First Impressions - Divine Worship: Daily Office (Commonwealth Edition)
At long last, my Divine Worship: Daily Office (Commonwealth Edition) (DW:DO:CE) preorders have arrived! By a quite happy coincidence they showed up on the patronal feast of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. I have to say, I am extremely impressed with what the UK and Australian ordinariates have produced together with Catholic Truth Society. DW:DO:CE seems to be a fantastic office book that borrows some of the best of classical Anglican liturgies, and does so without crudely shoehorning traditional Anglican prayers onto contemporary forms. It may not be a Book of Common Prayer (BCP), but it’s a great prayer book!
I’ll write a comprehensive review of DW:DO:CE after I’ve consistently used the book for prayer for a month or two. (There’s not much bad to say about it, so I expect the review will end up being a single, albeit lengthy, post.) Until then, here are my initial impressions of what is easily the finest family-friendly, Catholic prayer book on the market today.
Things I love:
- Morning and Evening Prayer are essentially the 1662 offices (including the penitential opening sentences) with some slight modifications. This is a real Prayer Book office through and through! The dearth of proper antiphons and other Roman excesses is most welcome; if you want all that, this is probably not the book for you. (If you’re a hardcore Anglo-Catholic, whether Catholic or Anglican, I recommend instead the Anglican Breviary or, especially, the Oxford/LAP Monastic Diurnal.) That being said, the book still provides a good number of optional antiphons and hymns (from the wonderful English Hymnal) for those so inclined; frankly more than I’ll ever use.
- The Athanasian Creed (here the memorable 1662 version) is prescribed at Mattins on several days throughout the year, and the Litany is recommended on certain days (Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays) as well.
- The familiar version of the Lord’s Prayer (“Our Father who art”) is used throughout, instead of the older version (“Our Father which art”) found in Church of England BCPs to this day. (I find this a bit odd, since DW:DO:CE is based on the 1662 and proposed 1928 BCPs, which retain the traditional wording. I’m sure no one else will mind the update, though.)
- The book is arranged in a manner very conducive to praying the offices in typical BCP fashion; the optional texts (hymns, antiphons) are in separate sections from the mandatory parts (such as the collects) so that no one feels like they’re forced to employ every option at all times. The appendices provide some welcome additional material, and those together with full lectionary make this book eminently suitable for laity and clergy alike.
- The 30-day psalter is the only psalter! While there are some proper psalms appointed for certain days, in general you’ll pray all 150 psalms every month. There’s none of that 7-week psalter nonsense found in DW:DO:NAE. (Time yourself praying the psalms according to both schedules – does saving three minutes a day really justify cutting in half the number of psalms you pray every year?)
- It’s virtually the ideal size and shape for a breviary, about 5” high by 7” tall, and around 2” thick. The extremely flexible sewn binding is quite capable of “Bible yoga” and similar gymnastics; due to its flexibility, the book is quite comfortable to hold, draping naturally over your hands. (Contrary to one complaint I’ve already heard about the book’s limp binding, cover stiffness is not a feature. Stiffness requires more effort to hold the book open, meaning more hand and wrist fatigue when praying for long periods.)
- The page gilding is beautiful; the pages aren’t art-gilt (unsurprising, considering the <$100 price point), though in certain lighting conditions the gilding takes on a deep amber sheen very reminiscent of red-under-gold.
- The book includes six handsome satin ribbons, which happens to be exactly the right amount – your preferences may vary, but I have one ribbon each placed in (1) the temporal collects, (2) the sanctoral collects, (3) the offices, (4) the psalter, (5) the temporal lessons and (6) the sanctoral lessons.
- Interestingly, the little hours restore some pre-Pian (Psalm 119 spread across Terce, Sext and None) and monastic customs (the Lord’s Prayer at each hour). Prime and Compline are borrowed from the proposed 1928 BCP; I’m not sure where the other little hours came from. They aren’t purely Roman or monastic, though there are numerous similarities.
- DW:DO:CE is blessedly free of terminal optionitis. It’s simple and straightforward, as an Anglican office book ought to be.
- While the print is small, it is very legible throughout, especially in natural lighting.
Things I don’t love, which can be taken with a sizable grain of salt:
- The doxology in the first Lord’s Prayer at Mattins and Evensong (the one printed as part of the Introduction to the offices) is missing. This really makes no sense to me at all; if we’re allowed say in prayer that we’re “miserable offenders” and that “there no health in us”, surely we can say “For thine is the kingdom, and the glory, and the power, forever and ever” also.
- The included Litany is the modified version found in Divine Worship: The Missal, which is… just okay, I suppose. Unfortunately, because of changes made to the Litany (such as the addition of the Collect of the Day), it is now to be said after the offices proper, not in its traditional location following the third collect.
- The book’s sections are ordered differently than in the BCP, so at first it was a little tricky finding various parts since they weren’t in their familiar locations. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; the office ordinaries are placed after everything but the psalter and lessons (so, about a third of the way in) to help the book last longer. It may have been better to divide the lessons in half (January through June, and July through December) and place them on either side of the office materials, which could have then been ordered normally.
- The separate Introduction to Morning and Evening Prayer adds unnecessary complexity. The entire section is only three pages long, and should really have been printed before both Mattins and Evensong for user-friendliness (by avoiding unnecessary page turns).
- For some reason, the examination of conscience in one of the appendices seems to be specifically for clergy. There is no equivalent for laity in the book, an unfortunate omission.
- Once again, the Ordinariates are using the RSV-2CE instead of the RSV-CE (I still await the day that someone in charge finally acknowledges that the King James Version is nonpareil). The juxtaposition of traditional-language offices combined with contemporary-language lessons will never not be somewhat unsettling to me. The rubrics do permit the use of any other Catholic Bible (the Knox and RSV-CE, for example, are completely acceptable), so you could substitute a more appropriate translation – but since the book already includes all the readings, I’m sure virtually no one will bother doing that. (I certainly won’t.)
- Typographically speaking, the book is quite pedestrian, but generally well done. Stylistically, DW:DO:CE fits in perfectly with the rest of CTS’s Divine Worship books.
- The solid red endpapers are somewhat unpleasant to look at. I think a more muted color (or even bold marbled papers) would be better, but I’ve never been a fan of red on black. The prayers printed inside the front cover seem like a Catholicizing afterthought, but I’m sure most people will like them.
- The cover imprinting isn’t debossed at all, so it’ll likely wear away fairly quickly. (Fine with me! Most Bibles and prayer books have overly-busy cover designs.)
- Some ghosting is evident in artificial lighting, though it isn’t too bad. I’d have chosen a heavier typeface (common choices for this sort of book include Plantin and Bookman) and paper with higher opacity (the paper used in Cambridge’s Cameo KJV is nearly ideal).
- My copy had a loose thread on bottom of back cover; I carefully melted it into place with a lighter so that it wouldn’t catch on something and begin unravel. Your mileage here may vary!
Overall, my first impression is that DW:DO:CE is a well-thought-out, high-quality prayer book that truly respects and pays homage to classical Anglican BCP offices. There are no objectively stupid decisions herein, and that’s a wonderful thing. (The only thing I think the book really needs is a people’s order for the Mass – that way we could take a single book to church on Sunday mornings for Mattins immediately followed by Mass, and fewer trees would have to die to serve as disposable bulletins and pew booklets.)
This is probably the finest Ordinariate book yet published, and gives me hope that someday we’ll see a proper BCP of our own. Due to the similarity of DW:DO:CE’s major offices with their equivalents in the American 1928 Prayer Book, I cannot see any reason why DW:DO:CE could not be authorized for use in the Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter. Comparing the North American edition to the Commonwealth edition is truly apples to oranges (provided the apples are thoroughly rotten and worm-eaten) – DW:DO:CE is leagues better! Now, having seen it in the flesh, I wholeheartedly recommend this prayer book to anyone who wants real BCP offices bound together with the full lectionary. If you appreciate the book for for what it is, and don’t pine for what it isn’t, I suspect you’ll never regret this purchase. But I suppose we’ll have to see if my feelings change after I’ve used it for a couple months! (I bet I’ll only like it even more.)
In the meantime, here’s a link to purchase your own copy of Divine Worship: Daily Office (Commonwealth Edition). It’s a significant investment, to be sure, but it’s priced fairly with some comparable alternatives and is significantly cheaper than others, such as the complete Liturgy of the Hours or Roman Breviary sets. And, in my humble opinion – DW:DO:CE is completely worth it.