Friday, March 7, 2014

Psalms without Antiphons: 'tears and lamentations'

Richard W. Pfaff in The Liturgy in Medieval England (Cambridge 2009) quotes Lives of the Abbots that Abbot Ceolfirth at Jarrow, after almost the whole community had died in a plague, leaving only the Abbot and one small boy (commonly taken to be Bede), decided that except at vespers and matins, the psalms should be recited without antiphons. "And when this had been done with many tears and lamentations on his part, for a space of a week, he could not bear it any longer, but decreed that the psalms with their antiphons should be restored" (p.51). I know how he felt because it is how I feel when I am compelled by circumstances to say the unadorned  Daily Office of the Book of Common Prayer. . I do not care whether you say the Office in Latin or English, from The English Office, the Roman Breviary, the Anglican Breviary, the Liturgy of the Hours, the Monastic Diurnal, or some other traditional source, almost anything is better than the Prayer Book. Praying the psalms and canticles without antiphons is like standing in 'bare ruined choirs'. The Prayer Book office, despite the great things Anglicans love to say about it, is a gutted shell of what the Western Church's Office once was. I find it unbearably sad.  If that makes me disloyal, so be it.

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