Review - Divine Worship: Daily Office (North American Edition) - Part V: Conclusion
|Cuiusvis hominis est errare, nullius nisi insipientis in errore perseverare.|
After finishing the first draft of my review’s conclusion about six weeks ago, I thought it best to set aside Divine Worship: Daily Office (North American Edition) (DW:DO:NAE) and return to my trusty 1662 Book of Common Prayer (BCP) for awhile. Praying with DW:DO:NAE, littered as it was with errors on nearly every page, eventually grew too frustrating to be fruitful, and I felt that this risked my review becoming unfairly harsh and critical. Eventually, I picked up DW:DO:NAE anew to give it a second chance, and found my earlier convictions about the book were unchanged. Today, I present to you the conclusion of my review of the first official prayer book of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter (OCSP), along with some parting recommendations.
It is an undeniable and deeply unfortunate truth that DW:DO:NAE, in both its printings to date, is an unacceptably unfinished product. It is horrendously error-ridden, full of hundreds of typos, typographical flaws and accidental omissions, all of which point to it being an incomplete manuscript that should never have been approved for publication. It is, in all honesty, a mostly-finished book. Yes, a few days’ hard work by a qualified editor would set everything straight—but that still hasn’t happened. (According to Msgr Perkins, the OCSP’s Vicar General, “...corrections will be made in future editions of the book at such time as supply cannot meet demand.” In other words, the book may never actually be completed properly.) Many people are trying to push the wholesale adoption of DW:DO:NAE as-is, claiming it is “a very fine book”, but this is utter, embarrassing nonsense. Who in their right mind would knowingly choose to purchase or recommend an unpainted car short a few screws because it’s “good enough” or “usable”, let alone hold it up to the world for admiration?
I’ve been told that we should be grateful for what we have, and not complain about minor problems. If the book merely suffered from a few minor problems, I’d completely agree! However, consider the following: in my weeks praying with DW:DO:NAE, I noticed several new serious errors that aren’t yet listed on John Covert’s errata page. For example, on 15 May the first lesson at Mattins was Hebrews 4:1-13, followed by Hebrews 4:15-5:10 at Evensong. Hebrews 4:14, curiously enough, was not appointed to be read. Wondering if the verse was is some way “difficult”, I looked it up:
14 Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. (AKJV)
Well, no, that verse seems harmless enough, and perhaps even a bit important. So I checked the 1922 and 1961 English lectionaries, and discovered that they both prescribe Hebrews 4:1-13 followed by Hebrews 4:14-5:10. No psychological difficulties here! I then checked a couple more sources: a 2016 draft of the Ordinariate Divine Office, and the 2021 OCSP Ordo. Both of them boasted the exact same lectionary error as DW:DO:NAE. How many pairs of eyes had seen the 2016 draft, the 2021 Ordo and DW:DO:NAE, how many hands had these works passed through without a single person bothering to check the lectionary against its sources? How many more of these errors are yet to be found? That these questions must even be asked is indicative of serious underlying issues with DW:DO:NAE.
Furthermore, when I checked the 2021 Ordo I discovered yet another serious omission: the Ordo prescribes a collect commemorating Mary, Mother of the Church on the Saturday after Ascension. DW:DO:NAE mentions nothing of the sort—but I suppose we can blame Pope Francis for this one; after all, it’s his fault for instituting a new feast in between the 2016 draft and today. But why wasn’t the draft of DW:DO:NAE compared to the official ordo? Who’s in charge of what here?
DW:DO:NAE’s most serious flaws are, unfortunately, far graver than these many superficial annoyances. In its current guise, the book’s contents exhibit profound misunderstandings about the nature of the Anglican Prayer Book tradition, and borrow from numerous sources in a halfhearted attempt to please everyone while simultaneously failing miserably to recognize grave issues with some of those sources. The Canadian 1962 BCP is plagiarized in order to mollify the Canadians, whose favored prayer book goes so far as to covertly remove, reword, and renumber psychologically-difficult verses from the Psalms—something for which Pope Francis has justly castigated the modern Roman Liturgy of the Hours. The American 1979 BCP is used as the primary source for the Offices via the Pastoral Provision’s 2003 Book of Divine Worship (BDW), though the promulgation of the ’79 is in part what caused conservative, catholic Anglicans to leave the Episcopal Church en masse in the late 20th century—yet Rome (or perhaps Houston) decided it was just what we Catholics needed. The American 1928 BCP has its own issues, but many of its beautiful, recognizably Anglican prayers are omitted or reworded without rhyme or reason. DW:DO:NAE is at once both myopic and psychotic, and it is painfully obvious that few, if any, actual former Anglicans had a hand in its development. This, sadly, is par for the course in the Divine Worship franchise. It feels like bad attempt at faking Anglican liturgical spirituality by Catholics who think the difference between Anglican and Catholic worship is a few thees and thous. Surely the fabled Anglican Patrimony, whatever it is, is more substantial than that.
DW:DO:NAE is generally a poorly-arranged book, and completely lacks the integrity that is the hallmark of just about every BCP before it. (It’s right at home on the shelf with The English Office and other meandering books that try so hard to appear Roman they fail to be decently Anglican.) Separating the penitential rite from the remainder of Mattins and Evensong is an idea borrowed from the abortive English 1928 BCP. Presumably this was done to save space, but what do four or five additional pages matter in a 700-page volume? Adding endless canticles and antiphons destroys the strict clarity and sparseness that has always separated classical Anglican offices from their more complex Catholic counterparts. The Office of the Dead is a nice inclusion (though it seems to be a modern creation unrelated to any historical Roman or monastic office), but the version provided is effectively useless because none of the proper psalms or lessons are printed with it. (Once again, adding a few pages wouldn’t have hurt anything.) And who benefits from two hundred pages of un-noted hymns? DW:DO:NAE is a terrible Anglican prayer book and a mediocre Catholic one. At this point its only legitimate boasts are that it’s an authorized Catholic prayer book that contains the full, uncensored psalter, unlike the modern Liturgy of the Hours; and that it features some of the most beautiful English prose ever written.
Furthermore, DW:DO:NAE is a prayer book specific to the OCSP. Why was this necessary? All three Anglican Ordinariates share a common missal and sacramentary; it would only make sense that they share the same office book. But for some reason (judging by Facebook discussions, perhaps because the Americans and Canadians think their mid-to-late-20th-century prayer book traditions are so valuable that compromise is impossible), we are now in a situation where the North Americans have a profoundly mediocre office book, while the British and Oceanians are working on what by all reports is going to be a really superb one. (I suppose we’ll all find out a month from now what the Commonwealth book is like. If it too omits Hebrews 4:14...)
DW:DO:NAE isn’t all bad. It’s most of the way (call it three-quarters or so) to being a finished product, and it deserves to be taken to that point if OCSP is truly set upon using it for the foreseeable future. (If there’s no intention to get the book all the way there, then we ought to euthanize it now before it’s too late.) With judicious use of the dizzying array of options, you can functionally pray the offices as though from the 1928 BCP (especially if you remember to add in a few of the words DW:DO:NAE thoughtlessly censored in mimicking the 1979 BCP). It’s a sturdy book (perhaps overly sturdy—it’d be nice if the binding wasn’t so stiff, even after months of use) and, well, it’s usable. And it provides Catholics who love beautiful English a vernacular prayer book (with the full psalter) with an imprimatur.
And that imprimatur is literally the only reason to buy DW:DO:NAE, assuming an imprimatur is something meaningful to you. (It’s about time they go the way of the Index of Forbidden Books, for all the good they do.) You can and should purchase far superior Anglican prayer books for the same or less money than DW:DO:NAE. They’ll be immaculately typeset, thoughtfully arranged, better made, and won’t leave you confused by illogical rubrics, unnecessarily complicated instructions, and lectionary errors. Some people will still claim DW:DO:NAE is a great deal in comparison to pricier things like the Roman Breviary or the Liturgy of the Hours, and that’s true, if price is the only thing that matters. (Even then, real Anglican prayer books are cheaper.) It’s comparing apples to oranges, anyway: DW:DO:NAE is an office book in the Anglican Prayer Book tradition and should be compared to BCPs, not breviaries.
I never thought I’d praise the late BDW, but that was a real, unashamed Catholic Prayer Book. (Newman House Press evidently used to be competent, too.) If the long-term goal for the Ordinariates is to merely be a refuge for cradle Catholics who hate contemporary music but also dislike Latin, then perhaps they’re on the path to success. If the goal is to be a home for Anglicans who desire to retain their edifying traditions while enjoying the fullness of the Catholic faith in communion with the See of Peter, then it’s time they start acting like it—and that requires a genuine BCP of our own.
All in all, DW:DO:NAE is what it is, and there is nothing else you can make of it. I award it no points, and recommend that you purchase Divine Worship: Daily Office (Commonwealth Edition) or a proper 1662 or 1928 BCP instead. Alas, Houston had a priceless opportunity to create the next great American prayer book, and utterly botched it. Perhaps a future edition will rectify the current book’s shortcomings; perhaps someday the three Anglican Ordinariates will share a single, admirable prayer book. As it exists today, DW:DO:NAE is not worth purchasing. And that is a great tragedy.
Recommended Alternatives to Divine Worship: Daily Office (North American Edition)
- Cambridge University Press 1662 Book of Common Prayer. Several publishers offer 1662 BCPs; while most of these are excellent, avoid the new InterVarsity Press 1662 Book of Common Prayer: International Edition, which mutilates scores of texts through a series of poor editorial decisions predicated on the modern reader’s presumably insufficient vocabulary.
- Anglican Parishes Association 1928 Book of Common Prayer. Also available from multiple publishers; note that this is the American 1928 BCP, not the English revision published that same year.
- Catholic Truth Society Divine Worship: Daily Office (Commonwealth Edition). Currently available for preorder, this book is expected to begin shipping in mid-September 2021.