Review - Divine Worship: Daily Office (North American Edition) - Part II: Padding the Numbers

Preamble · Part I · Part III · Part IV · Part V

After waiting nearly a decade for the introduction of Divine Worship: Daily Office (North American Edition) (DW:DO:NAE), I think it’s important to be completely clear about what it is and what it is not. DW:DO:NAE is a new prayer book promulgated by Bishop Steven Lopes for use in the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter (OCSP). It now serves as the official divine office of the OCSP, fulfilling the obligations of those required to pray the office and allowing clergy and laity alike to pray with and for the Church. In this sense, it is functionally equivalent to the Roman Breviary, the Liturgy of the Hours, and various other Catholic offices. Unlike those examples, however, DW:DO:NAE is not a fully complete office book in and of itself: a Bible is also required to provide the daily lessons at Morning and Evening Prayer. DW:DO:NAE is prescribed specifically for use in the OCSP, and is not authorized by the Ordinariates of Our Lady of Walsingham (OOLW) or Our Lady of the Southern Cross (OLSC). I find this latter fact somewhat amusing since, after all, Archbishop Cranmer embarked on his great liturgical project in part to unify the diversity of liturgical uses in England. As he wrote in the preface to the first Book of Common Prayer (1549):

And where heretofore, there hath been great diversitie in saying and synging in churches within this realme: some folowyng Salsbury use, some Herford use, some the use of Bangor, some of Yorke, and some of Lincolne: Now from hencefurth, all the whole realme shall have but one use.

What DW:DO:NAE most certainly is not, however, is a Prayer Book in the classical Anglican sense. A typical Book of Common Prayer (BCP) provides the full texts for all liturgical services, including the daily offices and psalter, baptisms, weddings, funerals, and of course Holy Communion—often joined by proper liturgical readings, an ordinal, and sundry other things depending on the particular edition. Like the rest of the Anglican Ordinariates’ Divine Worship liturgical books, DW:DO:NAE takes a singular focus (in this case, the offices) and then greatly expands on the typical Anglican forms. The resulting book is a distinctly bloated homage to the nobly sparse Anglican structure. Essentially, DW:DO:NAE is a patchwork of several BCPs and various Anglo-Catholic office books, borrowing bits and pieces from numerous sources to produce a prayer book containing Mattins and Evensong, the little hours of Terce, Sext, None and Compline (but not Prime), and a fairly comprehensive collection of traditional office hymns and antiphons presumably added to make the hours recognizably “more Catholic”. (The inclusion of a brief section containing the Latin forms of common prayers lends credence to this theory.) Featuring several blurry, pixelated drawings by Daniel Mitsui, DW:DO:NAE is composed of five primary sections, along with a few dozen pages of instructional material, a lectionary and two indices of hymns:

  • Daily Offices, including the Litany and Athanasian Creed
  • Coverdale Psalter (1928 American revision)
  • Propers (antiphons and collects, with references to proper hymns contained in the next section)
  • Hymnody (albeit without any musical notation)
  • Occasional Prayers & Thanksgivings

A majority of the texts are of Anglican provenance, but arranged in a manner that does violence to the usual coherent BCP structure. DW:DO:NAE looks and sounds Anglican, but the veneer of glorious Cranmerian prose conceals an astounding lack of familiarity with and respect for the structural integrity of any BCP. Nowhere is this more evident than in the sheer prolixity of the book; it takes nearly seven hundred pages to do what any actual Prayer Book handily accomplishes in under half so many. To illustrate this point, spend a few moments in the table below comparing DW:DO:NAE with some of its peers: the 1662, 1928 American, and 1979 BCPs, and the 2003 Book of Divine Worship (perhaps the first and only official Catholic BCP).

 # of words

DW:DO:NAE

1662

1928

1979 (Rite II)

BDW (Rite II)

Office ordinaries

23,100 9,300 11,200 15,700 15,300

Office propers

49,500 6,300 6,800 23,800 24,100

Addl. Prayers & Thanksgivings

11,600 2,100 5,300 7,700

-

Psalter

50,500 50,500 50,500 48,000 48,000

Hymnody

24,900

-

-

-

-

Overall office length

159,600

68,200 73,800

95,200

87,400

It is immediately evident that DW:DO:NAE is immensely longer than any BCP office. While only DW:DO:NAE includes antiphons and hymns, it would be incorrect to argue that, since the Anglican books don’t feature them, DW:DO:NAE should be compared without these sections. However, they form an integral part of the DW:DO:NAE offices and thus must be included in the sum. And even without the hymns and antiphons, DW:DO:NAE would still be something like twenty thousand words longer than the 1979 offices!

(Note: The numbers quoted above are intended to be reasonably accurate rounded estimates, not exact values, and as such may be off by a few percent from the actual totals.)

Of course, word count alone cannot be used as the sole discriminant of an office book’s quality. Byzantine offices, for example, tend to be extremely lengthy, but nonetheless remain beautiful, edifying liturgies. I’ve focused on DW:DO:NAE’s length here because it’s a stark indicator that the book is conceptually very different than what Cranmer and successive Anglican liturgical reformers had in mind. To quote the preface to the first BCP once more:

Moreover the nombre and hardnes of the rules called the pie, and the manifolde chaunginges of the service, was the cause, [that] to turne the boke onlye, was so hard and intricate a matter, that many times, there was more busines to fynd out what should be read, then to read it when it was faunde out.

Cranmer’s complaints about the user-unfriendliness of pre-Tridentine offices are fully applicable to DW:DO:NAE, thanks to its poor organization and endless variety of antiphons, hymns and other clutter. DW:DO:NAE may very well be simpler to use than the Roman Breviary (it is), and perhaps even simpler than the modern Liturgy of the Hours promulgated after Vatican II (I wouldn’t know). But comparing it to complex, comprehensive Catholic books rather than simple and straightforward Anglican ones misses the entire point: The Anglican Ordinariates exist to provide a home for Anglican liturgy and spirituality within the Catholic Church, not to serve as a vehicle to sneak traditional English and TLM aesthetics into the Novus Ordo world.

Superb Anglican editions of Catholic breviaries and diurnals already exist; seeing OCSP’s tendency to err on the side of preconciliar Roman aesthetics, why couldn’t one of those have been adopted instead of wasting effort producing DW:DO:NAE, which is neither a good Prayer Book nor a good breviary? Alas, the three Ordinariates have so far failed to produce even one recognizably Anglican book, seemingly preferring instead to translate modern Roman liturgies into Anglican prose. (Actual Anglicans already did this work far better in the early and middle parts of the 20th century.) Perhaps this is due to a misinterpretation of Benedict XVI’s apostolic constitution Anglicanorum coetibus, which states:

[T]he Ordinariate has the faculty to celebrate the Holy Eucharist and the other Sacraments, the Liturgy of the Hours and other liturgical celebrations according to the liturgical books proper to the Anglican tradition, which have been approved by the Holy See, so as to maintain the liturgical, spiritual and pastoral traditions of the Anglican Communion within the Catholic Church, as a precious gift nourishing the faith of the members of the Ordinariate and as a treasure to be shared.

Taken at face value, you’d expect to see the promulgation of extant Anglican liturgical books with perhaps a few minor changes deemed necessary to receive the approval of the Holy See. Tragically, this has yet to occur.

All the above notwithstanding, DW:DO:NAE could (in spite of its many conceptual flaws) still be a very good prayer book on its own merits. It has a lot going for it: Traditional, beautiful English; a complete, unabridged psalter cycle that reads the entirety of the Book of Psalms each month; four daily scriptural readings that form the core of Mattins and Evensong; and, once you peel back the extraneous layers, a simple, consistent structure that makes it a superb office for both parish and family use. (And it’s got an imprimatur, too, which to some people matters quite a lot.) In the next post, I’ll begin looking at the offices proper, and walk you through my experience consistently praying them from the physical book since I received my copy at the beginning of May (a little over five months after I preordered it). Will the turgid DW:DO:NAE, for all its warts, prove itself worth the wait?

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