legislative energy: This movement is around the establishment of official, published criteria. There is concern that the committee created criteria, then disregarded them in the addition of new commemorations raising an integrity issue.

These are the main tensions that we need to negotiate if we want to create a successful product that will be used across the Church.

Then I turn to the current shape of HWHM and show that it contains an odd alternation between temporal and sanctoral material. It’s a book made up of small sections pieced together and doesn’t have a coherent structure. My proposal is to gather the current material into three sections:

  1. a “Holy Women, Holy Men” section that contains the propers for the sanctoral Days of Optional Observance and recommendations on the local identification and observance of saints containing the Commons of Saints.

  2. a “Temporal Cycle” section that contains the ferial propers in temporal sequence as adapted from the Canadian BAS followed by the alternative six-week thematic lectionary.

  3. a “Various Occasions” section that contains the votive propers followed by an integrated Almanac.

Thus, the resource would put the three principal options for non-Holy Days (a lesser feast, a temporal ferial day, or a votive) on more or less equal footing. The third section would contain the almanac and the people and commemorations there would be presented as specific representatives or examples of certain votives.

My plan for work in light of this is admittedly ambitious. I’m suggesting that we put *all* of the Lesser Feasts back on the table, create a wiki, and—once we have nailed down our operative criteria at our June meeting—we document our evidence for each criterion for each commemoration. Those who fulfill the criteria are candidates for inclusion in a re-formed Calendar; those who don’t meet all the criteria and who are yet deemed significant to our Church and its history will be placed in the Almanac along with other worthy people, movements, and occasions.

Too, I recommend that each section will be prefaced by some basic information regarding what the section is about and how the material in it can and should be used. Specifically, this will address the question about how the Lesser Feasts interact with the Daily Office.

We’ll see how this goes. Some of the folks I’ve discussed it with see it as a workable solution given the various difficulties that have to be negotiated. We’ll see what the others think…

Electronic Publications

As I reviewed the relevant General Convention resolutions around the issue of Electronic Publications, I was quite surprised to find this one:

Resolution 2009-A102 (Authorize Use of the Enriching our Worship Series) represents a major change in policy with regard to the digital realm. After first enumerating the complete set of materials within the EOW series (Enriching Our Worship 1: The Daily Office, Great Litany and EucharistEnriching Our Worship 2: Ministry with the Sick and Dying and Burial of a ChildEnriching Our Worship 3: Burial Rites for Adults together with a Rite for the Burial of a Child; and Enriching Our Worship 4: The Renewal of Ministry and the Welcoming of a New Rector or other Pastor) a resolving clause states: “That these liturgical texts be freely available in electronic format on the internet” (emphasis added). It should also be noted that the original text of the resolution did not contain this resolve clause; it was added by the committee in the House of Bishops and concurred in the House of Deputies. According to this resolution, therefore, one of our tasks must be to ensure that these four resources are freely available for download and use.

So—GC has already resolved that this action should be taken. It hasn’t been. Now, I’m not going to say that EOW is my favorite set of resources out there, but I am curious to find out why this resolution wasn’t implemented.

We had a couple of resolutions referred to us as a Commission; referrals are non-binding in that they are there for us to review and then to decide what we believe the best course of action to be. Here’s my take on these two:

Resolution 2013-D060 (Planning for Making Liturgical Resources Freely Available on Any Device or Platform) was concurred for referral. Unlike the previous resolutions, it is not binding, but has been given to us for our study and to formulate policy with regard to whether and how it may be put into place. It directs the SCLM:

to begin planning in the next triennium for the structuring of all liturgical and musical resources as format- and platform-independent content, so that it may be made freely available to any device or medium, and to return to the 78th General Convention with a proposal and budget to begin the work.

This resolution goes a step beyond the policy laid down in 2009-A102. It does affirm the free availability mandated in the prior resolution, and furthermore introduces the principle of format- and platform-independent material. The key point here is that, following this policy, a PDF is no longer sufficient as it does not meet the format-independent requirement.

Also concurred for referral was 2013-D079 (Provide Electronic Availability of Liturgical Resources). While similar in spirit to 2013-D060, it is less specific. It too directs that all liturgical resources approved by General Convention be made “electronically available and easily accessible, both online for downloads and in electronic media such as CD-ROM, DVD, and their successor technologies.” It does not use the word “freely.” While it does so less clearly than 2013-D060, this resolution also functionally requires platform-independent solutions in its mention of successor technologies. The main difference is the urgency and accountability; it directs a timeframe (by the end of calendar year 2013) and a mechanism for oversight (reports to Executive Council by DFMS staff).

I’m in favor of these. I think that they’re very much heading in the right direction.

Electronic frontiers do not—for the most part—open up new mission fields. Instead, I think they give us a new angle onto the existing mission field. Social media and mobile computing give us a means to put worship, devotional, and formational tools at our congregations’ finger-tips quicker and easier than ever in the past. Too, in this resourcing, we can also make it easy for them to communicate via social media that they are using these things and that they are a part of their spiritual life. That, in turn, will raise awareness of their spiritual practice amongst their social networks and possibly lead to helpful and healthy conversations about what modern faith looks like and what faith practices foster it.

We need to free our liturgies and our hymnals so that they can be easily and effectively leveraged to create useful devotional tools and helpful worship aids. Period. Full stop.

As long as there is a monopoly on these materials, ours hands will be digitally tied.

On the other hand, these two referred resolutions, while having the right idea, are pretty short on awareness about the multitude of issues facing such a move. I see four main policy issues that will have to be sorted through before material can be put online:

  • “freely…”: I support freely available electronic materials on the internet. As a member of a small congregation and keeping in mind 2013-A076 on the dissemination of resources to small congregations, I know that free access to all of our liturgical books would be a financial bonus to cash-strapped parishes. However, we would be remiss if we did not note that Church Publishing is in the business of selling liturgical materials including the electronic Rite Series software. As the Church pension system is tied to Church Publishing, we should consider the impact free liturgical materials might have on the broader system.

  • “All liturgical materials”: One of the issues tied to expenses is that some of our resources—notably the Hymnal 1982—make use of materials already under copyright and someone must pay licensing fees for them. Given the incorporation of copyrighted materials in some of our liturgical books, are we legally able to make all of our resources freely available for download? If not, what will our policy with regard to these materials?

  • “…available”: Another facet of copyright is that the materials produced by the Church are under copyright. As a result, their re-use is restricted if not prohibited.   The only exception of which I am aware is the Book of Common Prayer which has been placed in the public domain. While 2013-D060 does not mention copyright, it cannot be effectively implemented with copyright protection in place as currently configured. Creative Commons licenses offer a more nuanced approach to copyright protections. Rather than doing way with copyright, these licenses represent a way to retain intellectual property rights and protections but to voluntarily waive certain aspects of those rights to enable greater digital development particularly around the creation of derivative works. We should explore how these might help us in making our materials more available.

  • “platform-independent”/”successor technologies”: In order to present electronic material in a stable, flexible and—above all—useful format, we need to move beyond PDFs. A PDF document is superior to a book in two ways: it cannot be directly altered and it is far more portable. However, it remains locked into a linear paradigm. Hyperlinks and bookmarks mitigate this shortcoming to a minor extent, but do not solve it. Following 2006-A049, we need to decide upon an open standard format that offers more dynamic possibilities than a PDF. While PDFs are fine in the short-term and ought to be part of our long-term distribution strategy, they need to remain a facet of it and not be its totality.

I’m recommending that we figure out what the barriers are to implementing a freely-available EOW and get that material up as soon as possible in PDF form. I’d also like to honor the intention of the other two resolutions as fully as possible. This means getting as many of our authorized books as possible online as free PDFs before the end of 2013.

Too, we need to work towards platform independence. My goal here is too look at the encoding options, pick one, and to draft a resolution for GC2016 requesting funding and approval for the construction of a Standard Electronic Edition of the Book of Common Prayer.

So—a lot of interesting discussion will be taking place today. I’ll keep you updated on how things unfold…

Thoughts on Liturgical Categorization


I’ve recently been pondering the ways that we categorize and analyze liturgy. What are the various bits, bobs, and elements that  we can use to make sense of liturgical texts that retain meaning across time? To put a finer point on it, how would we go about creating a taxonomy for liturgical texts that could apply equally well to a 9th century Anglo-Saxon liturgical miscellany and the ’79 Book of Common Prayer? Specifically, can one be created that can be used for the analytic markup of liturgical materials for digital use?

The best way to begin is to not reinvent the wheel. Other, wiser, and better-informed minds than mine have worked around this issue even if the scope was not entirely the same. People who work on manuscripts have already had to do a lot of this work, as have the pioneers who began the work of digitizing the material that’s available on the web in a variety of forms. Whenever we encounter someone who has done both, we know that we’re in the right company! As a result, the best conversation partner for this work is Andrew Hughes, author of the magisterial Medieval Manuscripts for Mass and Office: A Guide to their Organization and Terminology (MMMO) and the ground-breaking Late Medieval Liturgical Offices (LMLO) digital project which is only partially online through this search resource.

The MMMO presents a set of abbreviations and symbols used both within it and in the LMLO. These are presented and discussed on pages ix-xxv. The two questions we need to answer are these: 1) do his temporal restrictions (the years 1200-1500) invalidate his scheme for this proposed general use that hopes to expand out to include material produced 4 centuries in each direction? 2) to what degree can his material be adopted and where must it be adapted?

I’d suggest, first, that the bones of the schema here can be preserved with the important caveat that this taxonomy is only appropriate to Western liturgies that have their basis in the Latin-speaking tradition. That is, I think it’s helpful and useful as long as we don’t try to apply it to Eastern Orthodox liturgies or various modern protestant liturgical traditions that eschew the historic liturgy. With this caveat in mind, I do believe that there is sufficient continuity within the historic western liturgy that question 1 can be answered satisfactorily.

Moving to the second question, a certain amount of adaptation will be required. While Hughes uses abbreviations that sometimes overlap and must be distinguished by typeface or other methods, abbreviations are no longer necessary in a scheme intended for use within a modern markup situation. Indeed, not only are they not necessary, they’re not desirable either as their use hampers the natural-language legibility of a marked-up document. (That is, you have to refer to a key instead of just looking at the source text and understanding what’s going on…)

Too, as is perfectly appropriate for his project, Hughes uses technical liturgical terms appropriate for the high medieval period. Given the much wider span that we’re looking at, not all of these terms may possess or retain the particular technical definitions they had in Hughes’s span. As a result, while I think most can be used as is, it’s worth considering where we might need to build in tolerances to handle this situation. (This is one I’m holding in reserve—I can’t think of any cases like this at the moment but reserve the right to discover some…)

When I read through Anglican prayer books, I see a number of elements that don’t seem to fit properly within the elements that he offers. In order to maximize meaningful tagging within these documents, we will need to add elements that go outside the scope of the texts Hughes was considering. For instance, an enduring heritage of the 1552 book is lengthy addresses by the presider to the congregation; I don’t recall these in earlier liturgies nearly to the degree that we have them now.

One of the most helpful aspects of Hughes’s scheme is that it offers, by means of several lists, different levels of elements necessary to distinguish between whether you’re talking about a specific section of a book or a service itself or about an event within a given service. This aspect definitely needs to be retained and will be reflected in how we present and order our proposed elements.


I envision this categorization scheme at use within the TEI P5 guidelines for xml markup of humanities texts. Thus, the section-level and service-level elements would appear as “type” descriptors within <div> elements; intra-service elements would be noted as types within <seg> elements tied to <interp> and <interpGrp> sections.

Section Level Elements

This level would identify sections within a book and be located within <div> tags. The following list is a modification of Hughes’s List 1e with the inclusion of some items from 1f.

  • Aspersion
  • Common of saints
  • Dedication feast
  • Hymnal
  • Invitatorium
  • Kalendar
  • Ordo
  • Ordinary of the Mass
  • Kyriale
  • Psalter
  • General rubric (as a section rather than a specific direction)
  • Sanctorale
  • Temporale
  • Votives
  • Tonary
  • Prayers (as a collection/grouping of prayers of the same sort)

Service Level Elements

These labels would identify the specific rituals or services being described and would operate at the <div> level. This is a substantial expansion of Hughes’s List 1c.

  •  Office
    • First Vespers
    • Compline
    • Matins
    • Prime
    • Chapter
    • Terve
    • Sext
    • Nones
    • Vespers
    • Morning Prayer
    • Noon Prayer
    • Evening Prayer
    • Lamp Lighting
  • Eucharist
  • Baptism
  • Confirmation
  • Confession
  • Unction
  • Marriage
  • Burial
  • Procession
  • Exorcism
  • Rite (Thinking specifically, of the ’79 BCP, the alternation between Rites I & II is a service-level phenomenon and needs to be captured at that point.)
  • Service (This is a generic catch-all for anything else not covered. Differentiation would appear in a subtype.)

Liturgical Elements

These items would appear within interpretive  <seg> elements. This is a modification of Hughes’s List 1a, List 1b, and 1f

  • antiphon
    • invitatory
    • gospel canticle
    • psalm
  • lesson
    • chapter (a brief, generally one sentence bit from Scripture in an Office)
    • first lesson
    • second lesson
    • prophecy
    • epistle
    • gospel
    • announcement
    • conclusion
  • psalm
    • invitatory
  • canticle
    • invitatory
    • gospel
  • dialogue
    • versicle
    • response
  • intercession
    • petition
    • response
  • litany
    • section
    • petition
    • section response
  • orison (the English term for an oratio—basically any kind of a number of relatively short prayers typically found in early medieval mass-sets and most commonly encountered in Anglican books as collects. However, not all so-called collects fit the formal criteria for collects; preserving “orison” as a general-use term conveys the concept even when the contents fall short)
    • collect
    • secret
    • post-communion
  • sermon
  • hymn
  • anthem
  • canon
  • proper preface
  • consecration (not just of Eucharistic elements but of baptismal water, etc.)
  • distribution (again, could be Eucharistic elements, baptismal water, ashes, etc.)
  • fraction anthem
    • agnus dei
  • creed
  • communion chant
  • gloria
  • doxology
  • gradual
  • introit
  • kyrie
  • offertory chant
  • sanctus
  • tract
  • responsory
    • verse
    • repetenda
    • doxology
  • benediction
  • rubric
  • prayer (this is a generic catch-all when the presider addresses God when none of the above seem to fit.)
  • address (this is a generic catch-all when the presider speaks to the people and nothing above seems suitable.)
  • response (this is the generic catch-all when the people speak and nothing above seems suitable.)

Concluding Thoughts

I believe this lays out a useful initial plan for liturgical tagging. That having been said, I’ve done enough liturgical research and enough coding to know that this represents only a tentative beginning. As well defined as things seem to be at the beginning, the true usefulness of the scheme is revealed in the coding itself. As a result, this provides a framework. Now some coding actually needs to be attempted to determined where this works, where it fails, and where the framework needs to be reconceived.

Tech Issues

After many years of faithful service, my venerable desktop finally gave up the ghost.

Needless to say, things have been both hairy and harried around here the past few days…

Some data has been lost but less than I expected; one of the great benefits of social media and the cloud is that all sorts of good stuff is no longer saved locally.

The challenge at the current moment is figuring out how to keep doing all the things I usually do with my mobile devices. Luckily, I got a bluetooth keyboard for my phone right after Christmas. That’s what I’m tapping this out on now. My Kindle Fire is here beside me, allowing me to look things up and serve as a second monitor as I type. So, between the phone and the Fire, I’m trying to figure out the right balance of apps and methods to keep things juggled in the digital realm.

A few glitches have occurred so far. Like–I’d swear I’d put up a great post on the Stations of the Cross with all sorts of cool links and now I can’t find it anywhere on any of my devices… No clue what’s going on there.

I have just now downloaded gReader as a feed-reader so I’m completely out of the blog loop.

While I can currently access the breviary database, I’m having issues getting the right interface to edit files, particularly on my phone where I have the keyboard,  so there will be delays with breviary bug fixes until I get a replacement unit.

Medieval Liturgy Web Resource: Dreaming Dreams

The web is a fantastic tool for studying medieval liturgy and it keeps on getting better every day. With the continuing flow of out-of-copyright books via Google Books and the Internet Archive, good early stuff is appearing from the Surtees Society and the Henry Bradshaw Society; furthermore, more and more libraries are digitizing their manuscript collections. I headed over to the British Museum site yesterday (not having been there in a while) and was blown away by some of the material there I hadn’t seen before. So—important material for specialists is become more widely available.

But how useful is that for everybody else? (And when I say “everybody”, I’m obviously referring to the rather minute subset of people to whom this is interesting!) There are quite a lot of barriers to profitably utilizing some of this terrific material that’s appearing. Most medievalists, even western European or England focused people, have a difficult time keeping in their heads the sometimes confusing inter-relations of Offices, Masses, Chapters and so forth. What’s an antiphoner and when do you use it? Well—do you mean an office antiphoner or a mass antiphoner; since Hesbert the same term gets used for two very different books. When was some little bit of text used and how and where would it have been used or experienced within a service? Who would have been able to hear it said or sung and how intelligible would it have been? These are just a few of the difficulties and many interested people don’t even know that these questions exist to be asked and wrestled with.

So what’s the answer…?

If I had an unlimited amount of time, money, and research minions, I have a vision for a project that could address this difficulty. My chief model is, naturally, the St Bede’s Breviary. The breviary performs two simple tasks:

  • First, it pulls together the disparate elements that make up the Daily Office of the Episcopal Church. Using a framework from the static/ordinary elements, it draws from database tables the changeable/proper elements and seamlessly integrates them into an organic whole. Thus you have at your finger-tips the complete office without a need to flip or click back and forth among different resources.
  • Second, it provides an array of options (within certain parameters). Thus, you can vary the language, the kalendar, and the embellishments to the Office.

What if a framework were developed to put this sort of material at the hands of medievalists? The project would need to move in a series of stages. First, it would tackle the Mass, then build to the Office, then to the various supplementary liturgies. Chapter could be fit in either before or after the Office based on time and inclination.

The reason for starting with the Mass is simple—far fewer moving parts. To present a Mass properly you would need to bring together a minimum of  four parts:

  • Sacramentary/Missal: This is the most obvious piece. It will provide our ordinaries (the canon and such), the kalendar, and the collects. Depending on how developed it is down the missal line it may or may not be able to provide minor propers and Scripture readings.
  • Gradual/Mass Antiphoner: This would certainly give the minor propers whether the missal/sacramentary contained them or not.
  • Lectionary: I’m collecting two things here under one roof as epistolaries and evangelaries were typically different physical objects—at least from my early medieval perspective.
  • Ordo: Did you forget about this one? I would argue that, if you’re looking for a big-picture sense of what was going on and how your particular text as being used, you ignore this one at your considerable peril. Indeed, the basic structure of the liturgy and its presentation would not be defined by the missal/sacramentary as you might expect—rather, I’d embed all of the missal texts within the structuring context of an ordo. Now, granted, as missals developed, some ordo-type matters were inserted into the missals themselves.

Once these blocks are in place things like tropers could be added.

That’s the conceptual framework. Text-wise, I would attack this from three different directions and time-periods. First, I’d hit the English Late Anglo-Saxon period by entering Ordo I*,  the Missal of Robert of Jumiege, and the (Oxford) Winchester Troper. Lectionaries are less of an issue—Lenker’s work has demonstrated how firmly established the type 3 and type 3-alt lectionaries were established in late Anglo-Saxon England. Since my copy of her dissertation is currently in a box, I don’t have access to it to pull out a suitably representative lectionary. Second, I’d use a late Sarum printed missal. The obvious benefit here is that the necessary elements are already pulled together; little would need to be tracked down. Third, there is an excellent collection of well-preserved (and well-known) texts at San Gall that offer ordines, missals, graduals, and most anything else you’d want in the 10th-11th century range. Between the three, most of the issues could be raised, if not fully solved, and a base set of major, useful liturgical texts would be established.

The key is establishing an open architecture where user inputs could select specific manuscripts  texts (once a sufficient body were entered). Thus, you could select specific manuscripts (or categories like “Gelasian”) for your ordo, missal, gradual, etc. in order to get the closest possible picture of the liturgical environment that you’re seeking to re-create.

Furthermore, homing in on the “open” word, it would be absolutely ideal if the manuscripts were encoded in a standardized format, allowing others to submit manuscript files that could be integrated with a minimum of effort. Clearly, this would suggest the TEI using whatever their latest structures are for liturgy in conversation with some of the other existing liturgy projects out there.

So—that’s the dream. What’s the reality and scope for something actually do-able? As awesome as TEI is, it’s an XML derivative. It’s totally possible to use XSLT and XPath and other technologies to do exactly what I’m describing in terms of text merging and manipulating. Unfortunately, I don’t know XML. While I do have some basic experience encoding manuscripts with TEI parameters, I wouldn’t know what to do with it from there. Instead, I’d use my old fall-back, the classic PHP/MySQL combo that drives the breviary.

Text-wise, it’s a toss-up and would really depend on the driving needs of the project. I could begin with the Missal of Robert of Jumiege and accompany it with the Loefric Missal. While the Leofric Missal is a mess in terms of being a very composite text, it’s got incipts for the minor propers and lectionary entries; as I know of no modern edition of the Oxford Winchester Troper that I can get my hands/eyes on, the Leofric Missal is the next best thing. Alternatively, the Sarum material is already gathered and—thanks to the work of our Victorian Sarum Revival friends—could be presented in both Latin and English translation. Lastly, text files of Herbert’s Antiphoner are floating around the Internet. While there are no English materials included, San Gall materials are meaning that a big chunk of transcription work would already be done.

That’s how I’d conceive and tackle this kind of a project.


* IIRC, the earliest ordines we have from Anglo-Saxon England are those of the Romano-German Pontifical which we normal slot around 1050. That’s a little late, so Ordo I is used as a general guess. Again—more could be entered as time and research went on…