18 December 2012

In working through Taft's book...

...The Liturgy of the Hours in the East and West came across this stunning quote, after noting how the huge burden of the care of parishes falling squarely on the heads of a limited number of presbyters made the long recitation of monastic hours in the parish churches utterly impractical and hence the move toward substituting private recitation for the clergy:

"The intelligent solution would have been to return the parochial celebration of the hours to its original cathedral dimensions, but intelligence has been only rarely an operative force in the development of liturgy." The Liturgy of the Hours in East and West, p. 299.

Priceless. Absolutely priceless. What he's referring to is that originally Christians tended to gather in their churches each morning and each evening. The service was relatively short and simple. For the morning, Lauds or Morning Praise:

Opening Psalm (either 51 or 63) with collect
[Maybe another Psalm
OT Canticle
Psalms 148-150 with collect
Hymn of light
Gloria in Excelsis
Intercessions and collect
Blessing and Dismissal

For Evensong or Vespers:

Hymn of light with opening collect
Psalm 141
[Maybe another Psalm
Intercessions and collect
Blessings and Dismissal

In other words, no driving force to get through all the Psalms, rather set Psalms that were used every single day and so memorized and well known. A relatively simple gathering that Christians thought of as their daily obligation of praise and intercession, that together with the Sunday Divine Service shaped their basic piety. Rather than return to this, the monastic office in its fullness was retained in Rome and made the obligation for private recitation of the clergy. To this day, the Daily Office hasn't returned to normal parish practice in the West.

I find it quite interesting that in Lutheran Magdeburg of the 17th century, the office still WAS held daily in the cathedral; and the Divine Service offered each Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. But no question that the heart and core of the daily gathering was the morning praise and evensong. These continued even when the Holy Mass was offered as well.

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