Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Please! A Simple Version of the Anglican Ordinariate Office for Lay People

Here is a both a request and proposal for the Anglican Ordinariate, if I may be so bold.

Can you produce a version that can be reduced to a short booklet containing the Psalter and the unchanging prayers? If, in addition to that, we can find a way for the changing parts to be supplied by smart phone, then I think that you will have something that will really catch on. It will be simple to use and cheap.

If the Ordinariate would produce something like this, then I for one would use it and promote it tirelessly. I know of several others who would be just as enthusiastic to see such a thing. Furthermore, I am ready to create online courses at Pontifex University that teach the singing of the Office in the home, and this would be my preferred option to recommend to families and lay people.

The Customary of Our Lady of Walsingham is wonderful, but complicated to use, and I’m never quite sure if I am getting right those parts proper to the day - and I am reasonable adept at breviary navigation. I have spoken to a number of lay people who bought it and gave up. It would works well for religious and those especially devoted to the Office, who are likely to take the time to figure out what to say.

I am a great fan of the Divine Office as given to us by the Ordinariate, because I think that it gives lay people a greater possibility to take up the praying of the Office. It offers the chance of praying the full Psalter (i.e. no missing cursing psalms) in English, in a translation that is both poetic and accessible. I have written about this in previous articles, such as this one here: The Anglican Ordinariate Divine Office - A Wonderful Gift for Lay People and a Source of Hope for the Transformation of Western Culture. (And incidentally, if you think I was resorting to hyperbole in the title of that article, I wasn’t. I really to do believe that it has this potential.)

Looking at the general guide for Morning and Evening Prayer for the Personal Ordinariates, which constitutes a recitation of the full Office, and drawing on its application in the Customary, I think that I can get the psalms for the day and all that is specified in the table below, which comes from the St Dunstan’s Psalter. I would prefer to be using something similar that came with an endorsement from the Ordinariate.

What is missing in the St Dunstan’s Psalter are the readings and collect for the day. I can get most of this from Universalis.com via my smart phone. The morning readings are the same as those that are in the Office of Readings. What I don’t have is a readily accessible source for the Old and New Testament Lessons for Evening Prayer according to an established lectionary - can anyone tell me a website or other source where I might get this easily?

Although the hymn is not mandatory, if I want to use a traditional Office hymn for the day I always go to the Illuminare Publications hymnal.

The other request relates to the way that the psalms are set out. My goal is to sing everything, so please point the psalms in such a way that the natural emphasis of speech is pointed. Then people will compose psalm tones, ideally based upon the traditional Gregorian tones, that will conform to this method. If this becomes standard, then there will be the following advantages:

Every psalm tone can be applied to any psalm. That means that for people who are just learning, all they need to know is one psalm tone and they can sing the whole Psalter. If they gradually learn two, three or more psalm tones, then they can use those too, and it will quickly become interesting enough for them to be likely to keep doing it. In this system, people can learn many tones and still use this Psalter - i.e, it allows for those with the knowledge of just one tone or those who wish to use 120 tones to have the same Psalter. Also, if this pointing method becomes standard, then many people will start to compose, and as new and better tones are developed, they can easily be adopted. This allows for the possibility of chant for the vernacular as a living tradition which steadily improves and develops. and really starts to connect with people.

When I sing tones to the St Dunstan’s Psalter, I ignore the pointing and the tones they give, and I have pointed the text myself according to this method, and then I sing tones developed as above. This allows me to teach people to sing it very quickly, and I have a regular men’s group consisting mostly of people who have never sung the Office before, who are now enthusiastically singing it each Wednesday evening!

This would be in contrast to nearly every other Psalter that I have seen, (e.g. the Mundelein Psalter) in which even if there is some accommodation for singing, the psalms are pointed to fit a particular melody. The disadvantage of this is that unless you know every tone already, or are musically literate enough to be able to sight read chant, you cannot sing the whole Psalter. Beginners tend not to persevere. At the other end of the spectrum, those who are experienced with chant find it too dull. There are only eight or so tones, and this becomes boring very quickly. Furthermore, there is no scope for development of new tones that can be used with this Psalter, as every psalm is pointed to fit a particular melody. The result is that you use their tones or nothing, and if you don’t like them, you’re stuck with them.

FYI: The first week of the Pontifex University free Advent meditation has a class on singing the Office complete with a description of how to point the psalms and apply our psalm tones.

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