May 2012
Last updated January 2014

A look at the African Breviary
The Liturgy of the Hours, Christian Prayer

(Scroll down for the larger one-volume The Prayer of the Church)

The Liturgy of the Hours published by Paulines Publications Africa is unique in several ways. It is the only official English edition which is based on the 1985 Liturgia Horarum, editio typica altera, and it is the only version that uses the recently released Revised Grail Psalms. It also uses the Revised Grail Psalm version of Benedictus, Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis. I imagine the other English editions of the Liturgy of the Hours / Divine Office will eventually catch up and include these changes, but for now, the African edition stands alone.

No doubt many people are curious about this new breviary. I certainly was, so I ordered a copy of Christian Prayer from Paulines Publications Africa. You have to e-mail them and receive instructions on how to order the book -- it's very simple, and a little personal correspondence is a good thing now and then.

This is the smaller abridged edition for Morning, Evening and Night Prayer. It arrived just yesterday, taking two weeks to travel from Africa to Japan, which was sooner than I had expected. I'm not really qualified to give a review of this edition or compare it with other breviaries, but now that my copy has arrived I can give you a peek inside and let you form your own conclusions.

This breviary is 4 3/8 inches (11 cm) wide, 6 7/8 inches (17.4 cm) tall, and just over half an inch (1.5 cm) thick.

This is a paperback book that came with a clear vinyl cover for protection. I prefer the feel of the book itself, so I removed the vinyl cover (and put a tiny rip in the top edge of the front cover in the process). Since it is paperback, the pages will not lie flat, which explains the use of the clip in the photos.

The binding is a hybrid type with the pages stitched together in signatures, and the signatures glued to the spine.

This edition has the four week psalter for Morning and Evening Prayer plus the readings, intercessions and prayers for Ordinary Time. Some people might feel left out during other seasons, but from what I understand, this shorter arrangement is still considered the proper, official Liturgy of the Hours, and some folks will appreciate the "bare bones" simplicity with no need for page flipping.

This abridged breviary is similar to Shorter Christian Prayer by the Catholic Book Publishing Company and A Shorter Morning and Evening Prayer by Liturgical Press. It contains Morning Prayer (Lauds), Evening Prayer (Vespers) and Night Prayer (Compline).

Morning and Evening Prayer are called the "two hinges" of the Liturgy of the Hours.

Paulines Publications Africa also published a three volume set called The Liturgy of the Hours and a one volume breviary called The Prayer of the Church.

They chose to call this volume Christian Prayer rather than simply attach the descriptive Shorter to the title as the other breviary publishers have done. These "shorter" editions contain only three out of the seven possible prayer hours each day, but I would not dismiss them as "for beginners only" which implies we will outgrow them once we learn the ropes. Some well-meaning folks have described these editions this way, but that could deter people from taking their first step towards the Liturgy of the Hours. Who wants to invest in a book that will shortly become useless? Members of the clergy are required to pray all the hours each day, but the laity are encouraged to participate only as they are able.

The introduction in the front of my American Shorter Christian Prayer makes it clear that the publishers intended these shorter editions for "parish use as well as private use" and also for "clergy who are traveling or otherwise unable to utilize the complete edition of The Liturgy of the Hours" (apparently even the shorter editions will allow traveling clergy to fulfill their obligation). Many people with "nine to five" jobs will never find time for praying those additional hours found in larger breviaries or multi-volume sets.

Most importantly, a small volume such as this will allow the lay person to respond to the challenge made by Pope Benedict not too long ago:

I would like to renew my call to everyone to pray the Psalms, to become accustomed to using the Liturgy of the Hours, Lauds, Vespers, and Compline.

If people from all walks of life answered the call to participate in the daily prayer of the Church, then the shorter editions would be the most popular choice. All this to say, if you are not already praying the Liturgy of the Hours, please don't hesitate to invest in one of these "shorter" editions. It can become your valued treasure and life-long companion even when you travel, and you may never need to buy a larger edition. And you will be joining your voice with voices all over the world who pray the "Prayer of the Church" every day. There's great power in that kind of prayer that's not found in other types of devotions.

Of course, one disadvantage of these shorter breviaries is that they don't include all the Psalms of the four-week psalter; only the ones used in Morning, Evening and Night Prayer.

If you want to keep up with all 150 Psalms even with a busy schedule, you can use a Bible or Psalm book (Psalter) and supplement your daily routine by praying the Psalms for the other hours.

A copy of the Revised Grail Psalms works well for this. This breviary is nearly identical in size to my copy of the Revised Grail Psalms, so the two make a nice pair. It comes in a text version and a singing version which has pointing in the form of accent marks over the text and also a slightly smaller deluxe edition with blue cover and ribbon but no accent marks in the text.

I have put together a chart that tells you when the Psalms are actually prayed in the Liturgy of Hours (Office of Readings, Morning Prayer, Daytime Prayer, Evening Prayer and Night Prayer) over the four week cycle. Of course, you also need to know which week you are in, and a calendar can be found at the Rosary Shop web site.

August 11, 2013

The Liturgy of the Hours, The Prayer of the Church

A year and three months after I bought Christian Prayer above, I decided it was time to order the larger Prayer of the Church. The main reason was because I grew tired of using a paperback breviary, and it was starting to show signs of wear after constant use.

I really prefer nicely bound books -- preferably in leather -- but since that was not an option, I'm happy with this vinyl leather texture breviary.

It is very similar to the American Liturgy of the Hours in look and feel and size. The binding is sewn so it lies flat, and it looks very well made. There are four ribbons plus four inserts. It was printed in Italy.

This book has the entire breviary for Morning Prayer, Daytime Prayer, Evening Prayer and Night Prayer. I love having all that in one volume.

I'll keep the smaller breviary by my pillow for Night Prayer so I won't have to go and fetch it in the morning if I forget to bring it out with me -- and disturb someone who will probably be still asleep.

The smaller one is also a better choice for when I travel.

Only the Office of Readings is not included in this breviary because that would require four volumes instead of one. So, for that office I will continue to use iBreviary on my Kindle. It's probably the best combination for a clueless person like me since I do the Office of Readings first thing in the morning and will be able to catch what day it is, and if there is anything special going on that I would probably miss otherwise.

True, I could use iBreviary for the entire Liturgy of the Hours, but I really prefer using a book.

I took these photos minutes after it arrived in the mail before I had a chance to damage it with my clumsy hands. This time it took just over two weeks to travel from Kenya to Tokyo. I'm saving the cool postage stamps, too!

This book is 4 1/2 inches (12 cm) wide, 7 inches (17.8 cm) tall and 1 5/8 inches thick (4.1 cm). If it were a paperback, it would be exactly the same height and width as Christian Prayer above because the paper block is the same.

I like the fact that they chose to call this one The Prayer of the Church since that is exactly what my one-volume Japanese breviary is called -- except in Japanese, of course (KYOUKAI NO INORI).

This breviary looks classy and feels very durable. I think it will last a very long time.

I have written more about the Liturgy of the Hours in an article called The Prayer of the Church.

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