If you pray the Liturgy of the Hours, you may be interested in a new resource for use with the expanded two-year cycle of the Office of Readings.
Coming out of Vatican II, Sacrosanctum concilium took the first steps toward restoring the Divine Office to its historic place as “the public prayer of the Church,” “the very prayer which Christ Himself, together with His body, addresses to the Father.”
For he continues His priestly work through the agency of His Church, which is ceaselessly engaged in praising the Lord and interceding for the salvation of the whole world. She does this, not only by celebrating the eucharist, but also in other ways, especially by praying the divine office. (Emphasis mine)
Theologically, the Church teaches that all who participate in the prayers of the Divine Office anywhere around the world are exercising an essential aspect of their “common priesthood” they share as members of Christ’s body on Earth. It has become my primary means of reading Scripture.
The Divine Office makes this easy for laity who, unlike clergy and religious, are not obliged to pray the Office in its entirety. In addition to the Morning, Daytime, Evening, and Night offices that sanctify specific hours of the day, there is also an Office of Readings. Each day, it pairs one scriptural reading paired with a second patristic or other non-Biblical reading. The full official translation in the US is the four-volume Liturgy of the Hours published by Catholic Book Publishing, or excellent Divine Office apps like iBreviary (US texts) or Universalis (UK texts).
However, having prayed the Office for many years, I recently switched to the one-volume abridged Christian Prayer and discovered something that I’d missed all along. Without much explanation, the single-volume edition contains a table of an alternative two-year expanded scriptural lectionary for the Office of Readings. This allows the reader a much deeper dive into scripture each day which, when combined with the readings at Mass, are a thorough daily tour of almost the entirety of the Bible. If you’ve only prayed from the four-volume set or one of the apps, you will be as surprised as I was to learn we’ve been missing out!
Though the four-volume edition includes the texts for both readings every day of the year, the shorter one-volume “Christian Prayer” does not, including only a few selections and the full two-year lectionary references. That’s given me the freedom not only to spend time with the longer passages, but also to rotate through many different Catholic translations, and not just the old NAB lectionary printed in the full set. Ironically, as a praying Bible reader, I get to spend time with more Scripture each day using the abridged volume! (I also get musical settings to the hymns.)
But, as always, there’s a catch.
The table only lists the scripture readings for each day, not the paired readings from the Church Fathers. Try as I might, I couldn’t find an official list anywhere of the specific texts approved for the second readings in the longer two-year cycle. As it turns out, it was never formally approved and promulgated, only the texts for the one-year lectionary. So, over the years, various publishers and religious orders have produced their own proposed patristic lectionaries for the expanded two-year Office of Readings. And of course, most are out of print.
However, I stumbled across this newer resource I wanted to share: a two-year patristic lectionary for the Divine Office the University of Edinburgh’s School of Divinity prepared for Scotland’s Pluscarden Abbey. This collection contains not only the scripture readings specified for each day in the two-year cycle (from the RSV) but also a paired patristic reading specific to each Biblical passage.
As a commentary by the Fathers of the Church on almost the whole of Scripture this should be a great resource for homilies and catechetics, as well as a text for the liturgy.
The lectionary is in use in monasteries in Scotland, England, the USA, Ghana and South Africa. We hope that its inclusion as a free resource on the website of the Durham University Centre for Catholic Studies will enable it to be of use to the wider Church beyond the monasteries of the Benedictine Confederation. (Stephen Mark Holmes, New College - School of Divinity, University of Edinburgh)
Confirmed from the Episcopal Church, I often say that it was praying the Divine Office in the Book of Common Prayer that taught me how to be Catholic. So it continues to amaze me that the Church as a whole seems to downplay what is essentially the second half of our public liturgy (remember, the Apostles met for the breaking of bread and the prayers). According to Sacrosanctum concilium:
Pastors of souls should see to it that the chief hours, especially Vespers, are celebrated in common in church on Sundays and the more solemn feasts. And the laity, too, are encouraged to recite the divine office, either with the priests, or among themselves, or even individually.
Really? What happened?! If we were following our own mandate, after 50 years, I would have expected every parish in the world to be celebrating Morning and Evening Prayer, at least on Sundays and major feast days. Having recently moved to Seattle, I’m thrilled to find that both my parish and cathedral celebrate portions of the Liturgy of the Hours as principal services for the congregation. In the San Francisco Bay Area, to pray the Liturgy of the Hours, I’d have to visit the Episcopal Grace Cathedral.
Projects like this, even if not yet fully adopted by the universal Church, at least show that the wheels are turning. Perhaps the revised Liturgy of the Hours, underway since 2012, to go along with the revised Roman Missal will adopt some of this flavor.
Do you pray any part of the Divine Office? And if so, what scriptural resources do you use for the Office of Readings?
Download the entire Patristic Lectionary here. (.zip file)
Christopher Buckley holds an M.A. in Religion from the Claremont School of Theology. He began as a United Methodist and passed through the Episcopal Church before being confirmed into the Catholic Church as an adult. He lives and works in Seattle with his wife and two children, and blogs occasionally at StoryWiseGuy.com. Connect with him on Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, Flickr, and LinkedIn, and Bible.com.