I’m still wrapping my head around the SCLM’s “Daily Prayer” offering in the Blue Book. My initial impression is: wow—have these folks ever heard of the concept of “stability” in prayer? I wasn’t aware that novelty was a theological virtue, let alone a guiding principle in liturgical composition!
I have to say I’m flabbergasted by the amount of variety here. I evidently misunderstood the title, first off. I assumed that “Daily Prayer for All Seasons” actually meant “[Stable] Daily Prayer for [consistent use within] All Seasons.” Boy, was I surprised. Instead, each liturgical season gets an entirely new set of materials. Everything is constantly changing and even the few elements that I’ve noted that are common—I’ve seen the Magnificat come up a couple of times—are in totally different hours as we move through the seasons.
When I look at it, it makes me feel anxious, reflecting what I find as a frenetic busy-ness. To take a stab at it, I think the driving concern here is edification—the compilers wanted to stuff in as much different stuff as possible so that you would know more and better stuff. To me, this flies in the face of the principle of formation which occurs through patterned repetition. You learn something and live with something by repeating it again and again in similar times and places. Repetition gives birth to internalization—muscle memory.
I can’t help but compare what we’ve been given here with the prymers. The Little Hours of the BVM and even their protestant cousins in the Marshall Hours or the Prymer of Henry VIII are marked by their stability. They have the same words at the same time, day in and day out. What makes them brief offices for the people as opposed to the full breviary hours of the clergy and monastics is their constancy. How well did that work for them? Well, the books of hours arose in the mid 12oo’s or so and, in England, achieved a massive penetration among the literate public. Around the time of the Reformation, the Marshall Hours sought to subvert the prymer for the protestant cause and succeeded well enough that Henry VII put out an official prymer. Elizabeth released a couple and it wasn’t until the Preces Privatae of 1564 that we see a break from the prymer pattern and the Hours of the BVM.
And it was a return to this pattern that Cosin offered in 1627 going back to the Elizabethan Orarium of 1560. Cosin’s own work was one of the very first devotional enrichments put back into print by the Oxford/Cambridge Movements in the 1830’s and successive prymer type patterned Hours have floated around in Anglo-Catholic circles to the present day.
Does a 700+ year use pattern suggest that maybe it has something going for it…?
Oh well—more later.